Kevin Durant is the Prize, Scott Brooks Isn’t

The two most lucrative NBA franchises want Kevin Durant. Nothing new there, the rest of the NBA wants KD too, not just the Knicks and Lakers. But wanting Durant doesn’t translate into allowing Durant to bring with him his favorite coach in a package deal. That is not going to happen.

As long as Phil Jackson is running the Knicks, one of his guys will be installed as the next head coach. Jackson wants someone he can trust. He wants a triangle devotee. Jackson and his brilliant mind can accept a triangle hybrid offense if you sell him on how it would work. Steve Kerr has proven you can intersect the triangle with other passing actions like a D’Antoni high octane scoring scheme. The triangle, accompanied by a multiple of different schemes, can pay dividends. But as long as Phil Jackson is around, you have to run some part of the triangle. That’s a must. Which means you have to have played with it and had success.

As long as Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss are running the Lakers, the next coach will be of their choosing. Kupchak has long been on record saying that the choice of a coach belongs to him and Buss. He doesn’t allow players input. It seems clear that Byron Scott’s days are done. The Lakers, according to sources, are interested in Tom Thibodeau and Luke Walton. Scott Brooks isn’t even in the conversation. As a matter of fact, when coaches names come up, the only time you hear Scott Brooks name is when Kevin Durant is talking.

The Lakers are in a different place than the Knicks because they have such a young core that they are evaluating. Aside from Jordan Clarkson, they don’t know who can do exactly what. It makes a Tom Thibodeau very attractive. He comes in as a teacher, a way to get players to improve, to transition from athlete to NBA player and to have a confidence about their game as they figure out where they can have success. The Lakers and the playoffs won’t happen for a couple of years. You don’t win 16-17 games and then jump into the playoffs.

The Knicks are a different story in that Jackson, in the off-season, gave veterans generous contracts. The Knicks are trying to get into the playoffs right now. They are in desperate need of a point guard that can compete with the John Walls of the world, that can match a 27 point, 17 assist performance, and that can can make it uncomfortable for guards like Wall to continually get to the rim. With a quality playmaker, the Knicks should make a run at the lower half of the eastern bracket. They have seasoned guys, some of whom have been around a while. They need a coach who can develop an offense around what they do well, and to instill more ball movement, more passing, higher quality of shots.

The Fisher failure is going to haunt Jackson.  Jackson always touted Fisher as a leader with organizational skills that allowed him to execute a plan. Always an underdog, Fisher survived having to fight his way through obstacles. But as Knicks coach, everything Fisher was supposed to be was everything he wasn’t. Worse for Jackson, he didn’t know Fisher like he thought he did. Fisher went off the triangle- island in a very public act of disloyalty. It was one of those rare Phil Jackson moments. The teacher, the philosopher, the spiritualist, the master of all things tribal, the hater of all things individual, could not rein Fisher in and motivate him to be part of the team.

Loyalty is a Kevin Durant value. He thrived with Scott Brooks as his coach and they had a rare relationship, a closeness that was separate from the Thunder winning every year. Brooks is very reflective of his time in Oklahoma City.

“I really believe in my heart that going into last season, we were going to win a championship. We had the right amount of experience and the right amount of tough luck the couple of years prior to that. I think you kinda need that to have an edge.” (reported by Chris Mannix, The Vertical)

Great players always bring up the question, how much of it was the player and how much of it was the coach? Michael Jordan lost until Phil Jackson forced the triangle on him. Kobe and Shaq lost until Phil Jackson resurrected his favorite scheme. So how much responsibility and credit does Scottie Brooks deserve? The Thunder are pretty much where they were last year with a different coach. And yet they are running Brooks’ system. Why exactly was he fired in the first place?

“I thought my staff did a great job. Last season, we still ended up top-five in scoring. The last five years I was there, we were always between three to five in scoring. Defensive field goal percentage, we were always between two and five in the last five. Last year I think we dipped down to I think we were eight. We had a lot of injuries. But I’m proud of our guys. They never used it as an excuse.” (Scott Brooks)

Both the Knicks and Lakers are out of excuses. Both front offices are under tremendous pressure to do something this summer when the salary cap take a huge hike. Jackson’s acumen as a front office personnel guru is under fire. Jim Buss is always under fire.

It leaves Kevin Durant with options that don’t include the two most lucrative franchises, even if they were going to hire Scott Brooks. Next year will be Durant’s 10th season. He’s been in the NBA Finals once. Whether he stays in OKC or goes somewhere else, it has to be a 45 win team he can get to 63 wins and the NBA Finals. Or, the Warriors if they can make the money work. The Lakers and the Knicks are on the outside.

And so is Scott Brooks. But his love for Kevin Durant is pure.

“Kevin is special. He’s a special person, a gifted player, very sincere, genuine. Kevin is looking for trust. He wants a staff he knows he can trust. He knew that we had his back and that wasn’t just if he hit a big shot.” (Scott Brooks)


photo via llananba