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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers preview (Game 78 of 82)

ibaka griffin durant dudley sefolosha paul clippers thunder

  • When: Wednesday, 09 April 2014 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

For the first time in nearly 2 months, the Oklahoma City Thunder could trot out a completely healthy roster. Now, the words “completely healthy” can be debated as Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins are still working their ways back from injury. But the fact still remains that this will be the first time since February 20th, that the Thunder will have the ability to put out the same starting line-up that we’ve all grown accustomed to in the last 3.5 seasons.

Since February 20th, the Thunder have suffered from bouts of inconsistency and complacency, especially on the defensive end. With their two defensive stalwarts out and Russell Westbrook being held out in one of the two games on back to backs, the Thunder have had a difficulty time carving out any sort of rhythm. But now, hopefully, the Thunder are getting healthy when they need it the most.

This will be the fourth and final meeting of the year between these two teams. The Clippers lead the season series 2-1 and are 1.5 games behind the Thunder for 2nd place in the Western Conference.

The Opponent

griffin jordan crawford paul clippers

The Clippers are currently sit at 55-23. They are an offensive juggernaut, averaging 107.8 points per game, which is No. 1 in the league. Their attack is led by PG Chris Paul, who in his 9th season, leads the league in assists (10.8) and steals (2.5) per game, while also averaging 19 points. Blake Griffin has taken that next step and is now a bonafide MVP candidate. His game has become more diverse (better mid-range shooter, better play-making skills) and his free-throw shooting has improved. When defenses converge on either of these two players, they have a cornucopia of shooters around them to make the defense pay. Jamal Crawford, JJ Redick, Darren Collison, Matt Barnes, Danny Granger, Willie Green, and Jared Dudley are all shooting over 34% from 3-point territory. On the inside, DeAndre Jordan has been a defensive monster, averaging 13.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Los Angeles Clippers

  • PG – Chris Paul
  • SG – JJ Redick
  • SF – Matt Barnes
  • PF – Blake Griffin
  • C – DeAndre Jordan

Oklahoma City Thunder

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

* It’s been a while since I wrote that starting line-up down.

3 Keys to the Game

1. Perimeter Defense – As mentioned in the “The Opponent” section, the Clippers have 8 players that shoot over 34.1% from the arc. Luckily, Crawford and Granger, appear to be out for the rest of the regular season. In the last game these two teams played, Crawford and Barnes torched the Thunder for 60 points on 11-18 shooting from 3-point land. With a full compliment of players, look for the Thunder to stay more on the shooters and hope that whoever is guarding Paul (be it Westbrook, Sefolosha, or Reggie Jackson) can stay in front of him most of the night.

westbrook paul thunder clippers

2. Attack – Of the top five teams in the league (San Antonio, Miami, LAC, OKC, and Indiana), the Clippers are the worst defensively. They allow 100.7 points per game (14th in the league) and struggle defending the paint when Jordan is not in the game. While head coach Doc Rivers has made the team better defensively, they were still average, at best, to begin with.

3. Playoff Atmosphere – You smell that? It sure does smell like the playoffs. I have a feeling this game will be completely primed. I put the O/U on technicals being called at 5…..and I’m taking the over. This will probably be the last big game of the season for each team. With so much riding on it, I expect nothing less than a playoff atmosphere-type environment. April 19th cannot get here soon enough.

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Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings preview (Game 77 of 82)

jackson thomas acy thunder kings

  • When: Tuesday, 08 April 2014 at 9:00 PM CST
  • Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA

Two weeks ago, it appeared that the Thunder would battle the San Antonio Spurs for Western Conference supremacy at best or stroll into the 2 seed at worst. Now, with losses in 3 of their last 4 games, the Thunder find themselves in an all-out sprint with the Los Angeles Clippers for the number 2 seed in the conference. The Clippers are just a game back in the standings by virtue of having played two more games (and consequently, having two more losses) than the Thunder.

The Thunder have a bad habit of battling complacency in games that aren’t of much import to them, and then turning it on in games they deem important (Miami, San Antonio, Clippers, Portland). These last 6 games will be a great test to see if the team is mentally “there” heading into the playoffs.

