Russell Westbrook sits in Thunder's blowout of Nuggets
MAR 24, 2014 10:46p ET
OKLAHOMA CITY – There's a plan. That much we know.
Past that, Thunder coach Scott Brooks isn't saying.
What we know is guard Russell Westbrook will rest some games and he'll play others. It's all been pre-determined, it just hasn't been disclosed.
Westbrook isn't hurt, although it looked like he was.
Westbrook is just fine, although he rests more than an injured player does.
You try to figure it out, because Brooks isn't giving anything away.
"We have our reasons, and there are many," Brooks said. "We felt that we've had this plan in place. We've sat down and continued to discuss things. We have a plan. Everything has been planned out. We have to stick with our plan."
OK, so there's a plan, and so far it's worked. The Thunder moved to 2-1 when Westbrook has been benched for non-health related issues. The Thunder beat Denver 117-96 Monday and didn't need Westbrook.
They got 27 points from Durant and four others scored in double figures. It was the kind of night in which Westbrook wasn't needed to beat the below-.500, injury-depleted Nuggets.
And if the plan is to make sure Durant got his (and he did, making it 35 games in a row in which OKC's star has scored 25 or more points) and the rest of team to get some confidence going, it worked.
And if the plan was to get everyone who's healthy into the game, well, that worked out, too. The Thunder got a fourth consecutive win and didn't have to burn a lot of energy or effort to do it.
But if the plan is to create some cohesion and rhythm before the playoffs, well, there could be an issue there.
What we've learned from this season isn't new, shocking or breaking news. It's simple: The team is better with Westbrook on the floor, but it is also better when Westbrook is assimilated into the offense, not when he is in and then out of the lineup. And despite the fact that Westbrook and Durant, along with Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka, have played hundreds of games together, they have shown some sluggishness, too.
It takes time to get everyone playing together. Ask Caron Butler, who joined the team shortly after the trade deadline, but has struggled with his shot. He scored 23 points on 10-of-19 shooting Monday, his best game since joining the team.
Reggie Jackson has been a starter and has been a bench player. He's been equal parts sensational and sloppy this year. Monday, he had 16 points and 11 assists.
"It's confidence whenever you play a good brand of basketball, despite who's out there or who's not," Butler said. "The system is key. As long as the guys are working hard, that's what you'll see."
The point is, time and togetherness has to be part of the plan, too, so fiddling with Westbrook's minutes and mental state has to be considered.
If he's healthy, like the Thunder are saying he is, play him. If he's hurt, like it seemed he would be Friday night in Toronto when he bumped knees with the Raptors Kyle Lowry, then rest him — fully rest him — until he's 100 percent.
But apparently that's not part of the plan.
"We're pretty consistent in what we do," Brooks said. "We take one game at a time. I know it's a cliché, but that is what we do."
Probably anything would have worked against the Nuggets. The Thunder led throughout, shot 50 percent and held Denver to 39 percent. Five players scored in double figures. Nine players saw more than 18 minutes of playing time.
OKC stayed two games behind the Spurs for the best record in the Western Conference and did it without having to worry.
That has to be a benefit.
"There's going to be an adjustment period," Brooks said of when his entire team is healthy and ready to return. "That's my job to try and find a happy medium."
Wonder if that's part of the plan, too?
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK