Tag Archives: Nate Robinson

Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets preview (Game 13 of 82)

ibaka adams faried thunder nuggets

  • When: Wednesday, 19 November 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

The last time the panic alarm was this loud in Thunder Nation was after the 2nd game of the season. The Thunder had just lost 2 close games on the road, and to top it off, they lost their All-Star point guard to a broken hand. The roster was down to 8 healthy players, none of which had ever been tasked with leading a team to battle. The Thunder needed a respite and they needed it fast. Enter the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder got off to a big lead and still had the fortitude to win a close game when Denver got hot in the 4th quarter. From there, the panic dampened as the Thunder started getting some players back from injury and actually won a couple more games. But with the Thunder staring at a 3-9 record, the offense struggling, and their superstar duo probably not coming back for at least another 2 weeks, the panic alarm is once again wailing.

The Opponent

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets come into the game with a 3-7 record. They won their first game, and then proceeded to lose their next 6, before finally winning the last 2 of 3, including a road victory in Cleveland in their last game. The Nuggets are middle of the pack when it comes to scoring (101.5 ppg), but give up the 4th most points in the league (107.1 ppg). Their rebounding is one of their strengths and it fuels their transition game. Ty Lawson is one of the better pace pushers in the league, using his speed to beat defenders up the court and causing havoc in the paint. On the perimeter, Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler have had their troubles being consistent. Up front, the big man rotation of Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov, and JJ Hickson provides plenty of energy in going after rebounds and hustling defensively. The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league, usually going at least 12 deeep into the rotation. The bench players that receive most time are Randy Foye, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Alonzo Gee, and Nate Robinson.

Probable Starting Line-Up

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Arron Afflalo
  • SF – Wilson Chandler
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – Timofey Mozgov

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Jeremy Lamb
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Consistency – The Thunder have held leads in the last few games they have lost. Sometimes those leads even balloned up into the double digits. But the Thunder have failed to capitalize on those leads due to a stagnant offense. When the Thunder play their best is when they are passing and moving. As soon as the offense becomes iso-oriented, the Thunder struggle due to having their iso MVPs on the bench in street clothes. The Thunder can’t stop playing their current brand of basketball as soon as they see a little light at the end of the tunnel. They aren’t good enough to go off the cuff. They need to stick to their script.

2. Rebounding – I feel like I’ve written this in the last few pre-game reports as a key to the game, but the proof is in the pudding. In their last 3 games (all losses), the Thunder have been outrebounded by an average of 11 rebounds and have allowed the opponent to grab an average of 16 offensive rebounds. While I like the new found perimeter aggressiveness of Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka, I feel like them being so far from the basket takes away from their opportunities to grab offensive rebounds. On the defensive end, Steven Adams needs to play bigger and occupy more space to grab more defensive boards.

Denver Nuggets vs Oklahoma City Thunder

3. Reggie Jackson – The offense goes as he does. If he is masterfully setting up his teammates and controlling the flow of the game, the Thunder usually are usually in control and rolling. As soon as he goes off script, the Thunder tend to struggle. I don’t necessarily fault Jackson. This is his first foray as the focal point of the offense, and he is still adjusting to being shadowed by at least one other defender.

Advertisements

Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 70 of 82)

  • When: Monday, 24 March 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

It’s a good thing that the Oklahoma City Thunder and their fans have had at least a day to decompress from what was a crazy game on Friday and the subsequent “awaiting the MRI results on Russell’s knee” on Saturday. Thankfully, the Thunder won the game in double overtime against the Raptors and Westbrook’s knee sprain showed no further damage to the knee. Even better, Durant’s performance in that game (51 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, GW 3-pt) pretty much sowed up the MVP award for him.

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder lead the season series against their division rivals 2-1. Games between these two teams usually come down to the 4th quarter with the point guards taking over the show.

