Tag Archives: OKC

The Oklahoma City Thunder debut their new orange alternates

westbrook collison durant ibaka orange alternates

For years, Oklahoma City Thunder fans have been clamoring for an alternate uniform that featured more than a blue palette. Maybe something with a bright color to it, or an artistic rendition to the Thunder shield, or a play on the Oklahoma City moniker (OKC). Instead, they have been treated to alternates that have been bland and a bit too safe. The purpose of an alternate jersey is to feature something that is different than the original.

The Thunder’s home uniforms have always been there best. The classic blue lettering with the orange trim lends itself very nicely to most color schemes (jeans, khakis, etc) and looks very good on HD TV screens. The away blue jersey have a classic coloring to them, but the 12 white letters on the front of the jersey (OKLAHOMA CITY) are a bit much in terms of style.

Three years ago the Thunder debuted their first alternate jersey. The navy blue jersey looked retro in nature with the team name written down right side. The jersey had mixed reactions, with many liking the simplicity of the jersey, while also criticizing that simplicity for being too safe for the franchise’s first alternate jersey.

Last season, the Thunder introduced their shirt-jersey (“shirsey”). Used exclusively at home, the shirt-jersey finally made use of the OKC moniker, placing it in front of the Thunder shield. The shirt-jersey borrows from the classic-ness of the home whites, but suffers from the fact that it’s a shirt-jersey.

cameron payne thunder

Throughout the summer, there have been rumors of an orange alternate in the brewing for the Thunder. Uniform hawks began doing their sleuthing and discovered possible rendering of the orange alternates. Finally, three days before training camp began for the Thunder, the team and players started dropping clues through social media. Kyle Singler shared a photo through his Instagram account in Friday morning showing a piece of orange jersey fabric. The Thunder shared an Instagram photo showing an orange jersey with the number 0 on it. Finally, the team shared a photo through all of their medias showing Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and Nick Collison sporting the new orange alternates.

Brian Byrnes, Thunder senior vice president of Sales and Marketing, stated, “This new uniform not only features another of our primary team colors, it also reinforces the strong connection our team has to our hometown and home state.” The jersey, given the nickname “Sunset”, will have the OKC moniker written on the front in navy blue. The Thunder will debut the jersey at home on November 1ST against the Denver Nuggets, and will wear them 17 more times this upcoming season. They’ll be worn 10 times at home and 8 times on the road.

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The Stretch: The Thunder’s next 6 games

When the Oklahoma City Thunder were novices to playoff basketball, home court advantage was a must. In their first playoff series against the Lakers in 2010, the only two games the Thunder won in the series were in Oklahoma City, with a third victory being stolen by a Pau Gasol tip-in as time expired in the 4th quarter. The next season, the Thunder rode home court advantage all the way to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the higher seeded, and eventual champions, the Dallas Mavericks. The next season, the Thunder made a repeat trip to the WCF, where the met the higher seeded San Antonio Spurs. Three years worth of playoff experience helped the Thunder weather a 2-0 deficit in the series, and they eventually went on to win the next 4 games (3 of which were in OKC) to make it to the NBA Finals.

The Thunder are experienced enough to not get phased by road playoff games. But getting the highest seed possible is more of a psychological ploy than anything else. The opportunity to not only get the first two games at home, but also the deciding game, if necessary, gives a team a little more confidence moving forward.

Do the Thunder need to get HCA throughout the playoffs? Probably not. But the Thunder aren’t yet to the point where they are willing to sacrifice late season games in order to rest their weary starters. Resting Russell Westbrook is a given due to the delicate nature of his recovery from 3 knee surgeries in an eight month period. Other than Westbrook though, I think the rest of the players are gunning for as a seeding as possible. In order to achieve that, the next 6 games will be extremely pivotal to positioning the Thunder near the top of not only the Western Conference, but also the entire league.

The Thunder were in a similar position last season, with the same cast of characters playing similar parts this season. The Thunder once again trail the Spurs, this time by 2 games. They, of course, will need some help from other teams. The Spurs play 6 games between now and their April 3rd meeting with the Thunder. The combined winning percentage of those 5 team (they play Denver twice in that span) is .482. When you factor the home/road splits compared to where the games are being played (whether in San Antonio or on the road), that percentage jumps up to .495. That’s not an easy stretch for the Spurs.