This will be the fourth and final meeting of the year between the Kings and Thunder. The Thunder have won each the 3 previous meetings this season by an average of 10 points, but only beat the Kings by 2 when they played in Sacramento early in the season.

The Opponent

cousins mclemore kings

The Kings currently sit at 27-50, and are looking towards next season. In hand, they already have 2 important pieces as the team moves forward. Ben McLemore is still finding his way in the NBA in this, his rookie season. DeMarcus Cousins, though, is showing everyone what his combination of skill and athleticism, along with finally showing signs of maturity, can lead to. And what it’s led to is a player that leads his team in scoring (22.3), rebounding (11.6), steals (1.5), and blocks (1.3). Unfortunately, the rest of the team is not very good. Rudy Gay gives you about 20 points of game, but is inefficient and gives you little else in the form of defense or playmaking. Isaiah Thomas does a good job of attacking the teeth of the defense, but is probably out for the rest of the season with a quad injury.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Sacramento Kings

  • PG – Ray McCallum
  • SG – Ben McLemore
  • SF – Rudy Gay
  • PF – Reggie Evans
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Trap Game Potential – With the Clippers game on tap for tomorrow, this game has trap game written all over it. I’m pretty sure the Thunder know what’s at stake, and what they have to do to maintain their seeding.

2. DeMarcus Cousins – With Isaiah Thomas out, this is the only player the Thunder really have to fear on the Kings. Steven Adams did a good job defending Cousins the last time they played, but will have to stay away from the fouls.

cousins adams jackson thunder kings

3. Rebounding – Cousins, Evans, and Jason Thompson all have a knack for getting to rebounds. If there is one way the Kings can hang around in this game, its by grabbing offensive rebounds and extending possessions.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers preview (Game 7 of 82)

paul griffin jackson collison clippers thunder

  • When – Wednesday, 13 November 2013 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where – Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Finally! The first prime-time match-up of the year for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sure, they’ve faced the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves, but this is the type of game that the national media salivates for. A game in November that, in actuality, has little to no meaning, but who’s hype rivals that of a match-up in May. Two teams many media pundits have picked as possibly coming out of the loaded Western Conference.

The Thunder come into the game having won 4 in a row after starting the season 1-1. They are starting to fall in line offensively, with Russell Westbrook working his way back into game shape and Kevin Durant leading the league in scoring (30.2 ppg). The bench, one of the many question marks coming into the season, appears to be one of the strengths of the team. But, 3-point shooting is still a huge concern for the team, as they are only shooting 27% from deep, good for 28th in the league.

This is the first of four meetings between the Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Thunder swept the season series last season, with one game going into overtime and the Thunder winning another one by 4 points. Stylistically, these teams are very transition oriented, which usually leads to high scoring affairs.

The Opponent

paul crawford jordan griffin clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers come into tonight’s game with a 5-3 record. After losing to their Staples Center brethren on opening night, the Clippers have won 5 of 7, with their two losses coming on a road trip through Florida (Miami and Orlando). The Clippers’ offense is the best in the league, in terms of points scored per game, at 109.9. But that figured is negated by the fact that they allowed the 28th most points in the league at 106.4 points per game. That offense is orchestrated by, arguably, the best pure point guard in the league in Chris Paul, who is averaging a league best 12.4 assists per game, while also notching 21.3 points. The starting lineup is a hyper active mix of athletic big men (Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan), a scoring wing (JJ Redick), and a 3 and D wing (Jared Dudley). The Clippers also boast one of the stronger benches in the league led by Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, and Darren Collison, but lack any big man depth. Continue reading Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers preview (Game 7 of 82)

5 for 5: Tragedies, Courtrooms, and Beginnings

kd russ

5 for 5: The Longest Shortest Season  |  5 for 5: The Rivalries  |  5 for 5: The Run  |  5 for 5: The Thunder’s Godfather

This past season, the Oklahoma City Thunder completed their 5th season in the state of Oklahoma. In a world dominated by round numbers, getting to the midway point is always a cause for celebration. In any relationship, you look back at key moments that made it possible to arrive at certain anniversary marks. In the next few weeks heading into training camp, I’ll be looking at 5 defining moments that made it possible for the Thunder to not only roar into the Plains, but also to do it in winning fashion.

