Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts

Recapping Thunder Media Day

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Alex Roig – NTTB

Media days can sometimes be an exercise in repetition. The same 2-3 questions can be rinsed, washed, and repeated for every player. What do you expect your role to be this season? What do you think about “latest talking point in the country”? What are the team expectations?

You can probably fill an entire article just with the answers from those 3 questions alone. The difficult part is trying to cut through all that player-speak and listen in to what the real themes are for the team. For the Oklahoma City Thunder, the one theme that consistently permeated throughout the entire day was winning.

But every team heads into the season talking about winning. Even those teams looking at an entire season of ineptitude find ways to think of sunshine and rainbows before the season starts. The Thunder’s talk of winning felt different though. It was talked about with brazen confidence. And for good reason, too. The brand new Big 3 of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony gives the Thunder a collection of players they’ve never had since they moved to the Great Plains.  Continue reading Recapping Thunder Media Day

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NTTB Rank: 11-8

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Player Rankings: 20-16 | 15-12

I have one amendment to an earlier list.

20. Rashawn Thomas

YEAR TEAM MIN FG% 3PT FG% FT% REBS ASTS STLS BLKS PTS
16-17 TAMCC 33.7 .524 .378 .721 9.0 2.7 1.6 2.0 22.5

rashawn thomas

Earlier this summer, it was reported the Thunder had agreed to a partially-guaranteed deal with Thomas. My thinking was that it was just for summer league and possibly for the G-League when it came time for that. But it still stuck in my head whether he would be with the Thunder during training camp or not. So I decided to ask the source, himself. Continue reading NTTB Rank: 11-8

NTTB Rank: 20-16

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It’s that time of year again. With about 35 days until the season starts, it’s time to start ranking players. Sports Illustrated has started their Top 100 list. ESPN has followed suit. But ranking 100 players is just too much for me. Especially, since I mainly just focus on one team.

I’ve decided to do an Oklahoma City Thunder players ranking based on the 20 or so players that are currently involved with the franchise. This first installment will look at players ranked 16-20. These will likely be a combination of training camp invitees, 2-way players, and/or under-performing veterans.

20. Unsigned Training Camp Invitee

Technically, the Thunder still have one more spot available for their 20 man training camp roster. There are still plenty of unsigned free agents looking for a chance to make a roster. For every run of the mill training camp invite that ends up getting cut, you sometimes ends up with a player like Lance Thomas that works on his game and takes advantage of the training camp opportunity to earn a roster spot. Continue reading NTTB Rank: 20-16

All-Time Oklahoma City Thunder team for 2K18

thunder youngRecently, 2K released their All-Time Teams for all 30 of the teams in the league. While many teams have their own history, the Oklahoma City Thunder are still having to share their history with the Seattle Supersonics. When their released their all-time team for the Thunder, the team featured 4 Thunder players and 11 Sonics players.

Here’s a look at the team:

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t disagree with anything on that list. The Sonics had a long, storied history in their 41 years in the Pacific Northwest. They won a championship in 1979 and their list of players includes several Hall of Famers. (On a side note: Why the hell is Shawn Kemp not in the Hall of Fame. He was one of the best PF’s in the league in the 90’s, averaged a double-double for six consecutive seasons, is a 6x All-Star, and a 3x 2nd Team All-NBA. What more does a man need on his resumé?) Continue reading All-Time Oklahoma City Thunder team for 2K18

What does a regular Westbrook MVP season look like?

USP NBA: OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER AT MEMPHIS GRIZZLIE S BKN MEM OKC USA TNRecently, Bovada, the online gambling site based out of Las Vegas, released their NBA MVP odds for next season. Leading that list was current league MVP Russell Westbrook, at 7/2 odds. Former league MVP and Westbrook’s former teammate, Kevin Durant, was second with 9/2 odds.

The fact that Bovada would have Westbrook listed as their leader for MVP odds seems  a litte strange to me. Not in the fact that Westbrook doesn’t have the credentials to be an MVP-worthy candidate. That, he definitely does. But in the fact that, with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s moves this offseason, an MVP season for Westbrook this year will look completely different than the MVP season from last year. Continue reading What does a regular Westbrook MVP season look like?

Scheduling Conflicts: Why hasn’t Russell Westbrook signed his extension?

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Alex Roig – NTTB

With each day that passes, the fan base of the Oklahoma City Thunder grows a little more worried that Russell Westbrook hasn’t signed his Designated Veteran Player Extension (DPE). Now that Stephen Curry, James Harden, and John Wall have all extended their contracts using the DPE, Westbrook is the only one left that has the eligibility to sign that type of extension this off-season. The extension, which could pay him as much as $229.5 million over the next 6 seasons, to include this upcoming season, would be the richest contract in sports history in terms of average per year.