The Opponent

faried lawson nuggets

Although ACL only has three letters in it, it might as well be a 4-letter word in Denver. With Danilo Gallinari, Nate Robinson, and now, J.J. Hickson out with ACL injuries, the Denver team is a shell of what it was expected to be in the beginning of the season. The Nuggets, currently at 32-38, are out of the playoff hunt for the first time in the last 11 seasons. The team does a good job of scoring points (103.9 per game, 9th in the league), but allows too many defensively (105.8 ppg, 28th in the league). The offense is spear-headed by point guard Ty Lawson, whose break-neck style leads to many points in the paint and many open looks on the perimeter for shooters. On the wings, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Evan Fournier, and Darrell Arthur are usually the beneficiaries of Lawson’s ability to get into the paint. In the post, Kenneth Faried is one of the more active rebounders in the league while Timofey Mozgov is a big mobile body that can carve out space and score if given the opportunity. Due to injuries, the bench for Denver is a bit muted, but Denver was one of the deeper teams to begin with and still has a decent bench that features Aaron Brooks, Fournier, and Arthur.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Randy Foye
  • SF – Anthony Randolph
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – Timofey Mozgov

Oklahoma City Thunder

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

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding – Denver’s rebounding took a hit with the loss of J.J. Hickson. But, Faried and Mozgov are still 2 of the more better rebounding bigs in the league. Faried has 9 games of 13 or more rebounds and Mozgov has 8 games of double figure rebounding. If the Thunder are disciplined in boxing these two out, they can hurt the Thunder with offensive boards in the same way that Hickson would have.

2. Dribble Penetration – Ty Lawson causes the havoc that ignites Denver’s offense by getting into the lane. I would start Roberson on Lawson and put Reggie Jackson on Randy Foye. Jackson has trouble staying in front of quick guards, but does a pretty good job of recovering on shooters, due to his wing span.

3. Durant – Against a defense that gives up the 3rd most points in the league, what show can Durant put on against the Nuggets?

Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets preview (Game 36 of 82)

perkins faried thunder nuggets

  • When: Thursday, 09 January 2014 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

In my opinion, this game has a bit of a must win feel to it for some reason. Maybe it’s to calm our psyche. Maybe it’s the constant pressure of needing to keep up with the top half of the Western Conference. Whatever it may be, that psyche was put a little on edge after the loss to the Utah Jazz, who own the worst record in the Western Conference. Were there factors at play that may have aided the Jazz? Of course. Two of Oklahoma City’s top three players were out when Serge Ibaka sat out with flu-like symptoms. And Utah has been playing much better since the return of Trey Burke. But still, it’s the Jazz.

Regardless, the NBA season keeps moving along. Tonight, the Thunder face their other division rival located in the Mountain Standard timezone, the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder won the first two meetings of the season between these two teams. The first meeting saw the Thunder outscore the Nuggets 32-21 in the 4th quarter to win a close one, 115-113. The 2nd game was not as close as the Thunder rode an 8 point halftime lead to a 12 point victory, 105-93.

The Opponent

faried lawson nuggets

The Nuggets have been consistently inconsistent this season. This is how their last 24 games have played out: 7 game win streak followed by losses in 11 of the next 14 games followed by the current 3 game win streak. They are a team that is highly dependent on the 3-point shot without having a consistent dead-eye shooter. Point guard Ty Lawson gets the offense going with his ability to dribble penetrate off the pick and role. Randy Foye and Wilson Chandler have greatly benefited from Lawson’s dribble drives to the tune of 35% 3-point shooting for each player. Unfortunately, Chandler will be out of tonight’s game with a strained hip. Despite their lack of size, the duo of JJ Hickson and Kenneth Faried grabs about 16.5 rebounds per game combined, and can wear a front line ragged with their energy and athleticism. Injuries and internal strife have decimated the depth of the Nuggets and turn what used to be one of the Nuggets’ biggest strengths into one of their liabilities.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Randy Foye
  • SF – Jordan Hamilton
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – JJ Hickson

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Pick and roll defense – Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson are great at breaking down a defense at the point of attack from the pick and role. If a defender goes under the pick, the two guards are able to punish the defenders with their shooting (over 35% 3-point shooting for both guards). If a defender tries to go over, both guards are quick enough to get past the initial line of defense. Luckily, the Denver big men aren’t great shooters, so the Thunder big men should be able to ice the picks if they happen from the free throw line and up.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets

2. Bench scoring – Injuries to JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler, along with the “suspended/awaiting to be traded” Andre Miller, have decimated the depth the Nuggets once had. The Thunder bench struggled in the last game against the Jazz, so I expect them to come out focused and ready to attack.