For the first defining moment, you have to, of course, start at the beginning. But, it’s not the beginning that you think. While the Thunder were established in 2008, the road to having them in OKC began in December 1994. It was during that time that Timothy McVeigh visited and decided that the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building would be the site of his mayhem.

After meticulously planning and gathering the necessary materials, McVeigh, and his accomplice Terry Nichols, put their plan into action for April of 1995. They rented a Ryder moving truck on April 15th in Kansas and packed it with its deadly payload on the 17th and 18th. The next day, they drove down to Oklahoma City where, at 9:02 AM, they detonated the 4,800 pound monster that resided inside of the Ryder truck. The blast completely dismantled the north side of the building leaving countless people injured and 168 dead in its wake. It was the deadliest terroristic attack on US soil that the nation had seen up to that point.

okc bomb

Once the smoke cleared though, the choice was clear. We would not stand to be known by the evil of the tragedy, but by the fortitude with which we recovered. We chose to be known by the way we rose together, instead of by the way we momentarily got knocked down. That mindset, which comes naturally to Oklahomans, galvanized us to remember those lost, while also promising them that we would rise stronger than before. The possibilities were there, but the question was how would be we get there?

While the Metropolitan Area Projects Plan (MAPS) had already been approved for by the beginning of 1994, the bombing acted as a catalyst to make MAPS a rousing success. One of the things that MAPS brought with it was a state of the art arena called the Ford Center that could host concerts and sporting events, especially hockey and basketball. Opening in 2002, the Ford Center served its purpose hosting top notch concerts, preseason basketball games, and minor league hockey. Continue reading 5 for 5: Tragedies, Courtrooms, and Beginnings

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

magic thunder

  • 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.

The Key: Game Planning against James Harden

The competition for the Thunder’s third banana is in full swing between James Harden and Serge Ibaka. Harden provides on the offensive end what Ibaka provides on the defensive end. What I have begun to notice, though, is that teams, especially playoff teams, are starting to aggressively scout James Harden and his tendencies. Serge Ibaka is still a wild card, in that his untapped potential lends an air mystery surrounding how to guard him. The way Ibaka played at the beginning of the season is completely different from the way he is playing now. Eventually, Serge’s evolution as a player will plateau and teams will have a checklist on how to guard Ibaka. But for right now, the man receiving the opposing team’s attention on the defensive end is the Bearded One.

When teams play the Oklahoma City Thunder, they have an idea of how to counter Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They either have a physical defender for Durant or they hope that he has an off-night in the FG department. Regarding Westbrook, they either play him with a bigger player (a la Lebron James or Kobe Bryant), force him into the heart of the defense, or hope he has one of those high turnover, low FG percentage nights. Either way, it’s a classic case of pick your poison. But with so much of the offense coming from those two players alone, many teams are content with letting them get their numbers, and instead focusing their defensive attention on the rest of the players, especially James Harden.

Great games by Durant and Westbrook usually net around 55 – 65 points. If you maintain Harden and shut down his attack with the 2nd unit, you can probably beat the Thunder with 95 points. Using that wisdom, teams are starting to focus a lot of their defensive attention on Harden. When the second unit is in, the Thunder usually runs the same 3 or 4 sets. But their favorite, by far, is the Nick Collison/James Harden pick and roll on the 3-point wing. One of 4 things happens on this play:

  1. Nick completely screens the defenders and Harden backs up for an uncontested 3-pointer.
  2. Nick screens the defender just enough for Harden to split the double team and use his patented Euro-step to get into the lane.
  3. The two defenders pays so much attention to Harden that it leaves Collison either open for a midrange jumper or a roll to the basket
  4. The defenders switch creating a mismatch that either Harden or Collison can exploit.