The fact that Westbrook hasn’t rushed over to Thunder headquarters and signed the contract yet has given many in the fan base a little bit of pause. Why would someone leave that much money on the table for that long? If any of us were in that position, we would’ve signed the contract at 11:00:01 pm CST on June 30th (remember, the NBA operates out of the Eastern Standard Time Zone, so free agency began at midnight on the East Coast, but 11 pm in Oklahoma).

That’s the problem, sometimes, in thinking like a fan. We tend to look at the fortune and the fame, and forget that athletes are people too. And like many of us, their schedules are sometimes so chock-full of commitments, that it makes it difficult to do something as simple as signing a piece of paper. I know, I know. Making a 5-year commitment to anything should never be compared to just signing a piece of paper. But in essence, that’s all Westbrook has to do to ensure his future. Continue reading Scheduling Conflicts: Why hasn’t Russell Westbrook signed his extension?

Sam Presti: Putting back the Jenga pieces

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Alex Roig – NTTB

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti has had himself quite the off-season. From acquiring Paul George to signing Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton to cap-friendly contracts, Presti has gone from the man that let Kevin Durant walk for nothing to the man most likely to win Executive of the Year at next years’s NBA Awards.

But if we rewind back to July 4th, 2016, the state of the organization was on much more treacherous footing. One of the pillars of the franchise, Durant, chose to defect to the team’s biggest rival instead of re-signing with the team. Another pillar, Serge Ibaka, was traded two weeks prior to garner younger assets. And the team’s lone remaining superstar, Russell Westbrook, was coming up on the final year of his contract. From the outside looking in, this felt like the end of a memorable, yet disappointing run from a group of young superstars who were drafted together and rose up to prominence, likely a little too fast for their own good.

That was the feeling during the press conference Presti had the evening following Durant’s departure. The questions ranged from, “when did you know Durant was signing with the Warriors?” to “are you now going to trade Russell Westbrook?”. It was the first time I’d ever seen Presti a little rattled during a press conference. (And by rattled, I mean Presti stumbled over like five words over a 45 minutes presser.) Continue reading Sam Presti: Putting back the Jenga pieces

Time To Move On…

Kevin Durant
Ben Margot – AP Photo

On July 4th, 2016, Kevin Durant took a calculated risk. He weighed the pros and the cons of his different options, and made a decision. His choice to join the Golden State Warriors was viewed negatively by many around the league, but after winning his first title yesterday, he can look back on his decision and smile, knowing he made the right choice.

Durant can finally sit at that table. The Table of Champions. Any time someone talks about what it’s like to win a championship, Durant can now slam his hand down on the table like he has the winning domino and show them the bling that is the secret password to gain entrance into the vaunted club. Continue reading Time To Move On…

The Three That Will Never Be: The Legacies of Scott Brooks, Kendrick Perkins, and Derek Fisher

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As the Oklahoma City Thunder embark on a new season, some of the same things from the past still remains. First off, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Russell Westbrook should all be back and healthy. Secondly, the expectations of winning a championship will also be there. But for some reason this season feels different. Not a bad different, just a “lack of familiarity” type different. Something was missing, and that something was three component that had been a part of the Thunder for all or parts for their 7 seasons in Oklahoma City. Those three components were Derek Fisher, Kendrick Perkins, and Scott Brooks.

For 7 seasons prior, one or more of those pieces were always there to provide an anchor of calmness even in the most choppiest of seas. For the first time since the Thunder moved to Oklahoma City, neither of those three will be a part of the Thunder organization. From the time Scott Brooks took over for PJ Carlesimo on November 22, 2008, the organization has relied on his calming demeanor and almost fatherly-like approach to the development of the stars of the team. That approach to coaching is one of the reasons Brooks will be highly sought after once he decides to return to coaching. Teams are always in one of three phases in their developments: rebuilding, learning how to win consistently, and contending for a championship. Brooks mastered the first two phases of that process with relative ease, taking the Thunder from one of the worst teams in the league to championship contending in a four year span. That type of ascension is almost unheard of without the help of a superstar free agent being signed by the team.

What Brooks lacked in coaching acumen, he made up for with his interpersonal relationships with his players. Say what you want about his late-game play calling, but the players on the team would run through a wall for Brooks. Many in the media heap praise upon Phil Jackson for his career, but Jackson was never known as a great X’s and O’s coach. He had great assistants (Tex Winters, Jim Cleamons), and more importantly, great players. But he was also one of the best at managing superstar egos, which falls under the realm of interpersonal relationships. Brooks could have had a Jackson-like career, but lacked great assistants, and his great players were just coming into their prime during his tenure. Instead, Brooks will likely have a Doug Collins-like career as a coach that could have been one of the greats, but just happened to be the coach at the wrong time.

