“Very quiet,” said center Marcin Gortat, describing the atmosphere. “We were watching, listening, and it was a good session. Very good session.”
The clips revealed harsh truths: players not having each other’s backs on the defensive end and a team far removed from its 2017 playoff run.
Washington’s latest loss still stings — a Friday night letdown against the worst team in the Eastern Conference — but over the last several weeks, the team has playing its desired style. Instead of gaining momentum, the Wizards (42-38) are crawling to the postseason. The film session was a cold dose of reality.
“The team we were watching on film wasn’t us,” all-star guard Bradley Beal said.
On Friday, Brooks declared the Wizards a “selfish” team, sharing this evaluation at what might have been the peak of his frustration this season. Although he had cooled down by Sunday, Brooks reiterated his assessment.
“Our focus should’ve been about the team, and [I] made those comments after the game and that’s how I feel,” Brooks said. “And that’s not the team that we are and that’s not the team that we need to be going forward. So we wanted to make sure that everybody saw what I was feeling, and I think the players will respond.”
When the clips of the Wizards at their worst were spliced against footage of the team that appeared in last season’s playoffs, the difference was apparent.
“Looking at the things we were doing over the course of the year, over the course of the last couple games. Just seeing our demeanor and our approach and seeing two different teams,” Beal said. “They showed us clips of us last year in the playoffs. Just our intensity, our focus, our grit and grind, attention for detail for everything was a lot better. So, that’s who we need to be.”
Brooks, as he has since he arrived in Washington, kept to himself what happened behind closed doors. But Beal compared the session to students being shocked into silence. While normally a player can chime in with his opinion as the team studies game footage, Sunday was not the time to speak up.
“Like when the teacher goes off and you pick and choose your battles on whether or not you want to raise your hand or not,” Beal said. “So I think this was one of your times where you just keep your hand under the desk.”
The players might have shut up and studied the videos, but after the session Gortat had plenty to say about the team’s selfishness on the defensive end.
“I agree completely,” Gortat said about Brooks’s “selfish” comments. “It comes from the coach, and we as the players, we’ve seen that during the game. We feel that sometimes. It has to change. It has to change as soon as possible. It’s not only on one guy. It’s on a lot of people. You can’t win basketball games if you’re just thinking about yourself.
Gortat continued: “For example, if I’m guarding DeMarcus Cousins or Karl-Anthony Towns, he’s going to beat me to the paint or he’s going to have a better position than me, I’m going to need a guard to help me out and a big to throw extra hands and extra bodies under the basket to help me to stop that guy. And the same way goes for guys like Russell Westbrook coming here or LeBron James coming here, and I’ve got to help my teammates to stop these guys from getting to the paint and bully them to the paint.”
The Wizards will return to the practice court on Monday, the last of their three-day rest before facing the Boston Celtics. It is still possible for the Wizards to rise to the seventh seed and face the Celtics in the first round. Gortat, however, suggested that the Wizards must embrace Sunday’s message if they expect to survive any playoff matchup.
“It’s a team sport and team defense,” Gortat said. “And if we’re not going to do that, we’re not going to win. We can forget about achieving anything in the playoffs if we’re not going to start doing it.”