This James Harden mix shows all the ways that the Harden/Collison pick and roll works:

 

With about a season and half worth of film on Harden and Collison, good teams are starting to do a couple things to stymie this effective offensive attack. First off, they are putting their hands up in the passing lanes. While Harden is an effective passer, he has a tendency to be predictable and, in essence, choreograph his no-look passes. The second thing that defenses are doing is closing up the lane between the two defenders in the pick and roll. This negates the ability for Harden to split the double team and get into the lane. This was very evident in the Heat game, when the 8 – 0 Heat run in the 4th quarter was spearheaded by two consecutive turnovers by Harden in this pick and roll scenario. Great defensive teams will choose Collison to beat them offensively, instead of Harden.

Harden has been the key to OKC’s offensive efficiency. Durant and Westbrook are going to get theirs. When you have the 2nd and 5th leading scorers in the league, they will find ways to put the ball through the basket. When Harden is allowed to be effective, he adds an entirely different dimension to the Thunder offense that makes the defense feel like the attack is coming in continuous waves. When he protects the ball and manages the second team, the team usually wins. In their 12 losses, Harden is averaging 3.5 turnovers per game. In the wins in which he has played, he’s averaging just under 2 turnovers per game (1.9).

The predictability of Harden’s offense has allowed teams to start making defensive game plans against Harden. While the increase in turnovers over the past 10 games (3.4, as compared to 2.0 in the first 39 games) can be attributed to an increase in usage and minutes, there’s no denying that an efficient Harden is the key to the Thunder advancement this season and beyond.

Just A Game

Its funny how life sometimes put things into perspective. A dear friend of mines passed away on Wednesday. Someone that I can proudly say was like a 3rd grandfather to my kids. His wife was my kids’ main caregiver before they started school. And while this gentleman was at work most of the time his wife was running the home daycare, there were those days where he was home from work and would help out with the daily chores of running a home daycare. The kids even had their own nickname for him, just like a regular grandfather. Not only that, but his daughter and my wife were best friends in junior high and high school. In addition, he was also one of my co-workers for about 2 years. Needless to say, there was a bit of history between our family and theirs.

So when the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the lowly Washington Wizards, it didn’t quite register as large a blip as it normally would have on my radar screen. I was still disappointed, don’t get me wrong. Title contenders aren’t supposed to be losing to teams that have a great shot at obtaining the No. 1 pick in the next draft. But at the moment, in that time, a loss to the team with the league’s worst record wasn’t really that important.

Honestly, in the context of an entire season, one loss isn’t really that important if you are either an elite team or a bottom of the barrel team. Barring injuries, I don’t think we will be struggling to hold our post as a home court advantage team in the Western Conference. History is sprinkled with examples of eventual champs getting surprised by that one go-getter team that is galvanized by their home crowd into playing out of their minds and winning that one crazy game. I call it the “Loser’s Game 7” effect. Washington will only have a couple of these games this season: OKC, Miami on February 10th and April 26th, Chicago on January 30th, the Lakers on March 7th, and the Clippers on February 4th. Bad teams don’t get hyped to play other bad teams. The Milwaukee Bucks don’t have their visit to New Orleans circled on any game schedule. Bad teams love being the hunters, if only for that one game.

The Thunder just happened to fall into the lions den on the wrong night. They started off good, but you could tell from the beginning they were playing a bit too loose with the ball. You give any team enough opportunities, and they’ll eventually start to cash in on those. And that’s what the Wizards did. They eventually started to feel good about themselves and started hitting shots, contested and open. They started to look like the team their fans imagined them to be. And for that one night, everything fell into place. The questionable blocking call was called a charge. The FT’s started falling. Hell, the 3 pointers started falling. In the end, the Wiz got one of their biggest wins of the entire season.

And it still doesn’t worry me that much. We are still a young team that is prone to hiccups at times, especially against lesser competition. We still had an opportunity at the end of the game to either tie it or win it outright. I just hope this serves as a lesson to the Thunder. When you are the hunted, you are usually getting the best from each team for the full 48 minutes. That’s something that still may be new to this young Thunder team. Elite teams lose sometimes, no matter who the other team is. The difference, is that they take each loss and use it as a lesson to be learned. And that’s what I’m sure Scott Brooks is doing right now.

