New Wizards coach Scott Brooks was a guest on a recent episode of The Vertical Podcast with Chris Mannix taped during Summer League in Las Vegas. As part of their discussion, Mannix asked Brooks about what he would try to do differently in Washington, and he focused most of his answer on managing his players’ wear and tear better, which he developed throughout his tenure with the Thunder:
I know as I was growing as a coach, I understood that the wear and tear on the bodies were important to manage. When he had such a young, dynamic team. Our practices were so much fun and intense and very competitive, but as I grew as a coach, I understood that we have to be efficient in what we do and figure out what’s really important and cut our practices down. The analytics tell you that.
The thing I didn’t focus on: Minutes per game. I focused on minutes per practice. Because you know, you can play a guy 36 minutes per game, and cut it down a minute, but still practice them for two-and-a-half hours and still have an hour and twenty minute shootaround, that minute is really nothing.
Seeing some of the training camps, I was fortunate Coach Pop [Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich] let me come for 3 or 4 days, and I saw how he did it. There was a lot of similarities in practice plans and how we did things, but I really pinpointed his as being really efficient. They weren’t long, they were to the point, they were very competitive, and they moved on quickly.
When Mannix followed up with asking how he implemented that in Oklahoma City with a young team, here’s what he had to say:
I had many, many heated arguments, or debates we like to call it, with players over that. We would have a scrimmage at the end of practice and I would cut it down because it would never end. If you go ‘Win by 2’ you’re never gonna win by 2, it’ll go one-up, tied, one-up, tied, like a long tennis match. And so I would cut it down and say ‘No, practice is over. Get out of the gym. You are out.’
But that’s what makes good teams. You don’t want players who say ‘Oh, I can’t wait for practice to be over. I wish we had a day off today.’ That’s the culture we want to establish in Washington. They have a good foundation, but I want them to want to play every day and don’t skip the steps of being great.
These are all great things to hear for Wizards fans, especially after a year where the team lost so many games to injuries, especially to Bradley Beal. Later in the interview, Brooks was asked specifically about how the team planned to manage his workload, given his history of leg issues:
I was just with him this morning and watched his workout in Las Vegas. He said this is the best he’s felt in any of the offseasons he’s been in. He’s 23 years old and he’s going into his fifth year. It’s just really incredible.
Your body as a young player, you have to go through a lot. It’s a shock to the system. Every young player has to go through that. You have to be able to manage their workload. Going forward, the staff that we have together understand that. The analytics on the medical side is important. The workloads, the things that we have to try and prevent injuries from happening is going to be very important for myself. And that’s one of the things that I wanted to improve on this summer and I think that we have a good game plan moving forward.
So far, Brooks is saying all the right things about managing the Wizards’ workloads moving forward, now we just have to wait and see if their plan will keep Bradley Beal and John Wall off the injured list. The coaching staff can’t prevent every injury, but it’s good to see they’re taking their responsibility to prevent what they can seriously.