Scott Brooks

Wizards Notes: Brooks-Westbrook, Beal, Coach Search, Unseld

Russell Westbrook wanted the Wizards to keep Scott Brooks as head coach, but his endorsement wasn’t enough to save Brooks’ job, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports. Westbrook and Brooks have a long relationship that dates date to Oklahoma City, where Brooks coached him for seven seasons.

Westbrook endorsed Brooks after Washington was ousted from the playoffs and spoke to general manager Tommy Sheppard about the coaching situation during his exit interview. However, Sheppard doesn’t think Westbrook will be affected by the change on the bench.

“Moving forward, Russell’s career does speak for itself. He was fantastic with Scotty in (Oklahoma City),” Sheppard said. “He won MVP in (Oklahoma City) under a different coach. Last year, he was All-NBA under a different coach. This is part of the business that we all struggle with, but it’s a certain part of the business that is something we know when we get into this business, that the only constant thing is change.”

There’s more on the Wizards:

  • The Wizards’ decision to move on from head coach Scott Brooks is all about trying to ensure that All-Star guard Bradley Beal sticks around long-term, per Fred Katz of The Athletic“What we gotta do as an organization is continue to do whatever it takes to put ourselves forward to have sustainable winning,” GM Tommy Sheppard noted in comments to reporters about the decision. Katz notes, however, that it could behoove Washington to add a new voice on the bench who could be open to a rebuild, should Beal opt to leave ahead of the 2022/23 season.
  • Because Wizards stars Russell Westbrook (soon to be in his age-33 season) and Bradley Beal (an All-Star in his prime) both have player options in their deals for 2022/23, it may make sense to make a win-now hire, adding someone with a prior head coaching track record, opines Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. GM Tommy Sheppard seemed open to adding a first-time head coach if he deemed the fit appropriate. “You want the qualities that you think are going to amplify the needs of your team,” Sheppard said. “You look at the modern NBA and what’s going on, who’s in the [playoffs], who’s still playing. It’s a great snapshot of what the NBA is. You have very diverse coaches, you have former players, you have people that came from Division II colleges. It’s just a reminder that there’s no clear path of how to get there, there’s no magic formula.” Less experienced coaches can also be significantly more cost effective, Hughes notes.
  • The Wizards would be wise to consider longtime Nuggets assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr., writes David Aldridge of The Athletic. Aldridge notes that Unseld has significant roots in D.C., from his Hall of Fame father to the years he logged between stints as a scout and assistant coach for the Mystics and Wizards. Given the precarious nature of Beal’s future with the franchise (he can sign a long-term extension in the fall or opt out in 2022), nailing this hire will be crucial for Tommy Sheppard, Aldridge writes.

Arthur Hill contributed to this report.

Wizards’ Coaching Search Will Be ‘Diverse, Robust’

With Scott Brooks officially out as the Wizards’ head coach, his replacement won’t be named quickly. GM Tommy Sheppard said he will conduct a “very diverse, very robust” search, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. Sheppard also used the words “thorough” and “inclusive” to describe the search, which suggests that he might give serious consideration to a woman candidate.

We have more interesting tidbits from Sheppard’s press conference on Wednesday:

  • Sheppard said he opted to part ways with Brooks and then informed team chairman Ted Leonsis of his plan. Leonsis gave a rubber stamp of approval, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. “‘If that’s what you want to do, then that’s what you’ll do,'” Leonsis told Sheppard.
  • The ability to communicate well with the players will be high on the list of traits Sheppard is seeking for his next coach, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Sheppard doesn’t want the next coach to take on too much responsibility — he’ll seek one that’s willing to have offensive and defensive “coordinators” on this staff.
  • Sheppard will be seeking more depth and veteran leadership in free agency and trades this offseason, Youngmisuk relays in a separate tweet. He isn’t worried about finding plenty of worthy candidates for the head coaching job on a team that make the playoffs this season, adding that “D.C. will sell itself.”

Scott Brooks Won’t Return As Wizards’ Head Coach

12:55pm: The Wizards have officially announced in a press release that they won’t extend Brooks’ contract and that they’ll immediately begin the search for a new head coach.

“We have been committed to taking the proper steps over the last two seasons to develop our young players, bring in pieces to complement Bradley Beal and build a winning environment that will ultimately lead to sustained on-court success,” general manager Tommy Sheppard said in a statement. “Our organization will always be grateful to Scott for his dedication and work both on the court and in the community over the past five years and I personally admire and respect how he helped keep our team together during the unprecedented events of the last 15 months.”

10:29am: The Wizards and Scott Brooks couldn’t reach an agreement on a new contract for the veteran head coach and have agreed to part ways, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Brooks’ deal with Washington expired at the end of the 2020/21 season.

