Scott Brooks Is Not Getting Fired | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Scott Brooks Is Not Getting Fired

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Updated: April 12, 2018

There is really no way around it, the Wizards loss to the Orlando Magic last night was a master class in the art of lethargy.

The Magic, who didn’t even let the ink dry on the final stat sheet before they fired Coach Frank Vogel, finished with a record of 25-57, and have effectively been out of the playoff race since before All-Star break. To make matters worse, they outscored the Wizards 25-17 in the fourth quarter with players named Rodney Purvis, Khem Birch, Jamel Artis, and Mario Hezonja.

With the exception of rookie Devin Robinson, who saw his first action of the entire season last night, the Wizards rolled out the same lineup that at one point put together 10 wins to just 3 lossds without John Wall. Yet in the fourth quarter of a game that could have pushed them up to the sixth seed to face the upstart Philadelphia 76ers, they could only manage 17 points, 20 percent shooting and nine personal fouls.

For some perspective, those same 76ers, who are without arguably their best player in Joel Embiid, were going to have home court advantage whether they finished with the third or fourth seed. Still, when they took the court against the Milwaukee Bucks, they jumped out to a 46-point first quarter, and ended up winning by 35 points. No starter played more than 25 minutes, Markelle Fultz messed around and got a triple-double, and Coach Brett Brown continued to push the correct buttons to motivate his team.

It could be argued that the Bucks, who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo, had no motivation, since a win coupled with a Cleveland win, would mean a Bucks/Cavs first-round matchup. Still, the Sixers were motivated to play and removed any doubt. The Wizards lacked that motivation.

Coach Brooks, on the other hand, was getting slammed on Twitter for his inability to motivate his team in such an “important” game, and there was a groundswell of “Fire Coach Brooks” sentiment on Twitter, which is still going on as this article is being typed.

That sentiment is semi-understandable in lieu of not just the Magic game but the way the Wizards limped down the stretch with a 5-7 record with Wall in and out of the lineup. Coach Brooks uttered the word “unacceptable” more than once, Bradley Beal avoided the post-game locker room twice, and both Otto Porter and Tomas Satoransky were clueless about what was wrong and how it could be fixed.

But Brooks will not be fired–not now anyway. And here’s why:

The Chase, The Contract, The Expectations

Just two years ago around this time, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld along with team Vice President Tommy Sheppard flew out to California to visit with Scott Brooks. That was on Wednesday, April 20, 2016. By Thursday, Brooks had already agreed in principle to a seven-year deal worth $35 million. At the time, that made put Brooks the sixth-highest paid coach, and tied with Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle as the highest-paid coach without a front office title.

Although Grunfeld’s statements whenever the Wizards make any type of coaching or personnel move resemble form letters and not statements actually uttered by a real person, he did say this about Brooks during the introductory press conference:

“Scott was our top candidate and we moved quickly on an agreement to make him our head coach,” Grunfeld said. “His presence, the core players we have returning and our cap flexibility this summer have us all looking forward to the possibilities of what our team can accomplish.”

Cynics and lifelong Wizards fans would say that Owner Ted Leonsis and Grunfeld signed Brooks to grease the skids of then-free agent Kevin Durant’s arrival to DC.  But Leonsis and Grunfeld presumably conducted a thorough amount of research before ultimately making their choice and trusting Brooks with guiding franchise players Wall and Beal. After all, committing to that amount of money for that length of time, demonstrates a certain amount of trust with the (only) person they considered for the job.

In his first season, the Wizards won 49 games and fell just one win short of the Eastern Conference Finals with a loss to the Boston Celtics. The culprit there was the Wizards’ thin bench, not coaching. That’s on Grunfeld.

During this, his second, season, Brooks has had to battle injuries to Markieff Morris, Otto Porter, and most importantly a little someone we like to call John F. Wall. During the 26-game stretch that Wall missed, thanks to the emergence of Satoransky and ascent to All-Star status of Beal, the Wizards went a respectable 14-12. More importantly, they held on to a playoff bid. Barely.

All complaints about how badly the Wizards played down the stretch are 100 percent justified. But that same coach kept them in the hunt, and that deserves as much praise as the slump deserved criticism. As Marlo from “The Wire” would say, “You want it to be one way, but it’s the other way.”

