Thunder coach Scott Brooks: ‘I watch the whole league,' not just the Northwest Division’

Thunder coach Scott Brooks and players say they don't focus any extra on what is happening in the Northwest Division.
By John Rohde, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Modified: January 11, 2011 at 9:29 pm •  Published: January 10, 2011
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If we are to believe Thunder coach Scott Brooks, his eyes never wander to the Northwest.

Every NBA divisional winner is guaranteed a top-four seed in the playoffs.

Brooks has been asked multiple times if he follows the Northwest Division more closely than others, but he has yet to confess.

“I watch the whole league,” Brooks said. “I love basketball. I love NBA League Pass. I love looking at all the box scores. I look at it. I know what every team is doing. I probably could tell you everybody's record in the league.”

No doubt there is truth in what Brooks said, he just didn't answer the question. Nor will he, until after the Thunder clinches its first Northwest Division crown. Maybe.

“Everybody in our division is a concern,” Brooks said. “No doubt it's important to watch what the league is doing, but I don't tell our guys (about the division). I don't mention it to them.”

The significance of divisional play is freely acknowledged in pro football and baseball. Why not in pro basketball?

Think football divisional play didn't matter in the (old) Big 12?

The NBA's tiebreaking procedure for playoff seedings: 1. Division winners by record; 2. Head-to-head between teams; 3. Record within own division; 4. Record within own conference; 5. Record against playoff eligible teams within own conference.

Two of the top three tiebreakers involve a team's division, so it stands to reason divisional play matters most.

The Thunder and Utah are tied atop the Northwest at 25-13. If the playoffs began this morning, OKC would be seeded higher thanks to its divisional record (6-1 vs. 3-4).

Furthermore, if a division winner and non-winner from another division finish with the same record, the division winner automatically receives the higher seed regardless of the head-to-head result. (This rule was tweaked prior to the 2008-09 season.)



NORTHWEST DIVISION

1. Thunder (25-13): Despite all the inconsistencies offensively and defensively so far, this team somehow is still tied for the division lead. Things figure to get better. Projection: 53-29, first in division.

2. Utah (25-13): This team is stealth. It's quietly effective. Center Mehmet Okur (back) could return as early as Wednesday against the Knicks, which will help the Jazz immensely. Projection: 52-30, second.

3. Denver (20-16): Nuggets are fading fast, and so are Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. If the proposed three-team, 15-player trade goes through, stick a fork in Denver. Projection: 40-42, fourth.

4. Portland (20-18): Brandon Roy has missed 15 games and Greg Oden has never played, yet the courageous Trail Blazers are still above .500. However, is a fire sale pending? Projection: 46-36, third.

5. Minnesota (9-29): Kevin Love is a statistical monster (21.2 ppg; 15.7 rpg) who is living a personal nightmare. No surprise the Wolves are bad, but they should be better than this. Projection: 22-60, fifth.

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