NBA AM: Scott Brooks’ Gutsy Call Pays Off
As the Oklahoma City Thunder tried to even their series against the Dallas Mavericks, one of their most important players watched from the bench. Head coach Scott Brooks decided to sit Russell Westbrook for the entire fourth quarter and put his reserves alongside Kevin Durant instead.
After several timeouts passed, Westbrook realized what was happening.
"I’m just sitting there hoping to get my name called," he admitted after the game.
When it didn’t happen, the point guard didn’t pout or sulk. He was the first player off the bench to high-five his teammates and he was attentive in the huddle. The Thunder would ultimately win the game, 106-100, which justified Brooks’ decision and kept the controversy to a minimum.
"I had that decision to make for the last six or seven minutes, but I thought the game was being played and we were increasing our lead by making shots," Brooks explained after the game. "I didn’t want to mess with the rhythm. I usually will sub him in, very rarely have I ever done that since Russell has been here, but the decision was really because Eric [Maynor] was playing well. It had nothing to do with Russell."
"The temptation was there when they cut it to six and when they trapped to make us call a timeout, but I believe in all of our guys," he continued. "Some guys get more minutes than others, but in the minutes they do get, they play hard. I believe in what they do out there."
Following the game, Westbrook was all smiles and wouldn’t allow for the distribution of minutes to become the dominant storyline after a win.
"I know you all want to ask the same question and I’m going to give you all the same answer: We were winning," Westbrook told reporters. "I’m good."
While Brooks downplayed the move, it was extremely gutsy. The decision to bench a star in the Conference Finals is always a difficult one, especially when he is just 22 years old and still trying to find his game. However, the Thunder had already seen Westbrook shoot them out of games earlier in the postseason and they weren’t going to take any chances. Maynor was protecting the ball and putting it into the hot hands of Durant and James Harden.
At halftime, Brooks wasn’t happy with Durant, Harden or Westbrook and called for his players to step up their play. Durant and Harden started to make things happen. Westbrook did not.
Brooks wasn’t the only one who felt the move was necessary. After the game, Durant chimed in and said that the right decision was made.
"We had a good start to the fourth quarter," Durant said. "We got a good lead and we were playing great defense. You can’t mess that chemistry up. Coach made a good decision by doing that."
"Eric Maynor, James Harden and Daequan Cook were unbelievable for us tonight. Nick Collison, as well. I just tried to play off of those guys. They really won the game for us. That was a big effort and we’re going to need that for the rest of the series," he added.
Durant stressed that he didn’t think Westbrook struggled, but rather that the bench excelled. He called Westbrook "the perfect teammate" for cheering from the sideline and showing that the team’s success is more important than his own.
While Westbrook and Maynor switched roles temporarily, Brooks made it clear that there isn’t a point guard controversy brewing.
"Russell is an incredible player," Brooks said. "He’s our starting point guard. But we weren’t getting a lot of things done, and it was his time to come out and I stayed with Eric. I thought Eric was terrific handling the decisions on the court, and guys made big shots."
Westbrook should hear his name called in Game 3 when the series returns to Oklahoma City. However, Brooks’ message that anyone can be sidelined if their reserve is outworking them was delivered loud and clear.
Up Close With Tristan Thompson: After spending just one year the University of Texas, forward Tristan Thompson decided that he was ready to take his game to the next level. While most underclassmen were removing their names from this draft, Thompson was working on his game and trying to solidify himself as a lottery selection. The 20-year-old is one of the most intriguing prospects in this class and he has an extremely high upside that has helped him generate interest from a number of teams.
Thompson caught up with HOOPSWORLD during the Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago and discussed his workout schedule, how his game will translate to the NBA and the importance of building relationships throughout the draft process.
Thompson is currently projected as the 11th pick in HOOPSWORLD’s mock draft.
Warriors Will Hire Jerry West: When Joe Lacob purchased the Golden State Warriors last year, he made his intentions clear. He wanted to own an organization that he could be proud of and he planned on changing the franchise’s culture.
Adding Jerry West to the team’s front office will certainly help.
West will join the Warriors’ brass in a "non-decision-making, advisory role," according to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News.
Bob Myers, who was hired as Golden State’s general-manager-to-be, has a strong relationship with West thanks to their mutual friendship with agent Arn Tellem. West will serve as an advisor and sounding board for management, which will be especially beneficial for the first-time executive Myers.
West’s first duty in Golden State will be helping the front office with their search for a new head coach. Keith Smart was fired last month and while the Warriors have started meeting with potential candidates such as Kevin McHale, Lawrence Frank and Mike Brown, they have yet to enter serious talks with any of the coaches. That’s likely because they were waiting for West to join the staff and offer his opinion.
Even as an advisor, West generates interest and optimism around the organization. That’s because his résumé is about as good as it gets for an executive.
West was previously the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers (1982-2000) and Memphis Grizzlies (2002-2007). He was the NBA’s Executive of the Year in 1995 and 2004. He has won seven championships as an executive. He assembled the Lakers’ dynasty in the ’80s and then revamped the team in the ’90s by trading for Kobe Bryant, signing Shaquille O’Neal and hiring Phil Jackson.
The Hall of Famer won’t have the power to make those moves in Golden State, but his insight will be valued and he’ll help further the development of the Warriors’ front office.
Draft Combine Coverage: HOOPSWORLD will continue their coverage of the Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago over the next few days. Check back for exclusive articles and videos on each prospect. Yannis Koutroupis and Luke Byrnes kicked things off this morning with their ‘Draft Combine Notebook’ from day one. Check out the following articles on Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams.
NBA Chats: There is only one chat on the schedule today. Yours truly be answering all of your questions today at 3 p.m. ET. Submit your questions now because the chat will fill up fast. As always you can also checkout our entire upcoming chat schedule here.