“Players we have are growing,” said Durant. “It's just a matter of us bringing that all together.”
Brooks is coaching with one eye on today's development and the other on lessons for tomorrow. A buzz phrase around the Thunder is ‘build good habits.' Brooks explains good habits as fundamentals such as making the extra pass, setting solid screens, rebounding and boxing out.
“Those little things add up to big things,” Brooks said. “And players and teams can do it occasionally but to do it consistently, that's what makes real pros and makes good teams. And we want to be able to put the good habits together every night.”
Brooks also is attempting to instill a comfort with versatility, which could become vital as matchup advantages and disadvantages may shift from one series to the next in the postseason.
“You have to be able to play different ways,” Brooks said. “Not every team is going to play big. We have a team that we can play different lineups.”
With Perkins, the Thunder is now better equipped to play a towering frontcourt like that of the Lakers. But OKC also can go small and match up with, say, a Denver or Dallas if need be.
“They can get up and down and score the basketball. So they're going to have to do it their way,” said Pistons center Ben Wallace, who helped Detroit to its last title in 2004, winning with defense. “But when they get in the playoffs, they can't forget about their bigs. If they allow the bigs to play with them and help them out, I think the sky's the limit for them.
“Sometimes you get in the playoffs and you forget about the bigs. You think you just got to score, score, score. But that ain't always the case. You got to keep those big guys happy so they continue to rebound and play defense.”
For now, Perkins will happily do his part.
“I'm not trying to do too much. I'm not trying to do too little either,” Perkins said. “I've learned a lot in my eight years being in the league. I'm just trying to carry it over and bring it here and just bring a positive vibe, positive energy. I feel like these guys could get another level of confidence that they don't know that's down there.”
And someday, maybe even soon, the stars might align and the league will call the Thunder's number.
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Thunder at Heat When: 7 p.m. Wednesday Where: American Airlines Arena TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722), ESPN (Cox 29, HD Ch. 720) Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM. THREE THINGS TO KNOW * Center Kendrick Perkins made his Thunder debut Monday at Washington, scoring six points with nine rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes. Perkins is now the full-time starter after missing nine games because of a sprained knee following his trade from Boston. * After losing a season-high five straight games, the Heat has won three in a row. Miami has defeated Los Angles, Memphis and San Antonio by an average of 23 points. * Thunder forward Serge Ibaka has tallied 15 blocked shots in the past two games. His two-game total is the franchise's most by a single player since Alton Lister in 1989.