3. Thin air – Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson probably played more minutes than they expected on Tuesday, and appeared a bit winded near the end of the game. It will be interesting to see what happens if this becomes a competitive affair and the game minutes go into the upper 30’s to lower 40’s.

The Thunder and their tradeable assets

After the pomp and circumstances that was the NBA All-Star Weekend, it is now time to get to the meat of the NBA season. But before we even reach that point, there’s a little something called the trade deadline that can change the fates of aspiring championship teams. For the next 4 days, you will hear every sort of rumor, from the asinine to the very believable. And that is what makes this time of year one of my favorites.

nba_trade_machine_288

In the last two seasons, the Oklahoma City Thunder have made some sort of move at the trade deadline. In Feb. 2010, they traded Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic to the Boston Celtics for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. Last season, they eschewed a trade, instead choosing to sign veteran guard Derek Fisher for their playoff run that went all the way to the Finals. This season, the Thunder made their big splash before the season started, trading reigning 6th man of the year James Harden to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and 3 draft picks. The Thunder went from a team with hardly any assets to one brimming with them. Any one of those assets or combinations of assets could be used to make a bigger move to help the Thunder either in the short term or in the long term.

Here are the top 5 tradable assets for the Thunder in terms of their desirability from other teams.

5. Eric Maynor

Two seasons ago, when the Thunder made a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals, Maynor was viewed as one of the top back-up point guards in the league. The fervor that is currently surrounding Los Angeles Clipper’s back-up point guard Eric Bledsoe was akin to what was being said about Maynor two seasons ago. A young floor general that was good enough to start for many other teams, and maybe even good enough to start ahead of Russell Westbrook. 

emaynor_648218153

The Thunder, sensing that Maynor’s rising stock may make him difficult to keep, drafted guard Reggie Jackson in the 2011 NBA draft. At the beginning of last season, it became increasingly evident that Maynor’s game had stagnated and hadn’t really improved that much during the offseason. Then, before the season was even 10 games old, Maynor tore his ACL and was lost for the season. While Maynor was rehabbing, Jackson was receiving his baptism by fire and earning precious playing time on a championship contending team. When this season started, Maynor was given the opportunity to earn his spot back as back-up point guard. He played as the primary back-up point guard for the first 23 games of the season. What became evident was that the injury had sapped Maynor of what little athleticism he had, and the Harden trade had robbed Maynor of his greatest asset off the bench. Thunder coach Scott Brooks chose to go with the more athletic Reggie Jackson off the bench to anchor the 2nd team from there on out.

reggie jax

Maynor is in the final year of his rookie contract that owes him $2.34 million. He has value as a cheap rental for a team looking to scout point guards for next season. Maynor has recently shed his bulky knee brace and is moving around a lot better than he did at the beginning of the season. He is just 14 months removed from major knee surgery and may be getting back to being healthy again.

Percentage the Thunder move Maynor: 65% (The Thunder aren’t going to move Maynor just to move him. If they are able to acquire any value, such as a high 2nd rounder or a young player, they’ll make the move. If not, they’ll roll with Maynor for the rest of the season as the insurance point guard.)

4. Charlotte’s 2013 2nd round pick

Second round picks are usually tossed back and forth between teams in almost comedic fashion. Most players selected in the 2nd round usually never make it onto an NBA roster, instead spending most of their careers in the D-League or overseas. The beauty of 2nd round picks, though, is that their contracts aren’t guaranteed and don’t fall into the pay scale system of the 1st round picks.

The valuable 2nd round picks are those that fall in the 31-35 range. In those picks, you can get a good player that has slipped into the 2nd round for a variety of reasons. A good example would be Dejuan Blair of the San Antonio Spurs, who slipped into the 2nd round because of injury concerns with his knees. Being that this pick belongs to Charlotte, who currently owns the worst record in the league, it could be a good asset as the first pick of the 2nd round.

dejuan_blair_2012_01_17

Percentage the Thunder moves this pick: 0.000001% (The Thunder fought long and hard to get this pick back. They initially obtained this pick in the trade that sent Byron Mullens to the Bobcats. The pick was later given to the Boston Celtics by the NBA as punishment for the deal involving Jeff Green, who had a heart condition that the Thunder may or may not have known about. Boston then sent the pick to the Houston Rockets in an off-season deal that sent Courtney Lee to the Celtics. And then the Thunder re-obtained the pick in the James Harden deal. I honestly think Thunder GM Sam Presti would have dealt Kevin Durant to get this pick back.)

