Scott Brooks really needs the season to start.
His hamstring can't take much more of the NBA's labor dispute.
Throughout the lockout, Brooks and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder coaching staff have become the players, participating alongside the Thunder's support and public relations staffs in full practices in an attempt to simulate real sessions.
The results, at times, haven't been pretty.
“With all the coaches, the goal is just to have no injuries,” Brooks said. “I was the first injury. I hurt my hamstring. And then the next day, Coach (Mark) Bryant hurt his calf. It was like every day we were losing guys.”
Asked how he injured his hammy, Brooks admitted he overexerted himself after constantly getting beat off the dribble by the team's video coordinator.
“My mind still thinks I can do things that my body can't,” Brooks said. “And I didn't like Coach Vinny (Bhavnani) going around me that easily. When you get to your mid-40s, you think you're still in your mid-20s.”
OK, so Brooks has had better ideas. But thanks to the lockout, the Thunder's coaching staff is forced to make the best of a bad situation.
The NBA has prohibited players from using team facilities during the lockout, and coaches are forbidden from having any contact whatsoever with players. Brooks isn't even allowed to talk about his players during the lockout, nor can he discuss the impasse itself.
So in order to stay sharp and be prepared for the season whenever it starts, Brooks has needed to get creative. This explains why over-the-hill coaches and out-of-shape staffers in Oklahoma City are imitating some of the world's most finely tuned athletes.
Basketball never stops in the coaching business, either.
The Thunder's coaching staff has been back together in OKC since mid-August, meeting nearly every day and formulating ways to improve. The hours spent at the office haven't been nearly as brutal as they can be during the season. But the consistency, Brooks believes, has been beneficial.
“We meet and we go over last season,” Brooks said. “We've watched every playoff game. We've gone over them and broken them down again many times…We're staying busy. We're doing things that we don't have time to do during the season…We have not just been resting. We've been looking for ways to get better and do things better.”
This summer, Brooks challenged his assistants to examine last season with a critical eye. That included everything from drills in practice to dissecting plays from playoff games. It gave the coaches a chance to not only brush up on the things they do and how they do them, but it also allowed them to see what the team did well and what other teams did well against the Thunder. Under normal circumstances, the staff has little time for such detailed critical analysis.
Brooks also allowed each coach to design one 60-minute practice plan, a no-nonsense session designed to sharpen the entire staff's skills and implement new ideas.
“It was good for me because I wanted to see other drills and other techniques,” Brooks said. “I learned a lot of great drills and a lot of different ways to teach. And I give all of our coaches and video guys a lot of credit because they did a good job of studying other coaches throughout the summer and they came back with some great stuff.”
An extensive video playbook of the team's offensive and defensive schemes also has been created. It will be waiting for the players whenever they return.
“We found a lot of good answers,” said Brooks, who declined to elaborate on areas that have stood out so that he didn't overstep the line of the league's rules.
Though not ideal, Brooks said the layoff has had its advantages. But Brooks has had to be careful to not allow his mind to get carried away during the break.
“Sometimes, when you have a lot of time you want to change things up,” Brooks said. “But I have to show restraint and not change things up; just try to tweak a few things here and there. But I do know that we can get better.”