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Thunder bench is the star behind the stars

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, Published: May 4, 2011

“I believe in our bench. I believe in our guys. That's how I coach,” Brooks said. “I believe that's the best way to coach this group of guys, keep instilling confidence in them.”

Brooks has yet to come up short in finding new ways to infuse confidence. He's been doing it all year. Perhaps most of us were just too stubborn to see it.

When Brooks stuck with a rigid rotation and set minutes, he wasn't only seeking to boost confidence, he was aiming to improve his reserves' rhythm. By having clear patterns, Brooks believes, bench players know exactly when they're entering the game, what they must do when they check in and how long they have to do it. The style also helped build chemistry in the second unit.

As taught to him by coaches like Lynam, Brooks has managed reserves' minutes by giving three players, Harden, Eric Maynor and Nick Collison, consistent playing time and two others, Daequan Cook and Nazr Mohammed, which Brooks calls “wild cards,” playing time depending on the flow of the game.

“You get a rhythm with how your teammate plays, what plays he likes, the little tricks you can use within the sets,” Brooks said.

That chemistry has been on display on backdoor passes from Nick Collison to Harden, alley-oop passes from Eric Maynor to Harden and catch-and-shoot plays between Maynor and Daequan Cook.

“I think the play that they've established throughout the year is because of the consistency minutes,” Brooks said. “I just want them to go in there and be aggressive and play together and just keep building that team chemistry that they have already.”

So far, it's been one of the Thunder's best recipes for success. The bench unit has sacrificed individual games for the greater good of the team.

“Is James good enough to start? Yes,” Brooks said. “But right now, our team does really well with James coming off the bench and providing that spark on both ends of the floor.

“We all have a role, and we all have to do our job.”