Tag Archives: New York Knicks

NTTB Podcast (Episode 18) – Growing Pains

IMG_4109On Episode 18 of the NTTB podcast,we discuss the following topics:

  • Knicks game recap
  • Jazz game recap
  • Preview the Timberwolves game
  • Worrisome trends
  • What’s up with Westbrook
  • Inconsistent refs
  • NBA news

Intro/Outro music provided by OSC Productions

Thank you for listening. We will be doing a podcast once a week. If you have any Thunder or NBA related questions, make sure you hit us up on Twitter (@alexroig_NTTB or @Montero_A13).

We are on ITunes under the NTTB Podcast. Make sure you leave us a 5-star review if you can. As always, Thunder Up!

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Knicks vs. Thunder Primer (Game 1 of 82)

knicks logo vs. okc logo

  • When: Thursday, 19 October 2017 at 7:00 pm CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
  • TV: TNT
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
  • Line: OKC -12.0 | O/U – 215

Ten years strong and we’ve almost seen it all. We’ve seen two MVP’s. We’ve seen one Coach of the Year. We’ve seen one 6th Man of the Year. We’ve seen four Western Conference championship appearances. We’ve seen one NBA Finals appearance. We’ve seen injuries derail promising seasons. We’ve seen front office moves that have left us cheering and ones that have left us confuzzled (confused and puzzled). We’ve seen players we love traded. And we’ve seen players who were once heroes to us turn into absolute villains.  Continue reading Knicks vs. Thunder Primer (Game 1 of 82)

Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder have a mutual interest. Is it realistic?

anthony westbrook

At around 11 am on Monday, Bill Simmons of The Ringer decided to drop this little tidbit on the masses:

First off, what the hell does circling each other mean? I remember when I was in 5th grade, I got into a little tiff with another guy on the playground during recess and we connected at the shoulders and kept circling around talking trash to each other until our friends intervened. You know the whole, “Do something!”, “No, you do something!” type elementary brawl. So is that what the Thunder and Anthony are doing? I doubt it.

Instead, I think this is just a case of someone within the Syracuse inner circle putting out that Weaver and Anthony have spoken and the Thunder are interested if Anthony is interested. Nothing more, nothing less. If anything, I think this is more of a play by people in Anthony’s camp to leverage Houston into actually getting the deal done. Continue reading Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder have a mutual interest. Is it realistic?

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

ibaka perkins durant fisher thunder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oklahoma City Thunder at New York Knicks preview (Game 46 of 82)

stoudemire collison thunder knicks

  • When: Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

The roughest part of the schedule is behind us. The Thunder went 3-2 against some of the more elite teams in the Eastern Conference. They pushed their record above .500. Now, it’s go time in regards of getting at least to the 8th seed in the Western Conference. The Phoenix Suns (the current 8th seed) have one of the toughest second half schedules in the league and the New Orleans Pelicans (the current 9th seed) have injury issues. Luckily, the Thunder still have two games against both these teams. In a way, the Thunder still control their fate in regards to getting to the playoffs.

This is the second and final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder defeated the Knicks in late November, 105-78, in what was Russell Westbrook’s first game back from a broken hand. In that game, Westbrook tallied 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists in resounding “I’m baaaack” fashion. That game was missing the past two scoring champions, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, due to injury.

The Opponent

anthony galloway calderon smith knicks

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014-15 New York Knickerbockers. I have no idea where the wheels fell off with this team. I predicted they would sneak into the East playoffs at the beginning of the season. With a record of 8-37, the Knicks are currently tied with the 76ers for the second worst record in the league. The rank 29th in points scored per game and rebounding, and have an MOV of -8.0. Injuries have played a part, but chemistry and personnel have been the bigger issue. In turbulent times, though, when a team starts to trim the fat and rebuild itself anew, you sometimes find diamonds where there was only coal. Langston Galloway, an undrafted rookie free agent, has emerged as a consistent starter for the Knicks since his signing a week into the new year. He is averaging 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game in the last 4 games, with the Knicks recording a 3-1 record in those games. New York lost a lot of its guard depth in the trade that sent JR Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cleveland Cavaliers. So finding a player like Galloway has been a bit of a life saver for New York. The Knicks have been using Jose Calderon as the other guard, but he may be still recovering from a bruised knee suffered in their last game played. If he can’t go, expect Tim Hardaway Jr. to start in his place. Carmelo Anthony has had a most disappointing season and appears to be on the “Play one game, miss one game” veteran plan. He can still fill up the scoreboard (24.1 points per game), but appears to be looking towards April instead of any game in January – April. If he can’t go, look for former Thunder player Lance Thomas to take his place. Probably the most consistent players for the Knicks this season have been Amar’e Stoudemire and Cole Aldrich. Now, consistent doesn’t necessarily mean great, or even good for that matter, but it’s a start. Unfortunately, those two players come off the bench in favor of Lou Amundson and Jason Smith. Another veteran that provides good minutes off the bench is Pablo Prigioni.

