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Scott Brooks Has Oklahoma City Thunder Positioned Nicely To Make Noise in This Year’s NBA Playoffs

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Scott Brooks Has Oklahoma City Thunder Positioned Nicely To Make Noise in This Year’s NBA Playoffs

Another remarkable season is just about in the books for Scott Brooks and his Oklahoma City Thunder. With just one game remaining in the regular season, the Thunder stand at 55-26, tied with Dallas for the third best mark in the Western Conference. There’s a number of different scenarios in play in terms of seeding, but knowing the Thunder, they’ll take care of business in the finale tonight against Milwaukee and just see where the chips fall. Once the playoffs arrive, the Thunder will have an opportunity to prove that they’re ready to learn from last year’s first round loss and make some serious noise in the postseason this go around.

Brooks joined KHTK in Sacramento to talk about Oklahoma City’s solid regular season, the acquisition of Kendrick Perkins at the trading deadline, just how valuable it is to have a guy with playoff experience as the Thunder try to take the next big step forward in this year’s postseason, just how meaningful it is to have Kevin Durant be not only the organization’s most talented player, but also the hardest worker, how blessed he feels to be coaching a great group of guys in a supportive small market environment like Oklahoma City, if he feels his team is truly ready to make a title run this  year, and how he most certainly has thought about possibly having coached in Sacramento for the last time on Tuesday night — the metro area he grew up in and still has family he visits in every chance he can.

On the successful regular season turned in by the Oklahoma City Thunder:

“Yes, we’re playing well, we’re playing good basketball. We made the trade and you know, Perk give us some toughness, gives us some defensive mentality. Nazr has actually done a good job coming in, and we feel we have a team that plays pretty hard most nights and plays together.”

What it means to be able to acquire a guy like Kendrick Perkins who has so much playoff experience from his time with the Celtics:

“Well it helps. Our guys are workers, and they believe in team, and they work hard every day in practice, but we haven’t had the experience of going through tough playoff series. Perk has. He’s played the Lakers twice in the NBA Finals, won one of them, so he gives our guys experience. So if Kevin wants to lean on someone and ask them questions about deep in the playoffs, he has that and that’s invaluable.”

On the difference in mindset this year knowing that they’re a legit team after having proven so for two straight regular seasons:

“Well last year we felt like we were a good team. We were hoping to just get better, and hoped to be a good team — we weren’t sure. But we knew we had some nice pieces and guys that worked extremely hard going into the season. We knew we were a good team but we had to improve in certain areas. I thought Kevin came back and Russell came back — when they won the Gold Medal in Turkey — came back with a great belief in themselves and a great belief in leadership. And they’ve done a good job. They’ve taken our team to the next level.”

On the luxury of having his best player, Kevin Durant, also be his hardest worker:

“Absolutely. There’s no substitute for hard work. You can be talented as any player in this league, but if you don’t put that talent to work you’re not going to be a very good player. Kevin is as talented and skilled as any player in this league, but he works hard, he’s consistent with his work, he makes my job, I’m not going to say easy, but he makes it easier because I know I’m going to get a guy that’s going to work hard, a guy that’s going to believe in team, and he just gives us effort every night.”

On coaching in a college-type, small market environment like Oklahoma City and how that allows him to take his job seriously yet still have a life away from the game:

“Yeah absolutely. It reminds me so much of this area — just good people who really believe in the simple things in life. We keep things simple, and I love that, the fact that we can play the game, and play in front of a sold out crowd. And our fans really love our players, and I think they should because our players are good guys, they work hard, and they’re a good team to cheer for. And then you can go home and relax and enjoy your family. I think it’s just been a great experience for me being the head coach of Oklahoma City. The fans are terrific and the environment’s great.”

What mechanisms he uses as a head coach to get his guys focused when he feels like they may be slacking off:

“It always comes back to work. One of the things like you said is Kevin always comes out early; so I always know we’re going to get good effort. And when things aren’t going well and we’re not playing well, we always go back to the practice floor and get things done and work on the necessary things we have to get better at. I just know that our guys, they compete each other. Our practices, our habits are really good. They challenge each other, they push each other in practice, and I think that’s really enabled us to get better as a team.”

If he feels this Thunder team is ready to make a serious run at a title this year:

“Well we know it takes a lot of work, it takes some luck, it takes health. But we know we’re going in that direction. We know that we can’t skip steps, we feel we have a chance to compete against the best teams. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the playoffs, but we feel comfortable we can beat any team that we play against.”

If he ever believed that Russell Westbrook would be this good in just his third year in the league:

“Yeah, I would be fibbing if I was just sitting here telling you I knew he was going to be an All Star in this third year. I knew that he had the talent to play at this level, and play at a good level. He’s a dynamic scorer, he’s athletic defensively, he’s really doing a good job and the game is slowing down for him. He played in fifth gear his rookie year, I thought he slowed it down some last year. This year he sees the floor so much better, he knows the situations better. And I think that comes with work, it comes with time, and it comes with good talent — and he has all three of those.”

Being a Sacramento area local, has he at all thought that Tuesday’s game might be the last time he frequents the city on official NBA business:

“Yeah absolutely, I thought about that all day.  Because I know I’m very blessed to play for many years in this league and coach in this league, and have had opportunities to see mom and family when we’re playing the Kings. It’s a tough situation for all parties. I don’t know all the dynamics that are involved, but I just know that it’s a tough time for a lot of people.”

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