As for me, I still did manage to watch the game last night on DVR. In the midst of pain, basketball is my refuge. Always has been. So with that said, I bid adieu to my friend, Hector Carreras. A good father, husband, soldier, pseudo-grandfather to my kids, and human being. An avid ping pong player, I guess the angel that used to play against God wasn’t cutting it anymore. So God had to call in his replacement. Rest In Peace, dear friend.

On the Road Again

I’m a child of the late 80’s / early 90’s. It was during that time that I was in elementary school learning, as most of the world was, about computers. And, of course, the best way to learn is to interactively play games that also teach you about the subject matter. My favorite games to play on those old floppy-disc induced Apple computers was Oregon Trail. If you, either, don’t remember, or were too young to know what a floppy disc was, it was a story-based game of a journey through the Oregon Trail. You are the wagon leader of a party of settlers going from Independence, Missouri to Oregon’s Willamette Valley over the Oregon Trail in an oxen-drawn wagon. Along the trail, you have to make decisions concerning food and directions to survive the trail. You and your fellow settlers can die from a range of maladies from drowning to snake bites to dysentery. Needless to say, it is a game about the difficulties of being on the road.

 

Many teams in this young strike shortened season are probably looking at their road records and wondering whether the entire team is suffering from a bout of cholera. Of the 30 teams in the NBA, only 6 have a winning record on the road. While most teams struggle on the road in any given season, shortened or not, the upper echelon teams usually buck that trend and win wherever they play. Such has not been the case this season. 

  • The Southwest-leading San Antonio Spurs have an 8-4 record overall, but are an awful 0-4 on the road.
  •  The Pacific-leading Los Angeles Lakers are also 8-4 overall, but carry a 1-3 road record. 
  • The veteran Boston Celtics, a team that is supposed to know how to play on the road, is 1-3 in its games away from Massachusetts.

 Winning on the road usually involves a balanced combination of veteran leadership, youthful legs, good defense, and good bench play. It should come as no surprise that the 6 teams with winning road records have some semblance of each of those 4 characteristics needed to be a good road team.Oklahoma City (5-1), Chicago (7-2),  Miami(5-2), Orlando(4-2), and Indianapolis and Atlanta(both at 4-3) are all defensive minded teams with a nice mix of vets and youth, and good to great benches.

  •  5 of the 6 winning road teams are in the top 10 for point differential. 
  • 4 of the 6 winning road teams are in the top 10 for opponent’s PPG. 
  • 5 of the 6 winning road teams are in the top 10 for opponent’s FG%. 
  • Oklahoma City and Chicago have 2 of the best benches in the league.

 

 While it is still early in the season, trends like these don’t tend to change too much throughout the course of the season. We are already at least 1/6th of the way through the season (unless you are the Los Angeles Clippers). At this point, most teams are Denny Green (“They are who we thought they were!”). In the playoffs, you have to know how to win on the road. So take a good look at the 6 teams with winning road records. More than likely 2 of those teams will end up playing in the Finals.

 

In the Midst of Chaos

Here’s a hypothetical scenario: Let’s just assume you and every one of your 29 friends is married. You guys would always talk and hang out, but were kept apart by some controlling power (let’s say the wives) for about 5 months. Now, you and the guys are allowed to hang out again. But to spice things up, let’s say the wives felt bad and decided to all chip in and get each and everyone of you a week together in Miami and an MHP (Marital Hall Pass). Now, you know some of your friends would immediately use their MHP. But the question that needs to be asked is whether you, in the midst of all this chaos, would go against the very fiber of ethics and virtue that you’ve stood by for the past half decade because you were given permission to? 

