Kevin Durant’s text message that may have cost the OKC Thunder an NBA title

Feb 12, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) and head coach Scott Brooks react to a flagrant 1 foul call on Durant during the second half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz won 109-94. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Scott Brook’s contract was going to be up with the Oklahoma City Thunder back on June 30. Then he signed a four-year, $16 million deal to stay with the team.

But there was a chance this wouldn’t happen.

The Portland Trail Blazers were among the teams courting Brooks back then. Brooks had reportedly turned down three-year, $11 million offers with hopes that an agreement could be reached with the Thunder.

One of the things that would sway Brooks the most to stay in OKC was a text message he received from Kevin Durant.

When the clock ticked inside of what could best be described as a harrowing final hour of contract negotiations between Scott Brooks and the Oklahoma City Thunder last summer, the thing that ultimately kept the team’s coveted free agent coach from now pacing the sidelines of the Portland Trail Blazers was a text message.

It came from Kevin Durant.

“It was like the day before they got something done,” Durant said. “I think that day was the toughest.”

The message moved Brooks, who had been tied up in tense on-again, off-again talks that had put his future with the Thunder in jeopardy.

Via Darnell Mayberry/The Oklahoman

You can’t blame Durant for supporting his coach and sending that text but now the Thunder have Brooks for the next four years and now, more than ever, that’s starting to look like a bad thing.

Criticism first came Brooks’ way a few years ago when the Thunder were called out for running predictable plays on offense. Despite the talents of Durant and Russell Westbrook, late in games they were unable to get good looks at the basket.

This kind of went away last year as the Thunder made their run to the NBA Finals. The Thunder still didn’t look like the Spurs offensively but they had definitely made improvements and became a team that could close teams out with good offense.

This season the Thunder were supposed to take, once again, the next step. They had made it to the NBA Finals the year before and now they were supposed to become that hungry team that looked poise to win it all.

A recent slump has made you feel otherwise about this team. The blame feels like it has to be completely on Brooks.

The other big criticism of Brooks has been his substitution patterns. It used to be about him playing Kendrick Perkins far too many minutes, especially because it was instead of Nick Collison.

Most recently it is Brooks’ affinity to playing Derek Fisher that is puzzling.

Fisher was signed by the Thunder after the trade deadline just like last year. Except this year, the Thunder have no need for Fisher since Reggie Jackson has emerged as a more than capable backup point guard.

Still, Fisher is finding 12-18 minutes per game and the Thunder seem much worse off when this happens.

It’s a stubbornness that must exist in Brooks to rationalize playing Fisher and Perkins big minutes despite the overwhelming evidence that there are better options on the roster.

It’s a coach who doesn’t see the big picture. He likes those guys because they are veterans and leaders and are always striving their best to make the right play.

Brooks doesn’t realize that closing a game out with Collison or Serge Ibaka at center instead of Perkins is a no-brainer. He doesn’t realize that Ronnie Brewer should be playing instead of Fisher. Even Jeremy Lamb should have been given a shot instead of Fisher.

Brooks is just too hard on some of these young guys. The reason has to be because they aren’t great defensively yet. They don’t always make the right rotations at the right time and don’t appear to be as locked in as Perkins or Fisher is while they’re out there.

It’s something that is really holding back the Thunder this year. They’re not using all of their talents and that’s something you can’t afford to do in this league.

You can’t expect anyone with a personal relationship with Brooks to understand that he is not the man for the job. It’s nearly impossible to be able to have that perspective.

Brooks has served his purpose with the Thunder. He was there with them while they were young and helped them grow up. Now, it’s time to turn over the reins to someone else, someone who can coach a championship team.

Brooks is very far from proving he is a coach that can do that. Soon, it will be Thunder GM Sam Presti’s duty to pull the plug on Brooks.

Maybe it will be after this season, or maybe after the next but it really does feel inevitable at this point.

The Brooks era needs to end. Maybe it could have already had Durant not sent that text.

Topics: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, Scott Brooks

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  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.cohen.9889 Charles Cohen

    Andrew: First, you can tell of the fan base reaction to the mediocre play of the Thunder by the almost total absence of comments on the OK sites and the blah writings by the blog writers. I have written persistently of the quality of the coaching of the team all year. My points have been if their best three stars have all improved, Perkins has been healthy, and Jackson has been a huge upgrade, the fault must lie elsewhere, specifically Brooks who is likened to Doug Collins before the Bulls brought in Phil J.

    But ultimately the finger must be pointed to Sam Presti who made the unthinkable call to keep a center who cannot move or shoot, and to let a 22 year old go. It is a trade that I liken to the Cubs trading Lou Brook in the 1660s. It eventually defined the avubs to this day.

    And then to bring in Fisher who is near social security retirement age instead of even trying Brewer as a defensive stopper. As a footnote Fisher hasn’t scored in the past 4 games. Then there is the KD-LBJ experiment pretending Durant can be the passer Lebron is. He has had twice as many turnovers as assists over the past 6 games, and just as bad he has relinquished his primary gift, to score, to pass to Thabo who somehow Brooks will be Shane Battier.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.cohen.9889 Charles Cohen

    To finish. The stamp of a great team is to be able to score at the end of the game and to stop the other team. It is obvious that this team has gone backwards on both accounts. They are nowhere near the heat with this team and wilt Brooks. Very, very disappointing.

    • akennedy13

      Completely agree with all of this. Letting Harden go is starting to look very stupid. I tried to talk myself into the move but can’t anymore. I hate the Fisher acquisition obviously and how KD is trying to play like LeBron.

      There’s not a lot of hope left for this season.

  • Dr Swishhh

    To my way of thinking, one of the most interesting things about the Thunder is the personality-type they prefer. I’m happy for people to correct me if they think I’m wrong as I’m from outside the US and its very much a view from afar. But isn’t this organization jam packed with introverts?

    I know what you’re thinking; Westbrook wears crazy attention-seeking clothes and plays like a psycho. I don’t think that makes him extroverted. He gets too overwhelmed in challenging social situations. And I think its a smart move in a small market to stick with introverted characters who don’t seek the bright lights or want to be the centre of attention. Check your ego at the door son.

    You should always be able to sign someone who feels safe, likes the environment, and doesn’t want to leave, for less. Why did the Beard get traded then? I don’t think Sam Presti could cope with the uncertainty of some power shifting to Harden as an uncontracted player and the possibility of losing him for nothing. Is Presti an evil genius or just very conservative? He liked K-Mart (wow, another big introvert, that’s a surprise) and the feeling of control that comes with draft picks and cleaning out unwanted players. But it wasn’t a simple Harden for Martin trade and it doesn’t look good, but will still take 3-5 years to evaluate properly. At least we don’t have Andrew Bynum.

    As a rule, introverts don’t like change; they like system and certainty about the future. If they are coaching they like to have a plan, and stick with the plan rather than coach on instinct. They say the same things over and over more than Jeff on Survivor. The trouble is when introverts are criticized, they often go back inside their shell and stubbornly revert to the plan (even if Fisher can’t score).

    It’s not Brooks’ fault they picked a coach to grow with the team. They just didn’t expect the team to grow so fast and he has to be given some credit for that, surely. It just takes time for introverted characters to learn that without taking big risks there may never be big rewards.

    Put your head down, work hard, watch film, get better every day, be a good team-mate, and don’t be too extroverted. It doesn’t suit you or the ball club.

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