New York Knicks

  • PG – Langston Galloway
  • SG – Tim Hardaway Jr.
  • SF – Carmelo Anthony
  • PF – Lou Amundson
  • C – Jason Smith

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Perry Jones
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Trap Game Potential – This just feels like one of those games where a Langston Galloway or a Tim Hardaway Jr. could erupt for 30-40 points on us. Many are looking at this game like a guaranteed win, but I see this game as a huge trap game. The Thunder are missing Kevin Durant and have been in an offensive slump in the past 4 games. With the Knicks on a bit of a hot streak, playing at home, and playing against their coach’s old team, I could see them coming out full bore against the Thunder.

2. Bench Production – With Durant out and the team struggling offensively, the bench stepped up to help the Thunder beat the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves. They scored 45  points between four players (Reggie Jackson, Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, and Nick Collison). Were they efficient? Not necessarily, but they put pressure on the Wolves and got a lot of open looks (some of which, they actually made). The Thunder reserves will likely have to be just as aggressive in this game.

westbrook roberson thunder

3. Russell Westbrook – Westbrook is such a nice guy. Every time he sees a player, especially a rookie, that is playing well, he wants to absolutely destroy that player to let them know he exists. Langston Galloway, you’re next on the list. Initiate “New Point Guard Destruction” protocols.

Thunder acquire Dion Waiters in a trade

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Cleveland Cavaliers

The Oklahoma City Thunder acquired guard Dion Waiters from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 3-team deal that also involved the New York Knicks. The Thunder used the Thabo Sefolosha Trade Player Exception ($4.125 million) to acquire Waiters while sending over a protected first round pick to the Cavaliers. The pick is Top 18 protected in 2015 and Top 15 protected in 2016 and 2017. If the pick is not conveyed by 2017, then the Cavs receive the Thunder’s 2nd round picks in 2018 and 2019. In a separate transaction, the Thunder sent Lance Thomas to the Knicks in a three way deal that saw JR Smith and Iman Shumpert end up in Cleveland.

Waiters is averaging 10.5 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 steals on 40% shooting from the field and 26% shooting from the 3-point line this season. After having his best season as a professional last season (15.9 points, 36.8% shooting from deep), Waiters’ numbers dipped as he failed to fit in with LeBron James and the new look Cavs. He wasn’t quite the fit the Cavs were looking for at 2-guard when they made their big moves this offseason. Waiters started the first 3 games of the season, but was then relegated to being the 6th man after that.

Waiters gives the Thunder another scorer and ball-handler off the bench. He’s a bit of a streaky shooter, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the 4th or 5th option on a team. While not great defensively, he isn’t that bad either. He’s got a little bulldog in him and his strength and thick frame will allow him to guard bigger opponents.  The hope is that Waiters will pick up the slack on those games where Reggie Jackson is struggling from the field. Jackson appears to be either playing hurt and/or in a slump, and his inconsistencies have affected the team when the reserves are needed to either maintain a lead or chip away at a deficit.

This move may be the first of a couple for the Thunder. The Waiters acquisition probably knocks Jeremy Lamb completely out of the rotation and probably out of Oklahoma City by the trade deadline. Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison are expiring after this season, and there were rumors the Thunder looked into obtaining Brook Lopez from the Brooklyn Nets for Perkins, Lamb, and Perry Jones. In addition, Reggie Jackson’s impending restricted free agency looms large on the horizon for the Thunder. If Waiters, who is a comparable player to Jackson, works out for the Thunder, look for them to move Jackson either before the trade deadline or at the draft.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. New York Knicks preview (Game 17 of 82)

westbrook stoudemire thunder knicks

  • When: Friday, 28 November 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

When the season first started, and it was known that the Thunder would start it without Kevin Durant and Mitch McGary, I tabbed the Thunder with a 7-10 record through November. Of course, other injuries occurred and kind of derailed that prediction. But in life, you are doing one of three things: either entering into a storm, going through a storm, or exiting out of a storm. The Thunder seem to be exiting out of their current storm. Tonight, they get back a player that has been severely missed in this early season swoon. When Grant Jerrett finally checks into the game, the will be a raucous celebration in the Chesapeake Arena.

