Bumbling Brooks continues to bungle Wizards


Photo used with permission from Google Commons

Scott Brooks sits with general manager Tommy Sheppard during a Wizards practice

Jan. 6: Washington entered Philadelphia after a stunning one-point victory against the Nets three nights prior. Bradley Beal had a career-high 60-point night. Washington squandered it by playing their usual brand of basketball, getting behind big, storming back, and then blowing it. 

As we entered the fourth quarter Washington and Philadelphia were trading blows. Then, Wizards head coach Scott Books did the unthinkable, he went with the small-ball lineup. This lineup consists of Ishmael “Ish” Smith playing point, Raul Neto running shooting guard Beal at small forward, Davis Bertans as the four, and Thomas Bryant at center. 

Although plenty of teams around the league have had much success with a small ball lineup, a key piece that Brooks doesn’t understand is that you have to have good defenders to run small-ball. Washington has spent the last few years as one of the, if not the, worst defensive team in the league. Their game plan mainly consists of trying to outscore the opponent, which has at their best allowed them to dominate opponents in blow-out fashion. Sadly most of the time it results in defeat if the Wizards have an off night from the field. Because they can’t play effective or consistent defense, if a team is shooting better than them it will almost certainly lead to a Washington Wizards defeat.

This off-season Washington acquired former MVP Russell Westbrook (Brooks coached Westbrook in Oklahoma City from his rookie season in 2008-09 before Brooks was fired following the 2015 season) from the Houston Rockets in exchange for beloved point guard John Wall. General manager Tommy Shepherd feared that Wall, (who was coming off an Achilles tear) would not resemble the speedy, savvy slasher he was known to be. Although Westbrook plays quite similarly to Wall, he’s two years older than him and clearly on the decline. 

Brooks appears to struggle to effectively coach Westbrook, who has been settling for more jumpers than we’re accustomed to (Westbrook is statistically the most ineffective three-point shooter in NBA history) while driving to the basket less. As Brooks continues forcing him to shoot outside jumpers he’s clearly uncomfortable, which makes me question how much he really impacted him during their time in Oklahoma City together. 

One year after Brooks was fired by Oklahoma City, he was hired by the Washington Wizards in a move that most saw as an attempt to make a strong push for superstar small forward Kevin Durant, who was set to be a free agent that off-season. Durant opted to join the Golden State Warriors fresh off an NBA finals appearance. Durant, a Maryland native, has had his name linked to DC for years. During the 2017 off-season, Durant has been adamant that he doesn’t want to return to Washington. It has been three years since Durant’s statement and he hit free agency again in 2019, this time joining the Brooklyn Nets. Somehow Brooks is still in Washington and causing public outrage daily.

While one could point to the offensive numbers of Washington and cite him as the architect of it, most people who watch games will tell you that there is no real game plan other than playing through Beal, who has become one of the NBA’s top scorers, currently averaging 35 points per game. This needs to change, as great of a player Beal is, the offense should not single-handedly run through him. His usage has prompted Wizards fans to beg Shepherd to trade him. Washington is currently sitting at a putrid 3-8 making it more frustrating that Brooks has not tried experimenting with lineups. 

Throughout December and even early January, Brooks had opted to bench center Moritz “Moe” Wagner, shooting guard Garrison Mathews, and small forward Isaac Bonga in favor of scrubs such as Robin Lopez and Anthony Gill. It took a season-ending injury to the starting center for Brooks to finally allow these two to play again. It appeared as if Brooks didn’t want to hear or see what they could contribute. When on the court, Mathews has arguably been the second-best scorer on the team. Although Wagner and Bonga might not constantly produce on the offensive end, these two are their best defenders and to play limited minutes can basically sum up the Brooks era because of the frustration it causes the fan base.