It is a poorly kept secret that Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is on the hot seat. He is on the last year of a five-year, $35 million contract and hasn’t seen his team go further than the second round of the playoffs, which happened in his first season. And now, we’re getting some clarity on what it may take for Brooks to keep his job.
According to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic (subscription required), Brooks is under a “playoff mandate of sorts.” But with the quasi-expansion of the playoffs this season to include ten teams from each conference instead of eight, it remains to be seen whether a play-in berth is enough for him to keep his job for next season. The Wizards are currently 10th place in the Eastern Conference and are 3.5 games ahead of the 11th place Toronto Raptors.
There are plenty of reasons why Brooks should be fired after this season, ranging from his longer-than-expected timeframe to figure out team rotations among other things. If a coach is on his or her last year of a contract, then it’s clear that his or her team doesn’t have confidence in his/her ability to meet expectations, whether from the front office or ownership. In addition, Charania and Amick noted that General Manager Tommy Sheppard may not be totally safe either after this season.
But there is also a big reason why Brooks may still be the Wizards’ head coach next year. Washington went 12-5 in April and he won the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month. The franchise star guard duo of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook like him, and Westbrook wanted to be in Washington when he was looking for a team to get traded to last year.
I’m certainly happy that the Wizards have woken up after a long slumber and may somehow make the playoffs, which I thought they were going to do in the preseason. But I don’t think Washington should have started this season 0-5. And the Wizards should have started the post-All-Star Break schedule better than they did. I will not hold the Wizards’ January coronavirus outbreak or Westbrook’s early-season injuries against Brooks.
The Wizards MAY make the Round of 16 at the end of this season, but I don’t think that should be enough for Brooks to stay as head coach next season. If they were playing at a higher level all season long and didn’t have such a disastrous start to their regular season or the second half last March, maybe we would be talking about Washington having home-court advantage for at least one round during this year’s playoffs.
Instead, we are wondering if the Wizards can string two single-elimination game wins to get into the first round. Those single-elimination games could very well determine whether Brooks and Sheppard stay on board next season.