Tag Archives: Nene

Washington Wizards vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 6 of 82)

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Washington Wizards

  • When – Sunday, 10 November 2013 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where – Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The Oklahoma City Thunder return home from a one game road trip to face the Washington Wizards. The Thunder come into the game having won 3 in a row to coincide with the return of Russell Westbrook. They find themselves 4-1 on the season and have used these first 5 games, against easier competition, for the most part, as an extended training to help assimilate Westbrook back into the mix. So far, it has yielded positive results.

For whatever reason, regardless of record, the Wizards always seem to give the Thunder problems. Its just one of those teams that matches up well against us. The teams have split their season series in the previous two full season and the Wizards won the only meeting between the two teams in the strike shortened season.

The Opponent

wall beal wizards

The Washington Wizards come into this game with a 2-3 record. They started the season losing their first 3 games, but have rebounded in the last two, to include a 112-108 OT victory over the Brooklyn Nets. The Wizards are led by their back court duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal who combine to score 38 points and dish out over 13 assists per game. Their biggest issue is that they aren’t very efficient in how they score as both guards are shooting under 42% from the field. Defensively, Trevor Ariza is probably their best wing defender and will take on the duties of guarding Durant. Up front, Nene and Marcin Gortat form a formidable duo capable to putting up double-doubles if allowed. The bench is led by veterans Al Harrington, Martell Webster, Kevin Seraphin, and Eric Maynor. Continue reading Washington Wizards vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 6 of 82)

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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Washington Wizards Preview (Game 34 of 82)

ibaka wiz

  • When: Monday, 07 January 2013 at 06:00 CST
  • Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.

This is literally the NBA’s best versus the NBA’s worst. When the Oklahoma City Thunder meet the Washington Wizards on Monday night, Washington will be 21.5 games behind the Thunder with 32 games already played. The Thunder come into the game having defeated the Toronto Raptors in a Sunday matinee, 104-92. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant led 5 Thunder players in double figures with 23 and 22 points, respectively. After dropping 3 of 6, the Thunder have won 2 in a row by an average of 18 points.

In their only meeting last season, the Wizards defeated the Thunder 105-102. That was the Thunder’s only loss in a 12 game stretch during the early portion of the strike shortened season. Wizards’ point guard John Wall led the way with a near triple double of 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists. Russell Westbrook had 36 points, 5 boards, and 7 assists, while Kevin Durant had 33 points, but the Thunder could never catch up after digging themselves a hole early in the game.

The Opponent

beal

The Washington Wizards find themselves with the worst record in the NBA at 4-28. They score an anemic 88.9 points per game, good for last in the league, while allowing 97.2 points per game. Part of the reason for their slow start is the absence of John Wall, who has been sidelined with a knee injury the entire season. The Wizards start Garrett Temple and rookie Bradley Beal in the back court. Beal was rumored to be a target of the Thunder’s in a possible draft day deal involving then Thunder guard James Harden. After averaging 11 points per game his first month of the season, Beal has increased his scoring to 14.4 point per game in December and January. He has also nearly doubled his assists numbers in that same time frame from 1.6 to 3.4 assists per game. Three point specialist Martell Webster is the other starting wing at small forward. The Wizards are formidable inside with a trio of veteran big men in Emeka Okafor, Nene, and Kevin Seraphin. Together the trio combines for 31.6 points, 18.8 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. Off the bench, the Wizards deploy some fire power in the form of guard Jordan Crawford and Cartier Martin, who can easily rattle off 15-20 points in a game. 

Probable Starters

Washington Wizards

  • PG – Garrett Temple
  • SG – Bradley Beal
  • SF – Martell Webster
  • PF – Nene
  • C – Emeka Okafor

Oklahoma City Thunder

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

3 Keys to Victory

1) Long-term and short-term memory – The Wizards were 1-12 when the Thunder faced them last season and lost 105-102. The Wizards were 1-13 this season when they beat the Miami Heat, 105-101. Regardless of record, this is still a collection of professional players that plays in the NBA. With their record, they view the big time opponents as their playoff games.

