Brooks: Wizards ‘can compete against anybody in the East’

Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reacts during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

WASHINGTON — Wizards coach Scott Brooks joined WTOP Wednesday to discuss the 2018-19 season, which begins for the Wizards Thursday night against the Miami Heat at Capital One Arena.

The game against Miami comes just days after the Wizards announced the historic hiring of assistant coach Kristi Toliver, the first active WNBA player to join an NBA coaching staff.

“She makes our team better, she makes our staff better — just good to have her around,” Brooks said. “She has a great way about herself, she has a great spirit, and she’s talented and we’re lucky to get her because she’s still in the middle of her playing career.”

Toliver played her college career at Maryland, where she won a national championship as a freshman in 2006. The two-time WNBA All-Star was drafted third overall by the Chicago Sky in 2009 and won a title in Los Angeles before helping the Mystics to their first WNBA Finals appearance last month.

“We’re excited. She’s helping our players. Our players love her, and she’s working with them every day,” Brooks said. “I’m giving her drills; I’m giving her stations to run; I’m giving her teams to coach during scrimmages … Like I said, we’re all lucky to have her, she’s a great person.”

The Wizards’ biggest offseason move was signing 8-time All-Star center Dwight Howard to a 2-year, $11 million contract to upgrade their starting lineup after moving on from Marcin Gortat. Brooks doesn’t seem to share the concerns about Howard that some outside the organization do.

“He’s gonna fit in great,” said Brooks. “He’s a fun guy … He plays hard. He plays for his team, but he does it with a smile. And, I think it probably irritates opponents but I don’t have a problem with that.”

Howard participated in his first practice as a Wizard on Monday, but his status for the season opener remains in doubt because of a back injury that’s plagued him since training camp. Brooks said they will continue to monitor his progress leading up to tip off.

Even with Howard slow to recover, Brooks still has All-Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal leading his revamped roster, and he likes his chances in a wide-open Eastern Conference without LeBron James for the first time in 15 years.

“LeBron got a lot of coaches fired and a lot of players cut,” Brooks joked. “We feel that we can compete against anybody in the East but we’re not gonna talk. We’ve done that enough. We just want to go out there and play — play for one another, be proud of the effort we put in night in and night out, and let it all hang out every night. I think we’ve got enough talent — we’ve got really good players and they’re young players, and they’re going to continue to get better but we’ve just got to play well together.”


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