Tag Archives: Vince Carter

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 6 of 82)

reggie jackson tony allen thunder grizzlies

  • When: Friday, 07 November 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The Oklahoma City Thunder come into Friday night’s match-up against the Memphis Grizzlies at 1-4. A far cry from the number 2 seeded team they were in the playoffs last season. Don’t let the record fool you, though. Yes, injuries have bitten the team hard, but in that stead, a champion’s heart has started to emerge. Even though the team has fluctuated between 7-8 healthy players, the Thunder have been in every game heading into the 4th quarter except one. That is a testament to the players’ wills and to the coaching staff for having the team prepared. With that said, the season stops for no team and continues on.

The Thunder vs. Grizzlies match-up is a rivalry that has been building for the past few seasons. Both teams started their ascension to the top of the Western Conference around the same team, with the Thunder having gone a little bit further in that time span. Last season, the Thunder won the season series 3-1, but nearly got ousted by the Grizzlies in the first round. That playoff match-up was one for the ages with Games 2-5 being decided in overtime. The series featured game-saving 4-point plays, epic 4th quarter comebacks, super-nova’ed bench players, and Perkins hitting a game-tying put back to send one of the games to overtime.

The Opponent

allen randolph gasol conley grizzlies

The Grizzlies come into the game with a 5-0 record, boasting the best defense in the league. They allow a league low 86.2 points per game and are 2nd in Defensive Rating. The offense, while not high scoring, is one of the better half-court offenses in the league. Mike Conley continues to play his part as “most underrated point guard in the league.” With per game averages of 15.4 points, 6.6 assists, and 1.4 steals, Conley continues to be one of the most consistent point guards in the league. Up front, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol make up one of the most formidable front court duos in the league. Their size and skill in the post creates problems for most teams. On the wing, Courtney Lee is currently shooting an unsustainable 70% from 3-point territory and Tony Allen is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league (just ask Kevin Durant). The Grizzlies’ bench is veteran-laden, featuring Vince Carter, Quincy Pondexter, Kosta Koufos, and Beno Udrih.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Memphis Grizzlies

  • PG – Mike Conley
  • SG – Courtney Lee
  • SF – Tony Allen
  • PF – Zach Randolph
  • C – Marc Gasol

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Jeremy Lamb
  • SF – Lance Thomas
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Pace – The Grizzlies play at one of the slower paces in the league. They take their time, look for efficient shots, and keep turnovers to a minimum. Although the Thunder don’t have the horses to run like they normally would, a quicker pace may be advantageous to them in this game. If the Thunder play at the Grizzlies’ pace, they may play into the opponent’s hands (paws?).

2. Perimeter shooting big men – The Grizzlies love to pack the paint and dare you to shoot jumpers. Their anchor on the interior is Gasol, the 2012-13 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. But a line-up with any two of Serge Ibaka, Lance Thomas, or Nick Collison, who can do damage from the perimeter, could take Gasol and Randolph out of the comfort zone of the interior and open up driving lanes for Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, and Sebastian Telfair.

Jeremy Lamb

3. Jeremy Lamb – This will likely be Lamb’s first game of the season. It will be interesting to see how Lamb reacts, not only to being one of the primary offensive options on the team, but also to having no restrictions or pressure on him. Even if he shoots awful, there is no one behind him in the depth chart to take his place.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Toronto Raptors preview (Game 5 of 82)

adams valanciunas thunder raptors

  • When: Tuesday, 04 November 2014 at 6:30 PM CST
  • Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Four games in and the Oklahoma City Thunder sit at a record they haven’t seen since their inaugural season in 2008. That much was to be expected with the rash of injuries the team has faced. What wasn’t expected was the effort with which the team has exhibited. In the first two games of the season, against top flight teams in the Western Conference, the Thunder were in the game well into the 4th quarter. On Saturday, against a Denver Nuggets team that was looking to rebound from a disappointing, injury-plagued season last year, the Thunder executed almost perfectly throughout the game to get their first victory of the season. The return of Reggie Jackson from an ankle injury was supposed to provide the team with the playmaker they had been missing since Russell Westbrook went out early in the 2nd game of the season. Instead, Jackson’s return brought the team back to its iso-ball ways and they were blown out by the Brooklyn Nets.

