- The Washington Times
Monday, January 13, 2020

Thomas Bryant heard two of his coaches yell “TB!” and sprang off the bench, ready to check in during the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ loss on Sunday to the Utah Jazz. But by the time he got to the scorer’s table, the 22-year-old center was told to sit back down.

He swiped his hand through the air, unhappy the decision to put him in was reversed.

“I was like, ‘No, don’t do that!” Bryant said with a laugh.

Despite Bryant’s frustration, the Wizards held the big man to a strict 15-minute limit in his first game in over a month. Before Washington’s 127-116 defeat, Bryant had missed the previous 20 games with a foot injury. Now that he’s back, the Wizards plan to ease him back in until they feel like a minutes restriction is no longer necessary.

Bryant, though, was just glad to be out there.

“I felt really good,” Bryant said. “Just getting back to gelling with the teammates and everything. Those guys saw me, just trying to play hard, just trying to get the rhythm back. Those guys helped me out there.”

Even before his injury, Bryant had yet to find a rhythm with the Wizards. Last season, the Indiana product proved to be one of the surprising bright spots in Washington’s down year — paving the way for Bryant to sign a three-year, $25 million extension in the summer.

But over his first 19 games, Bryant struggled. Wizards coach Scott Brooks questioned the big man’s shot selection as 42% of his attempts have been at the rim, down from 51% in 2018-19. The Wizards rely on Bryant for his energy, but Brooks said Monday he felt like Bryant’s rolls off pick and rolls weren’t as strong as they were last year.

The Wizards are also looking for Bryant to take a leap defensively in terms of protecting the rim, Brooks said. Eventually, Washington would also like for Bryant to be able to play multiple positions, giving them the flexibility to trot out bigger lineups.

Still, Brooks liked what he saw out of Bryant against the Jazz. He said he felt the center was stronger in the first half than the second.

“Sometimes that’s expected when you miss a month or so,” Brooks said. “The adrenaline was there. … He’s just coming back. We expect him to play better each game. “

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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