The Oklahoma City Thunder have enjoyed one of the longer stretches of success in the NBA.
When healthy, the Thunder are perennial championship contenders.
Much of the Thunder’s success gets credited to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But head coach Scott Brooks deserves credit for keeping the machine running, too. Brooks often gets blamed when things go wrong for OKC, but he’s been part of the Thunder nucleus for seven seasons, and has yet to lose control of the team.
In a sit-down interview with Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling, Brooks described one method he uses to keep the team together. During practice, he likes to run a drill where he makes players switch roles so they can better understand each other on the court:
“I’ll also change player positions in practice so they can understand each other. I’ll run a skeleton offensive drill—no defense—where I’ll have, like, [center Kendrick] Perkins at point guard and Russell at the five running pick-and-rolls. Then I’ll stop and say, “Perk, you didn’t get into the ball; you didn’t force it over the screen and square him up. And Russell, you didn’t bump the screener; you didn’t come to the level of the screen and you didn’t wall off the point guard.” They’re like, “It’s not as easy as I thought.” So it helps them appreciate each other’s role.”
It’s a pretty unique idea, and one that could make players better respect each other on the floor. In this particular situation, Kendrick Perkins can get an idea about what a ball-handler faces when attacking a screen, while a point guard understands the finer nuances of setting a screen and how to get someone open.
Brooks and the Thunder are often criticized for unimaginative play-calling, but it’s clear that they partially get by on talent and chemistry, and Brooks deserves credit for that.