Barring a devastating four-game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Raptors–which isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility–Leonsis and Grunfeld aren’t about to throw in the towel on someone who is still owed $21 of the agreed-upon $35 million. There’s nothing in the Leonsis/Grunfeld track record which suggests that drastic of a move is nigh. It is also worth noting that Leonsis evaded the luxury tax until this season (when he had to max-out Wall, Beal and Porter), so it is highly unlikely that he’d bookend a season of that added expense with paying off the coach who he coveted just two years ago.

The Upset Factor

The Wizards split the season series with the Raptors 2-2, all four games played without the services of Wall. Although the core of each team is different, the backcourt of Wall and Beal was around during the 2015 playoffs when the Wizards defeated Lowry and DeRozan and the rest of the Raptors. Yes the Raptors will have an ax to grind, but the Wizards will not be scared, which means the air is ripe for an upset.

In that series, the fifth seeded Wizards–buoyed by veteran Paul Pierce and coached by Randy Wittman (who was on a hotter seat than Coach Brooks is now)– surprised everyone and defeated the fourth-seeded Raptors despite not having home court advantage.

It’s true, the Raptors can’t seem to solve the LeBron riddle and Coach Dwane Casey seems to go in and out of trouble, but that doesn’t diminish how well they’ve played this season. The Wizards upsetting the Raptors would be even taller this time around because the top-seeded Raptors have a stronger bench, a much-improved DeRozan and consistency on both ends of the floor.

What if Indiana upsets Cleveland, and the Wizards win that round two matchup? Or what if yet another Wizards/Cavs matchup emerges in the second round, the Wizards push LeBron to seven games or win it? And while we’re thinking crazy, what if the Wizards find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals (or beyond)? Will anyone still remember the end of the Wizards’ season, let alone game 82 against the Magic?

LeBron is still the King (just look at his shoes) and he’s been leading teams (first Miami, then Cleveland) to the NBA Finals for seven consecutive years. But top to bottom (where the Wizards are) the Eastern Conference is as up for grabs as it has ever been during LeBron’s reign. The Wizards may have stumbled into the postseason party, but they are there, and they have a chance to go far, which would only cement Scott Brooks’s status as the Wizards head coach.

The Dreaded Reset Button

There has been plenty of slander thrown in Ernie Grunfeld’s direction over the last several years and some of it is justified. If Grunfeld convinced Leonsis that Brooks had to go after this season–a conclusion that we’ll hypothesize would only happen if the Raptors beat the Wizards in four or five games–it would have to be viewed as a failure by both men.

Grunfeld would have fired his second coach in three years, and he would have had to replace his fourth coach during his 15-year tenure (counting interim coach Ed Tapscott). There would be nothing to show for it except premature second-round exits and little else of substance. And in his eyes, Brooks may not be Brad Stevens or Gregg Popovich, but he’s still an upgrade and more proven than Jeff Hornacek, Monty Williams and the other assistant coaches currently vying for a head coaching slot.

Leonsis would bear the burden of those same failures, but he’d also have to hear and read criticism about his reluctance to part with a GM/President who has not given him desired results. And while fans and some writers would happily deal with those types of problems, to an owner, that sounds like starting over. To loosely quote Yoda, starting over leads to fan angst, fan angst leads to lowered ticket sales, and low season ticket sales leads to the Dark side (just ask Orlando).

Rather than endure that level of upheaval, it would be much easier for Leonsis and Grunfeld to stay the course, praise the job Brooks did this season with a shorthanded roster, attribute Satoransky’s success to the stewardship and nurturing ways of the entire coaching staff, and lean on the core and promise of  Wall, Beal and Porter. They could even throw in a trade or a signing of a player who could possibly have an impact—like the signing of Ty Lawson today.

The stay-the-course method would possibly anger fans after a premature playoff exit. But come the start of the 2018-19 season, Leonsis and Grunfeld would be willing to bet that the support would indeed return.

 

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It is possible that Coach Brooks could still get fired at season’s end it is highly unlikely. Given the track record of this current Wizards administration and the sliver of success Brooks has had in two of the five years he’s scheduled to be here, it’s likely we’re all in for more Brooks, more platitudes and, depending on what happens in Jurassic Park, more fan frustration.

 

…….unless the Raptors sweep the Wizards of course

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.