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The Thunder, who fired coach P.J. Carlesimo on Friday, rank at the bottom of the 30-team NBA by any number of measurements.
There had been word in NBA coaching circles that Carlesimo was in trouble, despite low expectations, because the young Thunder had not been competitive. The sight of a double-digit lead turning into a 20-point loss to the struggling Clippers on Wednesday prompted Oklahoma City's famously loyal fans to briefly boo their new team, which never happened when the Hornets were in town for two seasons. "We have to get better no matter who the coach is," second-year star Kevin Durant said to the Associated Press Saturday night in New Orleans. "To start off like we did my first year and now this year is tough to deal with. If we continue to work hard, things will start to turn around for us." In eight seasons as an NBA coach with Portland, Golden State, Seattle and Oklahoma City, Carlesimo has a career record of 204-296 in 500 regular-season games. Brooks played on the Houston Rockets' 1994 NBA championship team during his 11-year career. He bounced around with seven teams before becoming a Denver Nuggets assistant in 2003. Brooks also worked for the Sacramento Kings before coming to Seattle last season on Carlesimo's staff. "Things aren't good," Brooks said to the Associated Press on Saturday night in New Orleans. "It's a challenge to get our guys motivated to play every night. ... Our team needs direction. I have clear plans to make this team play with much more energy and passion." This marks the second time Carlesimo has been fired early in a season. He took the Trail Blazers to three straight playoff appearances in the 1990s before moving to Golden State. His time there was marked by the Latrell Sprewell choking episode during his first season with the team. He was fired after a 6-21 start in 2000, his third season. He got another chance after serving as an assistant on three NBA championship teams with the San Antonio Spurs, whom Thunder owner Clay Bennett once represented on the Board of Governors. In Oklahoma City, this was expected to be another season of rebuilding around Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant and fellow All-Rookie Team selection Jeff Green. Veterans Desmond Mason and Joe Smith were brought in to provide leadership, and salary flexibility following this season, and the team added No. 4 overall pick Russell Westbrook as another potential building block. But the result was an even slower start than last season, when the SuperSonics lost their first eight games before winning two straight. That season, which featured all the wrangling about a potential move to Oklahoma City, ended with a franchise-worst 20 wins. ESPN.com senior writer Chris Sheridan covers the NBA. ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.