Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is preaching defense in the early stages of the 2018 training camp, which he says not only produces easy buckets on the offensive end, but also wins games.
Last season, the Wizards ranked near the bottom of the league in defensive rebounds, blocks and opponents’ second-chance points.
With the addition of veteran center Dwight Howard, who missed the second straight day of training camp Wednesday with a sore back, the Wizards envision some improvement in those categories.
Howard, on his fourth team in four seasons, recorded the third-highest rebounding percentage and tied for fourth in blocked shots last year while with the Charlotte Hornets.
All-Star point guard John Wall admitted Wednesday that the Wizards were “terrible” at pick-and-roll defense last season. The team hasn’t been able to work on defensive sets without Howard in camp.
“We just don’t have the chemistry yet, but Ian [Mahinmi] has done a good job in stepping up and playing,” he said inside the new Wizards Medstar Performance Center in southeast D.C. “He is healthier than he was last year. He’s been doing a great job for us.”
One-on-defense will be a key this season, Brooks said, especially with many of the league’s big men now playing outside the paint and driving to the basket.
“We have to do a better stop in stopping the basketball,” he said. “You have to be able to guard multiple players and we have to do a better job in staying in front of the ball. When we switch, our bigs are going to have to do a good job of guarding the smaller players. That’s just the way the league is built now.”
Brooks said the first two days of training camp have been intense, with an emphasis on not only defensive pressure, but playing with space. That also means the former point guard will allow his team to jack-up more 3-pointers.
Every player has conducted shooting drills behind the 3-point line, even the big guys.
“I enjoy shooting threes,” said Mahinmi, the Wizards’ 6-foot-11 backup center. “It’s another thing to add to my game. Another challenge and another thing to work on.”
‘She’s a coach’
Washington Mystics point guard Kristi Toliver rejoins the Wizards coaching staff after some work this summer in Las Vegas with the Wizards’ summer league team.
This season, Toliver, 31, will help the Wizards staff with player development and film study.
For a second straight day, she worked to collect rebounds and pass to players during various shooting drills. She also took some time after practice to shoot a few jumpers on the practice courts.
Toliver follows the path of other notable women: Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, who coached with the Sacramento Kings; Becky Hammon, an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs; and Jenny Boucek, who the Dallas Mavericks hired in July as an assistant coach.
“I frigging love it,” said Mahinmi, who has three daughters. “We don’t look at Kristi as any different from the other coaches. You can talk to her. She has tremendous knowledge of the game.
“I tell my daughters, ‘You see Kristi, she’s a coach,’” he said. “She’s a coach and coaching us. This is amazing.”