Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks will not return for the 2021-22 NBA season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Brooks could not come to terms with the Wizards regarding a contract extension, so they agreed to part ways. The Wizards soon issued a press release where General Manager Tommy Sheppard said the following:
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. 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.
This comes after the Wizards were eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs and about one month of talks.
Brooks coached the Wizards to a 183-207 regular-season record from 2016-21. His most successful season was his first in 2016-17, when the Wizards went 49-33, won the Southeast Division title and made the second round of the playoffs by going the distance with the Boston Celtics in a best-of-seven series. He would also coach the Wizards to two more playoff appearances two more times, with Washington getting eliminated in the first round.
It seemed like Brooks was hired by then-President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld in 2016 as part of an attempt to woo then-Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant to Washington in the following season when he became a free agent. That was because Durant came from the D.C. area
However, Durant never considered playing for the Wizards and decided to play for the Golden State Warriors instead. He now plays for the Brooklyn Nets. And Brooks ended up coaching a much different team than he anticipated because the injury bug struck hard. This especially happened to John Wall who suffered multiple leg injuries., the worst of which was an Achilles’ tendon rupture that forced him to miss much of the 2018-19 and all of the 2019-20 season. These were also the seasons when the Wizards missed the playoffs altogether.
Though Wall ultimately fell out of favor in Washington due to his injuries and Grunfeld was fired in the middle of the 2018-19 season, the franchise still had some bright moments with Brooks after his first season in Washington. That’s because the team began to focus more on Bradley Beal as their franchise centerpiece.
Beal earned each of his three All-Star appearances under Brooks’, was named an All-Star starter this season, and was the NBA’s second-leading scorer this season.
Russell Westbrook, the star player whom Washington traded Wall to the Houston Rockets in December 2010 for, averaged a triple-double in his first season here in Washington. In fact, Westbrook is largely responsible for Washington’s rise in the standings this past month. And in an odd coincidence, Brooks was able to coach one of his star players from his Thunder days. It just wasn’t the star player whom many fans were expecting.
The Wizards allowed Brooks to begin the 2020-21 NBA season as a “lame duck coach,” so this news is not a surprise. While the Wizards were ultimately able to make the postseason in 2020-21, we already saw several reasons why he could have been fired earlier. For example:
- The Wizards started 0-5 in the regular season and 0-5 to begin the second half after the All-Star Break. If the Wizards won three of those games, Brooks consistently wanted to give the narrative that “we just need more time to gel” due to a lack of training camp time and the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the schedule. To his credit, the Wizards gelled for the most part in the last couple of months. That said, EVERY NBA team had little time to prepare for training camp. EVERY NBA team had a compressed schedule. It’s a poor excuse. To be clear, I will NOT blame him for the Wizards’ 0-4 start after a two-week absence due to a mid-January coronavirus outbreak.
- When I heard that Deni Avdija simply wants to learn and play hard as his top attributes during a postgame conference ... I can only conclude that Brooks is simply looking for a narrative as to why Avdija has to play to his weaknesses like former Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky was. Avdija, pre-injury of course, could have been a third playmaker alongside Beal and Westbrook, which would help the ball move around more and keep defenses guessing. Instead, he has to reconstruct his game?
- Even in the last couple of months, Brooks has had trouble with rotation management. Daniel Gafford should have received more playing time in general. Having Westbrook shoot a three to try to win a game late in the season? No attempt to have a more suitable defender against Jayson Tatum in the first play-in game against the Celtics? Hack-a-Simmons, in the second quarter ... with a lead in Game 5 against the 76ers?
At the end of the day, letting Brooks go is the right decision.
The Wizards had the potential to be a playoff team this year, but they should have been seeded higher. The Wizards mis-utilized rotation players over the years, whether their names were Tomas, Troy, Daniel or Deni. And sometimes even with stars when the game is close.
All of that said, I don’t think we should kick Brooks excessively while he is down. When given a healthy roster and/or a key player whom he has a great relationship with (like Westbrook), that matters as well. The Wizards won their only division championship (as the Wizards might I add) under his watch. And he has a great working relationship with Westbrook which will be very, very difficult to replace.
The Wizards will have a national search for their next head coach, and we’ll learn who he or she is in the coming weeks.
To Coach Brooks, thank you for your time here in D.C. While we have been critical over the years, we always wanted to see you do well here. And I personally am happy to see that the Wizards have been able to make the postseason in three of the last five seasons under your watch. We wish you great success with your future endeavors.