3. Kevin Martin

This was the player the Thunder got back in the James Harden trade that could be labeled as “of equal or comparable value”. Martin is one of those fringe All-Star players that can average 20 points per game in the NBA, but bring little else to the table. Martin has done a good job this season of reproducing the offensive production that Harden gave the Thunder last season. Martin’s trade value, though, comes in the fact that he has a $12 million expiring contract.

kevin-martin-thunder

Martin is still a really good player that could still average 20 points per game if he were on a bad team. He’s one of the top players in free throw percentage and 3-point FG percentage and averages 15 points per game off the bench. He had done a good job of assimilating himself to his role on the Thunder and assimilating himself to the culture of the city. He has made it known that he would like to stay in Oklahoma City and sounds like he would be willing to take a pay cut to stay. (Annnd, cue Thunder fans saying “We’ve heard that before”).  

Percentage the Thunder move Martin: 12.5% (Having already made a major trade to start the season, I doubt the Thunder make another major trade in the middle of the season. They have the 2nd best record in the league and Martin has been a willing participant in his bench role. Unless the Thunder are able to acquire 2 players for the price of one, I think the Thunder head into the playoffs with Martin as their 6th man.

2. Jeremy Lamb/Perry Jones III

When you are a rookie on a championship contending team, playing time can be at a premium. This is where the Thunder and their rookies currently find themselves. Besides end of blowout situations, Lamb and Jones III have gotten most of their playing time with the Thunder’s D-League affiliates, the Tulsa 66ers. Their lack of playing time is not indicative of their potential, though. On a bad to mediocre team, these two would be logging major minutes. But on this team, their major function this season is in developing their game.  

lamb-jones

The league still views them as rookies dripping with potential. And that is where their value lies. I’m pretty sure many trade proposals have started with Eric Maynor and ended with one or both of these rookies. Young players on rookie deals are like gold in the NBA, and the Thunder have 2 bars in their safe.

Percentage the Thunder move either of these players: 10% (With their future salary cap situation (2 max players in Westbrook and Durant, Ibaka’s upcoming extension, Perkins’ contract, and Martin possibly resigning), the Thunder place optimum value on young players on rookie scale contracts. Both of these players emulate the Thunder model (athletic, long, and able to play multiple positions) and have performed well in their time in Tulsa.  

1. Toronto’s protected 1st round pick (2013 – Top 3 and 15-30 protected, 2014,2015 – Top 2 and 15-30 protected, 2016,2017 – Top 1 and 15-30 protected, 2018 – unprotected)

Before Toronto acquired Rudy Gay, this pick looked like it was going to be in the 6-8 range. Since the Gay trade, Toronto seems to be a much tougher out for opponents and reeled off 4 straight wins before the All-Star break. The Raptors currently sit 6 games out of the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, so while it is not an impossibility for them to make a run at the playoffs, the hole they dug themselves before the trade may be too much to overcome this season.

Rudy-Gay-Raptors

For a team looking to rebuild, a pick in the lottery is a steal. Any draft pick is a gamble, but those in the lottery have a higher percentage of panning out than those outside of the lottery. The Raptors picks is now looking to be in the 10-14 range.

Percentage the Thunder deal this pick: 10% (The same logic that applies to the Thunder and why they probably won’t deal Lamb or Jones III, applies to this draft pick. Earlier this season, this pick looked like it was going to be in the 4-6 range. But even where it stands today, this pick probably has more value for the Thunder than for another rebuilding team, especially in a draft that is perceived to be weak.).

One thing to look out for is the empty roster spot the Thunder have. If they don’t fill this spot with someone in a trade, look for the Thunder to sign veteran forward Rasual Butler. Oklahoma City fans may remember Butler from his days with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. He is currently playing for the Tulsa 66ers and may be what the Thunder need in a 3-point shooter and perimeter defender.

butler 66ers

The fact is that the Thunder have the 2nd best record in the league and are coming off of a Finals appearance. Sam Presti is not known to deal in haste or for a quick fix. He believes in sustainability and cap-flexibility, so any deal will have to work for the Thunder’s present and for their future. Needless to say, I don’t really see the Thunder making a move this trading deadline….but I’ll be watching.