It’ll be interesting to see how Scott Brooks adjusts to this. On the one hand, you now have a ball-handler that can threaten a defense (Jackson). But on the other hand, your best bet to win with this lineup is to completely muddy up the game by slowing it down and hope that it becomes a defensive battle.

The Thunder and the Toronto Raptors split their two meetings from last season, each winning on the other’s home court. Each game went down to the 4th quarter, with the average margin of victory being 3.5 points.

The Opponent

lowry ross derozan johnson valanciunas raptors

The Raptors come into the game with a 2-1 record. Last  year, they won the Atlantic Divison, and made their first trip to the postseason since the 2007-08 season. They battled their division rival, the Brooklyn Nets, and lost in 7 games. But the spark had been lit and the fan resurgence in Toronto was reminiscent of the Vince Carter days. The team is led by one of the better backcourts in the league, with PG Kyle Lowry and SG DeMar DeRozan. The duo is averaging nearly 42 points and 5 steals a game. The other wing, Terrence Ross, is averaging almost 10 points a game, but has the ability to go off for big numbers, as evidenced by his 51 point explosion last season against the Clippers. Up front, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas make up one of the more athletic and versatile front courts in the league. Off the bench, the Raptors are a mix of young veterans like Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, Lou Williams, and James Johnson.

Probable Starting Line-up

Toronto Raptors

  • PG – Kyle Lowry
  • SG – Terrence Ross
  • SF – DeMar DeRozan
  • PF – Amir Johnson (Game-time decision due to ankle)
  • C – Jonas Valanciunas

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Sebastian Telfair
  • SG – Reggie Jackson
  • SF – Perry Jones
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Perimeter Depth and Fouls – Lowry and DeRozan are personal foul magnets. You look at them and you might get called for a foul. Between the both of them, they are averaging 21 free attempts per game. That’s on some Durant/Westbrook levels right there. With only 2 guards on the entire roster (Andre Roberson is out with a sprained foot) look for the Raptors’ wings to attack Jackson and Telfair.

2. Shut Down the Lane – The Thunder have been employing an effective zone lately. If there was ever a team to trot that out on, it would be the Raptors. Collectively, they only shoot 42.5% from the field and 25.4% from deep.

DeMar DeRozan, Kendrick Perkins

3. Ugly it Up – The biggest mistake that can be taken from the Nets’ game was trying to keep up with them. The reason the Thunder’s first 3 games were close was because we slowed the game down and slogged it out. With Jackson back in the fold, we relaxed defensively and tried to run offensively, which back-fired on us.

Free Agency and the Oklahoma City Thunder

presti thunder

This is the first free agency period in a while where the Thunder, not only seem like bit players, but also seem willing to participate. For years, the mantra for the Thunder around this time of year has been about internal development. Their recent free agent grabs have been an aging vet (Derek Fisher) and a reclamation project (Hasheem Thabeet). Everyone currently on a guaranteed deal on the Thunder roster has either been drafted by the Thunder or has been traded for by them. Only Thabeet has been obtained via free agency, and his deal is contingent on the Thunder opting into it.

Before we get into the discussion of free agency, we have see what the Thunder have to offer. As discussed before, the NBA salary cap and luxury tax line will all move up this season. While the Thunder are over the salary cap, they do currently fall under the luxury tax line, which will be set at about $77 million next season. If you include the newly drafted first round rookies, the Thunder sit at 12 guaranteed contracts. Those 12 contracts equal to about $69.6 million dollars. The Thunder will be in the market for a shooter, so it only makes sense for them to lock into Grant Jerrett’s deal at $816,000, bringing the total to $70.4 million. I’m keeping Thabeet off the roster at the moment because the selection of McGary kind of negates what he brings to the table. With that said, the Thunder are about $6.58 under the luxury tax line with 2 roster spots available to them.

Any deal the Thunder do will be in the form of an exception. With the Thunder being over the salary cap, they’ll have access to the full mid-level exception, which is about $5.15 million dollar per year for 4 seasons. The Thunder can divide that among multiple players or use it all on one player. The Thunder also have a $6.6 million dollar Traded Player Exception (TPE) obtained from the sign and trade deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves involving Kevin Martin. That exception has an expiration date of July 11, 2014. The Thunder can use the TPE to facilitate a sign and trade for any free agent.

So what are the Thunder’s needs? The Thunder have 3 needs that can be addressed via free agency. The first need, as everyone knows, is perimeter shooting. We saw what a team full of shooters can do in the Finals. The 2nd need for the Thunder is an offensive post presence. And the third need for the Thunder is a veteran 3rd string point guard. Here are 10 options that can meet those needs.