In that same stretch, the Thunder only play 4 games: a home/road back to back against Denver (tonight) and Dallas. Then they play Sacramento on Friday and Utah on Sunday. That’s basically 4 home games in that stretch, as Dallas is a 50 minute plane ride from OKC and the stands will be peppered with plenty of Thunder fans. The Denver/Dallas B2B will be difficult as both teams attack the Thunder where they are weakest (perimeter defense) and score a lot of points.

Much like last season, focus will be the key word when it comes to this stretch. The team may be on high alert when it comes to the B2B, but then may let their guard down when it comes to the Sacramento and Utah games. The Thunder have a tendency to play down to their opponents, and Utah and Sacramento can give the Thunder problems, if allowed.

 

One major difference between last season and this season is the injuries. Last season’s team was completely intact when it when on its stretch run. The playoffs, of course, were a different story. This season, though, the Thunder will be missing Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins for all of the stretch and likely will be missing Westbrook for some of the stretch. If I were a betting man, I’d say that Westbrook will miss the Denver game and one of the Sacto/Utah games.

Much like last season, the Thunder will get a 3-day break before the Spurs game. And then, they will hit the road for another game the next night, this time against the Houston Rockets. Luckily for the Thunder, it’ll be easy to get up for both of these games. The question is whether Westbrook will be available for both of these games.

If the Spurs stay true to form, they’ll start to rest their core on differing night beginning in April. If the Thunder are able to take the conference lead and maintain, they should be able to repeat what they did last season. And this time, not only is the number one seed in the conference at stake, but also the number one seed heading into the playoffs.

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

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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!!

5 for 5: The Rivalries

harden sefolosha durant thunder rockets

5 for 5: The Longest Shortest Season  |  5 for 5: Tragedies, Courtrooms, and Beginnings  |  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 third part in this series, I wanted to focus on the rivalries. Sports are only as good as the competition they incite. Playing driveway basketball against your kids when they are 5 years of age can quickly get boring (although palming misdirected shots in midair like you’re Serge Ibaka can be entertaining for at least an hour or so). But, try playing your kids when they are 18 years old and have had 12 years of playing experience. Then it becomes an entirely different ballgame.

When it comes to competition, I’ve always looked at the career of Floyd Mayweather Jr. with a sliver of disappointment. That he’s a great boxer with arguably the best defense in the history of boxing is without question. The issue that I’ve had with his career has been the level of competition of his opponents. Now, I’m not saying that falls squarely on Mayweather. The guys in his weight classes have not been particularly consistent in the past decade. He’s also “luckily” scheduled the right fights at the right times, choosing to fight boxers that were either on the downward slide of their career (Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley) or fighters that were too inexperienced to compete with him at the time of their fight (Canelo Alvarez and Victor Ortiz). He’s never had that one opponent that defined him. Mike Tyson had Evander Holyfield. Arturo Gatti had Mickey Ward. Mayweather has…… (and therein lies the problem with his career).

mayweather alvarez boxing

If fans are the life blood of sports, then rivalries are the engines that keep them running.  You naturally root against your opponent because they are competing against you and you want to win. Pretty simple concept. But if you add something more to that competitive fire, it can act like an accelerant, creating an even bigger blaze. Rivalries, and the differing reasons for them, can be that spark. When it comes to the Thunder, I’ve categorized their rivals under 4 different categories.

