Longtime NBA writer Sam Smith, author of "The Jordan Rules" and "Second Coming," is now writing for Bulls.com and was in town for Wednesday's season opener.
Smith's thoughts on the upcoming season for the Thunder: "The most pressing issue with them would be overconfidence, in the sense that it's tough to make that next step from 50 (wins last season). It's really hard to do. When the Bulls hit 50 (in 1987-88), the next year they went back to 47. Then Jordan bailed them out in the playoffs with that shot and they fired (coach) Doug Collins. When expectations go up... sometimes guys start thinking it's not that hard. Are they tough enough players, and is he (Brooks) a tough enough coach to push them?
"I'm not saying they can't (improve over last year). I'm just saying that would be the ultimate question because the team has good pieces, has talent and has been built well. It seems like they know what they're doing. It's just whether they get too filled up about how good they are."
Thunder coach Scott Brooks claims he was coachable as a point guard during his 10-plus seasons in the NBA, and new Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau would know.
Thibodeau coached Brooks as an assistant while at Minnesota (1990-91) and New York (1996-97).
"He was a tough coach. Actually, he was a jerk," Brooks deadpanned. "I was like in my ninth year in the league (while with the Knicks), and he put me with three rookies (Walter McCarty, John Wallace and Donte' Jones). I had to get there early at 4 o'clock and work out with the rookies (during pre-game) because he wanted me to set an example. I didn't appreciate that.
"Obviously, I didn't do a good enough job (with the Timberwolves) because that staff got fired after that year. They didn't start me. Maybe that's the reason why."
Asked if he was tough on Brooks, Thibodeau smiled and said: "No, no. Scott was a great worker. He was unbelievable. He scraped his way into the league. Everything he's gotten, he's earned."
BULLISH ON CHICAGO
Brooks grew up a Philadelphia 76ers fan. He didn't like the Bulls much but didn't dislike them, either. "I liked Michael Jordan, like everybody in the world," Brooks said. "How can you not like the greatest player to ever play?"
Though Brooks is only 45 years old, he often is asked to reminisce about his playing days and he now goes against veteran coaches he previously faced as a player.
"I've always felt I have the second-best job (now) as a coach, and the best job is playing," Brooks said. "It's a great privilege to be in this league. It's a select group. I don't feel entitled. I feel privileged."
The Thunder shot 47 free throws compared to 22 for the Bulls, who were outscored 38-13 at the line. ... Last season, the Thunder finished second in the league in free-throw shooting at 80.5 percent. Against the Bulls, it shot 80.9 percent.... The game was close throughout, with 12 ties and 19 lead changes.... Though the new-look Bulls made a concerted effort to push the ball up-court, the Thunder outscored Chicago 23-11 in fast-break points.... The Thunder ranked 25th out of 30 teams in 3-point percentage last season at 34.0 percent. Against the Bulls, the Thunder shot 22.2 percent (4 for 18).... Long-range acquisition Daequan Cook went 0 for 4 beyond the arc in his debut.... Durant missed seven straight shots in the second and third quarters. Went 2 for 8 in the third quarter but collected three steals during that stretch.