 

What offseason? Basketball Never Stops!

As a fan of the game, I’ll watch any basketball game you have on the television, especially playoff games. But there’s a slight disconnect when your team is not involved. It’s not as emotionally taxing. With that said, I’ve never enjoyed basketball as a connected fan all the way into mid-June. Though I’m disappointed that we lost in the Finals, its fun to look at the calendar and know that in 3 months, training camps should begin to open up. I’ve forgotten what it feels like for the season to be over in mid-April. But this all leads us to the offseason. Time to rest and recover from the grind of the season. Oh, I forgot we have the draft coming up. And then we have Summer League. And all the offseason moves and transactions. All the while, we have the national team gearing up to defend its gold medal in this summer’s Olympics. What the hell does the off in offseason mean?

There’s a saying that the NBA season is a marathon, not a sprint. The things that happen after the All Star break, such as trades and the signing of recently released players, can have a big impact on the rest of the season and the postseason. The Thunder have been the beneficiary of both of these player transaction moves in the past two season. Two seasons ago, at the trading deadline, the Thunder traded Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic to the Boston Celtics for starting center Kendrick Perkins and ultimate cheerleader Nate Robinson. Then, last season, they signed point guard Derek Fisher off waivers after he was released from the Houston Rockets. Due to the team’s stability, the Thunder usually remain pretty quiet during the offseason, though.

2012 NBA Draft

This offseason, though, the moves have been quiet, but plentiful. Heading into the draft, the Thunder’s only draft pick was the 28th pick in the first round. When you are picking this late in the draft, this usually means your team already has the necessary players to succeed. For a team as set as the Thunder, there wasn’t an immediate need that any player chosen this late was going to provide. One of the biggest needs the Thunder had was a big that was agile enough to defend other athletic bigs while being able to score from the outside and inside. Players with this skill set don’t usually last this long in the draft. The thinking was that the team would draft either an athletic wing or an overseas player that would be stashed in Europe for a couple of seasons.

Sometimes, though, the stars and planets align, and a player you were needing all along falls into your lap. There was always concern about Perry Jones III’s work ethic. The word ‘motor’ usually came up when his draft status was discussed. But, no one could deny the potential he had. The description of a 6’11” athletic forward that could score from outside and inside is the type of player that usually has teams salivating for his services. But a day before the draft, they were reports that many teams were concerned with the condition of his knees. After the recent knee concerns of Greg Oden and Blake Griffin proved to be true, not many teams were willing to spend a lottery pick on a player whose work ethic AND knees were called into question. Surprisingly though, 11 other teams outside of the lottery chose to pass on Jones III also. So when the Thunder’s name came up, Thunder general manager Sam Presti never hesitated, and went with the best player available, which coincidentally also filled a need. The best thing about it, though, is that it comes at an extremely cheap price.

Orlando Summer League

After the draft, the focus turned to the Orlando Summer League, where the Thunder were participating with 7 other NBA teams. As I wrote previously, the Summer League is full of good young players, Fringers, and Dreamers. Some of the players are already guaranteed a spot on an NBA roster and just want to mix in some team-oriented scrimmages and practices during the offseason. Most of the players though, are clawing and scratching for an opportunity to get onto an NBA roster. The Thunder’s roster consisted of 4 guys that, barring a trade, will be on the Thunder’s opening day roster (Perry Jones III, Reggie Jackson, Lazar Hayward, and Cole Aldrich). The rest of the players were probably not going to make it onto the Thunder’s roster, but could make an impression on another team depending on how they played.

