I want to start the inaugural cut of the Flip Side with something that's been under my skin for some time. It seems a few of us are sandblasting Flip Saunders and holding Scott Brooks up as counterpoint. So, lets take a brief look at the Thunder coach, peeking at a few similarities positive and negative. Flip continues to take a beating that will worsen as the road streak continues. Here are a few things to consider:
- After taking over for P.J. Carlesimo, Scott Brooks started 2-17. With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green.
- Pre All-Star break, the Brooks-led Thunder compiled a road record of 3-17.
- Not having a 5 man lineup you can trust hurts. Once Brooks found his, the Thunder closed out the season 5-11 on the road.
- The Thunder lost to the Hornets the night Carlesimo was fired, and again the night Brooks took over. Durant scored 47 points over both games, the Thunder lost by 37 combined.
- By the time they met again, Durant dropped 47 and NO survived by 2.
- Prada wrote a great article on the Thunder and how Jeff Green hasn't been a deciding factor in their success, how his rebound rate is second worst amonst all power forwards getting serious playing time (and only eight small forwards worse). If there were no questions about Andray Blatche's character, and John Wall and Nick Young were entering the height of their powers, the article could be about him.
- Also check out John Park Williams' comment at the bottom. Imagine our reaction if we had Serge Ibaka waiting in the wings instead of a fresh from college Trevor Booker and a shooter worse than Andray, who rebounded less, but was reportedly favored by our franchise guy and so almost always got the nod.
- Saunders has started 13-35, on pace to be worse than Brooks' 22-47. Nick Young is most definitely not Kevin Durant. John Wall was fresh out of school. Flip has had a harder job, and I think he is doing just as good a job, with less.
Continue below the jump for my initial take on Flip's performance. Thanks to everyone for helping with preparing the categories, special thanks to wjb1492 and khrabb.
DISCLAIMER: Winning heals all. Our guys are working, but until results start showing up in the W column, it's going to be hard issuing anything above an average grade.
Game Preparation: This category is always going to be a bit thin and subject to a lot of interpretation. We haven't heard much about practices since the team was going balls to the wall and Hamady N'Diaye was laying the wood on anybody who failed to catch him out of the corner of their eye. We still haven't seen that road win, but it's hard to complain about the home record. The team is habitually strong in the first quarter, and that speaks to solid preparation...which will bring us to the third category, but for now...we can't forget those collapses. Grade: C-
Game Strategy: Most of us find it difficult to forget Trevor Booker lighting up OKC, and to be frank, I'm most interested in finding out what kind of chemistry Yi Jianlian, Rashard Lewis, and Book have together. I know everyone views Javale McGee as Booker's natural partner, and maybe he is, but Yi's and Shard's shooting touch combined with Booker's physicality on offense together with the fact that all three have the mobility to guard their respective positions at the perimeter and the willingness to body up down low (even if Yi looked like a rag doll against SAC). And the idea of hustling for a rebound is not entirely alien to them. But my personal quirk aside, Andray Blatche is a question none of us has the answer to, although Flip is trying to get him over the hump. A five man lineup Flip can rely on has yet to materialize and while we all expect a man being paid millions to make lemonade, we shouldn't ignore the fact the he's working with a bag of seeds and fertilizer. Grade: C
Game Management: Come out strong and fall flat. I think it's fair to say we're most concerned about this team's inability to make effective adjustments from quarter to quarter. That New Orleans loss was tough to stomach, a game that was never as close as the box score. Flip's rotations have improved (see Young, Nick), and by starting Book and Razorblades in SAC after the LAL game, it is illogical to state he's not willing to make way for the youth movement. But then again, if Dray's healthy he's a perennial starter, 30+ minutes guy... Grade: C-
Leadership: A few of us have expressed anger over Flip's bashing of players in the media. I see it as a 'No Excuses' policy, and that sounds glib, so I'll give you this as well. McGee, Dray, and Nick Young are no longer rookies, and are not going to be protected that way. The trade rumors about Dray drive it home, learn or get out of town. He's got to find a way to kick up their energy on the road, no small challenge this far down the excitement meter. Grade: C+
Individual Player Development: Well, as many of you may not agree, I feel Flip is shining here. Those seeds are germinating, but if horticulture is not for you, let's get literal. John Wall is growing as a point guard. Sure, you may say, but what about his defense? Ok, so he's not this year's Jrue Holiday. At the same time, if I'm Flip, the last thing I'm telling my rookie franchise PG playing 75-80% healthy adjusting to the grueling NBA marathon schedule to kill himself on defense. Wall needs to learn better position D, absolutely, but it's going to have to be learned. I am going to expect a higher defensive IQ next year, but for now, I just want him to survive. Nick Young freelancing is not something I want to see (even now), but if anyone gets the green light on this team, it had better be him. For Dray, like it was said about George Allen, "he had an unlimited budget and he exceeded it." License to kill means you better kill somebody, and license to shoot means you better score. Flip gave Dray the rope and he hung himself, kudos to Flip for having the courage to let him try to find his feet, and to both for working Dray's offense within the system (at least more than it was). As MR stated, Javale has improved much, which tells us maybe more than we wanted to know about how long his road really is. Trevor Booker I haven't seen enough of due to rotation and taking care of baby duties, unfortunately. But he seems to be more and more comfortable on the floor...and guarding Kevin Durant? Really? Flip is doing a great job teaching the complexities of this game to a group of kids. As much heat as I see myself taking for this, when it comes to Individual Player Development, I have a hard time give Flip less than a Grade: B+
"I was proud of how [Blatche] came back. Today, as I said to our whole team before the game, that’s partly what the NBA is about. When you have a poor performance, as an individual or a team, you always have an opportunity to come back and try to play well and make up for how you played. He came back and played well, tried to play within the system and really was the only thing we had going early or else it would have really been bad. He kept some things going."
I can't help it. Flip has created an environment where young guys can make mistakes playing at the highest level, can learn without fear. This is the kind of guy I want running the show.
This is intended to kick off some discussion (offering up grades is extremely polarizing), and is in no way comprehensive, or you'd be reading until your eyes bleed. Since this is still brand new, I'm very open to formatting and content suggestions. And so, hesitating, have at me.