2) Wizards inside trio (Okafor, Nene, Seraphin) vs. the Thunder’s inside trio (Perkins, Ibaka, and Nick Collison) – Though not as effective as they used to be, Emeka Okafor and Nene can still come up with double double games  if given the opportunity. Seraphin is a lot like Ibaka from 2 years ago, still raw, but polished enough to give big minutes. The Wizards are the 7th best rebounding team in the league with an average of 43.6 rebounds per game. If the Thunder big men are not on their post games, the Wizards could collect second chance boards and make a game out of this.

okafor

3) Kevin Durant – Trevor Ariza is the only player on the Wizards that has a sliver of hope of guarding Durant, and he’ll probably be out with a strained calf. Martell Webster is too short, Chris Singleton is too slow, and Jan Vesely is too European to guard Durant one on one. Hometown Durant could be on full display tonight. The only person stopping Durant tonight is Durant…and the bench if he doesn’t get off of it in the 4th quarter.

Crazy Uncle Perk

perk

We, as fans, sometimes view players as objects of entertainment. We look to them as visual and emotional toys that we unwrap every October, and hope to play with through June. When they no longer entertain us or completely frustrate us, they become highly expendable in our minds. We get on blogs and forums and completely blame that player for everything that is wrong with the team. It doesn’t matter whether the team is the best in the league or the worst in the league, there’s always that one player that catches the ire of most of the fanbase. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget that they are humans too.  

There has developed a sort of love-hate relationship between Thunder fans and center Kendrick Perkins in the last couple of weeks. None of it is due to anything personal. For all intents and purposes, Perkins seems like an affable guy who is completely devoted to his family. A big extended family that includes his nuclear family and his Thunder fam. Some players talk about their team being a family, when, in reality, family just means people that they have to deal with for 6-9 months out of the year. Some players, though, really do live by the “team is family” creed, inviting teammates to their house and generally, trying to bond with them throughout the season, and sometimes, even after the season.   

As a team, the Oklahoma City Thunder are very family oriented. The leaders on the team adhere to this concept as does the organization as a whole. The foundational culture of the team is rooted in family. And included in that family, is the entire fan base. We, as fans, are all invested in the same cause, but at different ends of the spectrum. The players are the performers and the fans are the audience. But sometimes, it’s easy to forget that the family concept is a two way street. We, as fans, expect for the team to acknowledge us, either through charity work, through team interviews, or through slogans, such as “Team is One”. We expect players to sign autographs for us at all hours of the day, wherever we see them. But, the sad truth is that fans do a bad job of picking players up when they aren’t providing what we expect of them.   

team is one

Family means different things to different people. To me, family is the group of people you are born/raised into and the people you accept into your circle. It’s a set of people whom you accept and can depend on through the good and the bad. And as a sports family, we’ve accepted the Oklahoma City Thunder into our family. They are interwoven into our fabric from October through June. We have Thunder watch parties, talk about the team around the dinner table, and talk about the people in the organization like they reciprocate talking about us at their dinner tables.

Family dynamics are a difficult part of co-existing as a family. Not everyone is going to get along the same all the time. But if a family is to co-exist, they have to accept the good and the bad of a member and go with it. For example, every family has that one family member. You know, the black sheep that’s kind of an outcast and rough around the edges. Its usually an uncle. They may have either served some time in jail or have a short temper. And they usually have drama with a wife, ex-wife, girlfriend, or baby momma (or a combination of all four) that spills over into family events. And when something goes down involving a bar, a fight, and a woman, you know Uncle was involved. But here’s the thing about Uncle, though. He’s full of wisdom and has a great ear for listening. And, he’s great at some sort of handy work, usually mechanics or carpentry. And when you need him, he’s always there, no questions asked.

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Well, that Uncle is Kendrick Perkins. He’s a little rough around the edges with the scowl and the intimidation. He’s probably on the naughty list of most of his opponents. And, he’s had some injury issues in the past. But when we need him to guard a Dwight Howard or a Marc Gasol, he’s there with his hard hat on, no questions asked. When we needed him to play through a torn groin and a wrist that needed to be surgically repaired, he gutted it out and performed beautifully. When his young teammates need an ear to vent to, he’s there to listen with some Southern drawl wisdom to accompany it. Whenever we need Perk, he’s there. And yet, when he is used incorrectly, or he doesn’t perform to our standards, we chastise him and await his presence with a pink slip in our hands.

