Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Final Push: Impact of OKC’s next 5 games

Spurs-Thunder-Basketball-Kevin-Durant

If the goal of the regular season is to get home court advantage throughout the playoffs, then this is probably the most important stretch of the season for the Oklahoma City Thunder. With their win over the Portland Trailblazers and San Antonio’s loss to the Houston Rockets last night, the Thunder find themselves 1.5 games back of the Spurs for first place in the Western Conference. These next two weeks may be the most critical for the Thunder in their quest for home court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs.

Any time you’re playing catch-up, you always need a little help from the team that’s ahead of you. Luckily for the Thunder, the Spurs play an incredibly difficult slate of games before their meeting with the Thunder on April 4th. The Spurs next five games look like this: vs. Denver, vs. Los Angeles Clippers, vs. Miami, at Memphis, and vs. Orlando. While 4 of those 5 games are at home, the combined winning percentage of these five teams is .623. San Antonio is very good at home, but this stretch comes at a time when the Spurs play 6 games in 9 nights (to include the Thunder game). With San Antonio’s propensity for resting it’s veterans during these types of stretches, there’s not a lot of wiggle room in the schedule for the Spurs to do that without risking a game or two.

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The Thunder, on the other hand, play 3 games in 4 nights beginning Wednesday: at home against Washington, and then a double dip on the road on back to back nights against Minnesota and Milwaukee.  The combined winning percentage of these three teams is .406. Not exactly the gauntlet that San Antonio has to face during that same time period. After that short road trip, the Thunder get four days off before their game against the Spurs. While the Thunder will be well rested, the Spurs will be playing their 4th game in 5 nights. After the Spurs game, though, the Thunder will hop on a flight to Indianapolis to face the Pacers the next night. 

The key word in the next 10 days will be focus, sprinkled with a little bit of luck. The Thunder should win their next 3 games easily. But the Thunder have been known to play down to the level of their competition, especially on the road. Even the game at home against the Wizards will be fraught with caution, as John Wall has completely recovered from the knee injury that caused him to miss the first 33 games of the season. In his last 9 games, Wall is averaging 25 points, 9.3 assists, and 2 steals per game, while leading the Wizards to a 6-3 record over that time against some stiff competition. The Timberwolves always give the Thunder problems, especially in Minnesota, regardless of who is on the active roster. And Milwaukee is chock full of players that can go off for 30+ points at any time (Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, JJ Redick, Ersan Ilyasova).

John wall

All this is before they actually play the Spurs. The Thunder had an opportunity to take over first place from the Spurs two weeks ago, but decided to fall asleep at the wheel in the 2nd quarter of that game and never recovered. The Spurs are offensively great where the Thunder are defensively weak (dribble penetration and 3-point shooting). The Thunder have the ability to beat the Spurs, as shown in last season’s Western Conference Finals, but usually have to catch a couple jabs to mouth before they wake up. Hopefully, the Thunder comes into this game with a winning streak and the Spurs are coming off a loss or two.

The most important game in this whole stretch may be the Indiana game. If the Thunder accomplish their goal and take over first place after the Spurs game, they still have to regroup and come back the next night against one of the toughest teams in the league. This is where their focus comes into play. It would be a shame for the Thunder to gain control of the conference one night, and then give it away because of the lack of focus the next night. Trap games are usually reserved for games before rivalry games, but this may be a case of a post-trap game.

Serge Ibaka, Kevin Martin, Russell Westbrook

The Thunder needs to live by their creed of “one game at a time,” and treat every game with utmost importance for here on out. Do they need San Antonio to possibly lose a game or two? Yes. But that becomes a moot point if the Thunder doesn’t take care of their own business. In a time where it seems like every elite team is streaking and peaking, Oklahoma City has some how managed to tread water long enough to position itself into possibly getting the top spot in the West. Do the Thunder need to win the West to advance to the Finals? They didn’t need it last season when they were the number 2 seed and still beat San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals. But, this is a different team, whose role players seem to respond a lot better at home than on the road. For that reason alone, the Thunder should be making every possible push to get home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. It’s all about staying focused from here on out.