Brooks, formerly the coach of the Thunder, joined Washington ahead of the 2016/17 campaign and led the team to a 49-33 regular season record in his first season. That team came within one game of earning a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, but Brooks’ squads took a step backward in subsequent years, compiling a 134-174 record (.435) over the next four seasons.

Halfway through this season, it seemed Brooks might become the first coach fired in 2021, perhaps even before the regular season ended. The Wizards had a 17-32 record and looked dead in the water, far removed from the playoff picture. However, a second-half surge saw the Wizards finish the season on a 17-6 run, earning them a play-in spot, which they parlayed into a playoff berth.

The late-season run – along with endorsements from Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal – helped convince the Wizards to seriously consider extending their relationship with Brooks — both Wojnarowski and Chris Mannix of (Twitter link) suggest ownership was discussing the possibility of a new deal. However, the two sides weren’t able to agree to terms and the club will now be in the market for a new head coach.

The Wizards are the sixth team to launch a head coaching search this offseason, joining the Celtics, Pacers, Magic, Trail Blazers, and Pelicans. Now a free agent, Brooks could emerge as a candidate for one of those other jobs, though there has been no reporting linking him to any of them yet.

As for Brooks’ replacement in D.C., no frontrunners have been identified so far, but it seems like a safe bet that Westbrook and especially Beal will have a voice in the club’s hiring process.

Community Shootaround: Scott Brooks’ Future

Four NBA teams are currently on the lookout for new head coaches, while most other clubs whose seasons have ended will stick with their current leaders. However, one team has notably yet to make a call on its head coach — Scott Brooks‘ doesn’t have a contract with the Wizards for the 2021/22 season, and Washington has yet to finalize a decision on whether or not he’ll be back.

Halfway through the 2020/21 season, Brooks looked like he might be the first coach to be let go, either right after the All-Star break or when the regular season ended. The Wizards had a 17-32 record and looked dead in the water, far removed from the playoff picture.

However, a second-half surge saw the Wizards finish the season on a 17-6 run, earning them a play-in spot, which they parlayed into a playoff berth. Washington didn’t last long in the postseason, falling to Philadelphia in five games in the first round. But the late-season hot streak complicated the team’s decision on Brooks, who probably couldn’t realistically have been expected to lead the squad any further, given its lack of top-tier talent outside the backcourt combo of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook.

Those two star guards both endorsed Brooks in their end-of-season sessions with the media. Westbrook, who also played for Brooks in Oklahoma City, was particularly effusive in his praise of the veteran coach.

“If it was up to me, Scotty wouldn’t be going anywhere. It’s not even a question or a conversation to even be brought up,” Westbrook told reporters last week. “If the conversation is brought to me, I will definitely voice my opinion like I’m voicing it now and see what happens.”

Westbrook’s support of Brooks – as well as Beal’s – could play a significant role in the Wizards’ decision, according to Quinton Mayo, who suggests there has been momentum toward the two sides working out a new deal. If Brooks does return, Mayo says, it would be contingent on him overhauling his coaching staff.

Still, the Wizards haven’t officially made their decision yet, so before they do, we want to know what you think. Should – and will – they bring back Brooks? If they don’t, which coaching candidate(s) should they target? And, in that scenario, would Brooks be a good fit for another team’s head coaching vacancy?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts on the Wizards and Brooks!

GM: Wizards Won’t Make Decision on Brooks Right Away

With the Wizards‘ loss to the 76ers on Wednesday, head coach Scott Brooks has officially reached the end of his five-year contract. However, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays, general manager Tommy Sheppard isn’t ready to make a decision on Brooks’ future just yet.

Any question about that stuff, that’s not for today, that’s not for this time,” Sheppard said. “I will say this, Scotty did a hell of a job keeping this team together through some of the most difficult and dark moments probably in franchise history, to be honest with you.

The Wizards fought through a season-ending injury to starting center Thomas Bryant, as well as multiple disruptions due to COVID-19, to finish the year on a 17-6 run and advance from the play-in tournament to their third playoff appearance in Brooks’ five-year tenure.

Still, Sheppard reiterated the need to examine the entire team, from players to coaches, ahead of the 2021/2022 season, which could prove to be the final year of star Bradley Beal‘s contract, should he decline his 2022/2023 player option.

Despite Beal finishing the year second in the NBA in scoring and his backcourt mate Russell Westbrook leading the league in assists, the Wizards were games under .500, and if they hope to retain Beal beyond 2022, they will have to consider how to build the team around their talented backcourt.

As for Brooks, the veteran coach understands the business of these decisions, and is letting the situation play out as it will. “It doesn’t bother me one bit. That’s just part of being in this business. It’s obviously well-documented that my contract’s up,” he said.

The 12-year head coach is instead taking the time to enjoy the opportunity he had with the Wizards and to focus on his family as Sheppard and team owner Ted Leonsis mull a decision on Brooks’ future.

