A boot for Mr. Brooks
Winning isn't enough these days. You have to dazzle the fans.
Sports have become more and more cut-throat, and the patience of fans has only become more diminished.
If you're a coach, you better win, you better win often and it better look pretty while you're doing it.
Don't ever get comfortable. You can make the playoffs every season but that one year when you don't, you become expendable.
That's what just happened to Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. Brooks has done nothing but win during his tenure in Oklahoma City, but it clearly wasn't enough for the fans or the organization.
In seven seasons, Brooks piled up an overall record of 338-207, which means that he won 62 percent of his games. Not good enough.
The Thunder made it to the 2012 NBA Finals and lost to the "Big Three" in Miami--a team that ended up winning back-to-back titles. Not good enough.
In 2013, they made it to the Western Conference Semifinals and just last year, they took the eventual champion Spurs to six games in the conference finals. Not good enough.
After an injury-plagued season, Oklahoma City just missed out on the playoffs. It finally gave them an excuse to do something they had been wanting to do since 2013: fire Brooks.
I find it quite funny how a franchise still as young as the Thunder, with zero rings and close to no legacy has built up such a staunch, unforgiving standard that has to be upheld.
It appears that they have come to the conclusion that it's championship or bust. You'd expect that from storied organizations like the Lakers or the Celtics but not the Thunder.
Everything that has happened in Oklahoma City the past three years has not been all of Brooks' fault.
Last season, the Thunder had to deal with an injured Russell Westbrook. He eventually got healthy, and Oklahoma City came just two games away from the finals.
This season, the bad luck continued for the Thunder as the injury bug came back around.
Their two biggest stars, Westbrook and Kevin Durant, each battled through injuries all season. Westbrook ended up getting healthy and was stuck with the daunting task of single-handedly carrying the team to the playoffs.
He wasn't able to do it. Durant missed much of the year, and they ended up shutting him down. Westbrook was their only viable weapon, and he couldn't carry the team into the postseason by himself.
In addition to Westbrook and Durant, forward Serge Ibaka also missed significant time due to injuries.
Thunder management didn't seem to consider those injuries a legitimate excuse to miss the playoffs. They quickly sent Brooks packing.
I think it's time for them to ingest a small dose of reality. The team, as presently constructed, is not the best team in the Western Conference. The Spurs are better. The Warriors are better. The Clippers, Rockets and Grizzlies are all even--if not better.
Maybe instead of firing Brooks, they should have fired General Manager Sam Presti for pulling the trigger on a trade that sent superstar James Harden to the Rockets in exchange for Kevin Martin.
Martin never came close to matching the production of Harden. Is it any coincidence that the Thunder has not made it to the finals since letting the bearded scoring-machine go?
Just this season, Harden made an emphatic case for MVP as he averaged 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists per game.
Without him, all of the pressure is on Westbrook and Durant. They have to do all of the scoring.
Ibaka and Nick Collison are good players when it comes to defense and rebounding, but they don't give you a whole lot when it comes to scoring.
It is Westbrook and Durant or bust and with the injury concerns of the two the past two seasons, there has been a lot of bust in there--at least when it comes to making it to the finals.
That bust of a trade has much more to do with the Thunder not getting over the hump than Brooks does.
The constant injury concerns of Westbrook and Durant over the past two years have much more to do with the Thunder not getting over the hump than Brook does.
Maybe Brooks was unimaginative on offense and there needed to be a change. Maybe Brooks hasn't been maximizing the talent. I don't know.
I do know that whomever they bring in to replace him, he better win and he better win big.
Because if they'll cut bait with a guy that won 62 percent of his games and was one year removed from the Western Conference Finals, then what's going to happen when Westbrook or Durant get hurt and the team is bounced in the first round?