Wizards

Wizards

The Washington Wizards now look a lot different than the team Scott Brooks took over back in the summer of 2016. Gone are core players like Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat. Instead of proven, specialized veterans, his roster is full of young players whose main selling point is their upside.

When Brooks came to Washington, the goal was to win now. Now it looks a lot more like 'build now to win later.'

The Wizards' roster overhaul will require an adjustment for Brooks. He's a coach who has been to the NBA Finals and conference finals. In two of his three years with the Wizards, they have made the playoffs.

But this year his job will be more so to teach. He will be tasked with overseeing the development of guys like Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr., Admiral Schofield, and Moe Wagner.

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said at his introductory press conference last month that Brooks is embracing the change.

"One thing I also want to really pipe in on is the support we have from Coach Brooks and his staff and the ability they have to pivot. When Coach Brooks got here, we won 49 games and we were one game away from going to the conference finals. That was kind of the team he got coming through the door. Now, this takes him back to his OKC days," Sheppard said.

Many remember Brooks' Thunder as the team that made the Finals in 2012. They recall the juggernaut that averaged 53 wins from 2009 to 2015.

 

But before the Thunder were title contenders, they won 23 games in the 2008-09 season. That was one of four straight losing seasons for the franchise.

Sheppard remembers the Thunder's rise and how Brooks helped build a winning environment around a group of top draft picks that included Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden.

"Before that team really broke through, they had to have a hard-working and high-character mentality," Sheppard said.

Brooks has two years remaining on his contract that pays him $7 million per season. His resume and salary would usually not match the state of the Wizards' roster. Sometimes teams in transition reach agreements with accomplished coaches to part ways. It happened with Mike Budenholzer and the Hawks when he left to join the Bucks.

But there have been some coaches with similar track records to Brooks who have stuck around during franchise reboots. Doc Rivers of the Clippers, Erik Spoelstra of the Heat and Rick Carlisle of the Mavericks come to mind. Alvin Gentry of the Pelicans is in a similar spot, coaching a team that changed just about everything in their organization this offseason but him.

If the Wizards play to expectations this season, they will likely be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. That could weigh on Brooks, who is used to coaching in big games. But it is also conceivable he could benefit as much as anyone from the team's culture change.

Sheppard is doing his best to bring in more coachable and hard-working players. After dealing with some veterans who were very much set in their ways this past season, that could be refreshing for the coaching staff.

Time will tell if the new-look partnership can work. Either side could change their tune.

But for now, both Brooks and the Wizards seem to be in unison as they march ahead.

"This really re-invigorated him in a lot of ways, to be honest with you," Sheppard said. "[The coaches] are all committed to this and where we’re going right now. The future is develop players, continue to get high-character people and I think we’re going to do great things."

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