The big takeaway is this: For the things he’s been mostly criticized for — stubborn rotational and lineup philosophies — he’s shown an impressive amount of flex, making critical changes that have helped spark some season-saving performances.
Not that anyone’s noticed, though. Because who wants to ever give credit to Scott Brooks?
The most frustrating thing I find is already the people that take something like that and extrapolate it into a roaring defense of Brooks, or say I’m a complete Brooks stooge. The reality, or at least what I was trying to say, is that Brooks has plenty of faults. I’m not entirely convinced he’s the right coach to take the Thunder to the next level. He’s made plenty of mistakes and the Thunder’s lack of offensive discipline and structure mostly falls at his feet.
But at the same time, look at all the things he’s done. The success of the team, yes, is largely due tot he fact he’s had the good fortune to coach some outrageously talented players. But Brooks has been at the helm of that development. He’s overseen five straight playoff appearances, four straight division titles, three of four conference finals appearances and an NBA Finals trip. His recent failures came in the Finals with a group of 23-year-olds against a supercharged LeBron, and in the second round playing without Russell Westbrook. The two big losses to begin this series were without Serge Ibaka, and as you can see, he makes quite the bit of a difference.
So what are we judging Brooks on? How the Thunder look? They haven’t won a title yet, and that’s the definitive determination. The success has been something, but when you have a player like Durant, just a taste isn’t enough. It’s about the ultimate prize, and Brooks may not be the guy to get the Thunder there. But they’re clearly right there and who knows how things look if the Thunder stay healthy both seasons. Pinning blame on Brooks for the Thunder not being able to solve the absences of critical players is short-sighted and unfair. It’s how it works, I realize, but like Game 3 proved, you need your best players.
What happens in Game 4 will say a lot about where Brooks and the Thunder are. When you’re the coach, especially one with Kevin Durant on your roster, you shoulder more responsibility than most. Brooks has made sweeping changes when he’s had to, and shucked some of that past frustrating stubbornness. He doesn’t deserve all the credit for the moves, because the players had to go make the plays. But he also doesn’t always deserve all the blame when they don’t.