Hold on….it’s not Jerrett. Oh, he’s coming back also. But, Russell. Really?

Apparently, the cheering will be for none other than Russell Westbrook. Slowly, but surely, the pieces are starting to come back for the Thunder. This game is Westbrook and Jerrett. Next week, it could be Durant and McGary. Eventually, Lance Thomas will take his rightful place on the bench, cheering on his brethren in a nice tailored suit.

This is the first meeting of the season between these two teams, with identical 4-12 records. The Thunder beat the Knicks last season in both meetings by an average of 20.5 points. In what was tabbed in the beginning of the season as a match-up between great scorers, has now devolved into a match-up of teams trying to claw their ways back into their conference’s respective playoff races.

The Opponent

jr smith amare stoudemire knicks

The Knicks come into the game with a 4-12 record in what has been a disappointing start to the Derek Fisher/Phil Jackson regime in New York. The implementation of the Triangle offense has flummoxed the players on the team, as they have struggled offensively out of the gate. The team, which features Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith, is scoring only 95.3 points per game, good for 25th in the league. The departure of Tyson Chandler also has the Knicks struggling on the boards, as they are only grabbing 39.3 rebounds per game, good for 26th in the league. The Knicks’ attack is led by Jose Calderon, who just recently came back from an ankle injury. On the wings, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert are as streaky as they come from the perimeter. Carmelo Anthony, who would normally start at the forward position, is out due to back spasms. Up front, Samuel Dalembert and Quincy Acy are veterans, but provide little else. Off the bench, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tim Hardaway Jr., Pablo Prigioni, and Shane Larkin are a mixture that is just as perplexing as the starting line-up.

Probable Starting Line-ups

New York Knicks

  • PG – Jose Calderon
  • SG – JR Smith
  • SF – Iman Shumpert
  • PF – Quincy Acy
  • C – Samuel Dalembert

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Lance Thomas
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Perimeter Defense – The Knicks lead the league in 3-point FG percentage. The don’t attempt that many 3’s, but they make enough to be the only team in the league with a 3-point shooting percentage above 40% (40.5% to be exact). The Knicks have little else in their arsenal but the 3-point shot. If it’s falling, the Knicks can hang with anyone. The key is to defend that 3-point line and make the Knicks beat you from inside and from mid-range.

2. Bench play – With Reggie Jackson returning to the bench, the Thunder’s bench get a huge boost. The Knicks bench is a mixture of Stoudemire and young wing players such as Hardaway Jr and Larkin. The Thunder, with Jackson, Morrow, and Lamb should be able to take advantage of this.

jackson thunder smith stoudemire knicks

3. Russell Westbrook – Welcome back. Now let’s napalm the league, sir.

Thunder release Sebastian Telfair

telfair thunder

In a surprise move (at least, surprising to us), the Oklahoma City Thunder released point guard Sebastian Telfair after their game against the Jazz. Not only is the timing surprising, but also the fact that it was thought that Telfair had a fully guaranteed contract. That may still be the case, but if Telfair was released, and it is likely because he had a guarantee that was date-specific (i.e. the contract becomes fully guaranteed if the player is on the roster after Nov. 30th).

Telfair’s release coincides with the fact that Ish Smith’s 10-day contract was coming up to a close on Thursday. With Russell Westbrook set to return soon (possibly for their next game against the New York Knicks), the team probably decided that they’d rather go into the season with Smith as the 3rd string point guard. Smith is younger, but, more importantly to the Thunder, he’s probably a lot cheaper. Not only is he a lot cheaper in salary, but he’s also easier to get rid of, as he’ll probably just sign another 10-day contract on Thursday. If Westbrook proves to be healthy, then the need for Smith probably goes out the window in 2 weeks. Then, the Thunder could let Smith go, and gain their coveted empty roster spot that they like to go into the season with.

