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News » Oklahoma City Thunder Getting Inside 2009-05-20

Oklahoma City Thunder Getting Inside 2009-05-20

Oklahoma City Thunder Getting Inside 2009-05-20
The interim title was lifted off Scott Brooks, who will go into next season as the Thunder's full-time coach. Brooks led Oklahoma City to a 22-47 record after the 1-12 start under former coach P.J. Carlesimo.

Brooks tweaked the lineup, built the offense around the core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green, and the team responded with several impressive wins down the stretch.

"He's focused on putting a brand of basketball on the court that is about the team first," general manager Sam Presti said, "about playing both ends and competing and continuing to build the identity of the basketball team."

Presti didn't deny considering outside coaches for the job, but ultimately settled on Brooks. The players, including Durant, were also in Brooks' corner.

"I've always believed that you work hard, and you do everything in your power the right way and you treat everybody with respect and things will work out," Brooks said. "My focus from Nov. 22 was to make our players better, to get our team playing a good brand of basketball. I never thought one iota about myself."

Brooks now has an offseason to implement his system fully. The franchise owns multiple first-round picks, plus plenty of cap space to work with. In addition to the players, Brooks also plans to improve before next season.

"One of the things that I really liked about Scott is he not only expects his players to come back better from the summer, he expects to come back better himself," Presti said. "He has a passion for the game, a passion for this organization and we feel like he's going to come back and get better as a coach and grow with our team."

--It wasn't always smooth during Year 1 in Oklahoma City, but the Thunder appear to be on the right track going forward with a talented nucleus and plenty of roster flexibility. The franchise has seven first-round picks in the next three years, including two this summer, and a ton of cap space.

Kevin Durant took a quantum leap from his Rookie of the Year campaign to establish himself as a budding All-Star. Rookie point guard Russell Westbrook took the reins and got better as the season went on. Jeff Green might have been playing out of position at power forward, but the second-year pro figures to be a solid rotation piece for years come.

A few additions/reclamation projects made during the season also show promise moving forward. Nenad Krstic returned from Europe to give the frontline another scorer. Chicago castoff Thabo Sefolosha could have Bruce Bowen-like impact for the team's perimeter defense. One-time lottery pick Shaun Livingston looks to be working his way back to health and a prominent bench role.

The Thunder got off to a 1-12 start, fired coach P.J. Carlesimo and elevated Scott Brooks to the top job on an interim basis. The team continued to struggle before turning things around as the calendar flipped to 2009.

Brooks' patient approach and key position changes emphasized scoring and athleticism. Durant thrived as a small forward, opening up the floor for everyone else. The Ford Center, rocking all season, became increasingly tougher on opponents. Oklahoma City won 12 of its last 18 at home.

SEASON HIGHLIGHT: Kevin Durant was easily the star of the early portion of All-Star weekend. The sensational sophomore scored 46 in the Rookie Challenge game and won the league's first H-O-R-S-E competition. For those who doubted Durant's star potential, this was his time to shine.

TURNING POINT: The 1-12 start cost P.J. Carlesimo his job and morphed into a 3-29 record that had many wondering if the Thunder would post the worst record in NBA history. Oklahoma City then followed with a 6-3 stretch and stayed relatively competitive the rest of the season.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 20, 2009


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