Rookie Deni Avdija played a career-low seven minutes on Sunday in the Wizards' loss to the Celtics. It was partly due to foul trouble, as he had three of them. But head coach Scott Brooks opted to play Isaac Bonga in the second half instead of going back to Avdija.
On Tuesday, Brooks reaffirmed his confidence in Avdija, who has shown promise this season, but is still only 28 games into his NBA career.
"It’s normal to have some good moments and some tough moments. Every player, every single player in this league," Brooks said. "I’m sure Michael [Jordan] had a couple of bad games in his rookie year. Every player. Russell [Westbrook], I coached him his rookie year. He’s had a handful."
"Deni’s gonna be a good player. For all the rookies in the league, it’s never happened where you had no Summer League, really no training camp and then with the safety protocol, he missed three weeks in the middle of the season. That’s hard to overcome."
Brooks made reference to the different dynamic playing this season amid the coronavirus pandemic. It was a shorter offseason and then the Wizards had a Covid-19 outbreak that caused six games to be postponed. Avdija was one of the players who spent the longest time in league protocol.
"I just told him I’m proud of him," Brooks said of a pregame conversation he had with Avdija. "He’s overcome it. He’s going to get through it and continue to develop and get better as this season goes on. I don’t know if the rookie wall is there, it could be there."
Avdija, who turned 20 in January, is averaging 5.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 41.9%. He is trying to find his way in a Wizards rotation that includes established veterans like Westbrook and Bradley Beal. The team also has playoff expectations, which means he may not get the same opportunity to play through his mistakes as rookies on rebuilding teams do.
Brooks, however, can see Avdija benefitting from the situation.
"Deni’s gonna be fine. I love him. His teammates love him," Brooks said. "The reason I know that’s a fact is because they get on him. Russell and Brad, they push him. If they didn’t think he was good, trust me [they wouldn’t]."