While breaking down the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday morning, the greatest point guard in NBA history emphatically stated that the Thunder's most lethal weapon offensively is its ability to successfully not run a play.
A former point guard heralding a team's effectiveness in not running a play?
“They have three guys who can take over a game,” Magic Johnson said of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden on ESPN's “Mike & Mike.” “They don't need to call a play. They can go one-on-one against any (San Antonio) Spurs defender and score.
“They're young, they're aggressive, they're talented and they're confident.”
Ever since Scott Brooks became the Thunder's coach 13 games into the 2008-09 season, his team's half-court offense has been widely criticized. There's too much standing around, not enough movement or spacing, little or no structure. It's one-on-one with a ball screen.
With OKC one victory away from the NBA Finals, analysts such as Johnson now claim the Thunder's ability to run isolation plays for its Big 3 carries with it a significant advantage over the four remaining teams.
“I haven't heard any of that,” Brooks said early Tuesday afternoon, not gloating.
There wasn't even a hint of I-told-you-so from Brooks. To him, isolation plays and a two-man offensive game are still works-in-progress.
“It takes time to work on things, and it takes time to improve on different parts of the game,” Brooks said. “I think our guys have done a good job of improving the last three or four years on parts of the game that we feel are very important. … Offensively, it's always a work-in-progress. There's a lot of moving parts that have to really come together at the same time, and I really believe that it has been. It's still not where we all want it to be. You're never satisfied.”
As for the criticism?
“I don't really concern myself with that,” Brooks said. “I've played in this league a lot of years, and a lot of people criticized me that I shouldn't be playing, but you do your job. You won't worry about what they do, you do what you can do and you worry about what you can do and you try to get it better.
“Just like with Russell. He's had criticism, but it never bothers him and it's never bothered me and it's never bothered our team, and our half-court offense the same way. It's never as easy as people think — just set a screen and get a guy open or go to the basket. If it was that easy, everybody would be doing it and scores would be in the high 100s.”
Brooks now is getting some credit, but reacts the same as he did to criticism.
“It's nice that people do see that we have improved, but we're not like waking up in the morning and the first thing we're reading is (someone's) column saying that we're doing a good job, but I appreciate that if (they) are saying those things,” Brooks said, drawing laughter.
“We know we have to improve. We should get better. We should continue to improve. We never use that as an excuse, but there is a fact of the matter, if the guys are young guys, then they should get better and they will get better because they work extremely hard and they care about each other.”