Scott Brooks had the privilege of coaching two superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and how he’ll have the privilege of coaching two of the best young guards in basketball in John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Asked what attracted him most to Washington, Brooks didn’t hesitate.
“Well, their talent,” the Wizards head coach said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “They have a good talent base. I think Ernie Grunfeld has done a good job of putting the team together. They have flexibility to add pieces this summer, so that was very attractive. Ownership was solid. I like the vibe of this city. It’s always been one of my favorite cities to visit. The backcourt is dynamic. It can be one of the best backcourts in the league next season. They can score, they can defend, they can play-make – I think a lot of good things. I’m excited to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to building relationships this summer and adding pieces along the way.”
The Wizards went 41-41 this season despite Beal starting just 35 games due to injury.
Brooks knows all about weathering injuries. In his final year in Oklahoma City, all five starters missed at least one month. Kevin Durant missed more than 50 games.
“We never made an excuse and we came within one-half of a game of making the playoffs, but New Orleans won the tiebreaker,” Brooks said. “I’m proud of what we accomplished there. Going forward, you have to have good fortune to have success in the playoffs. You can withstand an injury here and there during the year, and we withstood a lot of injuries and almost made the playoffs. You need good fortune, you need the ball to bounce your way, but most importantly, you need health. Unfortunate for us, after we made the James Harden trade, we had injuries every playoffs, starting with Russell and then Serge the following year and then (last year), everybody. “I’m proud of the way they’ve played (this year). It’s a great group of guys. I’ve always said it: (When) healthy, we’ve always had the best team in the league. They’re proving it right now.”
Brooks was asked if he was on board with the decision to trade Harden after the 2012 season.
“That’s a tough question,” Brooks said, laughing. “I thought you were going to throw me some soft balls, Doug.”
Nope, not this time.
In 2012, Harden was named Sixth Man of the Year and helped the Thunder to the NBA Finals. When Durant or Westbrook needed a breather, Oklahoma City could insert one of the best scorers in the league into its lineup. Sometimes, the Thunder played all three stars at once.
It was beautiful to watch.
“I will say this,” Brooks began. “James was the perfect guy for our team. Russell and Kevin, they were tremendous players and obviously we had a chance. We’re the youngest team to ever get to the NBA Finals, and you would have loved to have that chip on your shoulder going into the next season with what we accomplished the season before, but that’s all behind me and the Oklahoma City Thunder. I love what I’m doing, I’m excited about my new opportunities, and I’m looking forward to developing relationships and getting our team better.”
Brooks isn’t surprised by how well the Thunder have played this postseason, especially against the Warriors.
“Not at all,” he said. “I’ve said it – and I wasn’t just saying it because it was coach talk – I’ve always felt that they have the best team in the league. They have two of the best players in the league and they’re putting it all together. They have a chip on their shoulder, they have two of the best players and they got great role players who understand what their roles are. I wish them nothing but the best.”