Darnell Mayberry: It's Spurs or Thunder for the Western Conference crown

The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry took questions from readers in today's OKC Thunder Power Lunch Chat.
Oklahoman Modified: March 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm •  Published: March 20, 2013
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The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry took questions from readers in today’s Oklahoma City Thunder Power Lunch Chat. You can join our Power Lunch Chats Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Sports. Here’s a recap of today’s Q&A:

Who do you think will win the Western Conference?

Spurs or Thunder.

The play of James Harden late in games last season appeared to solve the problem of the Thunder’s scoring and defense in crunch time. Why is there no solution this year?

That is the biggest myth surrounding the Thunder. James Harden rarely had the ball in his hands in the final five minutes. He might have from the 12-minute mark of the fourth until the six-minute mark. But the final five minutes almost always belonged to Durant and Westbrook, mostly Durant.

Harden was good no doubt, but I think the trade has caused some revisionist history that is turning this guy into Michael Jordan who made KD and Russ take a backseat to The Beard. That is not quite what I remember. He was good, but nowhere near as good as what his legend has become after the trade

Exactly.

Do the coaches know something about Derek Fisher that we don’t? Reggie Jackson proves himself more each game. Why is Fisher getting more time?

Experience.

I noticed that there's been some consternation among the Thunder faithful on how the bench is being used. I think we can all agree that Collison and Martin are deserving of 25+ minutes a night. In your opinion, how should the minutes break down for Jackson, Fisher, and Brewer?

Jackson should be in the 20-minute range in my opinion. Brewer probably 10-15 depending on the matchup. Fisher ...

Hindsight is 20/20, but I think the Thunder should have kept James Harden this year and made a play for the championship. If they had lost Harden at the end with nothing in return, at least they knew they played their best hand and maybe they would have had the title.

"Maybe" is the key word in your statement. Think about that. The Thunder "maybe" would have won it all and "maybe" would not have. And if OKC didn't Harden potentially would have left for nothing, or a lot less than what the team got in return.

Do you think Denver can overtake the Thunder as division champs now?

No.

Has Brooks shown the ability to be a good X’s and O’s coach?

At times. He's drawn up some good plays out of timeouts and out of bounds sets. But when the Thunder needs a basket down the stretch, those are the times the X's and O's seem to be lacking.

Does the Thunder need a coach that can coach the talent past the other great teams rather than hope your talent wins out on its own?

We'll see. Some days it looks to be that way. But you can't overlook what Brooks has done the last three years.

This season, despite yet even more improvement over last season’s NBA Finals team, the Thunder has shown a strange and concerning reliance on hero ball in crunch time. Do you think that's what is happening?

It's always happened. This is nothing new.

This year, it’s back and it’s worse than ever. The main problem is that not only are there no late-game plays being run, there’s nothing that would even remotely resemble a play, what's the solution for Brooks?

Develop an offensive system.

Berry Tramel broke down the fourth quarter of OKC’s March 1 game against Denver and discovered in the last eight minutes of the game, the Thunder had 17 offensive possessions. In those 17 possessions, OKC passed the ball six times. For a team of some of the best basketball players on the planet, including the second-best, that’s inexcusable. While it’s the players that execute on the court, it’s the coach who has to actually give them something to execute, why did the coach have nothing for his players?

Can't say. What I do know is that most teams rely on isolations at the end of games. It's not just the Thunder. Maybe the Thunder is more dependent on it than most. I don't know.

Brooks’ stubborn refusal to match up with opponents based on small or big lineups troubles me. The obvious example is the Miami Heat, but against Denver, Brooks refused to do it once again, why is that always happening for Brooks?

He did match up at times last night.

The fact is, Oklahoma City’s bigs, while talented, are not good enough to make teams pay for running out a small lineup. The same night OKC was in Denver, Memphis was able to force LeBron James to guard Zach Randolph and the results for the Heat were not good, why does Brooks not follow others top teams’ success to win games?

The Thunder doesn't have a player that can punish Miami down low.

Was the problem with the Thunder last night offense or defense?

Both. The defense was the worst of the team's problems. But the offense played right into Denver's hands in the first half and then bogged down in the second half.

Oklahoma City doesn’t need to settle for good when it could have great. Whether or not that means Scott Brooks is the thing that needs to change, what can you say about that?

He helped get this team to the Finals last year. The Playoffs haven't even started yet. Let's wait and see what happens.

 “That’s a great asset to have,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “That’s one of the strengths of their team (Nuggets). They’re deep, they have a lot of good players that play, a lot of skill players.” If those are his views, why does he not see that for the Thunder?

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook require major minutes that prevent others from playing much is my guess.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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