1. Regional Foes

Geography and competition are probably the easiest ways to breed a rivalry. Whether it’s an intracity game between two high schools or a game between professional sports teams 200 miles apart, that desire to be superior to those closest to you is an innate characteristic of the human psyche. Even if the two teams aren’t on equal footing at the time of the game, the rivalry aspect of the game often lends it to be a close affair. Continue reading 5 for 5: The Rivalries

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

Oklahoma City Thunder: Lessons from Summer School

okc summer league champs

The Oklahoma City Thunder finished summer league with a 5-0 record, and were crowned champions of the first ever Orlando Summer League Championship. While it is cause for celebration, it’s important to remember that this is Summer League. A league where at least 50% of the participants will log as many minutes in the NBA as you and I. Regardless of talent level though, there were a lot of things to take from summer league. Here are a couple:

1. Reggie Jackson is ready to make The Jump. The Jump is the term for when a player starts to understand the nuances of the professional game and it slows down for them. Kevin Durant led the league in scoring his 3rd season, Russell Westbrook made it to his first All-Star Game and made 2nd Team All NBA in his 3rd season, and James Harden won 6th Man of the Year in his 3rd season. In his one full game in summer league, Jackson broke the Orlando Summer League record with 35 points, bringing the Thunder back from a 12 point 4th quarter deficit with 23 of those points coming in that final quarter. He completely dominated getting to any spot on the floor that he wanted. While I don’t expect a repeat performance during the NBA season, I do think that Reggie is ready to take that next step in his development. Continue reading Oklahoma City Thunder: Lessons from Summer School

The Thunder and the 32nd pick

draft pj 3

The Oklahoma City Thunder hold 3 draft picks in this upcoming draft. They have two in the first round, No.12 and 29, and one in the second round, No. 32.  While people are usually enamored by the first round picks, it’s the early second round picks (No. 31-35) that hold more value to teams. It’s an opportunity to grab first round talent without the constriction of a guaranteed contract. Here’s a list of notable players that have been drafted in the 31-35 range in the last 5 season: Nikola Pekovic, Mario Chalmers, DeAndre Jordan, Kyle Singler, Jeffery Taylor, Jae Crowder, Draymond Green. The difference in talent from the last 5 picks of the first round and the first 5 picks of the second round is infinitesimal.

For teams holding a slot in those first 5 picks of the 2nd round, it is an opportunity not only to draft a talented player, but also to procure a trade for an asset. The fact that a team can take a flyer on a player without having to offer a guaranteed contract, makes these picks more valuable than those in the lower end of the first round. These picks becomes doubly valuable before the beginning of a maddening free agency season. When teams vying for free agents want to clear cap space and/or not take on anymore guaranteed salary, they dump players and first round picks in exchange for high second round picks.

presti

Thunder general manager Sam Presti took advantage of this during the last frenzied free agency class, where he also owned the 32nd pick. We arm-chair GM’s love to talk about the would’ves, could’ves, and should’ves. But we have that beautiful thing called hind-sight in our back pockets. Real NBA GM’s don’t have that advantage, but those few great  GM’s have a little thing called foresight. While we focus on our team in the present tense, great GM’s look at the health of other franchises and plot how they can take advantage of their needs. Presti is great at this and seems to be on the prowl again in this draft.

On July 27th, 2009, the Thunder traded Damien Wilkins and Chucky Atkins to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Etan Thomas and 2 second round picks. Most people thought this was just one of those offseason trades where a team trades 2 bench players for another bench player. But the haul in that trade was actually the 2nd round pick that turned into No. 32 in the 2010 NBA draft.

Etan Thomas, Andrew Bynum

The 2010 offseason was known for one thing and one thing only….the summer of Lebron. That was the offseason where most of the bumper crop from the 2003 draft class was coming up on their 2nd extensions, while other players like Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, and Joe Johnson were also coming up on unrestricted free agency. If you were a team that believed in quick fixes, this was the summer for you. While a handful of teams were trying their hardest to unload as much salary as possible, the other teams were more than willing to take on decent players (salary) and first round picks.

The Thunder had assets galore in the 2010 draft with 3 picks in the first round (18, 21, and 26) and 2 picks in the second round (32 and 51). The consensus with most teams is that you don’t head into training camp with five rookies. So, the Thunder knew they had to wheel and deal to get what they wanted in this draft, which was a defensive minded big man and more assets. Their first move was to trade the 32nd pick to Miami for the 18th pick and Daequan Cook. Miami was looking to cut salary to position themselves for the summer of Lebron. The Thunder knew they couldn’t get what they wanted at 18, so they traded it to the Clippers for a future first rounder. They eventually traded up to the 11th pick where they picked Cole Aldrich. The future first rounder from the Clippers helped to facilitate the trade with the Boston Celtics for Kendrick Perkins at the trading deadline that following season.

benchmob

There are a lot of similarities between this offseason and the 2010 offseason. First off, the top tier in this free agency class includes some franchise players, such as Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, and Josh Smith. Secondly, these free agents are available and willing to hear out every offer on the table. Thirdly, there are team already vying to dump salary and 1st round draft picks to clear cap space. And, fourthly, the Thunder have the 32nd pick.