1. CJ Miles – SG/SF / 6’6″ / 231 lbs /27 years old

  • Stats last season (w/Cle) – 9.9 pts /2.0 rebs /1.0 asts /0.3 blks /0.9 stls / 39.3% 3-point FG / 16.03 PER

cj miles

If you don’t succeed, try, try again. The Thunder tried to sign Miles in the summer of 2008, but the Utah Jazz matched their offer sheet. Back then, the Thunder were a team in transition, moving from Seattle to Oklahoma City, and coming off a 20 win season. This time around, the Thunder are a championship contender with a need at shooting guard. Last time, we signed Miles to a 4 yrs/$15 million dollar offer sheet. I’d say look for something similar this time around.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 3 yrs /$11 million

2. Mike Miller – SF /6’8″ / 218 lbs /34 years old

  • Stats last season (w/ Mem) – 7.1 pts /2.5 rebs /1.6 asts /0.1 blks /0.3 stls / 45.9% 3-point FG /12.50 PER

We were in contention last season for the Mike Miller sweepstakes after he was amnestied from the Miami Heat. Ultimately, though, he ended up choosing the Memphis Grizzlies, with whom he played for previously. Even though he has the stigma of having a bad back, he played all 89 games (82 + 7 playoffs) last season at 20 minutes per game. He would definitely supply the perimeter shooting the Thunder desperately need, but would not be a good candidate for the starting 2-guard position.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs /$6 million (team option on 2nd year)

 

3.  Pau Gasol – PF/C / 7’0″ /250 lbs /34 years old as of July 6th

  • Stats last season (w/LAL) – 17.4 pts /9.7 rebs /3.4 asts /1.5 blks /0.5 stls /19.34 PER

pau gasol

There has been talk that Gasol would be meeting with Oklahoma City once he is able to. It would be interesting to see what the team is willing to give Gasol, who is probably still worth at least $8 million a season. They can only offer the Mid-Level Exception ($5.15 million) or the Traded Player Exception ($6.6 million). Would Gasol be willing to give the Thunder a discount in order to contend for a title? If so, Serge Ibaka better start recruiting el Señor Gasol.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 3 yrs / $19 million

4. Jameer Nelson – PG /6’0″ /190 lbs /32 years old

  • Stats last season (w/Orl) – 12.1 pts /3.4 rebs /7.0 asts /0.1 blks /0.8 stls /34.8% 3-point FG /13.89 PER

When the New York Knicks hired Derek Fisher to be their head coach, a position opened up within the Thunder organization. It’s the position of veteran point guard with leadership characteristics that can knockdown a 3-point shot from time to time. Nelson would be perfect for that position, but the question becomes does Nelson still see himself as a starting quality point guard, or is he ready to become a bench point guard?

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs / $7 million (team option on 2nd year)

5. Vince Carter – SG /6’6″ /220 lbs /37 years old

  • Stats last season (w/ Dal) – 11.9 pts /3.5 rebs /2.6 asts /0.4 blks /0.8 stls /39.4% 3-point FG /15.97 PER

Vince Carter

With the Thunder trying to develop their young wing talent in Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, and Andre Roberson, you would think that bringing in someone like Carter may have an adverse effect on their development, similar to what Caron Butler’s addition did to the psyche of Lamb and Jones last season. But, if the Thunder are able to convince Carter to sign for about $3 million for 2 years to be a scorer/shooter off the bench, I think they would go for it. But it would have to be once other players have turned the Thunder down.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs/$7.6 million

6. Anthony Morrow – SG /6’5″ /210 lbs /28 years old

  • Stats last season (w/NO) – 8.4 pts /1.8 rebs /0.8 asts /0.2 blks /0.5 stls /45.1% 3-point FG /13.96 PER

If the Thunder a looking specifically for a shooter off the bench, in the Daequan Cook mode, then Morrow is your man. Morrow is a good shooter, but can’t do much else. He’s a sieve defensively and averages about the same amount of turnovers as assists. But if you want someone to just sit in the corner and receive passes from a driving Russell Westbrook, then Morrow has to definitely be an option.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs/$3.5 million

7. Ed Davis – PF /6’10” /225 lbs /25 years old

  • Stats last season (w/Mem) – 5.7 pts /4.1 rebs /0.4 asts /0.7 blks /0.3 stls /15.99 PER