When the Thunder were starting their ascension, most of the upper echelon teams in the Western Conference had All-Star or near All-Star level centers and power forwards. The Los Angeles Lakers had Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. San Antonio had Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Memphis had Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Dallas had Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, and Brendan Haywood. Utah had Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. To contend in the Western Conference at that time, a team needed a big body in the middle that could defend and rebound. In their early run, the Thunder had a front line of Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green, and an “even skinnier than he is now” Kevin Durant. They had Serge Ibaka on the bench, but he was still pretty raw during that time and had trouble keeping his fouls under control. It wasn’t until the Thunder met the Lakers in the inaugural playoff run in 2010 that they realized what they needed to continue the upward trend of the team’s development.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 09: Head coach Scott Brooks of the Oklahoma City Thunder talks with Russell Westbrook #0 and Kevin Durant #35 against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 9, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Thunder won 118-112. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

At the trade deadline the next season, the Thunder traded Green and Krstic to the Boston Celtics for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. Even though Perkins was coming off a serious knee injury he suffered in the previous season’s Finals, he was the defensive anchor the team so badly needed. A couple weeks after arriving in Oklahoma City, the Thunder extended Perkins for four more seasons. Perkins immediately became the veteran presence the Thunder’s young players needed. He graciously helped in the development of Ibaka, taking his own experience from when Kevin Garnett took him under his wing in Boston and applying that to Ibaka. He gave the team a mean streak they didn’t have before his arrival. He quickly became the locker room buffering agent between all the Thunder’s young players as they learned how to succeed in the NBA individually and as a team (a major downfall of many young, up and coming teams in the past).

He was a great locker room presence. And if he was getting paid $5 million or less, that would have been fine. But in actuality, he was one of the highest paid players on the team and his performance on the court, especially on the offensive end, was often one of the most polarizing themes in sports. The knee injury he suffered while with the Celtics in the Finals the year before sapped the little bit of athleticism Perkins had going for him. While he was one of the best post defenders in the league, he was often a net negative on offense. As the NBA’s moved towards smaller, more skilled line-ups that could space the floor, the effectiveness of Perkins on the floor became more and more muted with each passing season.  When athletic power forwards started masquerading as centers, the need for a hulking presence down low became almost non-existant.

Compounding the polarization of Perkins was the trade of James Harden to Houston. Many thought the reason the Thunder traded Harden was purely financial, as they couldn’t afford to have 4 players on max or near max salaries (Harden, Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka), along with Perkins’ $9 million annual salary. In addition to the trade itself, the fact the Thunder had the opportunity to waive Perkins under the amnesty provision, provided the framework for the “Thunder choosing Perkins over Harden” frame of thought that many in the media portrayed. In reality, the Harden trade had little to nothing to do with Perkins. Harden wanted to have his cake and eat it too, wanting max money and the opportunity to run his own team.

In the end, Perkins was relegated to being a back-up big in his final season with the Thunder before being traded to Utah for Enes Kanter. His tenure with the Thunder will forever be remembered for his defensive chops, menacing scowl, and “Shaq-tin a fool” moments. But his presence on the team forever shaped the maturation of Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka. He helped navigate them through their first few seasons of success and kept them even-keeled.

The signing of a veteran is a rite of passage for a team that is moving into championship contending status. A veteran that has been where the players on the team want to be and has played a big part in previous championship games. That veteran for the Thunder was Derek Fisher. At the beginning of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, the Thunder lost back-up point guard Eric Maynor to a torn ACL. The only other point guard on the roster, besides Westbrook, was rookie Reggie Jackson. The Thunder managed for half a season with the rookie taking on back-up point guard duties, but when the opportunity arose to sign a waived Fisher, they pounced on the opportunity. Fisher paid almost immediate dividends as a calming, veteran presence and as a floor spacer.

Fisher went on to be part of the Thunder for the next two seasons after that one. He basically played the same role in each of the seasons as he attempted to capture that elusive 6th championship ring. Fisher never got that ring, but became, a lot like Perkins, a revered and respected figure in the locker room. A championship point guard his entire career, Fisher went on to retire and immediately became the head coach of the New York Knicks who were being run by Fisher’s former coach, Phil Jackson.

There’s a point in every player’s maturation where they eventually become the veteran. They become the guy that “has been there before” or “has seen it all before”. The Thunder brass probably felt like Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka were ready to take the next leg of their journey on their own. They had grown under the watchful guise of Brooks, under the sturdy hand of Perkins, and under the guiding presence of Fisher to become what they are today. Sure they’ve faced some injury difficulties along the way, but those also have a way of toughening up a players’ resolve.

As fans, we always cheer for the superstars. But true fans cheer for the guys who make it despite their obvious flaws. The guys who are the bedrock over which championship sod is laid upon. There’s a sense of commonality between those players and someone who works a 9-5 and goes home everyday to a family and a mortgage. There’s a very real possibility the Thunder win a championship without any of those three guys within the organization. If that does occur, three of those championship rings better be sealed in a box and delivered to New York, NY (Fisher), Beaumont, TX (Perkins), and northern California (Brooks), because the DNA of any Thunder championship will definitely have the imprint of those three on it.