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Thunder the Duck Up!

thunder fam

Family dynamics; the things that make families tick. The quirks that are only understood by you and those you consider family. The word family, though, can be used very loosely. Family doesn’t necessarily have to be just people related to you by blood. There can be a family dynamic with the people you work with. The fact is that most of us spend half of our waking moments with the people we work with, if not more. We usually share 1-2 meals a deal with these people we call co-workers. So, quirks definitely develop amongst those that we share an employer with.

On a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder, you definitely see the quirks that work with this team. The core of this team (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, and coach Scott Brooks) has been together for close to 3 full seasons, which is an eternity, in NBA years, for 6 players and one coach to be on the same team for that length of time. Add to the mix Reggie Jackson and, even, Derek Fisher, who has been with the squad for the last two seasons, and you start to bring familiarity and comfort into the fold. On a team like this, teammates can cuss each other during the game, and then go out to dinner after the game with smiles on their faces. It’s the quirks that make it work.

dynasty

It’s very similar to the characters on what has recently become my current guilty pleasure, Duck Dynasty. The basic premise is a reality show about a family that runs a business. But, the family dynamics are what make the show great. You have three sets of generations all working and interacting as a family, but also as coworkers. Add to that, outsiders (co-workers) that have been indoctrined into the family, and add to the hilarity of it all. In the end, you have a show where the goodness of family values meets the craziness of work site antics that makes it very difficult to turn away. A lot like watching the Oklahoma City Thunder play.

In an alternate universe, what would it be like if the Oklahoma City Thunder and Duck Dynasty merged together? This is what I happening:

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Phil Robertson is Nick Collison – Phil Robertson is the patriarch of the entire family. He’s the one that started the company and made it famous with his Duck Commander videos. Now, mostly retired, he still helps out whenever necessary, but mostly expounds wisdom like an old sage to whoever will listen. Nick Collison is like the patriarch of the Thunder. He’s been on the team longer than any player currently on the roster, and carries years of experience with him. While still a serviceable bench player, he’s known to expound nuggets of wisdom to young players on the nuances of the game.

Willie Robertson is Kevin Durant – The main focus of the show is on Willie and his running of the business. He is the brains behind the operation and has used his business acumen to turn it into a multi-million dollar empire. But don’t ask him to get his hand dirty. He would much rather keep the white collar on, than do some manual labor. Much like Willie, KD is the main focus on the Thunder. His ascension into superstardom has coincided with the Thunder’s rise as an elite team. While Durant has no problem getting his hands a bit dirty, he’d much rather do his work calmly and efficiently than to leave a trail of mayhem.

Jase Robertson is Russell Westbrook – Jase is the main antagonist to Willie, with the word antagonist being used very loosely. While they are brother, Willie is Jase’s boss, and would like nothing more than if Jase would get to work. Jase, on the other hand, has what I would call a YOLO-type (you only live once) personality. If they is any type of mayhem to get into, Jase is usually the first one in line. If there were three words to describe Westbrook, YOLO, mayhem, and antagonist would be very apropos. Contrary to what most outsiders think, Westbrook is not Durant’s antagonist. But Westbrook does have a very antagonistic attitude towards the people reporting about him. His unbridled play on the court is equal parts masterpiece and mayhem. And if there is someone on the team unafraid of the moment, it’s Westbrook (and Durant, of course).

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Jep Robertson is Kevin Martin – Jep is the youngest of the Robertson men and is the mama’s boy of the bunch. His beard has this weird shine to it that makes him look like a pretty boy compared to his brothers, father, and uncle. He has been kind of quiet for most of the time the show has been on the air, but has recently gotten more exposure in this current season. Martin is kind of the quiet, pretty boy of the team. He’s not known to get his hands dirty, and would rather do most of his damage from the outside. Also, his quiet demeanor makes him almost invisible on the court at times.

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Martin and Godwin are Serge Ibaka and Hasheem Thabeet – Martin and Godwin are two of the employees that work for Duck Commander, but are not related to the Robertson family. They usually get involved in Jase’s antics and add to the mayhem of the moment. These two bigs boys have no problems getting their hands dirty for whatever is necessary. Ibaka and Thabeet are two of the big boys inside for the Thunder and have no problem getting into a little mayhem themselves, as evidenced by Ibaka’s recent karate chop of Blake Griffin’s baby making factory and Thabeet’s penchant for getting under the skin of opposing big men. Also, the African connection makes this duo very similar to the duo of fat guys who aren’t related to the Robertsons.