This is the scenario and question I would pose to Sam Presti. We know that Presti was the honor role student at the San Antonio Model Academy. We’ve seen and read the book on how to do it. Develop a culture, build a great core, get good contributing players, and the rest will fall into place. It has worked in San Antonio and Utah for the better part of two decades. And it is beginning to work in Oklahoma City. The Thunder have developed a culture of community and hard work. They have a great core in Durant, Westbrook, Harden, and Ibaka. And they have good contributing players in Perkins, Sefolosha, Collison, and Maynor. But there is one thing that is missing from the equation that was always promised to us once we started our march to the promised land. 

In December 2008, while in the middle of the one of the worst beginnings to any NBA season, the question was always brought up about who would want to come to play in Oklahoma City. The answers ranged from sad to comical (redemption projects to Mark Price). The one answer that always intrigued me, though, was veterans wanting to win a ring. In the middle of a 3-29 start, the last thing you are thinking about is contending for titles. But now that we’ve knocked on championship’s doorstep, shouldn’t this be the next logical step in our player development? 

Leading up to opening of the free agency period, there was word that the Thunder had interest in obtaining Shane Battier. A veteran who would have been a great compliment to Kevin Durant off the bench and a good source of wisdom for our young team. Someone who was defensive minded and would fit seamlessly into the culture of the team. Even Kevin Durant wondered what Battier would look like in a Thunder uniform via his Twitter account. Instead, as the courting came down to the final days, the Thunder were not a part of the list of teams that Battier was looking at. He ended up signing with Miami for what is rumored to be 3 years / $9 million. Now, I wouldn’t have given him 3 years, but I would have given him $3.5 million per for 2 seasons. Don’t quote me on this and I hope I’m wrong, but I could see Battier hitting a big 3 against us in the Finals sometime in the next few seasons.

 Then there was the Chauncey Billups waiver wire Ebay auction. When the New York Knicks decided to amnesty Billups, all the non-tax paying teams had the opportunity to put in a bid for Mr. Big Shot’s services. It was rumored that OKC put in a bid, but like any skilled Ebay bidder, the Clippers came in at the last minute and offered $100 K more than any other team. Again, I could see Billups hitting a big shot against us in our probable first round match with the Clippers come May.

 Vince Carter was on the market after being waived by the Phoenix Suns. Carter always kills the Thunder. In 6 games over the past three seasons, Carter has averaged 22.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists on 20/45 shooting from 3 point land. Can you imagine if he were able to supply half of that to the Thunder off the bench? It would’ve made the transition to Harden starting a lot more smoother. Instead he signed with the team we faced in the Western Conference Finals last season.  

Presti is probably a better man than me. His patience reminds of the Chuck Norris quote, “He doesn’t sleep, he waits.” Presti has always tried to put himself in a position of power when dealing with any other team. He’ll take advantage of your mistakes while minimizing his. But at this point in the game, with us at the doorstep of becoming championship caliber, isn’t it time to take that risk on a veteran? 

Young players make mistakes in crunch time, especially in the playoffs. And while young players eventually (hopefully) learn from their mistakes, the time it takes to get there can be fraught with disappointment and frustration. A veteran player can be that bridge that helps guide a young team through rough seas. While we already have a few veterans on the roster (Mohammed, Collison, and Perkins), signing a free agent for the purpose of them wanting to compete for a championship makes it that much more important for the young guys. How many times have we heard, “We just want to win one for (Player X) who has never won a championship.” 

As a fan, you know that the window of success can close on your team as quickly as it opens. A tweak of the knee here, a bruised ego there, and the entire dynamic of the team changes overnight. When we experience success, we want to continue experiencing that feeling. It’s the reason why men think of sex 19 times an hour; its our epitome of success. I don’t necessarily want to see a big splash (i.e. paying Jamal Crawford $20 million for 2 seasons). But something to help the team in the immediate future, especially off the bench. 

I understand Presti has to look at the today AND the tomorrow, especially with us being a small market team. But myself, as John Q. Fan, just saw 3 of our biggest competitors get a piece that will probably make them better in the short term and am seeing a few of our other competitors making moves to obtain great players. In a time where we are financially sound, why not take a risk and use your MHP on something safe. It could make the difference in May and June.