Tag Archives: New York

Oklahoma City Thunder at New York Knicks preview (Game 28 of 82)

durant shumpert knicks thunder

  • When: Wednesday, 25 December 2013 at 1:30 PM CST
  • Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

One of the major storylines heading into this season was the Battle of New York. Who would take the Big Apple: the New York Knicks or the Brooklyn Nets. While there may still be a competition between the two teams, the two teams have woefully underachieved to the point where their meetings are only of regional importance, not national importance. The good news for both teams is that the Eastern Conference is so bad that they are still in the thick of things as far as playoff seeding goes.

This Christmas match up is the first meeting of the season between the two teams. The teams split the season series last season as Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony battled for the scoring championship. Anthony ended up winning the scoring title 28.7 ppg to Durant’s 28.1 ppg.

The Opponent

iman-shumpert-knicks-carmelo-anthony-tyson-chandler

The Knicks come into the game with a 9-18 record, which surprisingly finds them only 2 games out of the 8th seed. The Knicks came into this season with high expectations, but the season started in turmoil after JR Smith was suspended for the first 5 games due to a substance abuse violation and Tyson Chandler came down with a broken leg a week into the season. Add to that the unknown that is Amare Stoudemire’s health and the seemingly frayed relationship between the team and SG Iman Shumpert, and you have a recipe for chaos…which has ensued. The Knicks, thought to be one of the more offensively minded teams with Anthony, Smith, and Raymond Felton at the helm, find themselves scoring only 95 ppg, good for 25th in the league. Surprisingly, they are one of the better defensive teams in the league, in terms of opponent’s ppg at 97.9 ppg, good for 8th in the league.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

New York Knicks

  • PG – Beno Udrih
  • SG – J.R. Smith
  • SF – Iman Shumpert
  • PF – Carmelo Anthony
  • C – Tyson Chandler

Oklahoma City Thunder

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

3 Keys to the Game

1. Perimeter Defense – The Knicks are currently a jump shooting team that isn’t making their jump shots. That doesn’t mean that they don ‘t have gunners on their team that can’t catch fire on any given game. This will be key to the Thunder’s success in this game. Stay on the shooters and limit their opportunities at open looks.

westbrook smith thunder knicks

2. Bench play – With the Knicks bench being so decimated by injury, especially at the guard position, look for the Thunder to take advantage of this with Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, and Derek Fisher.

3. Wounded animal – Don’t discount the Knicks being at home and playing with a mentality of a wounded animal. Primetime game, MSG, prime Western Conference opponent. You can be sure the Knicks will be giving the Thunder their best shot. Hopefully, the Thunder remember the Toronto game and come out sharper for this one.

To all my readers – Thank you for your support and Merry Christmas. I hope you enjoy your day with friends and family, and as always, THUNDER UP!!

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5 for 5: Tragedies, Courtrooms, and Beginnings

kd russ

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

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

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

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

okc bomb

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

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

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

magic thunder

  • When: Friday, 15 March 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

If you are an established small market team that builds through the draft and smart, cost-effective moves, you are said to be using the San Antonio model of team building. But if you are a rebuilding team, collecting draft picks and young players, you are said to be using the Oklahoma City model of team building. The Oklahoma City Thunder are using the San Antonio blueprint, while battling the Spurs for Western Conference supremacy. The Orlando Magic, on the other hand, are using the OKC model to rebuild after Dwight Howard napalmed the team for two consecutive seasons.

Two years after making it to the Finals, the Magic were struggling to remain relevant in an Eastern Conference that now boasted a super team in Miami, a wunderkind point guard in Chicago, and a scoring title threat in New York. Howard could see the writing on the wall, but waffled between staying with the team and wanting to be traded. The indecision on the part of both parties (Howard and the Magic’s) delayed the inevitable, frustrating both the Magic front office and the fan base for 2 seasons. Howard was eventually traded this past offseason to the Los Angles Lakers in a four team deal that included 12 players and 5 draft picks.

Orlando Magic v Los Angeles Clippers

Heading into this meeting with the Thunder, the Magic find themselves at 18-47, good for 14th in the Eastern Conference. After surprisingly starting the season with a 12-13 record, the Magic proceeded to lose 34 of their next 40 games. This will be the first of two meeting between these two teams. The Thunder swept the season series last season in two tightly contested games.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Orlando Magic

  • PG – Jameer Nelson
  • SG – Arron Afflalo
  • SF – Moe Harkless
  • PF – Tobias Harris
  • C – Nikola Vucevic

Oklahoma City Thunder

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

3 Keys to the Game

Protect the ball – Orlando is an extremely young, athletic team that feasts on turnovers. If the Thunder get too careless with the ball, the Magic will make them pay in transition. There’s no need to give a young team momentum to think they can win at your place.

ibaka and perk

Rebounding – The Magic are 15th in the league in rebounding, but have a double-double machine in athletic center Nikola Vucevic. With Vucevic patrolling the paint and Mo Harkless/Tobias Harris keeping Serge Ibaka outside of the paint, it will be up to Kevin Durant and the guards to help out in the rebounding department.

durant posting

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook: Post up offense – Both Westbrook and Durant will have significant height advantages on their defenders. Look for them to post up early and often.

Trading Deadline and the Thunder

Business transactions are always about needs versus assets. And that’s what trades in professional sports are.  A GM will assess their team and see what is needed and what can be given up. Sam Presti, the GM for the Oklahoma City Thunder, has made his bread and butter in the previous 5 seasons by taking advantage of other teams’ needs for financial relief. It’s how he obtained Thabo Sefolosha, Eric Maynor, Kendrick Perkins, Daequan Cook, and the draft pick that became Serge Ibaka. He did this by meticulously managing his cap space and not making hasty free agent/trade decisions.

Now that the Thunder are done with the rebuilding process, and are currently in the championship building phase of their development, some of the things that Presti used to swing advantageous deals are no longer available. The Thunder are currently $900K over the salary cap, meaning that they can’t absorb contracts, and must instead match salaries up to 125%. As ironic as it sounds, a negative of being frugal and careful with your spending, is that the Thunder are not saddled with any bad contract, which can become very advantageous in their expiring years.

Needs

  • With the loss of Eric Maynor earlier in the season, the Thunder lost one of the best game managers (backup or starting) in the game. He was the ultimate yin to Russell Westbrook’s yang, and provided the Thunder with a stabilizing force at the point guard position whenever necessary. Now, in his place, is a rookie, Reggie Jackson, who has looked every bit the part of a rookie. His play, while improving, has been inconsistent, as he is still trying to find his comfort zone on this championship caliber team. Kind of a tall order for someone who wasn’t expected to be thrust into such an important position at this moment in his young career. Because of Jackson’s inconsistent play, a quality backup point guard has suddenly become a need for the Thunder.
  • The thing about a wing oriented team is that if the shots aren’t falling and the “box and 1” defense is working, it makes it nearly impossible to consistently score points. The Thunder are lucky to have such dynamic scorers like Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Westbrook. These players have made their careers by consistently hitting shots with hands in their faces. But in basketball, the closer you are to the basket, the more efficient and easier your scoring becomes. And the Thunder have never had a low post scoring threat. It’s one of those things that makes scoring in the playoffs a whole lot easier.

Realistic Assets

  1. Nazr Mohammed – $3.75 Million – Veteran big man that could fit in on a contender that needs size.
  2. Cole Aldrich – $2.29 Million – 2nd year big man that has shown improvement and could be a good rotational big, if not for the Thunder, than for another team.
  3. Thabo Sefolosha – $3.3 Million – Veteran wing who is still one of the better wing defenders in the league.
  4. Royal Ivey – $1.2 Million – Veteran guard who provides good energy off the bench.
  5. Charlotte’s 2013 2nd round pick (obtained in the Byron Mullens trade) – Charlotte probably isn’t going to get much better next season and that pick will probably be in the 30-35 range, where a good player can still be picked up.
  6. OKC’s 2012 1st round pick – Will probably be in the 25 – 30 range of the first round. Late in the first, but still useful for stashing an overseas pick or rebuilding.

Possible trade partners (based on need and cost of transaction):

Boston  – Keyon Dooling ($2.25 M) and Marquis Daniels ($854 K) for Nazr Mohammed. Boston is in desperate need for big men after the losses of Jeff Green, Jermaine O’Neal, and Chris Wilcox. Keyon would provide a veteran point guard that has played in the playoffs before. Daniels would more than likely be cut.

New Jersey – Sundiata Gaines ($854 K) for Charlottes 2013 2nd round pick – Gaines has quietly put up a good season as a backup point guard for the New Jersey Nets.

New York – Mike Bibby ($854 K) for OKC’s 2013 2nd round pick – With the emergence of Jeremy Lin and the return of Baron Davis from injury, Mike Bibby is no longer necessary in New York.

Cleveland – Ramon Sessions ($4.3 M) for Nazr Mohammed and Charlotte’s 2013 2nd round pick – Compared to other teams’ offers, this is probably a “No” for Cleveland, but it’s still worth a try.

Milwaukee – Andrew Bogut ($12 M) for Kendrick Perkins, Daequan Cook, and OKC’s 2012 1st round pick – Bogut is just as good defensively as Perkins, while providing a lot more offense, if necessary. The Bucks will probably want either Harden or Serge Ibaka, which would make this a deal breaker for the Thunder.

New Orleans – Greivis Vasquez ($1.11 M) for Lazar Hayward and Charlotte’s 2013 2nd round pick – New Orleans is in full rebuild mode and looking to acquire quality draft picks. A very high 2nd round pick would do just that. The question becomes how does New Orleans view Vasquez?

