Versatility Has Been Developing For Years
When the season winds down to its final months, the Thunder will be prepared for any type of battle it faces.
In road victories over the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets last week, Head Coach Scott Brooks went with smaller lineups that highlighted the Thunder’s athleticism and speed. Players like Thabo Sefolosha, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones played extended minutes, along with guards Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher. Matching up with both teams’ dynamic wing players, the Thunder got out and ran while still playing stifling defense in the halfcourt.
At home in a win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, Brooks went big, finding extra minutes in the rotation for Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Steven Adams to complement Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka at the forward positions. Against Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, perhaps the most bruising frontcourt combination in the NBA, the Thunder used its own size and strength to beat Memphis even at its slower pace.
“We matched the physicality of the game,” Brooks said. “We take pride on the defensive end and being physical ourselves. It was a well-played game defensively on our part. There were a couple of times where we had opportunities to make the right play offensively and we did, which was good to see.”
“They were playing a slower style of play, but we were playing slower ourselves,” Brooks said. “For whatever reason, we didn’t have the speed and quickness that we like to play with on the offensive end, but we still managed to execute when we had to in the half-court, which is another step in the right direction.”
In the same week, the Thunder played two completely clashing styles with equal levels of effectiveness. Thanks to an entire roster full of players whose skills and physical attributes complement one another, Brooks and his coaching staff have a bevy of options to choose from when matching up with opponents.
During the regular season and particularly once the calendar turns to April and May, the Thunder could be faced with various types of opponents and must be ready to battle each one. Above all, Brooks’ club wants to play its own style, which includes locking up on defense to force opponents to execute for the entirety of the shot clock, then turning those stops on defense to get out and run in transition, using unselfish ball movement to convert at the rim or on the perimeter.
While Brooks has continually put the pieces in place to compete at a high level no matter who the Thunder is facing, he insists that the credit goes to each player and coach for the work they have put in since the team arrived in Oklahoma City.
Players from every part of the roster – from Durant and Russell Westbrook to Ibaka and Jackson and even first year players like Adams and Andre Roberson have spent countless hours in the gym working on their individual and team basketball skills in order to help the entire unit function as one, no matter which combination of five players are on the floor.
“It’s really a byproduct of all of the work we’ve put in throughout the years,” Brooks said. “It’s our individual improvement. You could pick any guy- Kevin, Serge, Reggie, or Russell and it’s all through the work they put in throughout the years.”
“The style of play has been a process throughout the years that we’ve put in,” Brooks explained. “We’ve played big, small and a combination. We’re always finding ways to get better and pushing the envelope to get better, and we have the versatility to do that.”