That Sunday afternoon’s game between the Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers was physical and emotional should have come as no surprise. These teams rank 1-2 in technical fouls. The Clippers now have 78 this season and OKC has 74. These totals include defensive 3-second calls.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks and his players frequently are asked about their soaring number of technicals, but they make no apologies. Most inquiries concern mercurial point guard Russell Westbrook, but also Kevin Durant, who has a team-high 12 technicals, which ranks second in the league behind Kobe Bryant’s 14. Durant entered this season with 12 career technicals in his first five years in the league.
“We’re an emotional group,” Brooks said. “That’s how we practice. We get after each other because they care. And if you have guys that care, there’s going to be times where it goes over, with not just Russell, but all of our guys. KD has to learn to control his emotions. … I like emotion. I like it.
“There are so many times you watch your favorite team and you watch your favorite sport and you always say, ‘That guy doesn’t play with emotion.’ Then what do you say? ‘Take him out. Why am I watching this bum?’ You don’t say that about our team. You don’t say that about Russell. He plays with good emotion. He’s a winner and he plays hard. Does it get the best of him? With emotional players, it does. With Kevin? Same thing. Myself? Same thing, not that I’m in their class or anything. (Westbrook) is a heckuva player and if he doesn’t play the way he plays, we’re not as good a team.”
Brooks said the issue has been addressed with his players. “He (Brooks) talks to us about it, but during the heat of the moment, it’s kind of different,” Durant said. “I’ve got 12 of them. I’m not happy about it, but I don’t regret them. I’m just going to go out there and play with that fire I’ve always been playing with and hopefully I just shy away from getting the techs. Whatever happens, happens. Just live with it. Every single moment of me playing in this league, I’m going to cherish it. Try not to take it for granted, I guess.”
Brooks said he doesn’t want to change his players’ passion because it might take away their edge, and Durant agrees. “That’s the beauty of Russell,” Durant said. “He brings it and everybody sees it. People might not like it, but he’s not in it for other people to like it. That’s what I really admire about him. He doesn’t really care what people say on the outside, as long as (teammates) in this locker room respect him and that he comes to work for us every single day. We can’t ask for any more.
“We just let everybody on this team be themselves. We don’t try to tell guys, ‘Look, you can’t talk here. You’re not supposed to do that.’ We don’t do that. We don’t put (limits) on anybody. We want the guys to be themselves. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t good guys, first off. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t great teammates. They do a great job of putting the team together. They’re not just good basketball players, they’re great people. I think everybody in this locker room is the same.”
- John Rohde