The Thunder finished the Orlando Summer League 3-2. Reggie Jackson played like the most seasoned guy on the team controlling the tempo of the offense and attacking the basket at will. He even gave 2012 NBA Dunk champ Jeremy Evans a taste of his own medicine. Lazar Hayward showed why he’ll be at the end of an NBA bench for the next couple of years. He does a lot of things good, but nothing great. Cole Aldrich’s play was mediocre, at best. For a player that is looking to step up and be the back up center, his lack of improvement was a bit alarming. But, I would ask people to please step off the ledge when it comes to Aldrich’s development. Summer league games are made for wing players. They are glorified street games with refs and NBA assistant coaches on the sidelines. Aldrich will be asked to defend the paint, set picks, and put up a couple hook shots in the regular season. He will be fine. Perry Jones III suffered a sprained ankle in the 2nd half of the 2nd game, but not before impressing with his array of inside/outside skills. He will be in the Thunder’s regular rotation, if not in the 2nd half of this season, then definitely in the 2013-14 season. Other notables were forward Latavious Williams, who needs to be on an NBA roster somewhere, and Garrett Temple, whose play was almost veteran-like.

Off-season Moves

The Thunder has never been a big player in free-agency in their time in Oklahoma City. But in reality, they’ve never had to be a big player. Their main focus has always been on player development. When you have players like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka, that’s what you put most of your focus on. That came to fruition in the last two seasons with consecutive trips to the Western Conference Finals and a trip to the NBA Finals this past season. The Thunder had 3 players that were coming up on free agency and all of them were veterans. Nazr Mohammed, Derek Fisher, and Royal Ivey could have all been signed to cheap veteran deals. But due to their years of employment in the league, even their minimum salaries would have been upwards of $1.5 million. The Thunder chose instead to let those vets walk, and focus on cheaper, younger alternatives. With Perry Jones III signing his rookie contract, that left 2 more spots on the roster.

The Thunder signed much maligned center Hasheem Thabeet to a 2-year veteran minimum contract. Now the difference between Thabeet’s veteran minimum deal and any of the other 3 Thunder players that were up for an extension, is that Thabeet has only been in the league for 3 seasons. For the final roster spot, the Thunder signed undrafted free agent Hollis Thompson from Georgetown to a 3 year contract. Thompson is a sharp-shooter in the Thunder mold (tall and long) that could be a cheap replacement for Daequan Cook in upcoming seasons.

The two signings sent Thunder nation into a tizzy, and not for good reasons. Most were questioning the “lackluster” moves by the team, while the team that beat us in the Finals picked up former All-Stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, and one of our biggest threats in the West, the Lakers, picked up a former 2-time MVP (Steve Nash) in their biggest position of weakness (point guard) without giving up a single player. The thinking was that the curse of the small market team was starting to take hold of the Thunder. That the ideology that small market teams can’t attract free agents and can’t spend money like the big boys was starting to rear its ugly head.

I, for one, completely disagree with that thinking. While it would be nice to sign former All-Stars ad-nauseam every offseason, the reality is that that would be bad business in this new NBA. The goal is to try and keep cost down while maintaining a competitive team. If your team does spend into the luxury tax territory, it better be winning. The Thunder have the right components in place to continue winning. The moves they made this offseason were made to keep those components in place. When you start talking about the luxury tax, every dollar counts. And if the Thunder are truly looking to keep both James Harden and Serge Ibaka on the same team as Durant and Westbrook, they are going to have to continue making these cost effective moves. Both Harden and Ibaka will demand deals that get them at least $10+ million per season. And, rightfully so. We’ll be in the luxury tax no matter what, if we keep these 4 players. The payments get more feasible, though, if you are competing for and winning championships.

Another thing that these signings do is maintain the flexibility that Presti loves. These signings not only have low cost-high reward potential, but they are also short term deals. That way, the team isn’t saddled with long-term contracts if the player, in question, either gets injured or doesn’t produce. Also, if someone better comes along, you could cut your losses with the player and attempt to obtain the better option. Cap flexibility is a commodity in the NBA, and Presti is one of the best at maintaining it.

Team USA

As if this offseason hasn’t been crazy enough, you have Team USA preparing for the Olympics in London. Not only that, but the Thunder has 4 representatives in the Olympics (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden for Team USA, and Serge Ibaka for Spain). Durant and Westbrook were near locks to make the team, but Harden was actually a surprise addition after players like Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose bowed out because of injury. The team torched the Dominican Republic and eeked out a victory against a tough Brazil squad in the US leg of pre-tournament games. After this, it’s across the pond for a couple friendlies and then the real thing. Durant has a possibility of leading the team in scoring, while Westbrook will be the defensive pitbull/offensive sparkplug off the bench. Harden will probably play a role similar to what he does with the Thunder, but to a smaller degree.

