The media availability following the Wizards’ embarrassing loss to the tanking Detroit Pistons on Thursday night was quite insightful. Entertaining, perhaps, if you think of it as the franchise’s production for April Fool’s Day (yes, it took place on April 1). Or just comical if you happen to have followed the Wizards through the past couple seasons (which probably says a lot about your perseverance!). It featured three quite different representatives of the organization, each with different perspectives.
Act I: Enter Scott Brooks. Black mask on his face. Eyes lacking any hint of a spark. Looking down. Shoulders hunched.
Chase Hughes, NBC Sports Washington [1:06 in the video]: How do you explain the free-throws in particular being so low, technically one of the worst free throw percentages you guys have ever had in franchise history?
[The Wizards shot 31.6 percent from the stripe, going 6 for 19. Westbrook led the pack with 1 for 5.]
Scott Brooks: ... Russell has been making them lately. He's gonna have to go back to the drawing board and make some of those, but we gotta get stops. You know if we don't have a lot of firepower, if we can't get stops on the defensive end it's tough. I thought this was one of the first times that I’ve seen Russell — he's been carrying us with all the offensive guys out — and trying to manufacture everything, he looked a little winded at times. I probably played him too many minutes the last couple of nights, but we had to do that out of necessity with all the guys out.
A random stat: The TO column in the Wizards box score looks like this: 1,1,0,1,9,0,0,0,1,1,0. This is an anomaly and the fact that no one in the media even mentioned it is embarrassing.
A random thought: Coach, what does “offensive guys” mean?
A random thought for coach: Russell is playing too many minutes. And it’s not out of necessity, but out of poor decisions of the coach. Do you need to wait till the 9th turnover to decide to bench someone that looks winded?
Perhaps, just maybe, the 9 turnovers by Russell should lead you, as coach, to consider changing the style of play letting Russ play fewer minutes, or let other guys push the ball forward (maybe Deni could rebound and push the offense at times), or ask Russ to do things differently.
Fred Katz, The Athtletic [2:29 in the video]: I know you had a lot of guys out tonight, so I’m really asking more generally as opposed to tonight. You guys are bottom 10 in the league in points per possession (PPP), and one of the expectations of the team was that you're going to have a high-powered offense going into the year. Are you surprised by where you guys are at in terms of offensive efficiency?
Scott Brooks: Umm, not really, not with all the things that have taken place. Thomas Bryant, it's probably not the right time to talk about all the things that's happened but we get our guys back we’re a different team. We got some firepower on the bench in street clothes tonight. So if you're gonna give a fair assessment, a lot of guys have had to step up and play roles that they are not ready for... I know that we are a better offensive team then we were tonight...
A random thought: Coach, Fred was asking a fair question — not about tonight but about the season as a whole.
Reporter [5:29 in the video]: What is the main issue, the main problem, that you would like to be resolved on the court? How much needed is Bradley Beal's presence to change the pace, to change the way that you play?
Scott Brooks: You guys, I mean, I know that you all are asking me basically the same question, you guys are putting me in the spot, looking like I’m making excuses, I’m not! The facts are that guys are out but we have to step up and play better...
A random thought: Coach, if this is putting you in the spot, please try to attend a media availability in other cities. Most coaches with your record would long ago be roasted by the local media, and, by the way, fired. D.C. media is very very soft, as you know.
You are making $7M a year, that is just below $100K per game. Or about $1K for every point the team scores. And a reporter just asked you a legitimate basketball question. Is that putting you on the spot?
Another random thought: Coach, according to you, the main problem is then that guys are out. How does that explain teams with much less fancy rosters (such as Oklahoma, Chicago, Charlotte) being able to defend once in a while and have better overall records?
Act II: Enter Robin Lopez. Black mask hanging on one ear.
[In response to an early question from Chase, Robin mentions the code phrase ‘trust each other’].
Fred Katz [10:19 in the video]: You mentioned ‘trust each other’, can you expand just a little bit on what that means? How does lack of trust show on the court? How would more trust show on the court?
Robin Lopez: to me, when guys trust each other they play freely, they don't hesitate. As a big man an example is pick & roll coverage. If I feel I need to step up on a three point shooting guard, I know there is going to be somebody behind me to take my man and box out my man, I have no doubt about that. On offense, it's swinging the ball, giving it up and knowing it's going to come back to you at some point. [closes his eyes with the familiar ‘you know what I mean’ look]
A random thought: Maybe, just maybe, Russell and Beal are black holes in terms of not swinging the ball enough? This is not me, this is a uniformed Wizards player speaking.
Act III. Enter Russell Westbrook, no mask in sight.
OK, enough is enough. I won’t go into the third act, even Wizards fans have a limited tolerance... But I did appreciate Russell’s interview which was direct and took the blame on himself squarely.
Just one last thought: Robin Lopez is my hero from now, having to play for such a crummy coach and team on his birthday. It is pretty cool Robin’s birthday is on April Fool’s Day. Happy (Belated) Birthday, Robin!