Last season the young Oklahoma City Thunder took a huge step forward in their development. Not only did they win their first playoff series, but they advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals before being eliminated by the eventual NBA Champions. It appears that playoff experience has been a huge plus for the Thunder. More mature now and led by one of the best one-two combinations in the league with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City has the best record in the Western Conference. It’s been a goofy season filled with bad basketball at times but the Thunder look to be a focused and determined team. They have their eyes on an NBA Championship and with the way they have played to start the season, the Larry O’Brien Trophy may not be far away. Scott Brooks joined KHTK in Sacramento with Grant Napierto talk about the best part about coaching the Thunder, on the young players in Oklahoma City being so mature already, where he would like the team to improve, what he has done differently because of the shortened schedule, and how much losing in the playoffs helped his team.
Best part of coaching the Thunder:
“Their ability to come back every day and get work done whether we have an incredible win or tough loss. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, (Kendrick) Perkins, Nick Collison, they all come back knowing that they have a job to do to get better every day and work every day. I have the same philosophy. We’ve got a job to do, we can’t get too excited about where we are, we just have to keep plugging along and hope for the best and see where we end up at.”
On the young players on the team being so mature already:
“They play hard. A lot of people think that’s not a talent. I really value that as a big talent if you can go out there and play hard every day because the travel is tough, the games come up on you, the practices are right around the corner, but you have to still go out and do your job and play with great effort. Our guys do. They play hard, they play together, and they seem to always really focus on never giving up even though some games we’re down big. They still come out with great energy.”
Where he would like the team to get better at:
“I think that is one of the strengths of our team that we are not satisfied. I know I love our guys and I tell them that every day but I love the fact that they know they are not as good as they’re going to be if they keep working. We turn the ball over way too many times and defensively we give up too many offensive rebounds. Those are things we have talked about and will continue to talk about. We have to get better at those things.”
What he has done differently as a coach because of the shortened offseason:
“The only thing I’ve done differently is I’ve kind of made everything really tight with our practices and efficiency is much improved. We’ve always been a hard-working team, we had to get our practice in and our shootarounds in. We’ve kind of cut things down. We’re still doing it, but instead of a 50 minute shootaround there might be a 35 minute shootaround or something like that. Going into the games nothing has changed. We still have to compete and the schedule says you have to play hard for 66 nights. That’s what you have to do. You can’t have an excuse because if you do that it’s easy to latch onto that. Everyone has a tough schedule, even the 82 game season is a tough schedule. You’re going to have tough stretches and you have to find a way to fight through it.”
How much the playoff experience has helped them this season:
“I think it definitely helps you going through the playoff battles and I think in any team that wants to have a good team for a long time you have to be able to go through that and recover through some tough times. We have had some good times and we have had some tough times, every team has to fight through that. Very rarely can you go from A to Z and become the best team in basketball. We’re striving to win a championship like a lot of teams are and we know we have to go through some tough battles and I felt last year really helped us. Does that help us this year? We will find out. One thing that we know is it’s a long season and a long playoffs. You can lose 12 games in a playoff run and still win a championship. You can’t get down on losses and that’s one thing that we kind of experienced with that seven game series with Memphis.