The story behind the 32nd pick is akin to the story of Hebrews wandering in the desert for 40 years in the book of Exodus. A little bit of controversy, a little bit of disobedience, and finally back to where it ultimately needed to be. On December 19, 2011, the Thunder traded Byron Mullens to the Charlotte Bobcats for their unprotected 2013 2nd round pick. Simple, right? Wrong! When the Thunder traded for Perkins, they sent Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green to Boston along with that Clippers draft pick. Everything was going good until doctors discovered the following season that Green was suffering from an aortic aneurysm, would need immediate surgery, and would miss the entire 2011-12 season. Boston contended that Oklahoma City knew of this condition previous to the trade. On June 16, 2012, the NBA decided to give Boston the Charlotte pick as compensation for the Green debacle. On July 20, 2012, the Celtics traded the pick to the Houston Rockets as part of a three team trade for guard Courtney Lee. Finally, on October 27, 2012, the pick was sent back to Oklahoma City as part of the James Harden trade. I’ve joked that, to everyone outside of Oklahoma City, the trade between OKC and Houston will be known as the James Harden trade. But to the people in Oklahoma City, the trade will be known as the “reacquisition of the Charlotte 2nd round pick” trade.

Oklahoma City is in prime position to make a significant move to improve their team in this draft. The rumor mill is already rampant with teams wanting to dump salary and picks for a chance at one of the top tier free agents. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!Sports reported that Houston is looking to unload the No. 5 pick from last season’s draft, Thomas Robinson, in order to clear further cap space. Chad Ford of ESPN.com reported that the Dallas Mavericks were looking to trade away the No. 13 pick in order to avoid the $1.6 million cap hold that the pick carries. Also, Atlanta has picks 17 and 18, but are also looking to throw their hat in the free agency fray. There will be plenty of opportunities to nab a necessary piece on this draft day.

Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony

Also, there is one more thing to look out for in this draft. There might be an epic free agency class coming up next offseason. Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade all have early termination options to become free agents in 2014. Add to that, the 2014 NBA draft is predicted to be a lot stronger than this draft class, and you have the perfect storm for further wheelings and dealings. Look for the Thunder to not only get what they need in this draft, but also to pick up assets for the 2014 draft. Let the madness begin!

Innocence Kept: The Thunder and the Moore tornado

kd tornado

Sports are a strange thing. One second it’s euphoria, ecstasy, and adrenaline all in one bundle. And then the next it’s heart break and sorrow. It’s almost like a drug. And while it’s entrenched in reality, it really isn’t reality. It’s entertainment. Its young men, paid millions of dollars, to do things with spherical objects that you and I wish we could do. For most of us, the entertainment ends when the final buzzer sounds. We either pump our chest up in victory, or slump our heads in defeat. And after a couple minutes, the feeling is over. We go back to our lives and move on.

But sometimes, sports and real life become intertwined due to circumstances beyond our control. We saw that, not too long ago, in the Boston Marathon bombing. Runners and spectators, alike, sprung into action to make the best out of an extremely chaotic situation. We saw the support on the hardwood from the Boston Celtics players and the support on the diamond from the Boston Red Sox players (especially David Ortiz). From 1700 miles away, it was inspiring and heart-warming to see that kind of support from the local pro athletes.

