Nice if Jeff Green’s shots had fallen or Russell Westbrook hadn’t found foul trouble or the refs had noticed Artest engaging Durant in Greco-Roman wrestling. But this is a dues-paying league. You take your lumps. Almost like a gang initiation. Ruffians beat you to a pulp to see if you’re worthy. You find out where you stand in back-to-back games in LakerLand. "We’re still trying to figure out how to win some of these close games,” Brooks said after the 95-92 loss Tuesday night. But "I thought our guys played with a lot of pride.” Brooks has these guys believing they can win. I don’t know how he’s done it, but that alone is worthy of the Coach of the Year Award Brooks won Wednesday. Brooks has these Baby Boomers playing Doberman defense and staying poised, even when they occasionally bumble and fumble. You’d think it would be hard to reach such young players, but maybe the opposite is true. Maybe Brooks has the easiest job in the league, since he has ballplayers who listen to their coach and do what they’re told. That’s no small thing in the NBA. "It’s a team that’s coachable,” Brooks said. "I see a driven team that wants to get better every day. We have a special group of guys here.” Here’s how out-of-touch the Thunder is with NBA machoism. In the fourth quarter Tuesday, a Laker lobbed a pass over the head of the leaping Lamar Odom. Serge Ibaka jumped for it, too, and when the ball sailed out of bounds, the ref signaled LA ball, motioning that Ibaka had tipped it. Green went momentarily nuts, then turned to Ibaka. "Serge! Serge! Did you touch it,” he asked. Ibaka nodded yes. Yep, this is an innocent bunch. A genuine, charming, innocent bunch that needs to swim with the sharks to reach championship level. No better shark tank than the Staples Center, where the Lakers have given the Thunder an education that one day will help bring the NBA championship trophy to Oklahoma City. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.