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John Luke Robertson, Reed Robertson, and Cole Robertson are Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones III, and Jeremy Lamb – The younger generation of the Robertson family. They are shown the ropes by the older generation, and while going on their own paths, soak in most of the wisdom that the older generation tries to impart on them. Similarly, the young bucks for the Thunder are trying to carve their own niche on the team, while absorbing any nuggets of wisdom that they can get from the veterans.

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Si Robertson is Kendrick Perkins – Was there any question about this one? Si is, literally, the crazy uncle of the bunch. He’s the old guy that works with the young guys, but fits in just fine because he’s crazier than all of them combined. Si vocabulary is a mixture of pop culture and country bumpkin. The court jester of the show, Si keeps the mood light, but will also get you if he has to. As I’ve written before, Perk is the crazy uncle of the Thunder. His Southern drawl makes his sayings, such as “Get in there gurl!” and “Ball don’t lie” that much more memorable. With his trademark scowl, Perkins is able to intimidate opponents, while making the scowl a loveable trait. While he keeps the mood light, he also expects his teammates to do their job and will grill them if they are lacking.

Mountain Man is Derek Fisher – Mountain Man is a neighbor that has known the Robertsons for years and occasionally makes appearances on the show. He’s great as a Mr. Fix-it and sometimes adds a nugget of wisdom here or there. Like Mountain Man, Derek Fisher has made occasional appearances for the Thunder the last two seasons as a late season addition to help bolster the bench for the playoff runs. Fisher adds experience to the bench and can still hit a big shot or two.

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Miss Kay Robertson is Wanda Pratt – Miss Kay is the matriarch of the family. She brings the family together through food and is always there to lend an ear. Prior to this season, Wanda Pratt was the Thunder’s unofficial team mom, but has been mostly MIA this season. Hopefully she’ll return for the playoffs.

Side notes: I’ve been thinking about doing an article like this since last season, but it would have been too easy with James Harden and his Beard in the fold.

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At the end of the each of the episodes, the Robertson clan gather together at the dinner table and break bread, as any good family should. Through the good and the bad, they still gather together and share that precious family time. Same thing with the Thunder. Though they may argue with each on the court and off, you can be sure that they will be there for each other and will be “riding together and dying together” come this playoff season. Thunder the Duck Up!

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Orlando Magic vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 66 of 82)

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  • When: Friday, 15 March 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

If you are an established small market team that builds through the draft and smart, cost-effective moves, you are said to be using the San Antonio model of team building. But if you are a rebuilding team, collecting draft picks and young players, you are said to be using the Oklahoma City model of team building. The Oklahoma City Thunder are using the San Antonio blueprint, while battling the Spurs for Western Conference supremacy. The Orlando Magic, on the other hand, are using the OKC model to rebuild after Dwight Howard napalmed the team for two consecutive seasons.

Two years after making it to the Finals, the Magic were struggling to remain relevant in an Eastern Conference that now boasted a super team in Miami, a wunderkind point guard in Chicago, and a scoring title threat in New York. Howard could see the writing on the wall, but waffled between staying with the team and wanting to be traded. The indecision on the part of both parties (Howard and the Magic’s) delayed the inevitable, frustrating both the Magic front office and the fan base for 2 seasons. Howard was eventually traded this past offseason to the Los Angles Lakers in a four team deal that included 12 players and 5 draft picks.

Orlando Magic v Los Angeles Clippers

Heading into this meeting with the Thunder, the Magic find themselves at 18-47, good for 14th in the Eastern Conference. After surprisingly starting the season with a 12-13 record, the Magic proceeded to lose 34 of their next 40 games. This will be the first of two meeting between these two teams. The Thunder swept the season series last season in two tightly contested games.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Orlando Magic

  • PG – Jameer Nelson
  • SG – Arron Afflalo
  • SF – Moe Harkless
  • PF – Tobias Harris
  • C – Nikola Vucevic

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

Protect the ball – Orlando is an extremely young, athletic team that feasts on turnovers. If the Thunder get too careless with the ball, the Magic will make them pay in transition. There’s no need to give a young team momentum to think they can win at your place.

ibaka and perk

Rebounding – The Magic are 15th in the league in rebounding, but have a double-double machine in athletic center Nikola Vucevic. With Vucevic patrolling the paint and Mo Harkless/Tobias Harris keeping Serge Ibaka outside of the paint, it will be up to Kevin Durant and the guards to help out in the rebounding department.

durant posting

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook: Post up offense – Both Westbrook and Durant will have significant height advantages on their defenders. Look for them to post up early and often.

Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 65 of 82)

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz

  • When: Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

It’s getting to that point in the season where mostly every game carries some sort of importance, either for playoff seeding or draft lottery probabilities. The Oklahoma City Thunder are coming off a road loss to the San Antonio Spurs, where they had the opportunity to overtake the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference. The Utah Jazz, on the other hand, are on the opposite end of the playoff spectrum. The Jazz held onto the 7th seed in the West as recently as one week ago, but losses in 7 of their last 9 games has the Jazz looking up at the hard charging Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot in the West. With that said, there are heavy playoff implications for both teams in this game.

This is the 3rd meeting of the season between these two Northwest division rivals. The Thunder easily won the first game at home, 106-94. In that game, Russell Westbrook nearly notched a quadruple double with 23 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, and 7 steals. Kevin Durant chipped in with 25 points and Kevin Martin added 19 points off the bench. In the 2nd meeting of the season, the Jazz basically flipped the score while playing in Salt Lake City, 109-94. In that game, the Jazz dominated the paint, with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap combining for 41 points and 17 rebounds (9 offensive).

Probable Starters

Utah Jazz

  • PG – Randy Foye
  • SG – Mo Williams
  • SF – DeMarre Carroll
  • PF – Paul Millsap
  • C – Al Jefferson

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

Post Defense – It can’t be said enough against teams that have two functional big men how important it is to control the paint defensively. In the first game between these two teams, Jefferson and Millsap were held to 29 points on 12-29 FG shooting (41.4%). In the second game, a Thunder loss, the Jazz duo combined for 41 points on 19-36 FG shooting (52.8%). It’s up to Perkins, Ibaka, and Nick Collison to contain these two.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz

Defensive Rebounding – Related to the post defense, defensive rebounding is extremely key when dealing with the Jazz. The Jazz grabbed 21 and 16 offensive rebounds, respectively, in the two games against the Thunder. Offensive rebounds lead to extended offensive possessions and more shots for the opposition. The Jazz shot 17 and 19 more shots, respectively, than the Thunder in the two games they played against them.

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Durant – The Jazz don’t really have any answers for guarding Durant. DeMarre Carroll will attempt to get physical with Durant, but will eventually succumb to foul trouble and Durant’s speed. And Durant is usually a horrible match-up for Gordon Hayward. I expect Durant to get at least 30 points in this game.

 

Kevin Martin’s Future with the Thunder

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One of the biggest decisions facing the Oklahoma City Thunder this offseason is whether or not to keep Kevin Martin past this season. Martin was the other big name in the blockbuster deal that sent James Harden to the Houston Rockets a couple days before the 2012-13 season began. Martin was brought in to maintain the scoring provided by Harden off the bench and has nearly matched Harden’s bench output from last season when Harden was the NBA’s 6th Man of the Year. Though he has struggled at times this season in his new role, especially in home/road splits, Martin has performed well enough to be an integral part of the Thunder, who are once again, championship contenders.

People tend to think of contract negotiations, exclusively, as an offseason event. But the chess pieces that are the “Kevin Martin negotiations” have been shuffling around the chess board all season long. There are always two sides to any negotiation, but there are so many variables that influence the final decision. Those variables are the chess pieces the Thunder and Martin have been playing around with for the entire season. In this article, I’ll look at some of those variables and see how they will influence the upcoming negotiations between these two parties.