Charlotte – DJ Augustine ($3.2 M) for Nazr Mohammed and Lazar Hayward – I don’t understand Charlotte’s desire to trade Augustine, as Kemba Walker is still a rookie and is more undersized SG than starting PG at this point in his career. But, if they want to, we’ll participate if the cost is not too much.

Free Agent – Anthony Carter (formerly of the Toronto Raptors) was recently waived to give him the opportunity to sign with a contender. Using our Disabled Player Exception from the Maynor injury, which comes out to $758,340, we could sign Carter for the rest of the season.

And just for fun:

Orlando – Dwight Howard ($18.1 M) and Ish Smith ($762 K) for Kendrick Perkins, James Harden, Eric Maynor, Cole Aldrich, OKC’s 2012 1st round pick, and Charlotte’s 2013 2nd round pick. I don’t know if Orlando gets a better infusion of young talent and draft picks from any other team.

What does the team look like on Thursday at 3:01 PM?

I think we stay pat. Making reactionary moves is not Presti’s style. He knows we still have Maynor next season and Jackson will have gained an invaluble amount of experience in his rookie season. A smaller scale signing, like Anthony Carter will be possible, though.

WHO DOES THIS GUY THINK HE IS?

I am of the opinion that everyone should stick to what they know. Everybody has an expertise in something, not an expertise in everything. There are very few Renaissance men left. So when someone tries to venture into other arenas, this can rub people the wrong way. They will react one of two ways. They will either enjoy when you fail with the backdrop that they already knew you were going to fail. Or they will be completely surprised by the gall of someone trying to succeed at more than one thing……and actually doing it.   

Which, of course, leads us to Kevin Durant. We thought last season was the summer of Durant. He started it by almost leading the upstart Thunder to a 7th game against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in an extremely competitive 1st round series. Then he became the poster boy for the Anti-Lebron campaign, after quietly signing his extension with no pomp and circumstances other than a heartfelt tweet. He even signed an extension with no strings attached (fully guaranteed with no player options for the entire length of the contract). Then he made guest appearances at the NBA draft and at the Orlando Summer League to represent the Thunder and show how much of a great teammate he is (and, of course, to reiterate that he is the Anti-Lebron). Then, to top it off, he led Team USA to its first World Championship gold in 16 years with the “B-team”. He did so much that you could have had this guy working the drive thru line of his offseason.   

 Lead an overachieving team…

 And then????

 Represent the team at the draft…

 And then????

 Quietly sign a max extension….

 You get the picture.

 Now, most mortals would be satisfied with that type of offseason. But, oh no! Not Durantula. Apparently last offseason was just the appetizer. Something to whet our collective palates. With an offseason with little to no activity because of the lockout, what is an NBA player to do to stay on the conscious of the masses??? You could…

A)    Win your first championship (hello, Dirk).

B)     Lose your second championship in Houdini-like fashion (hello, Lebron)

C)    Make threatening statements that you are taking your talents outside of theUS(hello, ½ of the league).

D)    Become basketball’s version of a gypsy and preach the hoops gospel at every stop.

 Well, @KDTrey5 decided to choose D. After leading the Thunder to the Western Conference finals and starting a fashion revolution (I have my backpack on right now as we speak), No. 35 decided he was going to rest up a little bit and see the world (on Nike’s dime, of course). So he visited China, did a couple basketball camps, saw the Great Wall, took some pictures (1, 2, 3), and gained about 1 billion fans. After that, with no summer league basketball on the horizon, he decided to become a one man streetball show. He literally became an overnight street legend. The street tour he did in NYC (66 in Rucker Park, shutting down a shit-talker the next day with 44 and a game winner, and averaging about 50 ppg for the weekend). Wrecking up the Goodman League in D.C. Then leading the Goodman League past the Drew League in what I’m hoping will be a yearly summer classic.

To add to the streetball legend status, he further solidified his street cred with this picture  

That would usually be a good summer for most, but then he decided to pick up, of all things, cycling. Cycling? Really? Who the hell still rides a bike? When was the last time you rode a bike? You know who rides bikes….middle-aged white men who are ultra-competitive and need to get in 35-40 miles per week. There you go….another market KD has cornered.

 And now I hear that KD is going to star in a movie. A movie? I mean, I know he has an affable personality, but I never once thought he was thespian material. But, guess what else he does if he goes through with the project in OKC? He brings in more economy to OKC. If they film this movie in OKC, they’ll need hotel space for the crew, work permits for the sets, and food for all the employees. In a time where business might dip a little if the lockout cuts into the NBA season, KD could possibly serve as a small economical conduit to bridge the time between lockout and NBA season for some OKC businesses.

 If anyone can pull it off and be successful, I’m betting my money on KD. While some people may ask, “Who does this guy think he is?”, I, in turn, ask of you, “What have you done this summer?” And this is nothing compared to what KD is planning for next offseason. Curing cancer and world hunger in the same week, anyone?