Telfair played well in spots for the Thunder during their tumultuous beginning of the season. He averaged 8.6 points and 2.9 assists on 36.4% shooting from the field. He provided a veteran’s touch when the going got tough for the Thunder. His professionalism and experience helped the team, and hopefully, some of the young guys learned a thing or two about being an NBA player from Telfair.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Brooklyn Nets preview (Game 14 of 82)

adams lopez nets thunder

  • When: Friday, 21 November 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The Oklahoma City Thunder are the worst team in the Western Conference and tied with the New York Knicks for the 2nd worst record in the league. Let that sink in for a second. A season that started with so much promise has devolved to this current state. The thing is, the Thunder don’t feel like one of the worst teams in the league. They have been competitive in most games this season, but, unfortunately, lack the horses to put teams away. The Thunder lead the league in moral victories, but those mean squat when it comes to the final W-L record at the end of the season. This team needs to start winning some of these close games in order to stay within striking distance of the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

This is the 2nd meeting of the season between the Thunder and the Nets. The Nets did a number on the Thunder in the 4th game of the season, beating them in convincing fashion, 116-85. That game was Reggie Jackson’s first of the season, and there was a bit of an adjustment period that clouded the team’s performance in that game. The Nets decimated the Thunder’s zone, which had been pretty successful in the previous 3 games, to the tune of 52.4% shooting from the field to go along with 11 3-pointers.

The Opponent

anderson garnett johnson nets

The Nets currently stand at 4-7. The Nets started 4-2 out the gates, but have since lost 5 in a row. The main issue has been defense. In their first 6 games, the Nets gave up 98.2 points per game. During their 5 game losing streak, they are allowing 106.6 points per game. They are middle of the road in most statistical categories. The Nets are led by the veteran backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. While both are a couple years removed from their prime, they are still consistent enough from the outside to be a threat. Rookie Bojan Bogdanovic has been a surprise at the SF position, pumping in 11.3 points and 3 rebounds a game on 37.3% shooting from 3-point territory. Up front, Kevin Garnett is still providing defense and rebounding in what will likely be his final season and Brook Lopez is rounding out nicely after coming back from a foot sprain earlier this season. Off the bench, the Nets have a mixture of shooters (Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson), an energetic big men (Mason Plumlee), and a savvy back up point guard (Jarrett Jack).

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Brooklyn Nets

  • PG – Deron Williams
  • SG – Joe Johnson
  • SF – Bojan Bogdanovic
  • PF – Kevin Garnett
  • C – Brook Lopez

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Lance Thomas
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Brook Lopez – After missing most of last season and missing the first 2 games of this season, Lopez is just now starting to round into shape. He’s always been an All-Star talent, but has always been derailed by injuries. His last game was his best one yet, totaling 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks on 11-19 shooting from the field. If the Nets get an inside/out game working with Lopez and their wings, the Thunder could be in a bit of trouble.

Joe Johnson, Serge Ibaka

 

2.  Perimeter Defense – The Thunder do a good job with this zone for the most part. But the Nets, in all their veteran savvy, exploited it the first time they played. If the Thunder are able to corral the shooters for the Nets, they will probably have a chance in this game. The addition of Andre Roberson will hopefully help this.

3. Transition Opportunities – There should be no reason why Reggie Jackson, Roberson/Jeremy Lamb, and Serge Ibaka don’t beat their man down the floor numerous times tonight for easy baskets.

2014-15 NBA Season Preview: Atlantic Division

Atlantic Division Preview

1. Toronto Raptors 

raptors ross valanciunas lowry derozan

Last season: 48-34 (1st in the Atlantic Division, 3rd in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Game 7, 1st round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets

Key additions:

  • Bruno Caboclo – Draft (No. 20 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Jordan Hamilton – Free agent signing
  • James Johnson – Free agent signing
  • Lucas Nogueira – Obtained in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks
  • Lou Williams –  Obtained in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks

Key departures:

  • John Salmons – Traded to the Atlanta Hawks
  • Steve Novak – Traded to the Utah Jazz

Season Preview – The Toronto Raptors are in prime position to build off the most successful season in franchise history. The young nucleus of Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, and Terrence Ross is intact and a year older, with Derozan and Valanciunas having just participated in the FIBA World Cup. The Raptors acquired Lou Williams from the Hawks to serve as their offensive firepower off the bench. And they are also developing two Brazilian big men (Caboclo and Nogueria) who may pay dividends in 2015-16.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Raptors make it to the 2nd round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and have at least 2 All-Stars.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 52-30