Then, May 20th happened. We, Oklahomans, have been through this before. The Murrah building bombing in 1995. The Moore tornado in 1999. And now, this tornado. We’ve mourned the losses of those killed, mended the hurt and wounded, and have rebuilt even stronger. But, we’ve never done it as a city that houses a professional team. In the grand scheme of things, that last statement doesn’t mean a hill of beans. We would still be doing the things that make us, us. We would still be getting involved in the recovery efforts, the humanitarian aid, and the volunteering, all while maintaining that great Oklahoma spirit.

russ west instagram

We would have completely understood if the Oklahoma City Thunder players would have just tweeted their well wishes and disbelief about the disaster, donated a couple bucks here and there, and given us their support from afar. They were just starting their offseason after a disappointing post season run that included a season ending injury to one of their superstars. And the reality is that most athletes don’t live in the city where they play year round. After exit interviews, the players usually disperse to their various hometowns for their offseason. We wouldn’t have held it against them if they would’ve stayed away from the disaster zone.

There’s an understanding when it comes to the athlete/fan relationship. We, the fans, cheer the athletes on to no end, and, in return, the athletes acknowledge our fandom in their interviews and in social media. It becomes almost scripted when athletes mention their fans as being the best fans in their league or when they say that the crowd played a major role in their comeback. It’s something that the Oklahoma media, and the media, in general, loves to play up.

durant jersey torndao

But in our darkest hour, though, there was a bit of a role reversal. The players came out and cheered us on. As soon as the enormity of everything became apparent, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Derek Fisher, Serge Ibaka, Perry Jones III, Nick Collison, and our old friend James Harden, were tweeting and instragramming their well wishes and prayers out to us. If it would have ended there, that would have been awesome. Then, Kendrick Perkins (you know, the player whose head a lot of OKC fans want on their amnesty plate) set up a donation spot at a local OKC store. And if it would’ve ended there, it would have been great.

d fish insta

Then Durant stepped it up and donated $1 million dollars to the relief efforts. And Perkins donated $25K to help build future storm shelters. And Russell Westbrook, Hasheem Thabeet, DeAndre Liggins, Jeremy Lamb, and coach Scott Brooks visited OU Childrens’ Hospital to bring some rays of sunshine to children who had probably just witnessed their darkest hour. This spurred the Thunder organization and many of their corporate sponsors to donate millions of dollars in aid. If it would’ve ended there, that would have been the best.

thunder hospital

Then the guys actually started showing up in Moore and walking through the debris and rubble, lending support to those crestfallen by the tornado. You saw Kevin Durant walking around giving encouraging words to those that supported him. You saw Russell Westbrook hobbling around on crutches giving support to those that needed it, even if it was in verbal form. General manager Sam Presti walked around doing his part to help out. CoachBrooks, Thabeet, Thabo Sefolosha, and native son Daniel Orton could also be seen lending their support throughout Moore. Nike, through their association with Durant, agreed to donate a million dollars worth of merchandise to help in the healing process.

thunder tornado ii

And this is just what we’ve heard. Only the person giving actually knows what they have given. During many of the pregame videos in the past few years, the focus has always been about how the values of Oklahomans mesh with the values of the Thunder organization. Resiliency, Team, Together, Team is One, Community. I used to think those were just prompt words to make the team feel more “Okie-centric”. Words aimed at our civil subconscious to make us love the team more. But in the end, the players on the team have shown those values to be true amongst themselves and amongst the team.

thunder tornado

As a realist, I know that one day, someone on the Thunder will rip our innocence from us. Be it one of our players being charged in a criminal case or a long drawn out contract negotiation in which a superstar will want out of OKC and into a bigger market. That day will come. But for right now, these player have kept our innocence intact. These players have shown their Okie values to be true. We’ve been with them through thick and thin, and now, they have reciprocated that support in our darkest hour. In the athlete/fan relationship, that very rarely happens.

Text “REDCROSS” to 90999 for $10 donation to help tornado victims in Moore, Shawnee, and OKC

Scoreboard Watching

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Last month of the season. A time where every game has meaning. Teams are either jockeying of playoff positioning or draft positioning. The worst teams are balancing between increasing their chances in the NBA draft lottery and creating a late season winning attitude to carry over into the next season. And the best teams are either trying to solidify their spot in the playoff rankings in an effort to get home court advantage throughout the playoffs, or trying to get into the playoffs.

