As much as this season for the Wizards is about player development, head coach Scott Brooks still wants to win and we saw that dichotomy clash on Wednesday night in Washington's 121-106 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
After his team entered the second half down by eight points, Brooks went away from first round picks Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura in favor of veterans C.J. Miles and Davis Bertans. Brown logged only 17 minutes on the night and Hachimura topped out at 21.
For Hachimura, it was more understandable as he did not have it offensively. He was 0-for-5 from the field with zero points, showing no signs of life while battling a tough Pacers defense. Plus, 21 minutes is still a decent amount of floor time for a rookie playing in just his seventh NBA game.
But for Brown, who has now played four games since returning from a calf injury, it's difficult to understand why he only played the minutes he did, unless there was a setback with his health.
Was he playing great? No, his seven points and two rebounds and 3-for-9 shooting line didn't jump off the box score. His -17 +/- rating did stand out and not in a good way.
Brown, though, should have some room for error. Wednesday's game had shades of last season when Brown couldn't earn the trust of the coaching staff, even when it seemed clear he was better than some of the guys getting more playing time.
That was frustrating for Brown and his proponents, but it was at least justified by the team holding postseason hopes. They were an older, more experienced team and Brown was 19 years old.
But this year, the calculus has changed. The organization is taking the longview and holds no delusions about their ceiling this season. This year is more about their young players improving than it is about wins and losses.
The 15th overall pick a year ago, Brown's development is crucial for the Wizards and their future. So is Hachimura's, yet the two of them combined for 12 minutes in the second half.
Now, Brooks' approach in one game will not define the entire season. Brown may end up getting plenty of playing time when it's all said and done.
And Miles is a good and accomplished player. He looks healthy after recovering from foot surgery and, if that continues, he gives the Wizards a better chance to win in the short-term. If he has a bounceback year, he could even be a nice trade piece come the deadline in February.
But with Brown, Hachimura and other young players on the Wizards, the hope is that this season presents an opportunity for them to play real minutes. The Wizards need to find out which players are worth keeping, which ones could be used in trades and which ones aren't worth investing in long-term.
Committing to that is easier said than done and Wednesday night's game was a reminder.
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