Wizards Notes: Brooks, Westbrook, Beal, Gafford

Following the Wizards‘ elimination from the playoffs on Wednesday night, the franchise will face a number of crucial offseason decisions, starting with the future of head coach Scott Brooks. Brooks doesn’t have a contract beyond this season, but indicated after last night’s loss to Philadelphia that he’d like to remain in his current role.

“I love it here. There’s no decision in my mind, I love it here,” Brooks said, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

The decision on Brooks will ultimately be up to Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard and owner Ted Leonsis, but it’s possible they’ll seek input from the team’s star players. And it doesn’t sound like they’re looking for a change. As Candace Buckner of The Washington Post relays, Bradley Beal referred to Brooks as a “true player’s coach,” while Russell Westbrook endorsed the man who also coached him in Oklahoma City.

“If it was up to me, Scotty wouldn’t be going anywhere. It’s not even a question or a conversation to even be brought up,” Westbrook said, according to Hughes. “If the conversation is brought to me, I will definitely voice my opinion like I’m voicing it now and see what happens.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Beal’s future will also be a major topic of discussion in D.C. this offseason as the All-Star guard enters a contract year, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Beal said on Wednesday that he’s making an effort not to focus on the inevitable rumors. “Ultimately, I’m in control,” Beal said. “I think that’s my biggest thing. People are going to report whatever they want, but I know where my mind is and I know if it’s not coming from the horse’s mouth, then it’s going to be rumors. I expect them. S–t, they’re starting now.”
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic argues that the Wizards can’t – and won’t – trade Beal this offseason, but that they owe it to him to be bold in reshaping and upgrading the roster around him.
  • In his look at the Wizards’ offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) notes that Beal will be eligible for a four-year extension worth a projected $181MM this offseason. Marks also examines the team’s proximity to the luxury tax line and identifies wing defenders and depth as top summer priorities.
  • Recently-acquired big man Daniel Gafford, who looks to be part of the Wizards’ future, says he’ll be looking to put on weight and work on his conditioning during the summer, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic. If I wanna be out there 20-plus minutes every single night, my conditioning has to be top-tier,” Gafford said.

Southeast Notes: Capela, Bogdanovic, Brooks, Carter Jr.

Hawks center Clint Capela ripped the Knicks for getting chippier ever since Atlanta asserted control in their first-round series, Andrew Lopez of ESPN relays. “I don’t know if they’re physical, but they are trying to play physical,” Capela said. “I feel like if they were really physical, I think we’d have more problems than what we have.”

Capela, who said the Hawks are coming to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to “win this game again and send you on vacation,” also took a shot at the Knicks for being considered a team that plays hard every night. “We play hard because we’re playing the right way and we win games that way,” the Hawks’ big man said. “When you’re playing hard because that’s your last solution, I don’t take that as a ‘playing hard’ team.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Knicks have discovered how much more potent the Hawks are with Bogdan Bogdanovic in the lineup, Zach Braziller of the New York Post notes. Bogdanovic, who signed a four-year contract with Atlanta as a restricted free agent in the offseason, is averaging 15.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 3.5 APG in the first four games of the series. “What Bogey has done for us this season, we want to give him more (responsibility),” coach Nate McMillan said. “So I’ve been able to change the rotation, allow Bogey to really play with the basketball a little bit more.”
  • After the latest incident involving an unruly fan, Wizards coach Scott Brooks urged potential troublemakers to stay home, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. A fan ran onto the court in Game 4 between the Sixers and Wizards and was tackled by security. “There’s great fans in Boston and New York and Philly and D.C., Utah. But there’s some that just need to, you know what, stay home,” he said. “Your thinking is barbaric. Stay home. We don’t need you. We don’t need your dollars. Just stay home. Get away from us.” The fan will be banned from the arena and criminal charges are being pursued against him.
  • Wendell Carter Jr. brought a physical presence and energy to the Magic frontcourt after being acquired in the Nikola Vucevic trade with the Bulls, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. He averaged 11.7 PPG and 8.8 RPG in 22 games with Orlando.

Monty Williams Wins Coaches Association Award

Suns head coach Monty Williams has won the 2020/21 Michael H. Goldberg award, as voted on by the National Basketball Coaches Association, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017 and named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg, is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself. However, it isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award will be announced later in the year.

Williams earned the Coaches Association’s award after leading the Suns to a 51-21 record, good for second in the NBA. The club had the league’s sixth-ranked defense and seventh-ranked offense, Wojnarowski notes.

The Suns, who were 19-63 in 2018/19, became just the fifth team in NBA history to improve by at least 15 games in back-to-back seasons, per Woj. Williams accomplished that feat in his first two years in Phoenix despite dealing with pandemic-shortened seasons, making the feat even more impressive.

