After playing five games from Sunday to Sunday last week, the Thunder has a chance to catch its breath with only two games this week before Sunday's noon start against the Chicago Bulls at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
OKC did not practice Monday before leaving for Portland and Tuesday's 9 p.m. contest at the Rose Garden against the Trail Blazers. The Thunder also plays at the Los Angeles Lakers at 9:30 p.m. Thursday. OKC also is expected to have off days on Wednesday and Friday.
Down time between games will be used for rest and not necessarily to instruct free agent signee Derek Fisher, who joined the team last Wednesday.
“We're going to take some time off that we need,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said after Sunday night's 103-87 victory over the Miami Heat. “We're going to do some things in (pregame) shoot-around. He (Fisher) is picking up things pretty quickly. We have a great video playbook of what we do.”
Brooks said the video, which is narrated by one of his assistants, has detailed descriptions of offensive sets and their options, plus defensive concepts.
“He obviously has watched it because he knows our stuff,” Brooks said of the 37-year-old Fisher, who is in his 16th NBA season.
THE BROOKS WAY
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Brooks got their first NBA head coaching jobs in 2008. Spoelstra started the season as Pat Riley's replacement, and Brooks replaced P.J. Carlesimo after a 1-12 start in the Thunder's inaugural season.
Spoelstra was asked if Brooks' coaching method has developed an identity.
“Yeah, their whole organization has an identity,” Spoelstra said. “They've built this team with a plan, and also with patience. No question, you have to have some luck on where you draft, but at the same time, you have to pick the right people. Scott fits their philosophy. They're organized. They play hard. They compete. They do things in the right way. When you see them have a coaching staff the way they do, it makes sense. When they acquire players the way they do, it makes sense and it's all part of the plan from management. It's a well-run organization.”
As for the acquisition of Fisher?
“Makes sense. It really does,” Spoelstra said. “It's not a surprise to anybody when he comes here. He's the type of player they like, especially with their role players.”
True to his word, Brooks has stuck with the 20-minute maximum playing time for starting guard Thabo Sefolosha, who returned March 15 after missing 23 games with a sore right foot.
Brooks said he would stick with Sefolosha's integrating process no matter who the opponent, and proved it by playing Sefolosha 20 minutes against the Heat on Sunday even though he was successfully containing Dwyane Wade.
“The temptation is always there,” Brooks said of exceeding 20 minutes.
What if Sefolosha's feels energized after playing 20 minutes? Would he be able to convince Brooks into more playing time?
“Um, I think it's 20 minutes,” Sefolosha said with a smile. “You know, I understand the whole process. It's frustrating at times, but I've got to go with it and have my eyes on the main goal of being ready and feeling good for the playoffs.”
Sefolosha's allotted play time might increase this week with game on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
“We'll see how it feels the next couple days, then make adjustments,” Brooks said.
THE REAL DEAL?
Even though the Thunder (37-12) has the best record in the Western Conference, many national pundits question whether the team will be an NBA Finalist this season and claim OKC is still scrambling for respect.
That opinion might have changed somewhat after Sunday's victory over Miami, but it's of no concern to Sefolosha.
“I don't care,” Sefolosha said. “I'm sorry, but really the only thing I care about is how my teammates feel and how we feel as a team. The rest of that is for you guys (media) to figure out.”
For the third time this season and eighth time in his career, Kevin Durant was named Western Conference Player of the Week. … The Heat had 38 second-half points on 37.5-percent shooting. … Wade's last shot of the game was a swished 60-footer at the third-quarter buzzer. He did not attempt a shot while playing 7½ minutes in the final period. … Kendrick Perkins had a season-high 16 points against Miami. His career-high is 26 in 2009. … The Bulls have the NBA's best record at 40-10 despite not having reigning MVP Derrick Rose for 16 games this season due to various injuries. The Bulls are 28-6 with Rose and 12-4 without him.
Miami's LeBron James on Durant's biggest growth as a player since joining the league five seasons ago: “He just continues to grow as a leader. I think his game speaks for itself. What he's able to do with a basketball, we don't need to talk about that. His numbers speak for (themselves). His game speaks for itself. His game continues to grow as a leader, and that's what it's all about.”