Tahlequah Daily Press

Thunder/NBA

June 3, 2014

Silenced storm

Oklahoma City players, coaches reflect on season after exiting Western Conference playoffs

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant says he’s at peace. After Oklahoma City saw its season come to a dramatic and sudden end, the league’s Most Valuable player had no regrets for his team or himself.

“It can always be better, but I left everything out there, every game,” Durant said. “I sacrificed for my teammates, so I can live with the results.”

The results were losing four out of six games to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. It’s the second straight year the talented squad has been unable to make it back to the NBA Finals.

The players and coaches who spoke Sunday during exit interviews refused to look at 2013-14 as a lost season.

“We won 59 games, we won our division and improved in a lot of areas,” coach Scott Brooks said. “There’s no question that last night was a disappointing finish to our season, but we’ll look back and know we had a great year. We had a lot of great things that took place this past season. With that being said, there’s a lot of things we have to get better with, myself included.”

One of the areas the Thunder will have to strengthen heading into next season is its bench. In its final game Saturday against the Spurs, the reserves were outscored 51-5.

Brooks said that number is misleading because he shortened the rotation drastically and moved Reggie Jackson into the starting lineup, but both of those alterations stemmed from a lack of consistent productivity from the bench.

The Thunder rotation is expected to see some drastic changes during the offseason. Kendrick Perkins has one year left on his deal, which makes him a prime trade target due to his expiring contract. Even though the team has known only postseason success since he’s arrived, Perkins knows his time could be up.

“This offseason is going to be the biggest offseason of my career,” Perkins said. “I definitely have to come back in better shape and try to get back to the basketball that I played in Boston. That’s my goal.”

Another player who figures to be gone next season is Thabo Sefolosha. This was the final year of his contract and he’ll become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Because Sefolosha was benched twice during the postseason due to a lack of scoring, it’s hard to imagine the Thunder resigning him to another long-term deal.

“The organization, the teammates and friendships that I’ve built here are nothing but positive things,” Sefolosha said. “Looking back, we’ve done some amazing things. Going from winning to 20-something game to more than 50 games and being able to have the opportunity that Sam (Presti) gave me to be a part of this group, it’s been a great time.”

The other key piece of the puzzle whose future seems to be up in the air is Brooks. Throughout the season, he’s endured calls for his departure from fans and critics alike.

Both Durant and Russell Westbrook emphatically stated they want Brooks to stay in charge. But if there is a decision to make, it will be Presti who will make it.

“It’s something that I don’t even consider,” Brooks said. “I just do my job every day . I’ve had a lot of valuable lessons in my life from my mother. And she’s always told me this: ‘You do your job every day and you live with the results. You can’t worry about what they say.’ You never ever meet those people. I have many stories that I can tell you about my mom. That’s one of them. Don’t worry about them.”

For the team’s two biggest stars, there are no questions about where they will be next year. Durant and Westbrook are both under contract and will be back in Thunder uniforms searching for that elusive title together.

“We have a lot of guys on this team that are capable of making things happen,” Westbrook said. “Our organization has done a great job of putting us in a position to be able to win a championship every season. Once we get to that point, it’s all up to us to make it happen.”

Even though Derek Fisher most likely will not be with the team next year and could find himself coaching against the Thunder, he said Oklahoma City is on the doorstep of greatness.

“This is the team that is scratching on the surface of the best of all of basketball in recent years and in the history of the game,” Fisher said. “It’s not as far off as it seems in terms of how bad it hurts, but to get across that finish line, it’s a long stride at the end.”

 

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