Scott Brooks reclined in a folding chair inside the Washington Wizards‘ practice facility. He was dressed casually in gray shorts and an athletic shirt, as if at any moment he might jump into a pick-up basketball game. He looked relaxed, smiling often. Certainly, with training camp a few weeks away, Brooks must have had concerns — but least among them is the dynamic between his two best players.
On Friday afternoon, Brooks shared his thoughts for the first time since John Wall and Bradley Beal, in separate CSN interviews, spoke of on-court chemistry issues. Brooks has read their admissions — and he doesn’t plan on holding emergency counseling sessions before the 2016-17 season begins.
“There’s a lot of things I’m worried about going into camp, and every coach in this league is worried about. That is not one of them,” Brooks said of Wall and Beal’s possible rift. “I haven’t even talked to our assistant coaches about it. Will I meet with each player individually? Yes. Will I meet with the team? Yes. Will I meet with the positions together? Yes. But I don’t see our team having a problem with chemistry.”
On the August day when the Wall-Beal story circulated, Brooks was in Los Angeles with the two players as the team held a mini-training camp. Brooks recalled the team having a “great workout” that day and never felt the need to address issues.
“Two things I noticed about both of them: They’re very competitive, and they care about their teammates. When you have those two qualities, you will never have problems with me as the coach and you’ll never have problems with your teammates,” Brooks said. “With that being said, they’re like brothers, and you’re going to have arguments. If you don’t have an argument as an NBA team, that’s odd.”
Brooks, 51, understands friction between teammates. He played 10 seasons in the NBA himself and won a championship with the 1993-94 Houston Rockets, a roster filled with colorful characters.
“We’d argue once a week,” Brooks said of that season.
Also, Brooks helped groom — and, likely, referee — the Oklahoma City Thunder as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook blossomed into superstars.
Durant and Westbrook had moments when they would “cuss” each other out, even during games when teammates had to separate them. Brooks does not suspect, however, that his experience in handling two bickering young stars had anything to do with the Wizards picking him to lead their team.
“Never once did Ted [Leonsis], Ernie [Grunfeld], [senior vice president of basketball operations] Tommy [Sheppard] ever mention that to me. Never once did I ever think about ‘When are they going to mention that to me?’ ” Brooks said, referring to the conversations he had with the team owner and front office before taking the job.
“I don’t look at it as an issue, I look at it as two competitive players developing their position in this league,” Brooks continued. “I’ve had history of two competitive players, at a young age, [developing] together. That’s not always going to be lovey-dovey, but the respect has to be there.”
Though Brooks sees nothing out of the ordinary with Wall and Beal’s relationship, he does recognize that if their competitiveness veers off track then it can affect the season. If that happens, then the calm and carefree demeanor Brooks now enjoys in September will undoubtedly change.
“You have to have a competitive group to win. Some nights it’s going to get very competitive, and sometimes it’s going to boil over. That’s my job, to make sure it never goes across that line,” Brooks said. “We have to know that we always have to play for one another and you have to respect one another, and if you don’t have that, you’re going to have a lot of disappointing nights.”