2. New York Knicks

knicks shumpert anthony bargnani hardaway

Last season: 37-45 (3rd in the Atlantic Division, 9th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key additions:

  • Quincy Acy – Obtained in a trade with the Sacramento Kings
  • Jose Calderon – Obtained in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Samuel Dalembert – Obtained in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Cleanthony Early – Draft (No. 34 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Shane Larkin – Obtained in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Jason Smith – Free agent signing

Key departures:

  • Tyson Chandler – Traded to the Dallas Mavericks
  • Raymond Felton – Traded to the Dallas Mavericks

Season Preview – Two of the biggest additions for the team have been Phil Jackson (president of basketball operations) and Derek Fisher (head coach). With Carmelo Anthony in the fold for the next 4 seasons guaranteed and plenty of cap space coming up in 2015-16, the Knicks are starting to look like they have a plan. Fisher will likely implement the triangle offense, which will play off the scoring abilities of Anthony and JR Smith to maximize the effect of role players like Calderon, Amare Stoudemire, and Tim Hardaway Jr. It will be a bit of a transition year, but in the weak Eastern Conference, the Knicks will have the ability to make the playoffs.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Knicks make the playoffs.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 43-39

3. Brooklyn Nets

nets williams lopez

Last season: 44-38 (2nd in the Atlantic Division, 6th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Miami Heat

Key Additions:

  • Bojan Bogdanovic – Signed Eurostash
  • Markel Brown – Draft (No. 44 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Jarrett Jack – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Sergey Karasev – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers

Key departures:

  • Paul Pierce – Signed with the Washington Wizards
  • Andray Blatche – Unsigned
  • Shaun Livingston – Signed with the Golden State Warriors
  • Marcus Thornton –  Traded to the Boston Celtics

Season Preview – The Brooklyn Nets seem to be on the cusp of a rebuild (reload?). Their “all in” move from last offseason (acquiring Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry from the Celtics) did not pan out and the Nets now find themselves with only one of the those 3 still on the roster. Brook Lopez (foot) and Deron Williams (both ankles) are once again coming into the season recovering from surgeries, and Garnett seems to know the end of his career is near. The Nets have some good young role players in Mason Plumlee, Bogdanovic, Karasev, and Teague, but their star players are either at the end of their run or are injury-prone.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Nets make the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 40-42

4. Boston Celtics

celtics smart young

Last season: 25-57 (4th in the Atlantic Division, 12th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Marcus Smart – Draft (No. 6 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Marcus Thornton – Obtained in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets
  • Evan Turner – Free agent signing
  • James Young – Draft (No. 17 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Tyler Zeller – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers

Key Departures:

  • Kris Humphries – Signed with the Washington Wizards
  • Jerryd Bayless – Signed with the Milwaukee Bucks

Season Preview – The Celtics are in the beginnings of a rebuild and would like nothing more than to use this season to get their young core (Smart, Young, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, and Avery Bradley) plenty of development and playing time together. Along with that, the team has two valuable expiring contracts in Rajon Rondo and Brandon Bass to help out in their rebuilding process.

2014-15 will be successful if: The young players show progression and the Celtics end up with a Top 7 pick.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 23-59

5. Philadelphia 76ers

76ers carter williams noel

Last season: 19-63 (5th in the Atlantic Division, 14th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Joel Embiid – Draft (No. 3 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Dario Saric – Draft (No. 12 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Jerami Grant – Draft (No. 39 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – Obtained in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • KJ McDaniels – Draft (No. 32 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Alexy Shved – Obtained in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves

Key Departures:

  • Thaddeus Young – Traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves

Season Preview – I’ve never seen a more obvious tank job in my life. The entire being of the 76ers at this point is to collect draft picks and young players at whatever cost. That’s not necessarily a bad plan, but everyone else who has done has at least attempted to look like they were trying. They drafted 2 players in the first round in the last draft that likely will not play for the organization this season (Embiid and Saric). This will be Nerlens Noel’s rookie season and last season’s Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams, is coming off off-season shoulder surgery. The team traded its best veteran in Thad Young and heads into the season as one of the youngest teams in the league.

2014-15 will be successful if: The 76ers end up with a Top 3 pick and their young players continue to develop.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 12-70