How Scott Brooks Can Avoid The Inevitable Dwight Howard-John Wall Meltdown | Wizards Blog Truth About

How Scott Brooks Can Avoid The Inevitable Dwight Howard-John Wall Meltdown

Updated: September 11, 2018

If history is any guide, the Washington Wizards’ 2018-19 half-court offense is headed towards a collision course between two immovable objects.

In one corner, there’s Dwight Howard and his fondness for camping out in the lane and demanding post-ups. In the other, there’s John Wall and his unabashed willingness to tell Dwight to move the f*** out of the way.

Howard tallied the third-most post ups in the entire league last year, trailing only Joel Embiid and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Wizards, on the other hand, hardly ever post-up. In fact, Dwight had more post-ups last year (499) than the entire Wizards team combined (462). Markieff Morris led the team with a measly 2.1 post-ups per game (compared to Dwight’s 6.2), and those were not “back your man under the basket and call for the ball” post-ups. They were of the “catch the ball 15-feet from the rim and shoot a turn-around jumper” variety.

Entry passes into the lane are so rare in Washington that two years ago Scott Brooks started every game with a post-up for Marcin Gortat as a joke, as if to say, “This is the only one you are getting tonight, so enjoy it.”

If Dwight Howard thinks John Wall will defer to him 499 times next season like his Charlotte Hornets teammates did, he is sorely mistaken. That goes double if Dwight Howard truly thinks — as his trainer told Candace Buckner earlier this summer — that he is going to use his time in DC to evolve into his own version of Kevin Durant.

If the 2015-2018 version of Dwight shows up in Washington, it should not take more than a handful of games for the following scenario to play out:

Dwight calls for a post-up. Wall waves him off. Dwight insists. Wall reluctantly gives him the ball and stands with his hands on his hips. Dwight bricks an 18-foot bank shot. In the next huddle John barks at Dwight and Dwight says something passive aggressive. Beal rolls his eyes while Scott Brooks says nothing. It will look something like this … but worse:

In Brooks’ two seasons in Washington, he has lived up to his reputation as a players’ coach. Unfortunately, too often that means refusing to hold his star players accountable. This is one of the most under-discussed risks of signing Howard. If Brooks continues his hands-off approach to player management and leaves Howard and Wall to work out their on-court differences on their own, the results will not be pretty.

Dwight’s “aw shucks, I’m just having fun” attitude isn’t going to fly with Wall’s “the F*** wrong with you boy” demeanor. It won’t be long before locker room whispers evolve into passive aggressive tweets, and all of a sudden there is an intra-squad feud that makes the Kumho Tires kerfuffle look like child’s play.

The good news is this doomsday scenario can be avoided. But it will require Scott Brooks to be something that he has not been thus far in Washington: a disciplinarian. Brooks’ number one training camp priority should be addressing Dwight’s role on the team. Howard needs to be told Day 1 that his days of camping out in the lane are over.

Show him game film of Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan — guys who are impactful despite attempting fewer than ten shots per game. Brooks needs to set expectations from the outset so that the players are not left to police themselves during the season. At his introductory press conference, Howard said he’s happy to play any role on the team. Now is the time to hold him to that.

If Brooks isn’t comfortable initiating that conversation with Howard, perhaps a suggestion from a high school coach I know would be helpful. He devised five simple rules to ensure Howard plays to his strengths:

  1. Dwight gets four post-ups per game
  2. If he gets one assist out of every two post-ups, he gets an extra post-up
  3. If he blocks four shots in one game, he gets an extra post-up the next game
  4. Total post-ups can never exceed total pick-and-rolls per game
  5. Pick-and-rolls only count if he rolls all the way to the rim

Now, you may be saying, “Dwight is a grown man, he shouldn’t be treated like a high school varsity player.” To which I’d reply, is he though?

But the point is well taken. Scott Brooks is not going to publicly humiliate Dwight by doling out low-post touches like a parent giving allowance for chores. Nevertheless, the theory behind the rules applies. There is a narrow set of circumstances under which Dwight Howard can be very successful on the Wizards. That requires him to focus exclusively on rebounding, blocking shots, setting picks and rolling to the rim. And absolutely nothing else.

It is Scott Brooks’ job to get Dwight to buy in and — most importantly — hold him accountable when he doesn’t. Brooks is already playing from behind in this regard. He spent almost the entirety of last season calling the Wizards’ effort “unacceptable” and crying wolf about needing to find five players who would compete, but never made a single lineup change or meaningful rotation change.

After waiting around last year for his players to “flip the switch,” Brooks no longer has the luxury of time. He needs to steer the ship this season and that process starts with managing Dwight Howard. Otherwise, the Wizards might be putting out an even bigger tire fire this season.


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Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.