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
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?
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?
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.
Scott Brooks isn't serious about reducing turnovers as long as he lets KD function in the role of a guard. The players around the league know to wait until he tries to drive and then strip the ball. This team would be a lot better if they used its guards handle the ball. Your thoughts?
I don't have a problem with KD handling the ball. He was getting really good at it midseason. Now, he's backsliding. Could be fatigue. Could be mental. But I doubt it's here to stay. I think it's just a slump. When he's on his game, his playmaking is great and makes others better. I wouldn't change a thing. Trust me, you'll be grateful for his playmaking down the line.
Is this Thunder team better or worse than last year and why?
I wish I could answer that question. But that's an all day conversation. I think the team is better in some ways and worse in others.
Is the Western Conference better or worse than last year?
Is Reggie Jackson playing better than Eric Maynor did two years ago (his good year)?
Not yet. But they're different players. Maynor was a facilitator. Jackson is emerging as a scorer.
True or false: the next step for Russ and KD is to realize how and when to involve their teammates for maximum efficiency. Am I the only one who watches the game and thinks "get Serge (or someone else) a shot because he is mentally drifting on defense?"
True. But to their credit, they both do it at times. And, no, you're not the only one who sees it.
Have the Thunder gone a little vanilla down the stretch not wanting to show any new plays/wrinkles before the playoffs start?
They've always been vanilla down the stretch.
It appears that there is an attitude problem developing in Scott Brooks and KD. I don't like the way KD has acted this year, specifically whining after calls and technical fouls. And I don't like to see Brooks storm onto the court when he calls time out after a bad run. Something is changing and doesn't seem to be having a positive impact on the team. Your thoughts?
When Brooks doesn't show emotion, people rip him. When he does, people don't like it. Go figure.
Perhaps Reggie Jackson could be this year’s poor man’s James Harden during the fourth quarter in the Playoffs.
Not sure he's quite at that level. But the team definitely isn't taking advantage of his abilities. I've been saying that for months.
The Heat lost to the Pacers twice, Knicks twice, Celtics, Jazz, Bulls, Trailblazers, Pistons, Bucks, Warriors, Wizards, Clippers and Grizzlies for a total of 14 losses. What do all these teams know differently from Brooks?
Maybe they matchup better. Maybe they got lucky. Maybe the Heat overlooked them. Who knows? Losses happen. I wouldn't try to connect the two.
Is Jeremy Lamb's defense improving in his D-League play?
That's a great question, Shane. I don't know the answer to it unfortunately. But I promise you I'll look into it.
Who do the Thunder least want to see in the second round?
Looks like Denver.
How long is Hasheem Thabeet out for?
He thought he'd be available last night. So maybe tonight.
At what point does "great bench" start to mean "bad starting lineup" especially teams like Denver where the starters are often badly outscored by the bench
Depends on the team. Clippers, for instance, are legit in both.
What percentage do you give the Thunder of emerging from the West? And of winning the championship?
50 percent to come out of the West. 10 percent to win it all.
If the Thunder has only 10% chance, what will it take to get the other 90%?
Apparently KD is changing his basketball style. More assists, more rebounds. What do you think of it?
I like it. When he's a threat to do more than score, he's even tougher to defend and he makes everybody else better.
If there was a Kevin Martin resign-ameter at the ‘Peake, that meter would be trending downward pretty steadily as the season has progressed. Do you think Presti would even offer him $7 million per at this point?
I doubt it.
Is it true that Jeremy Lamb got into it with the coaching staff because he didn’t want to go to the D-league?
Jeremy Lamb??? That's news to me.
Here's a softball question: Who do you think is Durant’s best friend on the team?
I'm not sure he has one. I think he's cool with everybody.
The Thunder has the number four player in turnovers in the league (Durant) and the number five player (Westbrook). Ideally this team would not have one player in the top five, but having two is inexcusable. Coaching!
Brooks isn't out there turning the ball over.
No, Brooks isn't turning the ball over. But he lets Durant function as a 6’11” guard, makes too many mistakes, and gets stripped. This is the coach’s fault.
Part of a coach's job is to develop players, right? That's what he's doing with Durant. Most seem to be too shortsighted to see it. But if Brooks didn't let Durant blossom and become the best player he could be people would be killing him for that. Again, down the line you'll be thankful Durant has become a better playmaker.
Thinking ahead to the Playoffs: who does the Thunder matchup better with between the Clippers and the Grizzlies?
Who is better as a point guard, Harden or Westbrook?
Harden is a better playmaker.
Do you think that Brooks will increase the time of R Brewer on the court?
Not sure. Last night was a good sign, though. He brought him in late in the first quarter to match up with Denver. If he does that more often going forward, maybe he will get comfortable with Brewer.
Preferred first round matchup for the Thunder: Rockets or Lakers? I think Houston might be an easier out but beating L.A. in two straight playoffs would be great as a fan.
LeBron is on another level. It sounds cliché, but he's got tremendous physical gifts packaged with an incredible basketball IQ. That said, who would you rather have as a teammate: LeBron, Kobe, or Jordan?
Jordan. That's not even a question.
Brooks’ strategy is obvious: run, gun, outscore the other team. Fourth quarter of tight games, give it to Durant. Simple and will be successful most of the time. But it won't win championships.
This team prides itself on defense.