Kevin Martin’s chess pieces

Background – Martin comes from Zanesville, OH, which has a population of about 25,000 people. He has maintained very close ties to that community and is constantly involved in community events (basketball camps, 3-on-3 tournaments, etc.) during the offseason. With that said, it doesn’t seem that big city lights have the same effect on Martin as it does with many other players in the NBA. He started his career in one of the smaller markets in the NBA (Sacramento), and then played in one of the bigger markets in Houston. A community like Oklahoma City probably reminds Martin a lot more of Zanesville than a city like Houston would.

zaneville

Personality – If Russell Westbrook’s personality can be described as hyperactive and intense, then Martin’s can be described as cool, calm, and collective. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player who touches the ball so much, have so little emotion. It’s not hard to imagine Martin committing a turnover and reacting by saying, “Darn,” in little more than a whisper while jogging to the other end of the floor. And I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing either. On a team full of emotionally charged players (Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka), it’s good to have players on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum to balance things out.

Also, Martin’s personality traits are more conducive to accepting a bench role, instead of wanting to be the man. Martin tried that for 9 seasons in Sacramento and Houston with mixed results. He had good stats (21.5 ppg from 2006-2012), but his teams were never good enough to make the playoffs. In an interview with Hoopsworld in late December, Martin stated, “…I’m so happy right now and being with these guys has given me an extra pep in my step. It’s just fun being here. It’s a great organization and great guys. I’m happy right now.” The burden of carrying a team can be pretty daunting, and statements like this lends to me think that Martin is happier being a contributing player on a successful team, than being the man on a mediocre team.

Community-oriented – Martin is known as one of the most affable and approachable players in the league. He is heavily involved in the community in his hometown and even won the 2008 Oscar Robertson Triple Double Award, which is a community involvement award given out annually by the Sacramento Kings. If there’s one thing the Thunder organization places utmost importance on, it’s community involvement. Most players do community activities because the League relegates that they have to. But, Martin is one of those players that truly enjoys being involved in the community.

martin community

On record – When Oklahoma City first got a team, one of the things that detractors hung their hats on was that players weren’t going to want to play or stay in OKC. That the players would skip town at the first opportunity, or never even consider OKC in free agency. In an interview with Marc Stein of Yahoo! Sports in late January, Martin put it on record, saying, “This summer, hopefully everything works out here. I haven’t said that too often. But I will put it out there; hopefully I have found a home in the NBA. I love playing with this group of guys. The organization is great to me. The community has been great to me. It’s the happiest I have been during my NBA career.” While many Thunder fans may take that statement with a grain of salt, after James Harden basically said the same thing in the offseason, there’s an air of wisdom and experience in Martin’s statement that makes it sound more believable.

Production – The trade in late October sent one of the best bench units in the league into complete disarray. Gone from the team were Harden, who was the reigning 6th Man of the Year, Cole Aldrich, who was thought to be the team’s back-up center, and Daequan Cook, who was their situational 3-point shooter/floor spacer. In addition to that, the back-up point guard position was shaky at best, with Eric Maynor coming off of an ACL injury and Reggie Jackson still learning how to play point guard in the NBA. In essence, the Thunder got rid of 4 bench players for one bench player (Martin) and one project player (Jeremy Lamb).

kevin-martin-thunder

It’s taken a little bit more than half of the season, but the bench seems to have solidified itself into a stable outfit. Martin is one of the league leaders in bench scoring, averaging 14.5 points per game. He’s assumed the role of 3-point specialist (43%) and floor spacer when he’s on the floor with Durant and Westbrook, especially late in games. And he’s begun to develop a chemistry with Nick Collison that is akin to the chemistry Collison and Harden had together.

Thunder’s chess pieces

Leverage – The player Martin was shipped with to Oklahoma City in the James Harden deal may ultimately be the reason Martin becomes expendable. Since the moment he donned a Tulsa 66ers jersey, rookie Jeremy Lamb has been lighting up the D-League to the tune of 21.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game in 16 games. While success in the D-League doesn’t always equate to success in the NBA, Lamb has flashed the tools to be a consistent scorer/shooter at the NBA level.

Jeremy Lamb, DeSagana Diop

Comparable players – These are four players (and their salaries) that are comparable to the role that Martin plays on the Thunder.

