Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Don't Blame Kevin Durant, Blame Scott Brooks

There's a good chance the Oklahoma City Thunder will see their season end this week. Whether it's tonight or Friday, the Thunder will be joining Russell Westbrook on the sidelines as Memphis has bullied them the last three games.

I've seen folks predictably start to turn on Kevin Durant and try to blame him for not being able to carry the Thunder to victory. Soon as LeBron got that ring, I started to figure out that Durant would be next to catch the wrath of impatient fans who are wondering when he'll get that ring.

It's frankly another sign of lazy fandom. Durant has played 43, 46 and 48 minutes the last three games and he hasn't been effective in the fourth quarter obviously. He's not used to carrying a team solo and hasn't been since 2008. No Westbrook means more work for Durant and since his game is based on shooting and slashing, we're seeing a Durant I haven't seen since he was a freshman in Texas.

He's averaging 30.8 points, 11.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists this series. He's doing everything he can and when it's not enough, I'm looking around to say where's the rest of his mates to step up. He looked absolutely sick after Game 3 and as much I want to say toughen up, I sympathize because he's an island chief surrounded by Pygmies.

To me, the story with OKC should revolve around Scott Brooks' failings as a head coach and the front office looking foolish betting on Serge Ibaka instead of James Harden.

Scott Brooks' offense is way too simple for an elite team. Hand the ball to Westbrook, let him create and either dish to Durant or score himself. Now it's mostly hand the ball to Kevin Durant and let him create 1-on-1. There's no strong post presence with Kendrick Perkins or Ibaka (who for some reason wants to be a jump shooter), very little screen-and-rolls or high post entry passes.

They struggled against Houston more than they should have and they won that series simply because Houston wasn't good enough. Yet it's been no surprise that Memphis took notes and has outplayed the Thunder the past three games with better players, better coaching and more adjustments.

And don't get me started on Kevin Martin. I've never been a fan of him as much beyond a scorer and I feel that he really suffers when there's no point guard to set him up. He's always been a high scorer on terrible teams and those guys rarely succeed when there's more pressure put on them.

Tip your hat to Memphis coach Lionel Hollins making Scott Brooks look less than average this series. His brilliant coaching has magnified the poor job Brooks is doing.
No, this series will be a referendum on Brooks and why he's not the best coach for this team. Say what you want about his personnel but I see Tom Thibodeau doing the same work in the playoffs with a depleted Chicago roster. I see Gregg Popovich managing his roster like a chessmaster and Erik Spolestra figuring out how to maximize LeBron James while turning his players into a defensive amoeba.

Brooks isn't coaching his team up as much as he's begging for Durant to carry the load in the 4th quarter and that's when Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins dares him to with double and triple teams. Where's the adjustments? He's getting outcoached badly and when OKC falls despite valiant efforts from the MVP runnerup, he should take more blame than his best player.

You can also blame OKC GM genius Sam Presti for gambling with Ibaka instead of keeping James Harden for another season. DJ Dunson of The Shadow League detailed Ibaka's shortcomings here very well but I blame Presti for forcing Harden to make a decision on his future so quickly and then blinking when he couldn't.

Which reminds me, OKC should also be chided for letting Eric Maynor walk as Westbrook's backup. Maynor knows the "offense" and he could've been trusted to run it a lot better while being more effective on offense.

Had they waited one more year, their core would still be together and with Westbrook hurt, Harden could easily slide in and be that No. 2 scoring option. Meanwhile, they are stuck with the other K-Mart and an offensively challenged Ibaka, who needs to improve greatly to validate his money.

So no, I won't be pointing fingers at Durant. I finished reading Jerry West's biography on the plane back to California and it was a great reminder than 1 or 2 great players (he and Elgin Baylor) will never defeat a great team (i.e. the Bill Russell Cletics). Durant's in that position now. Instead, I'll look at the guy putting him and his team out there to be outplayed and outcoached.

Scott Brooks - you're the problem and you've always been. Not Westbrook. Not Durant. Memphis has done a masterful job against your team while revealing you got some work to do as a head coach (and may not have much time to do it).

No comments:

Post a Comment