The Oklahoma City Thunder have made it to the Western Conference finals again for the third time in the last four seasons. Despite a 59-23 record, they find themselves down 2-0 against the San Antonio Spurs.
If that’s the story line for success, Brooks shouldn’t be on the hot seat. However there’s a more demanding audience, and anything short of an NBA title brings a lack of job security. Mark Jackson was fired this season after 51 wins, and last year Vinny Del Negro and Lionel Hollins were let go after 56 wins. Coaching great George Karl was let go after 57 wins, and although Hollins led the Grizzlies to the 2013 Western Conference Finals, Jackson, Del Negro and Karl were all first-round losers in the same year.
It seems there’s increased scrutiny on today’s coaches and Scott Brooks isn’t exempt. He led the Thunder to at least 59 wins in the last two seasons and with two superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Brooks has been unable to deliver Thunder general manager Sam Presti a championship.
While the team’s full roster has been playing at max talent, they’ve yet to get it done. They let go of guard James Harden to keep a core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who have spent the majority of their playing careers in good health until Westbrook’s knee injury and Ibaka being ruled out for the remainder of this postseason.
There are no excuses for Brooks. On paper the Thunder are primed and ready to take it all. In fact, you can say the NBA title is theirs to lose.
And in key moments, they’ve done just that – lost. Brooks seems to favor giving the ball to Westbrook and Durant, allowing both All-Stars to dictate the offensive strategy. Brooks is content with the Thunder going as either player goes. For this reason, a popular theme is Westbrook shooting OKC out of games, and Durant playing a disappearing act in crunch time. In reality it’s Brooks’ inability to incorporate both players into a structured system that favors both of their talents.
The Thunder received a boost from guard Reggie Jackson and rookie forward Steven Adams. While Kedrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha have reached the pinnacle of their careers as key role players, Scott Brooks has been unable to win it all despite a team where most of its players are at the pinnacle of their careers.
He has the perfect balance of superstars, veteran leadership and role players. With another looming postseason exit, full attention must be placed in Brooks’ direction. There’s a change that needs to be made, and it’s been proven that chemistry, depth or player personnel is not the issue. We’ve pointed fingers in every direction, it’s time to point them in the right one.