According to Wojnarowski, Scott Brooks (Wizards), Michael Malone (Nuggets), Nate McMillan (Hawks), Doc Rivers (Sixers), Quin Snyder (Jazz), and Tom Thibodeau (Knicks) were among the other coaches who received votes.

The previous winners of this award are as follows:

  • 2020: Mike Budenholzer and Billy Donovan
  • 2019: Mike Budenholzer
  • 2018: Dwane Casey
  • 2017: Mike D’Antoni and Erik Spoelstra

Southeast Notes: Haslem, Oladipo, Brooks, Magic

Udonis Haslem saw his first playing time of the season Thursday night, and it was both eventful and short, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. The 40-year-old forward played less than three minutes, scoring four points and grabbing a rebound before getting two technicals and being ejected. He clashed with Sixers center Dwight Howard after what Haslem thought was excessive contact.

“It was fun,” Haslem said. “For me to just go out there and play the game of basketball, show that I can continue to play at a high level and help my team win, it was fun. It’s a great memory. And, if this is the last one, I finished it the only way Udonis Haslem could: with an ejection.”

Thursday’s appearance officially made Haslem an 18-year NBA player, and he set a record as the oldest player ever to get into a game for the Heat. He only played four games last season and 45 total over the past five years, but Miami keeps keep re-signing him to one-year deals because of his stature as a team leader. Haslem will turn 41 next month, and coach Erik Spoelstra hopes he returns next season.

“It’s not like I’ve been openly recruiting him,” Spoelstra said, “but I just continue to tell him, like, ‘We don’t have to make any kind of decision now. Let’s kick this down the road.’ Everybody knows in this building, but most importantly in that locker room, the level of impact that he has.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat remain optimistic that Victor Oladipo will be able to play next season, a source tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Oladipo had season-ending surgery on his right quadriceps tendon this week, and his timetable to return will depend on how much the tendon heals over the next three months. Oladipo will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • Wizards owner Ted Leonsis sidestepped a question about coach Scott Brooks during a news conference this morning, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports. Leonsis chose to focus on the upcoming play-in tournament, rather than the status of Brooks, who is in the final season of a five-year contract.
  • With seven key players between the ages of 20 and 23, player development will be crucial to the future of the Magic, notes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Coach Steve Clifford said it’s important for young players to understand that playing time has to be earned. “I would say minutes earned (is the better path because) there is accountability.” Clifford explained. “When you play well, you get more. … I tell the guys all the time, ‘If you want to play more, if you want a bigger role, play better.’ It’s really as simple as that. It doesn’t mean numbers. Execute. Know what we’re doing (schematically). All of that comes into play.”

Bjorkgren, Stotts, Budenholzer Among Coaches On Hot Seat

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that Nate Bjorkgren‘s future as the Pacers‘ head coach is uncertain, and Shams Charania and Sam Amick echo that point in their latest report for The Athletic. According to The Athletic’s duo, Bjorkgren’s “abrasive” style and a tendency to be controlling with assistants and other staff members has been a cause for concern.

Sources tell Charania and Amick that multiple Pacers players have expressed dissatisfaction with Bjorkgren this season, with Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis among those who haven’t been on the same page with the first-year coach. Those same sources tell The Athletic that several Pacers players feel the analytical style Bjorkgren has employed doesn’t suit the team’s personnel.

The growing pains Bjorkgren has experienced in Indiana don’t necessarily mean that the Pacers will make a coaching change at season’s end, but the situation is worth keeping a close eye on, per Charania and Amick.

The two Athletic reporters also singled out a few other coaching situations worth watching around the NBA. Here are a few highlights from their report:

  • The Trail Blazers are increasingly likely to part ways with head coach Terry Stotts this offseason unless he can “pull a rabbit out of his hat” and make a deep playoff run, according to Charania and Amick. Sources tell The Athletic that Stotts has less player support this season than he has in past years. Charania and Amick identify Jason Kidd, Dave Joerger, Chauncey Billups, Brent Barry, and – if he becomes available – Nate McMillan as potential targets for Portland if the team makes a change.
  • There’s significant pressure on Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer entering the postseason, according to Charania and Amick, who say Budenholzer’s job will be in serious danger if the team is eliminated in the first two rounds. Budenholzer has one year left on his contract after 2020/21, per The Athletic’s duo.
  • Luke Walton of the Kings and Scott Brooks of the Wizards are other coaches whose job security isn’t exactly rock solid, but Charania and Amick point to financial considerations in Sacramento and a recent hot streak in D.C. as factors working in favor of Walton and Brooks keeping their jobs. Walton has a strong relationship with Kings GM Monte McNair, while Brooks is well-liked in Washington, note Charania and Amick. Still, the long-term future of Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard is also somewhat uncertain, which further clouds Brooks’ status.