  • Jamal Crawford – Los Angeles Clippers (4 years / $21.35 miillion)
  • JJ Redick – Milwaukee Bucks (1 year / $6 million)
  • Jason Terry – Boston Celtics (3 years / $15.675 million)
  • Ray Allen – Miami Heat (2 years / $6.32 million)

All of these players are perimeter oriented bench scorers who are average to below average defenders playing for playoff teams.

Home vs. road splits – It’s no secret that players usually play better at home than on the road. There’s the familiarity factor of the arena, the fact that you get to sleep in your own bed, and the boost from the home crowd. As a bench player, Martin is needed to supplement the offense when the starters (namely, Durant and Westbrook) are out of the game. This is very important on the road, especially in the playoffs. Here’s a look at Martin’s home/road splits through the first 61 games of the season:

  • Home – 16.1 ppg on 47.9% FG, 50% 3ptFG, and 92.2% FT
  • Road – 12.7 ppg on 41.3% FG, 35.6% 3ptFG, and 86.7%FT

That’s a 21% drop off in scoring (and noticeable drops in every shooting percentage) outside of the friendly confines of Chesapeake Energy Arena. This may become a factor in the playoffs as the Thunder move forward.

CBA and luxury tax – This may be the biggest hindrance in keeping the Thunder from resigning Martin. Starting next season, the Thunder will have $54.19 million allocated to 4 players (Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins). That leaves about $16 million in pre-luxury tax cap space for 11 roster spots. While the Thunder may have to eventually get into the luxury tax to stay competitive, they will try to stave it off for as long as possible.

Prediction

A lot still remains to be seen concerning Martin and the Thunder. While Martin has performed well in the regular season for his career, he’s never been overtly tested in the playoffs. The last time Martin was on a team that made the playoffs, his teammates included Ron Artest, Bonzi Wells, Shareef Abdul Rahim, Mike Bibby, and Corliss Williamson. While he performed well in that one playoff series, it still remains to be seen how Martin will perform as the team advances in the playoffs.

artest martin

Martin seems to be getting more acclimated with his role off the bench. He’s developed a 2-man game with Nick Collison that defenses have to respect. And his ability to space the floor has opened up driving lanes for back-up pg Reggie Jackson. Martin also seems to be getting more used to his role as a shooter/floor spacer late in games with Durant and Westbrook on the floor.

When the Thunder acquired Martin before the season, I think they had every intention on keeping him and seeing how things played out throughout the season. Even though his $12.5 million expiring contract may have been a valuable commodity at the trading deadline, Martin’s name was never mentioned in any trade rumors leading up to the deadline. One of the reasons why the transition from Harden to Martin has been mostly seamless is because Martin provides a lot of the same production that Harden did. He’s an efficient shooter and a good scorer, who’s always looking to attack the defense. That’s a rare commodity to have when a team can rest its starters and still keep the defense on their heels with its second unit. While the trade brought big changes to the roster, the Thunder never had to change any of their game planning because of the similarities in the styles of play of Harden and Martin.

team

Martin, for his part, seems to be genuinely happy in Oklahoma City. I think there are several reasons for his happiness that may work in the Thunder’s favor in resigning Martin. First off, the pressure of being “the man” on the team is no longer on Martin. While Martin is a good scorer, I don’t think he ever embraced being the No.1 guy on a team. Some players are meant to be alpha males, while others are meant to be great role players. Martin seems to fall in the second category. Secondly, he’s playing on a championship contending team. I don’t know how Martin feels about his legacy, but playing for championships tends to enhance your legacy as a player. Thirdly, Martin may actually increase his longevity in the role that he is currently playing. Martin has always been known to be injury prone, playing in over 60 games only 5 times in his 10 year career (to include this season). Coming off the bench on a championship contender, Martin is playing the least amount of minutes since his 2nd season. And he’s going to the FT line a lot less, meaning that he is not driving or putting his body in harm’s way.

