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Should Scott Brooks be on hot seat in Oklahoma City?

Apr 25, 2014, 1:05 PM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Two Getty Images

Oklahoma City has a huge deadline looming on the horizon — in 2016 Kevin Durant can leave as an unrestricted free agent.

Durant is not your average young star, he’s not just going to chase the bright lights in the big city because he can. He’ll stay in a smaller market — if he thinks he can win there. And that is becoming the big question in OKC, as they are down 2-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies in their first round playoff series: Can OKC win? Or, more specifically:

Can OKC win there with Scott Brooks as coach? Can he elevate them to the level they need to win a title? To keep Durant?

That question has come up again in the wake of OKC’s playoff struggles against Memphis. The normally efficient Kevin Durant is struggling from the field (22-of-55 the last two games, that’s 40 percent shooting) and Russell Westbrook is doing no better (20-of-54 in last two games, 37 percent). We should credit Tony Allen and the stout Grizzlies defense for some of that. And it’s not Scott Brooks fault that viable third options such as James Harden and Kevin Martin are no longer on the roster.

But some of the Thunder’s struggles come back to the coach. He sticks with Kendrick Perkins for long stretches against all logic. Brooks runs fairly simple sets, and when Memphis has taken away the first option — as any good defensive team will do in the playoffs — the Thunder offense has broken down. There is a whole lot of Durant or Westbrook against the world while the other watches. Remember the first season LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were paired in Miami and they just seemed to take turns (with an odd possession here or there thrown to Chris Bosh)? Right now Oklahoma City feels like that. At times it looks like that.

During Thursday night’s Thunder loss in Memphis, a frustrated Ray Westbrook — the brother of Russell — tweeted that the Thunder needed a new coach. He has since deleted that tweet and apologized for it.

But he said what some are thinking.

Durant and other players will back Brooks — they cam into the league with him, grew up in the NBA with him and they like him. But that is different than what is best for them, best for the franchise.

Oklahoma City is not improving, not progressing. They feel like they are regressing (even if they come back and beat the Grizzlies this series, a tough challenge against the Clippers is looming, a team playing a little better each game right now).

If OKC loses in the first round, or even the second, GM Sam Presti and the Thunder brain trust have some hard questions to ask about how this team is built and who is leading it. What moves do they need to make to reach the next level? That may well mean a new coach as well as roster moves.

They will need to do something before the summer of 2016.

  1. lastdukestreetking - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    Losing earlier in the playoffs (if Mem wins) 2 straight years cannot help a coach’s job tenure.

  2. 00maltliquor - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    NO.

    • psung26 - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      MAYBE.

  3. paleihe - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    Get rid of Westbrook. Get rid of Perkins. Get rid of the coach.

    Get Pau Gasol/Gortat, try to pry Love from the Wolves, hire a Van Gundy/Sloan and start all over. You aren’t winning with this lineup.

    • ranfan12 - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:29 PM

      westbrook doesn’t need to be moved. okc just needs decent pg to westrbrook can play sg lol

      • paleihe - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:13 PM

        You want him to play shooting guard? He can’t shoot.

      • reesesteel23 - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:40 PM

        Reggie is more than capable. I don’t think the coaching staff has the guts to ask/tell Westbrook to switch. At the same time, I don’t think Westbrook would do it. He’d take offense to it. I bet he’d ask to be traded.

  4. bucrightoff - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    The answer is obviously yes. Durant is getting into the opt out zone. The Thunder will fire Brooks and pretty much let Durant choose the coach to keep him. Because of course if he opts out the Thunder franchise is beyond screwed.

    • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:16 PM

      Look for Ollie’s name to keep bubbling to the surface.

    • bougin89 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      Durant doesnt’ have an opt out in his contract. His contract expires in 2016. If anybody leaves I think it will be/should be Brooks.

      • casualcommenter - Apr 25, 2014 at 6:49 PM

        Correct about Durant’s contract, but having just 2 seasons left on his contract gives him a lot of leverage.

