Brooks never publicly upbraids his players. Never. He sometimes makes curious substitution decisions — benching Westbrook in Game 3; forgetting that Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha are on the roster — but the players clearly have bonded with Brooks.
So that's a bargaining chip for Brooks. Can't risk losing your coach when you're trying to talk Serge Ibaka and James Harden into long-term commitments, at likely 80 cents on the dollar, in exchange for being part of something special.
But still, Presti and Clay Bennett hold the most chips.
If Brooks wants to walk over a little money or an extra year on his contract, where can he go and be assured of still coaching in that desired fourth year?
What's a better NBA job than the Thunder right now? San Antonio? Gregg Popovich isn't going anywhere. Miami? Sure, except Erik Spoelstra, now on top of the world, was in the frying pan only two weeks ago.
The Thunder offers an elite roster led by the all-American boy, set for title contention for the foreseeable future, and an organization that by all accounts is pristinely run.
“I love our guys,” Brooks said Thursday night after a 121-106 loss to the Heat in American Airlines Arena. “I love what they're about. They're winners.
“I think we've all kind of overlooked, even myself, how incredible these guys are. They're just a great group of guys that give everything they have.”
Anyone want to ditch that rose garden to go work for James Dolan and the Knickerbockers or Donald Sterling and the Clips?
If Brooks wants to walk, we'd have another Land Run, with coaches sprinting to OKC, applying for the job. Some of them would be a major step down from Brooks. Some would be NBA nobility. Jeff Van Gundy's name has been mentioned. Stan Van Gundy, one heck of a coach himself, is available.
So Brooks is at a disadvantage in the negotiations. He has the job he wants. The Thunder has the coach it wants, but it also has the leverage.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.