Wizards coach Scott Brooks knows all about hard-hitting NBA play
Forgive Scott Brooks if he has a private chuckle or two when folks talk about the physical nature of the NBA these days.
The league in which he played for six teams over 10 seasons beginning in 1988 was rather different than the 3-for-all game that’s played now. So even when there are a few stray hits and even an ejection and one-game suspension for Kelly Oubre Jr.’s shove-down of Kelly Olynyk, the Wizards coach knows it’s nothing compared to the NBA from the ’80s and into the next decade.
Brooks was asked if he ever knowingly drove into the lane when Charles Oakley was occupying said space.
“Did you see me walk up to the platform tonight?” said the former point guard who checks in at all of 5-foot-11. “My body’s in pain from all the physicality.”
The league cracked down on hand-checking and those extraneous hits away from the ball that used to slow down cutters. Former commissioner David Stern worked hard with the competition committee to get the league away from the Pistons’ “Bad Boys” style that yielded low-scoring games.
“I mean, it’s a totally different game (now),” said Brooks before Game 5 last night. “The game is much more free flowing. There’s so much more spacing. When you were a shooting big, you were considered probably a softer player, and now it’s important to have shooting bigs. It was just a different game.
“I like the game the way it’s played now. It’s basketball, and it’s a beautiful game when all five guys are moving and sharing and the spacing is good and all of the great shooting. Teams are hard to guard. It’s definitely hard to guard. These are definitely different times.”
Still, the word “physical” is thrown around.
“Physical now? You just play with toughness,” Brooks said. “People view physicality differently, and I view it as just playing together, playing every night, being consistent in your approach every day, making the simple plays all the time, and that’s the way it should be.
“There’s a difference between being physical and dirty. We all know who the dirty players are, and that’s not what the league is about. These guys come out .?.?. all of our athletes put everything on the line. The physical nature of the game keeps them playing, so you don’t want to go out there with the intention to hurt.
“But you want to be physical. It’s a physical game. You set screens. You go around screens. You take hard fouls. That’s just part of the game of a good, physical basketball team. But when you go out there to try to hurt somebody, that’s out of line.”
Brooks then looked back again on his playing days. He played in all 82 games his rookie year with Philadelphia, and that happened because he knew where the trouble lay.
“It was just different back then,” he said. “I mean, when you go through the lane, you might have some bruised ribs. You pressure up the court and (Bill) Laimbeer or (Jeff) Ruland or Oakley or all the big guys were going to try to clobber you, put you on the floor. But that’s just a different times. It’s definitely a different game.
“I’m not saying it’s a better game now, it’s free flowing and aesthetically it’s better on the eyes — and the body.”