The most important factor in all of this is money. How much is Martin willing to sacrifice, and how much are the Thunder willing to offer? Every championship team has an elite bench scorer or a combination of capable bench scorers. I’m sure that even Martin knows he’s not worth the $12.5 million he’s currently getting paid. If the Thunder offer Martin anything comparable to what Jamal Crawford or Jason Terry are making, will he take that offer? Or will he jump at an offer from another team desperate for a shooting guard (Utah, Minnesota, Dallas) that will likely be substantially more than what the Thunder can offer? Another option for the Thunder is Jeremy Lamb. Is Oklahoma City willing to go into next season with Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson as the main components of their bench unit?

fingerroll martin

I think the Thunder see Martin as their firepower off the bench for the next few seasons. If they were willing to go into the luxury tax for Harden, you can be sure that they’ll keep Martin at a much lower price. My prediction is that Martin will sign a contract comparable to what Jason Terry got (possibly 3 years/ $16.5 million) in the offseason. Martin seems like a mature person that realistically knows his strengths and his weaknesses. He knows that this as a great opportunity to play on a team, and in situations, that matter. In the end, I think he’ll choose legacy and longevity over money.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Preview (Game 60 of 82)

la-sp-ln-lakers-vs-thunder-live-coverage-20130-002

  • When: Tuesday, 05 March 2013 at 8:30 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City OK

When the Oklahoma City Thunder handily defeated the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2nd time in the season on January 11th, I jokingly tweeted that I would only wear my “Beat LA” Thunder shirt for Clippers games from here on out. On their third meeting of the season, though, the Lakers grinded out a hard fought victory at the Staples Center and started their climb towards mediocre respectability. Since that win on January 27th, the Lakers are 11-5 and within 2 games of the 8th spot in the Western Conference playoff race. So with that, I’m currently wearing my “Beat LA “shirt. Congratulations Laker-Nation, you’ve earned by closet’s respect again.

beat la

All joking aside though, this is a big game for both parties involved. With the injury to San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, the Thunder see this game as an opportunity to make ground on the Spurs in their quest for home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs and into the Finals. Also, this is an opportunity to keep these pesky Lakers at bay, because, truthfully, an 8-seeded Lakers team is a whole helluva lot scarier than an 8-seeded Houston Rockets or Utah Jazz team.  The Lakers, of course, see this game as a must win in their quest to salvage the season and make the playoffs.

2012 NBA - Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers (92-77) - April 16, 2012

The big question concerning the Thunder is the availability of Serge Ibaka. Because of his karate chop of Blake Griffin’s baby factory, there may be a possible suspension upcoming. As of early Tuesday afternoon, though, there has been no word from the NBA offices. If Ibaka is not available for the game, look for Perry Jones III to start in his place. Scott Brooks is not very keen on deviating from his substitution patterns and the Lakers are pretty thin at power forward, with Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill being injured. With Jones III in the starting lineup, Brooks can continue with his substitution pattern of Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet off the bench, with Kevin Durant possibly playing some power forward in the 2nd half. With all that said, though, I think Ibaka skirts by with a hefty fine and no suspension.

Probable Starters

Los Angeles Lakers

  • PG – Steve Nash
  • SG – Kobe Bryant
  • SF – Metta World Peace
  • PF – Earl Clark
  • C – Dwight Howard

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

temper

1. Composure – With the near fracas that formed in the Staples Center, and the recent comments by Kobe Bryant that he would’ve “smacked him (Ibaka) in the mouth,” look for there to be an almost playoff-like, charged atmosphere in the arena tonight. If anyone has followed Kobe Bryant’s career though, you’ll know that he uses psychology more than any other player. That statement was a psychological bait he threw out into the water. It’s up to the Thunder players to keep their composure and not take the bait.

2. KD and Russ – It will be interesting to see how the Lakers start out the game defensively. With Westbrook coming into the game playing the best basketball of his career, do the Lakers start out with Kobe on Westbrook, or do they leave Nash on him? This decision may dictate how KD plays. If Kobe start off on Westbrook, then it’s up to Durant to take over. But if Nash starts off on Westbrook, Durant should take more of the facilitator role and let Westbrook handle the weaker, slower Nash.

Kendrick+Perkins+Dwight+Howard+Oklahoma+City+N4ymZssWmZ_l

3. Perkins – Dwight Howard seems to be coming around from his earlier injuries. He seems to finally be getting into shape and he hasn’t complained about his shoulder. With that said, this is the main reason we have Kendrick Perkins on our team. Contain Howard and that forces Kobe to go into hero-mode, which works in the Thunder’s favor when you have a defender like Thabo Sefolosha.