The Grizzlies decided to let Davis become an unrestricted free agent after deciding not to pick up his qualifying offer. With the selection of McGary, signing Davis would be a bit of overkill. But as a young big and as an asset, Davis may be worth talking to. He’s shown some flashes throughout his 5 year career, but has also been inconsistent. The glut of big men on the Thunder roster may prevent this from coming to fruition.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 3 yrs/$12 million (team option on 3rd year)

8. Jodie Meeks – PG/SG /6’4″ /208 lbs /26 years old

  • Stats last season (w/LAL) – 15.7 pts /2.5 rebs /1.8 asts /0.1 blks /1.4 stls /40.1% 3-point FG /14.75 PER

Always beware of players that have had career years on bad teams. The green light that these players receive on bad teams can skew their statistics. Fortunately, the Thunder wouldn’t need Meeks to be alpha male No. 1. We’d need him to be a scorer and shooter off the bench. Meeks’ seaon last year may make him too expensive for the Thunder, though.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 3 yrs /$11 million

9. Ray Allen – SG /6’5″ /205 lbs /39 years old as of July 20th

  • Stats last season (w/Mia) – 9.6 pts /2.8 rebs /2.0 asts /0.1 blks /0.7 blks /37.5% 3-point FG /12.83 PER

ray allen

Allen has seen it and done it. A lot like Fisher, he’s hit big shots in big moments and won multiple championships. I could definitely see the Thunder make a run at Allen as a shooter off the bench. He’s slowed a bit, but that didn’t stop the Thunder from signing Fisher 3 seasons in a row.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs /$5.5 million

10. Shawn Marion – SF /6’7″ /228 lbs /36 years old

  • Stats last season (w/Dal) – 10.4 pts /6.5 rebs /1.6 asts /0.5 blks /1.2 stls /35.8% 3-point FG /13.78 PER

Marion’s best work is behind him, but he would still be a valuable commodity off the bench. His versatility allows him to play and defend multiple positions. And even though his shot mechanics make newborn babies cry, he still sinks his 3’s at a pretty good rate. Marion would be a great mid-season addition and not necessarily a great off-season addition based on the what the Thunder need.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs /$7 million

The Thunder have a little bit more money under the tax line this offseason, but nothing to necessarily write home about. Something to look out for though: The Thunder may go over the tax line during this free agency period if they have a plan in place to trade Perkins or Collison at the trade deadline. Remember, a team has be under the tax line by June 30th. With the Thunder’s penchant for looking for bargain, look for them to sign Miles (as a starting SG) and sign a veteran shooter (either Allen or Carter). Also, as much as I would love it, the Gasol signing is a pipe dream. Unless Ibaka says something great in Spanish and convinces Gasol to sign with the Thunder for under market value, we will go into the season with Ibaka and Perkins as our starting front court. As I mentioned in the draft postscript, the Thunder have a lot of what they need already on the roster. They could possibly just sign a veteran shooter and go with Jackson, Jones, Roberson, or Lamb as the starting SG.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks preview (Game 71 of 82)

durant nowitzki thunder mavs

  • When: Tuesday, 25 March 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

There’s a couple different ways to look at this game:

1. The Thunder will be out for revenge. In their previous meeting, the Mavericks humbled the Thunder, in Oklahoma City, to the tune of a 23 point drubbing, 109-86. That was the beginning of the Russell Westbrook Rest Experiment (RWRE). The Thunder came out a little flat and never recovered from a bad start. The Thunder were down three starters and the 3’s kept falling for the Mavericks (13-24 3pt FG, 54.2%). Needless to say, it was one of the worst losses at home since the team became a playoff contender 4 seasons ago. This time around, though, they have Russell Westbrook in tow and a little momentum gained from a 4 game winning streak.

2. The Mavericks are fighting for their playoff lives. The Mavs were given one of the greatest gifts afforded to a team looking to secure one of the final spots in the playoffs: an 8-game home stand. They are 2-2 through the first 4 games and have slipped down to the 9th spot by virtue of a tie-breaker with Phoenix. If the Thunder come out flat-flooted, they may just run into a desperate animal needing to win as many games as possible to secure a playoff seed.