For most teams in the playoff hunt, the only thing they are worried about is playoff seeding. For these teams, their draft picks for the next draft will be in the 15-30 range, and unfortunately, there aren’t too many franchise saviors drafted in that range. What these teams will end up drafting in this range are solid rotation players, Euro-stashes, and players that most fans won’t hear about again once their rookie contracts have run their course. But sometimes, due to prior trades or deals, some of these teams luck into a lottery pick.

nba-draft-lottery

The Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves in the position of battling for the number 1 seed in the Western Conference and picking in the lottery in the following NBA draft. When the Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets, some of the assets that OKC obtained were draft picks. These are the 3 draft picks the Thunder obtained in that trade and their restrictions:

  • Dallas Mavericks 1st round pick (Top 20 protected until 2018)
  • Charlotte Bobcats 2nd round pick (no restrictions)
  • Toronto Raptors 1st round pick (Top 3 and 15-30 protected in 2013 and 2014, Top 2 and 15-30 protected in 2015 and 2016, Top 1 and 15-30 protected in 2017 and  2018, unprotected after that.)

The Dallas pick probably won’t come to fruition in this draft as Dallas is currently in the lottery and has a very small chance of even reaching the 21st pick if they make the playoffs. They would need to win out and have the 7 other playoff teams currently under 45 wins completely fall apart. A scenario that is very unlikely. The Toronto and Charlotte picks, on the other hand, are in play for the 2013 Draft. As a fan of the Thunder, this has made scoreboard watching in April must-see-TV.

Toronto Pick (Teams that warrant watching – Philadelphia, Washington, Minnesota, Sacramento, New Orleans, and Toronto)

Again, this pick is Top 3 and 15-30 protected for this upcoming draft. Since the Raptors aren’t making the playoffs this season, you can eliminate the 15-30 protection from their draft pick. As of April 1st, the Raptors are slated to pick No.8. With 8 games left, the Raptors have the possibility of picking as high as third (if they lose out) or as low as 13th (if they win out). The position of the Raptors’ pick is not only dependent on their play, but also on the play of the teams around Toronto in the league standings. This is how the teams listed above are currently slotted and how far apart they are in games as of April 1st:

11. Philadelphia          –

10. Washington           3

9. Minnesota               3

8. Toronto                   3.5

7. Sacramento             3.5

6. New Orleans           4.5

So there are currently 3.5 games separating Toronto from the Number 11 slot in the draft and 1 game separating Toronto from the Number 6 slot in the draft. A lot of movement is possible in the standings within the final 2 weeks of the season.

Charlotte Pick (Teams that warrant watching – Orlando and Charlotte)

The Charlotte pick is not protected meaning wherever Charlotte’s pick falls in the 2nd round, that’s where Oklahoma City will pick. Granted, 2nd round picks are more miss than hit. The players selected in the 2nd round of the NBA draft fall into one of four categories. You have the 1st round talents that slipped into the 2nd round for a myriad of reasons, the Euro-stashes, the upper classmen that may surprise and make it onto an NBA roster, and the players that are a reach. Usually, the higher you pick in the 2nd round, the higher the probability of success in the NBA.

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With the worst record in the NBA, the Charlotte Bobcats would get the 1st pick of the 2nd round (pick No. 31). Here’s a list of the last 5 players selected with the 31st pick:

  • 2008: Nikola Pekovic (currently with the Minnesota Timberwolves)
  • 2009: Jeff Pendergraph (currently with the Indiana Pacers)
  • 2010: Tibor Pleiss (still playing in Europe, rights owned by the Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • 2011: Bojan Bogdanovic (still playing in Europe, rights owned by the Brooklyn Nets)
  • 2012: Jeffrey Taylor (currently with the Charlotte Bobcats)

These are 3 quality players that were obtained with the first pick in the 2nd round, along with two Euro-stashes whose NBA careers have yet to begin. The allure of a 2nd round pick is that the contract is not initially guaranteed. Every player selected in the first round gets a contract that is guaranteed in the first two seasons with team options for the next 2 seasons at a set salary depending on where they were drafted. Most second round players have to prove their worth in summer league and training camps before the team offers them a guaranteed contract.

