After they faced the Nets on Sunday without many of their best players, the Washington Wizards are expected to have star guard Bradley Beal back in the lineup for Thursday's game against the Pistons, according to head coach Scott Brooks. As for the newly-acquired Russell Westbrook, well, it's a bit more complicated.
The Wizards are still deciding whether to play him against the Pistons, which will be the second of just three preseason games for them. If he doesn't play on Thursday, that means he will only have one more opportunity to play in an exhibition game leading up to the season.
Given he's joining a new team, it would make sense if he went through a trial run, perhaps to run the plays and build chemistry with his teammates. The Wizards, though, don't seem to think that's very necessary.
"With him being whatever it is, 13 years [in the NBA], an exhibition is not gonna make much a difference for him," Brooks said.
He went on to add: "Normally, sometimes you say that you need a couple of games under your belt before you start the season, but with him, he’s probably the exception to that rule. He’s been in the league long enough. He knows what he needs to do to get his rhythm back."
All of that makes sense, at least in a vacuum. But Westbrook has a lot of new teammates he has to build an on-court relationship with. They are working on that in practice, of course, but it is also difficult to recreate all the elements of live game action.
Brooks noted how there could be a benefit to Westbrook not playing in the game, as they can give more minutes to others as they make decisions on the roster and the depth chart. That, too, makes sense.
But if Westbrook doesn't play in the preseason at all, or barely plays, it will be interesting to see how they start the season. That approach will surely be second-guessed if they come out looking unprepared.