3. The Thunder are fighting for their own playoff seeding. A lot like last season the Thunder find themselves behind the Spurs with about 12 games to play. They have one more meeting with the Spurs in early April at home. If the Thunder could position themselves to be a game behind the Spurs when the meet on April 3rd, then they could take over first place, not only in the Western Conference, but also for the entire playoff run if they make it to the Finals. OKC already owns the tie-breaker by virtue of winning the first 2 games against the Spurs this season and San Antonio has a tendency to rest its players the final month of the season.

The Opponent

calderon marion nowitzki ellis mavericks

The Mavericks currently find themselves outside of the playoff race in the Western Conference with the same record as the 8th seeded Phoenix Suns, at 42-29. Phoenix owns the tie-breaker by virtue of having the better conference record. The Mavs are a good offensive team, scoring 104.6 points a game, but rank near the bottom third of the league in terms of opponent’s points per game, allowing 102.3. In their current home stand, the Mavs are 2-2, with defense being the main culprit. In the 2 wins, they only allow 97.5 points per game, while in the 2 losses, they’ve allowed 115 points per game. Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis do the heavy lifting on the offense, but Jose Calderon is the one who sets it in motion. Calderon, who took a hit to the face that limited him to one minute in their last game, will play in this game. The Mavs boast a veteran-laden bench that can give teams fits with players like Devin Harris, Vince Carter, and Brandan Wright.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Dallas Mavericks

  • PG – Jose Calderon
  • SG – Monta Ellis
  • SF – Shawn Marion
  • PF – Dirk Nowitzki
  • C – Samuel Dalembert

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Perimeter Defense – Anytime the Thunder made a push in the last game, the Mavs usually answered with a 3-pointer to keep the Thunder at bay. The Thunder allowed the Mavs to shoot over 50% from 3-point territory in the last game, which would make it difficult for any team to win.

2. Bench help – While the Thunder bench was a bit muted in the last game by injuries, there should be no reason why the Mavs’ bench outscored the Thunder bench by 16 (38-22). The Thunder will face more of the same tonight, with Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins still out. Having Reggie Jackson back in his familiar 6th man role should help the bench unit out.

lamb jackson lillard thunder trailblazers

3. Russ’ knee – The MRI performed on Saturday revealed no further damage to Westbrook’s right knee. That’s the good news. But we are kind heading into unchartered territory as a fan base where we grimace every time Russell takes a tumble or grimaces in pain. Here’s to hoping he suffers no further scares the rest of the season (regular and post).

The Anatomy of a Dunk

Dunks happen every day on the basketball court. There’s a 10 foot rim and a lot of tall men. So there are going to be many instances within the flow of the game where these tall men jump up and push the ball through the cylindrical rim. It’s the easiest shot on the court. Most of the time there is no one in the way between the dunker and the rim. But sometimes, in that special moment, you get a situation where the dunker is challenged by someone to prevent them from pushing the ball through the rim. If the dunker succeeds, then he is awarded two points.

But every once and a while, a dunk happens that completely shatters any modicum of normalcy. It adds a blast of color to a black and white slate. It’s a series of actions that in that instant, completely empowers the dunker, while absolutely emasculating the victim. Everybody who attempts to block a dunk knows there’s a chance they might get dunked on. But, in these instances, the psychological impact that is expounded on the victim is so much, that they lose themselves for a little and forget what its like to be themselves.

There have always been 2 elements to every play in basketball. You have the scorer and the defender. But when this type of play happens, you have to encapsulate all the reactions from everyone on the floor, in the arena, and in the viewing audience to get of complete understanding of what exactly took place. The anatomy of the dunk encompasses so much more than the two players involved in the play. You have the reactions from the teammates of the dunker and from the teammates of the victim. You have the reaction of the fans in the stadium. And then you have the reaction of the opposing fans.

These dunk usually become synonymous with a point in time. It could become someone’s seminal play as their career begins to ascend.  It could be the decisive play in a playoff series that completely changes the outlay of that series. When a play like this happen, fans remember them. If the moment has future ramifications, people remember it even more.

Off the top of my head, I can only remember about 5 core-rattling dunks in my life.