For a while it appeared that Charlotte had a stranglehold on the bottom spot in the NBA. In the last few weeks, though, Orlando has lost their veteran interior presence (Glen Davis) to injury, traded their veteran wing/bench scorer (JJ Redick), and lost their starting shooting guard (Arron Afflalo) to injury. Combine that with the general rebuilding nature the franchise currently finds itself, and that has led to Orlando losing 9 of its last 10 games. Orlando trails Charlotte by only 1.5 games for the final spot in the NBA.

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Is there a difference between the 31st and 32nd pick? I don’t know, but of the last 5 players selected with the 32nd pick, only one is still the NBA (Dexter Pittman) and one is still in Europe. The other three have fizzled out and are currently out of the league. Based on this recent history, it is definitely better to get the 31st pick instead of the 32nd pick.

Number 1 seed in the Western Conference (Teams that warrant watching – San Antonio and Oklahoma City)

With the Oklahoma City Thunder trailing the San Antonio Spurs by one game for the top spot in the Western Conference, every game from here on out is of tantamount importance to both teams. The two teams play each other one more time on April 4th. As I mentioned in a previous article, home court advantage may be more important to the Thunder this season than it was last season, when the Thunder beat the No.1 seeded Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder had an overhaul to their bench before the season began, and have a couple unproven players (as far as playoff experience goes) that perform better at home than on the road.

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Every day that goes by offers a game that is of importance to the Thunder. It is a fun time to be a fan of the team, and a fan of the NBA in general. Whether it affects their future or present, you can be certain that Thunder fans will be watching that scoreboard every day until the season ends.

Thunder the Duck Up!

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Family dynamics; the things that make families tick. The quirks that are only understood by you and those you consider family. The word family, though, can be used very loosely. Family doesn’t necessarily have to be just people related to you by blood. There can be a family dynamic with the people you work with. The fact is that most of us spend half of our waking moments with the people we work with, if not more. We usually share 1-2 meals a deal with these people we call co-workers. So, quirks definitely develop amongst those that we share an employer with.

On a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder, you definitely see the quirks that work with this team. The core of this team (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, and coach Scott Brooks) has been together for close to 3 full seasons, which is an eternity, in NBA years, for 6 players and one coach to be on the same team for that length of time. Add to the mix Reggie Jackson and, even, Derek Fisher, who has been with the squad for the last two seasons, and you start to bring familiarity and comfort into the fold. On a team like this, teammates can cuss each other during the game, and then go out to dinner after the game with smiles on their faces. It’s the quirks that make it work.

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It’s very similar to the characters on what has recently become my current guilty pleasure, Duck Dynasty. The basic premise is a reality show about a family that runs a business. But, the family dynamics are what make the show great. You have three sets of generations all working and interacting as a family, but also as coworkers. Add to that, outsiders (co-workers) that have been indoctrined into the family, and add to the hilarity of it all. In the end, you have a show where the goodness of family values meets the craziness of work site antics that makes it very difficult to turn away. A lot like watching the Oklahoma City Thunder play.

In an alternate universe, what would it be like if the Oklahoma City Thunder and Duck Dynasty merged together? This is what I happening:

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Phil Robertson is Nick Collison – Phil Robertson is the patriarch of the entire family. He’s the one that started the company and made it famous with his Duck Commander videos. Now, mostly retired, he still helps out whenever necessary, but mostly expounds wisdom like an old sage to whoever will listen. Nick Collison is like the patriarch of the Thunder. He’s been on the team longer than any player currently on the roster, and carries years of experience with him. While still a serviceable bench player, he’s known to expound nuggets of wisdom to young players on the nuances of the game.

Willie Robertson is Kevin Durant – The main focus of the show is on Willie and his running of the business. He is the brains behind the operation and has used his business acumen to turn it into a multi-million dollar empire. But don’t ask him to get his hand dirty. He would much rather keep the white collar on, than do some manual labor. Much like Willie, KD is the main focus on the Thunder. His ascension into superstardom has coincided with the Thunder’s rise as an elite team. While Durant has no problem getting his hands a bit dirty, he’d much rather do his work calmly and efficiently than to leave a trail of mayhem.

