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Aldridge: Thunder, Brooks far apart on new contract

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Jun 28 2012 6:16PM - Updated Jun 29 2012 4:10PM

The Oklahoma City Thunder and their coach, Scott Brooks, remain far apart on a new contract after spending most of this week negotiating, according to league sources, with a Sunday deadline for the expiration of Brooks's deal looming.

Brooks steered the Thunder to the Finals for the first time since the franchise moved from Seattle four years ago, leading the team from a 3-29 start when he took over for P.J. Carlesimo in 2009.

His Thunder posted consecutive 50-win seasons before going 47-19 this season and defeating the defending champion Mavericks, Lakers and Spurs to win the Western Conference title. He has become extremely close to the team's franchise players, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who embraced Brooks's coaching style. And the Thunder want Brooks to return. But the talks, as ever, have stumbled on money.

Sources confirmed a Yahoo! report that Oklahoma City is now offering Brooks a four-year deal, after staying at three years during the last several months of negotiations, and a league source said that Oklahoma City is now willing to discuss a deal that would get Brooks in the $4 million per year range.

Brooks believes that his performance in developing the Thunder's rotation the last three years warrants a deal that would make him one of the highest-paid coaches in the league. A source with knowledge of the negotiations said that the Thunder's current offer would not get Brooks into the top 10 of the league's top-paid coaches, based on this past season's coaching salaries. Brooks made $2.1 million this past season, well below what the league's best-paid coaches made; by comparison, Miami's Erik Spoelstra, whose Heat team defeated Brooks and the Thunder in the Finals, made more than $3 million this past season.

However, the Thunder believe that many in the organization have sacrificed in recent years to keep the core group together. Durant never tested free agency, accepting the team's $86 million extension offer in the summer of 2010. Westbrook also signed an extension rather than test free agency, and guard James Harden said last week he'd at least be willing to talk about taking less than he could get when he becomes eligible for an extension starting July 1. They hope Brooks will make a similar decision and not ask for every dollar that could be on the table. They also believe, should it come down to it, that there are several people who would be willing and able to coach the Thunder if they can't reach agreement with Brooks, who has a 174-125 (.582) career regular season coaching record in four seasons in Oklahoma City.

Thunder GM Sam Presti repeated what he has continually said when asked to comment on the current with the state of negotiations in a text Thursday.

"As we have consistently said, Scott has been integral to our success and we would like him to be the head coach of the Thunder for a very long time," Presti said.

If a deal is not in place by the weekend and Brooks becomes a free agent, the Magic and Blazers have vacant head coaching positions, with the Blazers expected to take their time before deciding on who they want to be the permanent head coach. New Portland GM Neil Olshey said that interim head coach Kaleb Canales would get consideration for the permanent job.

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