        Zach Lowe of Grantland reports that he’s been told by multiple current NBA GMs that they’re trying to keep cap room open in 2016 specifically to lure Durant, who is dealing with an ownership group that categorically refuses to pay the luxury tax and a less than stellar coach situation in OKC.

        I very much believe Durant wants to stay in OKC, but the threat of him having options to leave will give him a lot of influence in the next 2 years.

      • bougin89 - Apr 28, 2014 at 9:18 AM

        The owners also realize how much Durant means to their bottom line, don’t forget that. Losing Durant would mean more financial loss than spending up to and paying into the tax lines or getting a more expensive coach.

  5. steelerfanforlife - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    If they lose to Memphis he’ll be gone, way too much talent to lose in any round but the finals!!

  6. chargerdillon - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    When was the last time you heard about an MVP level talent taking more money to stay in the midwest as opposed to going to one of the biggest stages in the NBA.

    KD can take less money and go to a team like Orlando and not have to pay taxes on a smaller contract than one he can get from OKC which probably evens itself out.

    Or KD can even come to a team like the Lakers or Knicks and make more money from his endorsements than he would in his contract or pretty darn close.

    I like KD and wherever he ends up playing it will be of his choosing and it has NOTHING to do with the coach.

    • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      KD is in OKC and has tons of endorsements. I don’t think he needs to go to a big market like LA or New York. Technology and media has pretty much killed that concept: if you’re a good player and have a marketable personality, you’ll get endorsements.

    • unxpexted1 - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:39 PM

      is some how he went to washington…….

    • aboogy123456 - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:42 PM

      KD will realize that going to Washington will bring him everything he wants. The chance to play for his home team and not be seen as a sellout, the chance to increase his endorsement money, and most of all the chance to win multiple championships.

    • casualcommenter - Apr 25, 2014 at 6:53 PM

      Minnesota is considered part of the Midwest, but Kevin Garnett in the early 2000’s chose to stay with the Timberwolves for most of his career until getting traded to the Celtics in 2008 towards the end of his prime.

      Texas isn’t the midwest, but San Antonio is far from the biggest media market in the NBA, yet Tim Duncan has stuck with the Spurs his whole career.

      Both of those guys have won MVPs.

  7. packergator - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    I’m iffy about that one; I’d think he’d still have a loose leash two years after getting to the Finals. But a team that talented and with the MVP should be able to get further in the playoffs more consistently.

  8. timb12 - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    Maybe he may not be the guy to do it, but who is? If you’re the Thunder, you can’t afford to take a gamble on a young coach, so you’d need a proven commodity, but who’s out there that’s available and can take you to the promise land?

  9. reesesteel23 - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    Look man….as an OKC fan, I have had Westbrook’s back for the last couple years even when he’s called out for being a ball hog etc. Now I am on the verge of saying get rid of him. I literally want to close my eyes in crunch time, when he’s bringing the ball up the court because I know exactly what he is going to do. That tweet from up top says it all.
    I am done.

    • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:19 PM

      Perfect example was late in the game, Westbrook was streaking up the court….KD was running with him on the left side WIDE OPEN, yet Westbrook took the finger roll over 3 Memphis defenders. That was pretty telling.

    • unxpexted1 - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:45 PM

      yea, and not just that. He takes a lot of quick shots early in the shot clock down the stress. Never allowing the offense to get set up.

  10. onebigredrocket - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    Absolutely! If you can’t get over the hump, then what is the point of keeping him?

  11. footballace - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    You are acting like the Thunder are the first team to be down 2-1 in a playoff series. If the Thunder actually lose the series, you can then write this type of post, until then relax.

  12. thundergunxpres - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    I would say if they don’t make the finals they need to make some sort of change. Brooks gone or try to trade westbrook to make the team more well rounded

  13. bigmeechy74 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    This all started with that moronically stupid harden trade

  14. rawgator06 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    Western Conference
    No. 1 v No. 8 1-1
    No. 2 v No. 7 1-2
    No. 3 v. No. 6. 2-1
    No. 4 v. No 5. – 0-2
    The Western Conference elites are overrated.

    • reesesteel23 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:39 PM

      THIS!