In chronologic order:

  1. 1)      1991 Playoffs – Michael Jordan over Patrick Ewing
  2. 2)      2000 Olympics – Vince Carter over Frederick Weis
  3. 3)      2007 Playoffs – Baron Davis over Andrei Kirilenko
  4. 4)      November 2010 – Blake Griffin over Timofey Mozgov
  5. 5)      January 2012 – Blake Griffin over Kendrick Perkins

1991 NBA Playoffs –Chicago Bulls vs.New York Knicks

This is Michael Jordan at the height of his popularity. Tongue wagging, wearing the Number 5’s. Defending his first title. And here were these “bully on the block” upstarts from New York causing trouble and trying to build their own dynasty. They had their enforcer by the name of Patrick Ewing who patroled the paint and protected the rim. When these two forces met, it would change the course of this series and possibly the course of these two players’ careers.

The first thing you notice is the sick spin cycle move that Jordan puts on Charles Oakley and John Starks. I’m going this way, then, NOPE!, I’m going back towards the basket. Next thing I notice is the great screen by Horace Grant. One common theme in these dunks is that the victim is either screened or late in getting to the dunker. As the dunk is coming, you see Jordan and Ewing contiuously rising. But at one point, that bitch named Gravity takes a hold of Ewing, and he starts coming back down to Earth, while MJ is still rising. Then….BAAAAAMMMM!!!!!! And-1.

The Bulls bench doesn’t really react that greatly. Either they got to see that all the time (it being Jordan and all) or they were just tired of constantly cheering for the greatest ever. Just ask the Vice President whether his hands and glutes get a workout every State of the Union Address, having the get up and clap every 5th word. Hubert Davis, of the Knicks, reacted like his children just got eaten by wolves. Horace Grant decided that the shoes weren’t making him “like Mike” so he decided to slap the butt of Mike. And poor Patrick Ewing decided to shove an invisible man.

You love when these dunks happen on the road. You have that, “OOOOOOOOOO” sound from they crowd where they love the play, but feel bad that it was their guy that got posterized. Nowhere better for that to happen than in Madison Square Garden.

2000 Olympics – United States vs. France

Everyone knows the knock on Vince Carter. Great player who had to tools to be an all-time great player. But, he never played with the necessary determination to be one of the greats. He was okay with just being good. But for one summer, he became a beast. He literally took on the attitude that he was not going to be fucked with. He became the shooting guard version of Kevin Garnett. And then he got a steal in the open court against France with only 7’2″ Frederick Weis between him and the basket. James Bond, Jack Bauer, and Jason Bourne together couldn’t have fixed this international incident.

First off Frederick, you’re 7’2″. If you’re going to be in a poster, at least attempt to block the shot. The whole, “I’m going to stand here and take a charge” thing doesn’t really work out too well when the guy in front of you just won the NBA Slam Dunk competition in resounding fashion 6 months earlier. Read the scouting reports Weis! Secondly, other than the time they interviewed him after winning a title, this is the only other time I’ve ever seen KG not know what the hell to do with himself. Its almost like he said to himself, “I’ve got to match Vince’s intensity, so I’m going to chest bump-push him and show him my war face. Then I’m going to mean-mug the already wounded Frederic Weis.” It was classic KG. Thirdly, look at Vince’s face after the dunk. And then go look any picture of the rap group Onyx (especially Sticky Fingaz) and tell me Vince wouldn’t have been a perfect 4th member at that time. “SLAAAAMMMM! Duuh Duuh Duh Duuh Duuh Duuh Let the boys be boys!!!!” And lastly I love the reaction by French guard Laurent Sciarra. He was literally scared for his life and trying his hardest not to get into Vince’s bubble of unkempt rage. The man doesn’t even want to make eye contact with Carter.

As for the fans, they loved it. International fans love when Americans abuse them. They may not say it out loud, but there’s a reason they come out to see the best in the world. As you can tell in the video, even the French announcers love it.

Side note:  I think Vince Carter is the modern day Samson. When he grows his hair out, he becomes one of the best basketball players on the planet. But when he shaves it, he becomes just a good to great player. Who’s his Delilah?

2007 NBA Playoffs – Utah Jazz vs Golden State Warriors

After upsetting League MVP Dirk Nowitzki and the No. 1 seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round, the Golden State Warriors were riding on cloud-9 heading into their 2nd round matchup with the Utah Jazz. The Bay Area was buzzing with Warriors fever and ORACLE Arena was a house of horror for visitors. After losing the first two games of the series in Utah in close fashion,  the Warriors returned home for their turn in this tango. The house was rocking with the Warrior faithful wearing their golden “We Believe” t-shirts. The Dub’s were up by 20 with 3 minutes to go and looking to put this puppy away. A jump shot or lay-up would have sufficed, but a self esteem-shattering dunk is just what The City ordered.