As a fan of the game, I love this. Before NBA-TV, the offseason was usually a time to hear about a trade or two, and wait for football season to start. So, even though, this has been a whirlwind offseason, I still appreciate it. When this offseason gets too crazy, I always hark back to the 2011 offseason. Oh, you don’t remember the 2011 offseason? Oh, thats right, because there wasn’t an offseason that year.

Wu-Tang vs. OKC Thunder

 

vs.

If you are like me, you are growing tired of the weekly late night sessions by the players’ union and owners. The meetings always seem to start off with a hint of hope, only to be crushed when we finally see the sides emerge into their separate press conferences after the meeting. Its almost like getting set up on a blind date. The anticipation builds, you’ve heard all the good reviews from your friends, and then when you see her, she looks like a close up shot from one of the Ren and Stimpy cartoons.

When I started this blog, I intended it to be solely an OKC Thunder blog. But as is the case with many of my ventures, my AOADD (adult onset attention deficit disorder) won’t allow me to concentrate on just one aspect of something. I have to try to encompass everything about that subject. Since the Thunder are a part of the NBA, and the NBA, as a whole, is the story of the moment, I’ve kind of shifted my writings from strictly Thunder subjects to more NBA (read:lockout) subjects. But I’ve decided, enough with all this lockout madness (for now). While there isn’t much to write about since there is a lockout, there is no better time than the present to start using the creative side of my brain. I mean, I am a lefty, so we are supposed to be more in tune with the creative, artistic part of our brain. Key word being “supposed to be”.

When there was an NBA season with some Thunder games, we constantly heard about the sacred 9-man rotation. That rotation sometimes got bumped up to a 10-man rotation when everyone was healthy, but usually stayed at the comfortable number of 9. Now, I bring this up, because my favorite rap group, the Wu-Tang Clan, consists of 9 core members (generals) but also, usually, includes an extra 1-2 associated rappers that round things out (you know, in case someone dies or gets arrested, which is the sports equivalent of someone being injured (arrested) or out for the season (dead)). I’ve always associated the Thunder’s 9-man rotation with the Wu’s 9 generals and thought it would be fun to do a comparative piece about the 2 groups.

Before I get started, let me introduce you to the Wu-Tang Clan if you are not a fan of rap or were born before 1975. The Wu is a 9-man rap group from Staten Island NY consisting of the RZA, the GZA/Genius, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Masta Killa. In addition, Cappadonna and Streetlife usually appear on the group’s albums and are considered unofficial members of the group. The unique thing about this group is that even though each rapper has his own style, they usually mesh seamlessly on their group albums to produce good music.

The RZA is……….Russell Westbrook. The RZA is usually the main and only producer on the group albums. He’s the one that makes the beats and arranges the album. He would be akin to a table-setter where the rest of the rappers just put their platters (rhymes) on said table. He’s the creator, just like Russell is the creator on the floor. While not as wildly popular as other members of the group, the RZA is very well known and respected in the entainment industry. Which almost sounds a lot like Russell Westbrook. While not the most popular on the team nationally, he is well respected by most and shows the potential to be an alpha dog on most teams.

Method Man is………Kevin Durant. Method Man is, by far, the most popular member of the Wu. His witty, humerous lines and strong cadence make him an easy rapper to follow and like. He’s also the first of the group to try other ventures such as acting (How High, anyone?) and directing. His charismatic personality and sense of humor makes it very easy for him to gain mass appeal. This relates very well to Kevin Durant. Without a question, the most popular player on the Thunder, KD is the unquestioned offensive leader of this team. At the same time, his affable personality and yeoman-like work ethic make it very easy for people to relate to him and admire him. In terms of production, everyone wants to see KD perform, just like everybody at a Wu concert wants to see Meth perform.

GZA/Genius is ………. Nick Collison. The veteran of the group, he’s the one that is always consistent with his flow. He never gets too high or too low. You know with the Genius what you are going to get every time out. Same thing with Collison. The veteran leader of this young crew, he keeps an even keel and you usually know what he’s going to provide night in and night out. And just like Collison is our no-stats MVP, if you ask any Wu fan who there no-stats MVP is, they would say it’s the GZA.