    • casualcommenter - Apr 25, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      The 4 bottom seeds in the West all won more games than the 3-seed in the East.

      Also, the 2 seed Pacers are struggling with the undermanned Hawks. The only top team in the East that hasn’t lost a game is the Heat, and they’re just narrowly beat the Bobcats last game despite Al Jefferson playing on one foot due to a severe plantar fascia issue.

  15. mnsadsportsfan - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    YES

  16. savvybynature - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    Seems a bit premature. I’m rooting for Memphis but realistically if OKC wins the next game they retake home-court and control of the series.
    That’s hardly unrealistic considering they blew the Grizz out in game 1 and played them to overtime the last two games. Not like they are getting destroyed or something.

    • spursareold - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:18 PM

      The overall point differential in a series doesn’t matter. That blowout is one win. The OT squeekers are two wins.

      In 2007, Phoenix won the point differential against SA, but only managed two wins. They were blowouts. It didn’t matter.

    • antistratfordian - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:57 PM

      The Thunder only managed to force OT in the last two games because of two 4 point plays.

      The problem is that KD and Westbrook’s FG% is getting destroyed – big time.

  17. jadaruler - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    If Brooks seat is hot Presto seat should be at the same temp.

  18. ranoversquarells - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    I would say trade Westbrook for Rondo, but as a celtics fan I wouldn’t like that trade.

  19. jolink653 - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    They’re down one game; way too early to panic as they’ve just played terribly over the last game, partly because of Memphis’s defense, but mostly because they’re hesitant to attack the basket and instead are settling for outside jumpers and low percentage shots. Take the ball at Gasol and Randolph and force them to foul and the whole perspective shifts. And I’d like to see more Steven Adams. I know Perk has the playoff experience, but he’s useless on the offensive end and is really struggling against Randolph on defense

  20. antistratfordian - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    Yes. Of course. Brooks doesn’t have the greatest reputation as it is – so if they lose in the first round I do expect something to change.

  21. aboogy123456 - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    What value does Scott Brooks add? Too many fans see a coach who is part of a rebuilding team, and they credit him for that rebuild, when in reality it would have happened anyway. Another example is Mark Jackson, I don’t see these guys getting the most out of what they have. I thought Brooks showed his weakness when they made the finals and he had horrible adjustments to what the heat are doing. Westbrook and Durant are great players, but their offense is just setting a pick for one of them, and they take turns shooting. They don’t have synergy and don’t make each other better, and I think a lot of that is coaching.

  22. kb2408 - Apr 25, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    OKC should’ve gone after Phil Jackson. It would’ve been a perfect situation for him…coach 2 years then move to the front office.

  23. phillyphil005 - Apr 25, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    He should have never been given an extension in the first place.

    He makes zero changes…rides vets too long, and does not make adjustments to counter mismatches or look to create them. The bench has given them nothing thrkugh these games, yet Fisher, Butler, and Perkins will continue to get run while Lamb, Jones, and Adams wont even receive a single minute…its beyond ridiculous. They need a change…more energy, more athleticism, and more ability to score…even if its only for a small number of minutes, it would be a huge boost for everyone, but we’ll never see it happen cause Brooks is not open minded.

    It needs to change, or Durant is gone. The only other option is to trade Westbrook for a low post scorer and to re-sign Reggie Jackson to be the point guard of the future, but I’d rather see Brooks go…I think this team can win it all with the right coach in place.__

  24. campcouch - Apr 25, 2014 at 8:25 PM

    Maybe the GM should be on the hot seat.

    • ProBasketballPundit - Apr 25, 2014 at 9:05 PM

      Yeah all he did is draft Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Carl Landy, Glen Davis, Reggie Jackson, Eric Bledsoe, and Steven Adams. That’s a terrible GM right there. And the Harden trade isn’t on him, that’s on the insanely cheap owners.

  25. ProBasketballPundit - Apr 25, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    YES! For his offense to be so bad with two of the elite players in the league is a joke. Every Russell Westbrook jacked-up 3-pointer is on Scott Brooks.

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