'The Lowe Post' on Scott Brooks, Ernie Grunfeld, and the 2-7 Wizards | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

‘The Lowe Post’ on Scott Brooks, Ernie Grunfeld, and the 2-7 Wizards

Updated: November 16, 2016


Today, Zach Lowe had David Thorpe join “The Lowe Post” podcast to debate early-season trends and discuss a handful of NBA teams. Midway through their recording, they landed on our favorite subject here at Truth About It: the Washington Wizards.

In summary, both Lowe and Thorpe have faith in Coach Scott Brooks, and in John Wall, but are highly critical of Ernie Grunfeld’s leadership and decision making. They also took the opportunity to poo-poo Washington’s offseason splurge on bench players.

What follows is a transcript of their conversation, lightly edited for clarity (h/t to @Abdu11ah).

You can listen to the full audio here. The Wizards-related bit begins at the 37:10 mark.

LOWE: The Washington Wizards are crumbling. Coach?

THORPE: Oh, boy. Looking to a coaching perspective, I thought Randy Wittman, who I was a big fan of as a player in Indiana—before your time, I’m sure—I thought he was a subpar coach that had a couple of decent moments when John Wall was healthy in the playoffs a few years ago. But mostly not.

I think Scott Brooks is a good coach. I think he was underrated in Oklahoma City, and it’s fair to say maybe I’m wrong. We’ll find out.

I think they have the talent to be better than they are. I know Wall missed the last game they lost. I think their bench is weak. I think their starting five is good. John Wall is always been a guy to me, Zach, who was been mercurial. And he’s not as enigmatic as a Stephon Marbury, but in terms of talent, I thought he was the most athletic point guard in the league that was also a pass-first guy. Most of the athletes like that back then, like Derrick Rose and Westbrook, were looking to score.

Wall should be the best defensive point guard in the league, and maybe the best of all time. He has figured out how to score, because he’s a better athlete than you. He’s the fastest pace pusher—well, among the two best with Darren Collison—rim to rim. Westbrook slows down sometimes, then hits you with the world’s fastest first step. But you can’t stay in front of Wall and Collison, who can just beat you. Wall has figured out how to use that to score. He still can’t shoot.

They’ll finish as a plus defensive team. Brooks always, in OKC, didn’t get enough credit. He had to have a foundation that wasn’t just about two superstars, and I thought he gave them one: ‘We’re going to be a defensive team.’ He stressed it all the time. And that isn’t an easy thing. Frankly, I thought they would have won a championship had Patrick Beverley not taken out Westbrook.

Wall is not as good as Westbrook, and nothing like Durant, but I think they have the pieces to be much better. But they’ll get better as the year goes on, if John Wall can be a leader and not a squawker and a complainer—kind of like we talk about when Chris Paul had his tougher times. They’ll rally if he’ll let them rally.

LOWE: I made them a slight favorite for the 8 seed. But I just don’t like their team. Bench is a disaster.

THORPE: Terrible.

LOWE: We haven’t seen Mahinmi, he’ll help a little bit.

THORPE: He’ll make a difference.

LOWE: He’s so duplicative with Gortat, but it’s nice to have another guy who can play 25 minutes so Gortat doesn’t have to play so much. But Nicholson already got a DNP-CD over the weekend, Oubre isn’t ready, and Marcus Thornton stinks.

Their starting lineup looks good on paper, and was good last year, but it hasn’t been very good so far this year. Something smells rotten to me. And a GM before the season, he said, ‘I’m not in there, but everyone that comes out there seems to be pulling in a different direction than someone else. Someone is talking about themselves and not the team.’

They can’t get to a point where there’s unity and cohesion. Even this week, Gortat was going off on how bad the bench is. Gortat is always going off about something, he’s a delightful personality in that way, but . . . .

They’re better than a 2-7 team. Their offense, which has been horrible so far, will improve. Otto Porter has had a bunch of nice games and is nice for the role he is in. Maybe it’s just that Wall and Beal have to play. Are we ever gonna get to the point where they play consistently and see what the team is? They should be closer to .500 than this.

THORPE: As much as I talk about coaching, and I don’t want to detract, but players make a huge difference and so does management. That’s where culture starts. There’s a saying I heard in the last year and I’ve repeated it a million times: culture eats strategy for breakfast.

They’ve got an assistant GM in Tommy Sheppard, who is the definition of that—he’s just the most positive, hardworking guy. Absolutely the kind of guy you want as a figurehead. But he’s not [no. 1]. He’s the no. 2 behind Grunfeld, who I don’t see as that.

I’ve wondered over the years how Ernie keeps his job. And I’m 100 percent sure that he is not going to keep his job if things don’t change . . . because they’re not gonna change coaches. I’m sure of that, but they’ll change something.

I’m worried [Sheppard] will be a great GM somewhere, and it won’t be in Washington. He’s the kind of guy, if he were empowered, to reach John Wall. Wall has enough talent, and he plays the right way. He’s not a guy that wants to score, if you’re open he’s always happy to throw you the ball. He’s thinking assist, and reading the game the right way. But he needs to be challenged to be a positive on a daily basis.

But that team doesn’t seem happy. You can’t just look at the head coach, you’ve got to to look at management. Ernie is a target right now. He has to change the culture there, and no one move is going to make a difference.

LOWE: I agree with you that Ernie Grunfeld is in major trouble if they miss the playoffs.


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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.