Tahlequah Daily Press

Thunder/NBA

April 25, 2013

Thunder wrap-up

Kolby Paxton's Thunder Insider column.

THREE POINTER

1.) Harden vs. Ibaka – literally.

Kevin McHale had a bright idea at some point between Sunday and Wednesday: He decided to match James Harden, a 6-5 guard, up with Serge Ibaka, a 6-10 forward.

The idea, obviously, was to give Harden a break from chasing Russell Westbrook around for 48 minutes. A concept that meant Ibaka would, in turn, be free to collect a lion's share of offensive rebounds (in theory), but would also allow Harden to take advantage of Ibaka off the dribble on the other end.

Unless, of course, Brooks refused to take the bait. Is there a rule that I am unaware of? One that requires a coach to accept the opposing preference for defensive match-ups? There's not, right? And is it really so difficult to switch the matchup on the way back down the floor?

High school teams do it. College teams do it. While we're at it, here's a list of NBA coaches that would have rejected McHale's desperation move: Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, George Karl, Mark Jackson, Erik Spoelstra, Rick Adelman, Mike Woodson and Gregg Popovich. At minimum. You can probably toss in Lionel Hollins and Frank Vogel. Maybe even Rick Carlisle and P.J. Carlesimo.

In doing so, Brooks would have ruined the concept by giving the Thunder an advantage at both ends. Instead, he subscribed to Houston's hail mary, and Harden erupted for 35 points on (approximately) a kazillion lay-ins – single-handedly keeping the Rockets afloat.

2.) Is Brooks in over his head?

I realize that in-state media has apparently taken up some oath to remain supportive of everyone associated with Oklahoma City's professional basketball squad, but someone has to ask, right?

Is Brooks the eight best coach in the NBA? The 10th best? Could Maurice Cheeks do his job just as well? Could he do it better? These are legitimate questions.

Brooks inherited Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He has the best general manager in basketball. All he has to do is not screw it up. But I have serious questions regarding his ability to lead OKC to a championship.

He is routinely out-coached – last night, by a guy who isn't exactly thought of as the next Red Auerbach. He sticks with players like Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher, even when it makes absolutely zero sense (See: '12 NBA Finals), and he does nothing to rein in the oft-erratic Russell Westbrook – perhaps even stunting his growth as a point guard in the process.

He's a hell of a nice guy, which – I assume – is part of the reason local journalists leave him alone. But nice only goes so far before you're just soft. Brooks is soft. The Thunder fell apart in the fourth quarter because nothing Brooks ever says in a timeout matters. At all. I mean, ever. Listen to him. He sounds like my mother trying to fire people up. He might as well just say, "Listen guys, I have no idea how to stop the bleeding. Please, for the love of God, Kevin, will you just bail me out again?"

A 21-2 run, Scott. 21 to 2. Carlos Delfino and Chandler Parsons just dropping bombs on your head.

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