Can Scott Brooks Be Durant’s Phil Jackson? Maybe Not

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    Updated: April 28, 2014
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    The combination of a great coach and star duo of NBA Players has been the foundation for some legendary teams in NBA history. In the 2000’s it was the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant coached by the legend Phil Jackson.

    In the 1990’s it was Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen being coached by the same legend that coached their successor duo, Phil Jackson.

    And although the 80’s were run by the Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson rivalry, the Detroit Pistons won two championships with their star back-court of Isaiah Thomas and Joe Dumars coached by Charles Daly (may the great Chuck Daly Rest in Peace). 

    Every one of those trios is legendary in the lore of the NBA, and there is currently a duo in the NBA who is in needs of that great coach to take them to the next level. Unfortunately their current coach may not be that man.

    The Oklahoma City Thunder have the best duo in the Association. Russell Westbrook is one of the best point guards in the league, and Kevin Durant may quite possibly be the best basketball player in the NBA, if not the best, then he’s a close second.

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    This duo is ready to get over the hump, but as much as I like Scott Brooks, this first round series against the Memphis Grizzlies has been very telling. I’ve been defending Brooks the entire series because I do not feel he is to blame for the Thunder’s woes offensively, but then I continue watching and his offensive play calling, or lack thereof rather, is so glaring that I’m left looking the fool.

    One of LSN’s Original Five/staff writers “Rose” has been saying since the start of the playoffs that I’m wrong on Brooks and that Brooks is the problem. And from the games I’m watching, Rose is right and it’s difficult to defend Brooks. 

    The Thunder run some sort of pick-up game-And 1 type offense every night and it’s difficult to see what’s going to happen from possession to possession. Some teams rely on their big men in the post and work from inside out, similar to the Thunder’s first round opponent Memphis Grizzlies.

    Other teams like the Houston Rockets rely on 3 point shooting and less on the big man on the inside. The Thunder’s game plan seems to be drawn up like this: Westbrook gets the inbound pass, he dribbles up the court, gives a quick glance at Durant, then he chucks up a 3.

    Next possession, exact same scenario, but instead of chucking up a 3, Westbrook drives to the basket and hopes for the best. Possession number three, Westbrook finally gives the ball to Durant, but since Durant knows his point guard is a black hole, he takes a dumb contested shot and doesn’t try to facilitate the offense himself. Wash and repeat. 

    That’s literally what their offense is comprised of. It’s shocking. It’s easy to see by Durant’s reaction to Reggie Jackson after game 4 that Durant and Westbrook both know that he bailed them out big time.

    A 2-2 series going back to OKC is far different from a 3-1 series going back home. There should have been adjustments made in the first 4 games of this series but there weren’t any and the Grizzlies are unfortunate to be tied in this series and not have a commanding lead. 

    That reality has set in across the NBA world that maybe Scott Brooks has led his team as far as he can take them.

    Now, all this will change immediately if Brooks eventually leads them to a championship this season, but right now the situation in OKC must be tense. This is eerily similar to Doug Collins and the Bulls in the 1980’s. Doug Collins coached the Bulls to three-playoff appearance between 1986-1989, which culminated in a first round exit, and second round exit, and a loss in the Conference Finals successively.

    Michael Jordan and Durant were at about the same age when Collins left and was replaced by assistant Phil Jackson. Jackson implemented his Triangle-Offense and as we all know, during Jackson’s second season the Bulls won their first NBA title in the Phil, Scottie and Michael era, and never looked back. It can be argued that the reason the Bulls finally got over the hump is because the old guard got…well they got old.

    Magic and Bird had battled for 10 years, and the Bad Boy Pistons had run their course. But there were other young stars and teams that came up against the Bulls and the results were always the same; MJ and Phil holding the trophy when it was all said and done.   

    As far as the Thunder go, they’ve been to one NBA Finals already under Scott Brooks where they lost to the Juggernaut Miami Heat and the best player in the game LeBron James.

    And last season Russell Westbrook was hurt and Durant was asked to do too much in a difficult Western Conference. But Brooks has no excuses this season. Westbrook is healthy, Durant is the league’s MVP and they have a cast of players around them that helped them win numerous games when Westbrook went down earlier in the season.

    It’s either title or bust for the Thunder, and most importantly for Scott Brooks’ job I think. Who could take over for Brooks is anyone’s guess.

    Stan Van Gundy is available, so is Lionel Hollins, soon maybe Frank Vogel, and Steve Kerr though his hat in the ring recently also. I like Scott Brooks, and maybe this first round playoff series is just an anomaly.

    But the Thunder must win it all or the questions about Brooks as coach will only continue to get louder and louder until a change will be made. There is still basketball to be played, and if all goes well for the Thunder then this entire article is moot, and Brooks will likely have led the Thunder to their first of many titles.

    But if Brooks falls short, then he will be the man who let a great opportunity pass him by. And that’s never good for a legacy. 

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