Jase Robertson is Russell Westbrook – Jase is the main antagonist to Willie, with the word antagonist being used very loosely. While they are brother, Willie is Jase’s boss, and would like nothing more than if Jase would get to work. Jase, on the other hand, has what I would call a YOLO-type (you only live once) personality. If they is any type of mayhem to get into, Jase is usually the first one in line. If there were three words to describe Westbrook, YOLO, mayhem, and antagonist would be very apropos. Contrary to what most outsiders think, Westbrook is not Durant’s antagonist. But Westbrook does have a very antagonistic attitude towards the people reporting about him. His unbridled play on the court is equal parts masterpiece and mayhem. And if there is someone on the team unafraid of the moment, it’s Westbrook (and Durant, of course).

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Jep Robertson is Kevin Martin – Jep is the youngest of the Robertson men and is the mama’s boy of the bunch. His beard has this weird shine to it that makes him look like a pretty boy compared to his brothers, father, and uncle. He has been kind of quiet for most of the time the show has been on the air, but has recently gotten more exposure in this current season. Martin is kind of the quiet, pretty boy of the team. He’s not known to get his hands dirty, and would rather do most of his damage from the outside. Also, his quiet demeanor makes him almost invisible on the court at times.

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Martin and Godwin are Serge Ibaka and Hasheem Thabeet – Martin and Godwin are two of the employees that work for Duck Commander, but are not related to the Robertson family. They usually get involved in Jase’s antics and add to the mayhem of the moment. These two bigs boys have no problems getting their hands dirty for whatever is necessary. Ibaka and Thabeet are two of the big boys inside for the Thunder and have no problem getting into a little mayhem themselves, as evidenced by Ibaka’s recent karate chop of Blake Griffin’s baby making factory and Thabeet’s penchant for getting under the skin of opposing big men. Also, the African connection makes this duo very similar to the duo of fat guys who aren’t related to the Robertsons.

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John Luke Robertson, Reed Robertson, and Cole Robertson are Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones III, and Jeremy Lamb – The younger generation of the Robertson family. They are shown the ropes by the older generation, and while going on their own paths, soak in most of the wisdom that the older generation tries to impart on them. Similarly, the young bucks for the Thunder are trying to carve their own niche on the team, while absorbing any nuggets of wisdom that they can get from the veterans.

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Si Robertson is Kendrick Perkins – Was there any question about this one? Si is, literally, the crazy uncle of the bunch. He’s the old guy that works with the young guys, but fits in just fine because he’s crazier than all of them combined. Si vocabulary is a mixture of pop culture and country bumpkin. The court jester of the show, Si keeps the mood light, but will also get you if he has to. As I’ve written before, Perk is the crazy uncle of the Thunder. His Southern drawl makes his sayings, such as “Get in there gurl!” and “Ball don’t lie” that much more memorable. With his trademark scowl, Perkins is able to intimidate opponents, while making the scowl a loveable trait. While he keeps the mood light, he also expects his teammates to do their job and will grill them if they are lacking.

Mountain Man is Derek Fisher – Mountain Man is a neighbor that has known the Robertsons for years and occasionally makes appearances on the show. He’s great as a Mr. Fix-it and sometimes adds a nugget of wisdom here or there. Like Mountain Man, Derek Fisher has made occasional appearances for the Thunder the last two seasons as a late season addition to help bolster the bench for the playoff runs. Fisher adds experience to the bench and can still hit a big shot or two.

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Miss Kay Robertson is Wanda Pratt – Miss Kay is the matriarch of the family. She brings the family together through food and is always there to lend an ear. Prior to this season, Wanda Pratt was the Thunder’s unofficial team mom, but has been mostly MIA this season. Hopefully she’ll return for the playoffs.

Side notes: I’ve been thinking about doing an article like this since last season, but it would have been too easy with James Harden and his Beard in the fold.

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At the end of the each of the episodes, the Robertson clan gather together at the dinner table and break bread, as any good family should. Through the good and the bad, they still gather together and share that precious family time. Same thing with the Thunder. Though they may argue with each on the court and off, you can be sure that they will be there for each other and will be “riding together and dying together” come this playoff season. Thunder the Duck Up!

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