If comparing Perkins to a family member doesn’t help you see his value, let me give you some tangible evidence versus some of the top centers in the game:  

Before Perkins 

green nenad

  • 2009-10 – including playoffs vs. Bynum (LAL), Howard (Orl), Perkins (Bos), Duncan (SA), M.Gasol (Mem), and Nene (Den) – 9-16 
  • 2010 thru Feb 23, 2011 – vs. Duncan (SA), Bynum (LAL), M.Gasol (Mem), and Nene (Den) – 2-6 

With Perkins 

  • March 14, 2011 – end of season (including playoff) vs. Bynum (LAL), Jefferson (UTA), Nene (Den), and D. Jordan (LAC) – 13 – 6 
  • 2011 – 2012 – 66 game season including playoffs vs. Bynum (LAL), Howard (Orl), M.Gasol (Mem), Duncan (SA), Jefferson (Uta), and D. Jordan (LAC) – 19 – 11  
  • 2012 – through the New Year 2013 – vs. Howard (LAL), M.Gasol (Mem), Duncan (SA), D.Jordan (LAC), and Jefferson (Uta) – 4 – 2

Excluding the first season the Thunder were in Oklahoma City, the team went 11 – 22 against top tier centers in the league before the arrival of Perkins. That’s a .333 winning percentage. After the arrival of Perkins, the team has gone 36 – 19 against top tier centers. That’s a .655 winning percentage. Looking at the raw data, Perkins has nearly doubled the chances of the Thunder winning versus a team with a top tier center.

nba_u_randolph-perkins01_576

Understandably, the correlation is not one to one. The players around Perkins have gotten better as they have aged. But the Thunder doesn’t improve as quickly as it has without that rock in the middle. And there is no way the Thunder make it to the Finals last season without Perkins manning the middle. The defensive job he did on Dirk Nowitzki, Andrew Bynum, and Tim Duncan was a big reason the Thunder were Western Conference Champions. While his performance against the Heat in the Finals exposed his flaws, it wasn’t like he was put in a position to succeed by Coach Scott Brooks, either. Brooks needs to understand that against smaller, quicker teams, Perkins’s strengths will be negated. Conversely, Perkins needs to understand that against these teams, he may have to sit more time than usual. But that’s the thing about those crazy uncles. They are usually stubborn as a mule.

A Bird in the Hand…

Let me preface this by saying that I love what Kendrick Perkins brought to the team last year. The toughness, leadership, and in your face accountability are things that young teams need from a veteran to reach that next level. It is my belief (and that of many others) that the Thunder don’t get to the Western Conference Finals if Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic are still in the starting lineup. The acquisition of Perkins allowed Ibaka to get off the bench and become a power forward’s version of a free safety, attacking anything that came near the basketball. Plus, signing him to an extension that pays him an average of $8.2 million/season for the next 4 years may prove to be a bargain. Quality starting centers usually aren’t obtained for anything south of $10 million. 

With that said, one has to wonder whether waiting would have allowed the Thunder to obtain someone more “well-rounded” in the post. While Perkins is definitely good defensively and sets great picks, he leaves a lot to be desired offensively. Though, some of his struggles last season may have been attributed to recovering from knee surgery, its not like he was ever Hakeem Olajuwon in the past. With one of the better big man free agent classes to be seen, quite possibly, ever, there has to be some trepidation whether the Thunder reacted too quickly in trying to obtain (and hold on to) a big man. 

Here are 5 candidates that the Thunder could have targeted in this year’s big man free agent class: 

5. Samuel Dalembert

 When the Thunder first acquired Kendrick Perkins, he was recovering from a strain in his non-surgically repaired knee. In the meantime, they played a handful of games with Nazr Mohammed as their starting center. In Perk’s absence, Mohammed performed admirably averaging 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in a 7 game span.

