OKC Thunder: Thunder has all of training camp to install a Plan B

After Russell Westbrook went down last April with a knee injury, the Thunder had 21/2 days to adjust. This time, the team has a full training camp and seven-game preseason schedule to adopt a workable plan in Westbrook's absence.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: October 2, 2013
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photo - Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) stretches on the court before an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sacramento Kings at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 15, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) stretches on the court before an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sacramento Kings at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 15, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

It's almost impossible to tell how Scott Brooks truly feels about what transpired with his team in the aftermath of Russell Westbrook's knee injury during last year's postseason.

One minute the Thunder coach acknowledges how the second-round exit wasn't the team's definition of success but credits his team for hanging tough and fighting hard under difficult circumstances.

The next, Brooks seems to rationalize why Oklahoma City came up short.

“We didn't have the success that we wanted against Memphis but, really, the games that we lost came down to the last minutes,” Brooks said. “Each of those games came down to one or two possessions. So that's not saying if we would have done one or two things differently we would have won by 15.”

That last bit leaves you left wondering.

What would Brooks change if he could go back and coach the 2013 playoffs again? Or would he change nothing?

In a sense, we're about to find out.

On Tuesday, we learned that this Thunder season will start like last year's ended — without the team's All-Star point guard. Westbrook will miss the first four to six weeks of the regular season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose stitch in his surgically repaired right knee.

In April, Brooks and the Thunder had 2 1/2 days to adjust. This time, the team has a full training camp and seven-game preseason schedule, seemingly ample time to adopt a workable plan in Westbrook's absence.

“Whoever we have on the floor, we feel if we execute and we do what we're supposed to do we'll give ourselves a chance to win,” Brooks said.

Then there's this.

“You don't anticipate guys going down,” Brooks said, “but you have to have a system to fall back on.”

Much of the Thunder's downfall last season stemmed from failing to have a plan B. When Westbrook and Kevin Durant no longer could share the offensive load, the Thunder began piling up Durant's plate. As a result, Durant's minutes and usage skyrocketed in the final nine games. The Thunder's offense quickly lost its way. It became predictable. A one-man show.

Durant did his best to carry the load. He orchestrated the offense more than he ever had and played all five positions throughout various points of the playoffs. The percentage of plays in which Durant isolated his defender more than doubled.


by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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