WASHINGTON — Good things happen when belief and talent combine. The Washington Wizards offered proof of that this past season, when under first-year head coach Scott Brooks, the team had its best season in 38 years in securing a return to the NBA playoffs.
The excitement is building for the first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks and that’s hard to believe given where the Wizards were a year ago. The Wizards just finished a 41-41 campaign and were spectators for the 2016 NBA playoffs after almost reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015.
Optimism had been replaced by pessimism. The Wizards had not hit rock bottom, but questions were hanging over the team. Was the success in 2015 a false dawn? Could Bradley Beal and John Wall fulfill their potential as an elite back court? It was bad enough that Randy Wittman was fired as head coach.
The Wizards wasted no time and secured Scott Brooks as Wittman’s replacement. With a resume that included five playoff appearances in seven seasons with Oklahoma City, Brooks was coveted by other teams, but he wanted to come to Washington. The Wizards were his first choice.
Brooks believed in the Wizards at a time when they might not have believed in themselves and that belief stayed strong after a 2-8 start. The result was the biggest turnaround from a 2-8 start in NBA history to 49 wins, the most for the Wizards franchise since 1979, and a Southeast Division title—also the team’s first division title since 1979.
With Brooks, success in the NBA goes beyond schemes and correctly executing plays. Remember, his NBA journey started as undrafted free agent in 1988 with the Philadelphia 76ers, where he was befriended by Charles Barkley. Through hard work, he turned the opportunity into a 10-year playing career, including a championship ring with the 1994 Houston Rockets.
“Whatever it takes to have that chip, you have to have it,” said Brooks. “There are a lot of competitive guys in this league and the teams that are the most competitive are usually the teams that win more often than not.”
Brooks made the Wizards competitive again and with him charge, all things now seem possible.