On the eve of the NBA Finals, Thunder coach Scott Brooks demeanor did not betray any signs of anxiety. As he answered questions at the media availability today, Brooks talked about what could be an epic championship series as though it were just another stretch in the schedule.
He had the opportunity to talk about his starting point guard at the outset and reminded people of what Russell Westbrook has meant to this team.
“We would not be in this position if it wasn’t for Russell,” Brooks said. “He’s helped us and taken us to this level.
“He’s done a lot of great things and a lot of times we focus on the wrong things. At least I think that some people do. But I really believe that he brings great energy, great passion, great enthusiasm to the practice floor. And it carries over as to how we play as a team on the game floor.”
And the Thunder coach continued to stress the “team” mentality of this Thunder squad.
“One of the things that I love about our guys is that it’s always about the team,” Brooks said. “That’s all we’ve known. When we were coming up together, that’s all we had.
“And fortunately for us we had a great fan base that didn’t boo us when we weren’t winning a lot of games.”
That was a time that wasn’t so long ago. The Thunder are only three years removed from a 23-59 record, but have improved steadily in the meantime. And Brooks and his team allow themselves to only see themselves as one big group that consists of them all, not as a “Big Two” or “Big Three” or “Big One”
This is even with a youthful and up-and-coming superstar like Kevin Durant on the roster.
“We know that Kevin is one of our best players,” Brooks said. “And if I was to single him out to the team like that, he wouldn’t want that.
“There’s never been a question. We’ve always done everything as a team. We defend as a team and we’re continuing to improve offensively as a team. But it’s always been about our guys.
“All of our thoughts are about the team.”
The highlighted matchup in this year’s finals that will draw ratings is LeBron vs. Durant. And Brooks agreed with the idea that the matchup will be fun to watch.
“There’s always games within the game. You always have to have that personal pride to guard your man. That’s our first line of defense. And I’m sure that they’re going to guard each other quite a bit during the series.
“But it’s not going to come down to one guy guarding one guy. It will be how we guard their team and vice versa.”
And with those thoughts in mind, it becomes clear how he can be so calm. The Thunder effort is not all about just one or two players. The responsibilities are spread throughout the entire team.
And where a true team effort is involved, the individuals, including the coach, can ward off that much more of the stress.