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Scott Brooks issues strong defense of Wizards' locker room after John Wall controversy

Scott Brooks issues strong defense of Wizards' locker room after John Wall controversy

Tuesday must have been an interesting day for Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, as his star point guard John Wall did a series of television interviews in which he addressed criticism of himself and his relationship with teammates out in the open for the public to see.

Wall was characteristically honest and acknowledged that Marcin Gortat had irked him with a tweet and that he wasn't a huge fan of Bradley Beal's "everybody eats" comments. Fans and media took what Wall said as confirmation there were fractures in the Wizards' locker room and that Wall was to blame.

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Brooks, like his players, insists that was all overblown.

"For people to think that we're not better with John, that's for clickbait," he said. "It's unfortunate that he had to defend himself. You wish he wouldn't have to. Sometimes you have to."

Brooks cited specific games with Wall on the floor where they had high assist totals like on Christmas Day against the Celtics when they had 26 assists and earned an impressive road win. He pointed out how the Wizards are fifth in the NBA in assists per game.

Brooks also noted how Wall leads the Eastern Conference in assists per game.

"It's not like we just started passing the ball," Brooks said. "I know John is so unselfish."

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Wall's interview left the impression he has beef with both Gortat and Beal. But Brooks said he's not worried about any division between them because it's nothing out of the ordinary from his long NBA career.

"You're going to have some disagreements with players. It won't be our last one," Brooks said, raising his voice. "You wants competitive guys. You don't want everyone to just get along and have a bunch of High School Harry's. You want to be able to have guys that are competitive that will challenge each other and fight each other in practice in a competitive way. If you're not competitive then you will stink."

Brooks is also used to reading and hearing stuff through the media. He called what Wall did, airing dirty laundry on TV, as "part of being a coach." Clearly the Wizards weren't too worried about team chemistry with how they treated the trade deadline, as they had no major shakeup, just a minor deal that sent second-year guard Sheldon Mac to to Atlanta Hawks.

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Scott Brooks, Wizards adjusting quickly to life in the NBA's bubble

Scott Brooks, Wizards adjusting quickly to life in the NBA's bubble

They began with 36 hours in quarantine, a day-and-a-half of just sitting in their hotel rooms at Disney World, waiting to get to work as the NBA aims to resume and finish the 2019-20 season.

Wizards forward Isaac Bonga talked to his friends on the phone and played XBOX. Head coach Scott Brooks FaceTimed his family. Guard Ish Smith marveled at how similar his hotel room was to the one he stayed in last summer at Disney World.

They had just arrived to Orlando, FL from Washington, D.C. for the NBA's restart. They had to wait those 36 hours and test negative for coronavirus twice before going free.

"The forced relaxation drove me crazy. It was the weirdest thing," Brooks said.

The Wizards were eventually let out of their rooms and on Thursday held their first practice at Disney World; a 5 p.m. get-together that featured real, live basketball, the type they had abstained from for weeks at their training facility due to social distancing protocol.

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They were missing a few players and not just the previously established absences of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans; their three best players. Thomas Bryant, Gary Payton II and Garrison Mathews were all reportedly away from the team; the first due to coronavirus and Mathews because of personal reasons.

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Still, getting out in the open floor and scrimmaging was a major step for the Wizards as they look towards July 31, their first regular season game.

"I thought the practice was outstanding. I was real concerned because we hadn't done anything live," Brooks said.

"I don't know how they did it, how the NBA was able to get it all done. Our facility here, our gym is pretty incredible. The weight room is amazing. The hotels are great. Everything is good. I have no complaints. It's just like a road trip for us."

"It just felt good to be out there," Smith said. "It was very similar to a normal practice that we would have, just coaches have gloves and masks on."

What happens on the court, the NBA hopes, should feel familiar. It's off-the-court that will require the biggest adjustment, as everyone there will be away from their families for an extended period of time and in an environment intended to stop the spread of a worldwide pandemic.

But the early returns from the Wizards were good. They are pleasantly surprised with the situation so far.

"Look, we get to play basketball. To me, it's like going away to basketball camp," Brooks said.

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Charles Barkley jokingly admits he doesn't know anyone on the Wizards besides John Wall and Bradley Beal

Charles Barkley jokingly admits he doesn't know anyone on the Wizards besides John Wall and Bradley Beal

Without John Wall, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, Washington's three best players, the Wizards hopes of making the playoffs in the NBA's Orlando restart have taken a hit.

On Thursday, Wizards coach Scott Brooks joined the Inside the NBA team on TNT, where Charles Barkley genuinely asked him who has to step up for the team when the games begin.

Brooks' response was unexpected, yet also hilarious. Here was the exchange:

Barkley: "Obviously, without John and Bradley, your two best players, give us two names that really need to step up for you guys."

Brooks: "Well, I think we should play that game where you name two guys on our team besides those two guys." 

Barkley: "Let me tell you something, I don't know anybody on your team! So I want you to tell us two players on your team."

To Barkley's credit, much of the national media has not paid any attention to the Wizards this season. The team only had one game on national TV this season, a November clash with the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers.

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When basketball does resume, the Wizards are six games back of the Orlando Magic for the eighth spot in the East. Washington needs to make up two games over the final eight contests in order to force a play-in game for the conference's final playoff spot.

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