After missing the playoffs, the Thunder decided to fire head coach Scott Brooks after seven seasons with the team.
It seems like somewhat of a stab in the back to fire a coach after he only had the reigning MVP for 27 games this season, but really, this gave OKC an excuse to do something they should have done a couple of years ago.
First, let’s give Brooks credit where credit is due. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden weren’t locks to be the superstars they are today. Brooks was the guy that developed all three of them, and look at where they are now. You could argue that those are three of the top-five players in the league, but certainly are all in the top-10. That’s not easy to do.
Sure, KD was a near can’t miss prospect, but he became a multiple-time scoring champ and an MVP under Brooks. That’s no guarantee, just look one pick earlier at Greg Oden. Westbrook and Harden were both taken by OKC higher than they were projected in their draft classes, which speaks to scouting, but also means these guys got a lot better once they were in the NBA. Brooks’ coaching is a big reason that these three players are so elite, and he deserves acknowledgment for it — and that doesn’t even include the development of Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson.
With that said, missing the playoffs gave Sam Presti the green light to cut ties with Brooks, and it was definitely time for him to go. Obviously, he’s been without Harden the last three seasons, but OKC has had more than enough talent on its roster to make more noise than they have. The Thunder have needed someone to teach them how to win. Someone to push them to greatness. And although the Thunder did appear in one NBA Finals, that was because of their players, not their coaching. Again, Brooks helped make those players who they are, but he was never able to coach them with any organization. The game plan was always to just unleash Russ and KD … not much to it.
Brooks helped the Thunder take a huge first step to get into the position they’re in, especially when you factor in the questionable call of trading Harden and still being considered a contender. But decisions like refusing to go away from Kendrick Perkins in the 2012 Finals when the Heat were playing small-ball, is an example of Brooks just not being able to adapt. The Thunder lost the series 4-1, but had they confronted Miami’s lineup with Ibaka at center and Durant matched up with LeBron at the power forward, maybe they would have stood a chance. Instead, they looked helpless.
Maybe if Brooks had thrown Harden into the starting lineup in his last season there, OKC would have seen his potential FAR exceeded that of a sixth man. There are more issues I can go into, but that’s not the point.
Here’s the point. OKC should thank Brooks for what he’s done. He’s put the Thunder in fantastic position to win. Now it’s time for the Thunder to find their coach that’s going to put them over the top and help them reach their potential — a championship. Because for now, they still have two of the best five players in the league. As long as they don’t blow it and trade Durant like they did Harden because they’re afraid he’ll walk in free agency.
As for Brooks? He’s already being mentioned for the Magic’s coaching vacancy. Orlando has a GREAT young roster with the type of potential to get a whole lot better. Sounds like a perfect fit for both … until the Magic need to get over that hump.
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