Whenever something in sports doesn’t go according to plan, we as fans are quick to place blame. The easy way to explain why the Oklahoma City Thunder couldn’t get back to the Western Conference Finals, much less the NBA Finals, would be to blame Kevin Durant for not being able to carry his team to the next round. Let’s take a deeper look before placing blame.
What became of the Thunder the second Russell Westbrook‘s meniscus tore falls on many parts of the organization.
I think that Scott Brooks was exposed in the series with the Memphis Grizzlies, even more so than he was in last year’s NBA Finals. He made absolutely zero adjustments once Russell Westbrook went down, showing us he never even thought about about a contingency plan in case one of his stars got injured. His offense essentially became Kevin Durant isolations, which was likely not going to win the Memphis series, no matter ho well KD played.
Essentially it was breaking away from their usual offense and becoming a “Kevin, create whatever you can for us offensively, take a tough shot, drive and kick, quick three, whatever you’re feeling” offense. Brooks did nothing to put Kevin Martin, Serge Ibaka or Reggie Jackson in any position to succeed, individually, or as a unit.
I was of the belief that after last year’s NBA Finals, whether the Thunder organization knew it at the time or not, that Scott Brooks was on his way out. The way he was overmatched by a coach we previously thought of as inferior in Erik Spoelstra stood out like Dwyane Wade‘s capri pants.
After last season, OKC GM Sam Presti couldn’t fire a coach that took his team to the NBA Finals. This season Brooks has the excuse that Westbrook was hurt. It won’t be long down the road, however, until Sam Presti will exercise his options. There’s no way he doesn’t; Sam’s just too smart to not see the misfires.
A couple of weeks ago, right after Westbrook went down, I wrote about how Russell’s absence exposed the James Harden trade in a whole new light.
In the column, I talked about how behind closed doors, I’m willing to bet that the people in OKC’s camp who were involved in pulling the trigger on the deal would admit that they didn’t know James Harden would be this good.