 The reason I mention Mohammed is because Dalembert’s game reminds me a lot of Mohammed’s. With the Kings last season, Dalembert averaged a respectable 8 points, 8 boards, and 1.5 blocks per game. He came on strong at the end of the season, and showed he still had some springs in his legs. It always worries you any time someone performs well in the 2nd half of their contract year. In the first 3 months of the season, Dalembert averaged 5.3 points and 5.9 boards. In the final 3 months of the season, he averaged 11.1 points and 10.8 boards. Probably not someone Presti would have targeted or signed.

 Chances of the Thunder targeting Dalembert – 10%

 4. Tyson Chandler

 The Thunder’s first great center. We had him for a couple hours and life was just a little better when he became a member of the Thunder. But, alas, all good things come to an end, and that one came to an end abruptly and quickly. The botched trade aside, this was the one guy I thought could push the Thunder over the edge. Like Perkins, his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired, but this human pogo stick is a menace on the defensive end. Being one of the cogs on a championship team probably has pushed his price tag up by a couple million dollars. With past injury concerns (see: botched OKC trade), increasing mileage on the odometer, and a probable hefty price tag, the possibility of signingChandlerwould have probably been low.

 Chances of the Thunder targetingChandler– 35%

 3. DeAndre Jordon

 Only 23 years old, but already one of the better defensive centers in the league,Jordanproves a great compliment to Blake Griffin. Together they form, possibly, the most athletically gifted front court in the league.Jordanwould have been a great fit to our core. He’s young, big, and he has improved each of his 3 seasons in the league. With the Clippers soon facing the same issues as the Thunder with young great players coming up on contract extensions, now would have probably been a good time to snag Jordan up by offering him a front loaded contract extension that would have really forced Donald Sterling’s hand. If available, I thinkJordanwould’ve been one of the center that Presti would’ve actively pursued.  

 Chances of the Thunder targetingJordan– 45%

 2. Nene

 While the previous 3 centers on this list are primarily defensive centers, these next two centers are good at both sides of the floor. Nene seems to be over the injury-filled beginning of his career which included a torn ACL and a battle with testicular cancer. He has averaged 78 games per season in the past 3 seasons, while averaging 14.3 points, 7.7 boards, and 1.1 blocks per game in that same time span. His quick feet and offensive repertoire make him a big commodity to have late in games. With an asking price somewhere north of $12 million per season, I think Presti would’ve seriously had to take a look at Nene for what he could provide the Thunder on the offensive end, especially in late game situations. 

 Chances of the Thunder targeting Nene – 55%

 1. Marc Gasol

 I would have never imagined that Pau Gasol’s little brother would’ve ever made a name for himself in the NBA. I thought he was just going to be a throw-in in the deal involving his brother being traded to the Lakers. Someone who had the Euro big man skills, but whose girth probably would’ve been a detriment in the league. But something happened between the 2008 Olympics and the 2009-2010 season. Gasol lost a lot of that girth and those skills started to translate very well in the NBA. He is now one of the top 4 two-way centers in the league (the other three being Nene, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut) averaging 12.4 points, 7.8 boards, and 1.4 blocks per game in his first 3 season. His combination of youth, mid-range jumper, and inside presence would have been the perfect pick up for Presti and the Thunder. With that said, this is whom I think Presti would’ve seriously pursued if the opportunity had presented itself.

 Chances of the Thunder targeting Gasol – 70%

 In sports, the most commonly used phrase when it comes to front office decision-making is always, “Hindsight is 20/20.” Do I think the acquisition and subsequent signing of Perkins was the right thing to do? At this point, I do think it was. It allowed the young Thunder the opportunity to experience a deep playoff run. That experience will prove to be invaluable in the long run. Perkins is a Presti-type player and his addition didn’t do anything to distract from the core values of the Thunder. Instead, it enchanced the core values of the Thunder and built a stronger foundation of leadership and accountability. In addition, if the rumors are true about Dwight Howard wanting to be a Laker, then we already have our D. Howard stopper when we meet the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.