Ghostface Killah is……… James Harden. A mystery when the group first came on the scene, Ghost has come along as probably the 2nd most productive emcee of the group. Constantly working, he has carved out his own niche and has a huge following in the rap industry. With his witty word-play and rapid fire delivery, Ghost has made himself into a heavy-weight in the rap game. As our first lottery pick, Harden’s arrival on our team provided a bit of mystery. Would he supplant Thabo Sefolosha as the starting SG? Or would he be our main offensive weapon off the bench? Honestly, those questions are still a mystery 3 years in. But, Harden has acclimated himself very well in the league and is well on his way to becoming one of the top SG’s in the game.

Raekwon is……….Serge Ibaka. Raekwon is a lunch pail rapper. He puts in his work and goes home. When it comes to a rap group of 9, not everybody can rap on every song. But the guy that puts in the most work and has appeared on the most songs is definitely Rae. His ability to tell stories in rhyme form are what set him apart. Serge is one of the harder workers on the team, especially on the defensive end of the floor. His ability to guard the paint have made him a menace to opposing teams. Plus, his journey to the NBA is a great story that should be told.

Inspectah Deck is……….. Eric Maynor. Deck is the ultimate glue guy on the Wu-Tang roster. His verses can sometimes blow you away, but they can also, at times, leave you underwhelmed. This describes Eric Maynor at this point in his career. There are times where Maynor’s play leaves you awestruck and salivating for more (Game 2 of the WCF’s), but then there are games where you wonder if Maynor will ever shed the “back-up” tag.

U-God is……….Thabo Sefolosha. Don’t get me wrong. I love me some Uey. He brings some rough and rugged raps that hype you up. But his cadence and word play sometimes leave you wanting more. Which brings up to Thabo Sefolosha. Sef is primarily a great defensive player, but leaves you wanting a lot on the offensive end. He sometimes has a gem of a game, but he usually stays in the background and doesn’t add much other than defense.

Masta Killa is……..Kendrick Perkins. Were you really expecting anyone else to be compared with a guy who goes by the name of Masta Killa? Mostly a witty battle rapper, MK is usually good to drop a verse that will get the crowd hyped, but loses himself when he tries to venture into autobiographical or story-telling lyrics. If you want someone on the team to go to battle with, who else would you choose other than Perk? He’s our intimidator and presence on the interior. When he tries to do anything else other than be an intimidator, he usually ends up getting himself and the team in trouble.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard is ………..Nate Robinson and Reggie Jackson. The only guy in the group crazy enough to have two players compared to him. Before his death, ODB was the resident idiot savant of the group. Someone who rapped in outlandish ways, but somehow, it made sense in an ODB kind of way. In a room full of hyped rappers, he’s the one that brought the energy. To that respect, he’s very much like Nate Robinson. Watching Nate cheer the team on from the bench is a joy to watch as a spectator. The energy derived from him has to account for at least an extra 0.2 points per game. But ODB was also a mystery. As much information as he put out to his public, there was always an air of mystery surrounding Dirt McGirt. Which brings us to our 2011 draft pick, Reggie Jackson. What can this guy bring to the table for us? Based on his tools and style of play, he seems like a poor man’s Russell Westbrook. But will he play that way once the season starts?

Cappadonna is ………..Daequan Cook. Cappadonna is the Wu-Tang Clan’s unofficial 10th member. He usually on every album, but also fills in to form the core 9 whenever one of the members is missing (see: ODB’s incarceration and ODB’s death). Like Cappa, Daequan is our official 9th or 10th member off the bench. He does his job, and tries his hardest not to get in the way.

Streetlife is ………Nazr Mohammed. Streetlife is a protégés of Method Man who has found a niche as the Wu’s unofficial 11th member. He’s appeared on most Wu-related albums and comes up with very energetic verses. While not very energetic, Nazr does provide some scoring up in the post off the bench that sometimes comes in very handy.

The Wu-Tang Clan have been going strong in the rap business for almost 20 years now. They’ve had their ups and downs. They’ve faced triumphs and tragedies. But through it all, they’ve remained together. I know that sports teams will never remain together for that long, but if there is a suitable sports equivalent (> 7 years?), I would hope that the Thunder can achieve that and be successful in the process.