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Westbrook guaranteed playoffs in passionate speech to Wizards originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks can't pinpoint the exact game Russell Westbrook made the speech, but he remembers the specifics of it.
The team had just lost yet another game, it was months ago during one of their lowest points. Westbrook stood in front of the team and let his emotions spill out.
"He gave a very passionate, very direct talk to the group. He was like ‘I am not going through this season and not making the playoffs,’" Brooks recalled after their playoffs-clinching win over the Pacers on Thursday.
"Not that he predicted it, but he said I’m not going to let this happen and not make the playoffs. We’re going to step up and fight for one another. It went on and on and on. I was just like ‘that’s a special young man there.’"
The Wizards would end up closing their season by winning 17 of 23 games, then advancing through the play-in tournament to earn a first round series with the Philadelphia 76ers. They overcame a host of injuries, a battle with the coronavirus and many disappointing defeats.
But now they are in the real playoffs, not just the play-in, which means Westbrook's proclamation worked. Brooks may have remembered it as not a prediction, but Westbrook remembers his speech as essentially a guarantee.
"I just wanted to let the team know that this season, at the time we were struggling and everybody was doubting us outside, we had to figure out a way to knuckle up and make the playoffs. Simple as that," Westbrook said.
"I didn’t care what happened in the previous games. We had to figure ourselves out and look ourselves in the mirror. That starts with myself. I made it clear to the guys that we will make it."
That wasn't the only story Brooks told about Westbrook on Thursday after his team blew out Indiana, 142-115 at home. He also recalled a time during their days in Oklahoma City when he and Westbrook had an "animated" debate in his office over whether he could play 35 minutes a night. Brooks wanted to limit him to 34.
"I remember fighting him over one minute... We fought for 20 minutes in my office over that," Brooks said.
There was also a similar story to the locker room speech that was relayed by Daniel Gafford earlier in the week. He said after the team's loss to the Hawks on May 12, Westbrook told the team he didn't have any vacation plans at the end of the season. He was intent on making the playoffs.
If you don't know by now, Westbrook doesn't play around.