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Scott Brooks wins NBA coach of the year

Amid the Thunder’s first-round postseason series with the Lakers, the NBA announced yesterday that the Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks was the recipient of the league’s coach of the year award for the 2009-2010 season.

Despite his team’s trailing 2-0 going back to Oklahoma City for a set of three against the defending champions, Brooks has accomplished a whale of lot during his tenure with the Thunder.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks is this year's NBA coach of the year.

Last season wasn’t great. He took over a struggling team from P.J. Carlesimo without any hopes of winning, but he salvaged the season with some semblance of respectability.

This year? Well, it’s been a different story. Brooks transformed a freakishly young roster from a makeshift assembly of talent to a well-oiled machine. With one star and a number of role players, he has shown Oklahoma City is ready to make an appearance on the NBA map.

Especially impressive is the fact that Brooks was severely limited in height, with Nick Collison, Nenad Krstic, and Serge Ibaka as his main players up front. Nevertheless, he encouraged the team to play inspired, tenacious defense, which is largely responsible for the franchise’s first playoff appearance since relocating from Seattle.

Most important, though, is that Brooks has convinced these players to truly embrace the core aspects of a team. There’s no selfishness, there’s no ball-hogging, there are no off-the-court issues. This squad is focused on winning basketball games the right way. And getting a team to do that is something you can’t really say about many of the great coaches in NBA history.

To be honest, Brook’s transformation of the Thunder is reminiscent of what John Wooden, potentially the greatest coach of all time in any sport at any level, did with his UCLA teams. There’s the same embracing of basketball and life values, and there’s the same desire on the part of the players to be out there every night, doing their best and having fun.

Sure, the 82 consecutive wins and the 10 straight championships aren’t there for Brooks … yet. But as that team continues to blossom, and after the Thunder add a core piece to the front court, watch out. Oklahoma City could be a very dangerous player in the coming years.

And it’s all thanks to the groundwork Mr. Brooks has laid.

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Mark Cuban hates the Spurs

So Mark Cuban announced he hates the Spurs. Seems fair. After all, the Spurs and his Mavericks both play in Texas, they both play in the Western Conference, and the Spurs have four championships in the last eleven years.

Dallas? It has zero.

So it’s definitely understandable that the most passionate owner in sports is, well, passionate about his Texas compadres.

But the timing of this announcement is slightly troubling.

As if you didn’t know, the Mavericks and Spurs are competing in this year’s playoffs — a 2-vs.7 matchup. The Mavericks are, indeed, the favorites to win.

Dallas took care of business in Game 1, coming away with a hard-fought 100-94 victory and a 1-0 series advantage. All was well.

Then Mr. Cuban had to run his mouth. He had to announce to the world (and to the Spurs, in particular) that he loathes them. And how does San Antonio respond? With a 102-88 beatdown that has Mavericks fans very worried.

And worried they should be. After all, San Antonio — after struggling for most of the year — put it into high gear for the last month or so, taking the conference by storm.

Don’t forget, too, that the Spurs are constant playoff threats; they haven’t missed the postseason in some 13 years, and they can always sneak up on an unsuspecting opponent.

Sneaking up on an unsuspecting opponent … Sounds a little like Dallas’s predicament in 2007, after the Western Conference regular-season champions were dispatched by a ragtag Warriors team in the first 1-vs.-8 upset since Washington crossed the Delaware (or s0).

With that in mind, was this a good play by Cuban?

Was it wise to ignite a fire in one of the calmest teams in the league — a team on which the best player takes calm to a new standard?

Of course not. He awards San Antonio with yet another intangible leg up in a series that many expect to be the most competitive first-round battle of them all.

Was it wise to get the competitive juices flowing in Richard Jefferson after a mediocre season?

Of course not. Jefferson’s looking for any way to gain redemption in the eyes of the Alamo faithful. And he’s made him nostalgic about failed postseason appearance after failed postseason appearance in New Jersey. Why turn RJ into the difference maker he was supposed to be but didn’t appear to be?

Was it wise to rile up the Spurs fan base with three games still to be played in San Antonio?

Of course not. After the Game 2 defeat, he has now squandered precious home-court advantage in the series, and the Dallas players will be like fresh meat for the Spurs’ crowd in Games 3 through 5.

Was it wise to pile added pressure on the players who are already incredibly stressed?

Of course not. Dirk Nowitzki couldn’t miss a shot in the first game, and he goes and backs up that effort with a 9-24 circus. The starters as a group shoot 32 percent in the pivotal Game 2. Sure, attribute that in part to adjustments on Popovich’s part. But don’t discount the fact that the Mavericks had 2007 in their heads.

The bottom line here is that Mark Cuban incorrectly saw this announcement of his hatred as a way to pump up his team. In reality, though, it was just the opposite. He has jeopardized his team’s chances of winning. In a year that many expect is a one-year window for the Mavericks to come home with an NBA title in June, it’s a colossal misstep.

It’s great that Cuban’s passionate, but he has to keep it in check at the right times.

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