If indeed a village is what it takes to raise a child, the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday continued fortifying its community surrounding Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder completed its assistant coaching staff by hiring former Portland and Philadelphia head coach Maurice Cheeks, a 15-year NBA point guard and four-time All-Star. Oklahoma City also brought in Rex Kalamian, who most recently served as an assistant in Sacramento and has had stints with Minnesota, Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers.
But it’s Cheeks, a 1983 NBA champion with the 76ers, who has the pedigree to help Westbrook reach his full potential.
Cheeks played alongside renowned guards-turned-coaches Henry Bibby, Lionel Hollins and Al Skinner. He also played with World B. Free, Mark Jackson and Kenny Anderson and guided the careers of Allen Iverson, Andre Miller, Damon Stoudamire and Nick Van Exel as a head coach and Scott Skiles, Dana Barros and Eric Snow as an assistant.
"We are thrilled to add Maurice and Rex to our coaching staff,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who teamed with Cheeks in 1988-89 in Philadelphia. "They bring a wealth of NBA experience and solid work ethic that will help our players’ continued development.”
The Thunder has committed to Westbrook, last year’s fourth overall pick, as its lead guard of the future and has gone to great lengths this summer to support him in that role. Oklahoma City passed on Spanish point guard sensation Ricky Rubio in the June draft in favor of shooting guard James Harden, then signed 36-year-old veteran point guard Kevin Ollie on Aug. 1 largely to serve as a mentor to Westbrook.
While Cheeks’ hire shouldn’t be interpreted solely as a move to speed Westbrook’s development, his presence should prove to be a mighty big boost in that department.
Throughout his 11 seasons with Philadelphia, Cheeks teamed with basketball legends Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Charles Barkley.