First thing I notice about this dunk is the crowd. As a season ticket holder for the Oklahoma City Thunder, I can honestly say that this crowd, and the one in Portland, are the only crowds that can compete against OKC’s. Good job Dub’s fans. Secondly, as Baron rises up for the dunk, it almost seems like his body and Kirilenko’s body become one. Almost like Baron is South America and Andrei is Africa and they are finally joined once again. Then the dunk happens and all hell breaks loose. Baron shows us that when he cares, he has a flat belly. And the fan at 0:30 seconds finally has an orgasm for the first time in his life. And Mikeal Pietrus does the internation sign for, “I need a wave cap”. And Matt Barnes walks away and shows some fans what his head would look like with a faux-hawk. And Dick Bavetta shows us how he seduced Charles Barkley. It honestly looked like a club that Stefon talks about on one of his SNL skits (You gotta be an SNL fan to get this one).

I love the reaction that the teammates of the victim have. They usually look away from both parties. They don’t want to feed into the fire that burns in the now powerful dunker. But they don’t want to completely deflate their brethren by letting them know they just saw that. Either way, its comedic gold at its finest.

November 2010 – New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Clippers

We know this won’t last. In a couple season, the post game will develop and the knees will start to hurt a little bit from all the jumping. Once the game develops, the need to jump over people will cease to exist, as the player will play both with his mind and with his body. But until then, hot damn this guy can dunk!!!!!!! He was already on the map, but this one put one of those bold, capital stars next to his name. He was not only on the map; he was to be recognized now.

My first thought, after discussing the Baron Davis dunk, is why do Americans hate Russians? They have beautiful women who become spies, and they make Vodka. What more can you ask for? All kidding aside, whether this was a dunk or not is irrelevant. He gets high enough to just throw the ball into the hoop from a parallel angle. He supplied the arc of the ball, instead of releasing it and letting gravity determine the arc of the ball. Funniest thing about this is the reaction from the ref near the Knick’s bench. He did a pelvic thrust that a porn star would be proud of. Another reaction that teammates of the victim have is that they just stand in place and hardly move. And that’s exactly what Amare Stoudemire, Wilson Chandler, and Landry Fields did. The Knick’s bench actually did a pretty good job of containing the basketball fan within them. All except Kelenna Azubuike, who was inactive, but still had a Tourette Syndrome moment next to Ronny Turiaf.

It can’t be forgotten that Timofey Mozgov actually added fuel to his own fire. When Griffin’s weight was on him, Mozgov pushed him off and in the process, propelled Griffin even higher into the stratosphere to make it look even more impressive. Elevator going up. You know you’ve arrived for all the wrong reasons when you last name is synonymous with being climbed over and dunked on.

One thing I am extremely disappointed in is the crowd’s reaction. I don’t know if they didn’t realize what happened, or didn’t look up from their smart phones in time to see the play, but the react from the crowd is pathetic. You will see this play in the pantheons of great dunks and 95% of you fools are still sitting down. Shame on you Clippers fans. You surely won’t get a chance to redeem yourself from this one…..

January 2012 – Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Oooops, spoke entirely too soon. In the NBA, with the greatest players in the world, you are bound to see great dunks night in and night out. I know I can’t forget Kirk Snyder’s dunk over Von Wafer in which he leaped over him Vince Carter-style. I saw it live and still count it as one of my all time favorite plays. But some players feast on doing this all the time. Names that come to mind are Dominique Wilkins, Jordan, Carter, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Griffin. And sadly, it happened to my team, against my starting center.

As you can tell, I’ve been thinking about this dunk a lot. It was the prompt that made me start writing this article. It was almost identical to the Mozgov dunk, in that Griffin when up against a defender that pushed him up instead of over. I must say that this dunk was a bit more impressive though. Griffin actually reaches the rim, albeit with only a couple fingers.

But what I found completely interesting was Perkins’ reaction. In most plays, Perk will either be jacking his jaw at the refs or at his teammates or at the opponent. Or he’ll be putting on that Perkins Scowl. After this play, NOTHING. Just a face that says, “I admit defeat in this battle, but the war still continues.” As a big man, you’re destined to get dunked on from time to time. But you don’t expect to get posterized.

As far as the atmosphere, good job by the Thunder bench to not ever react at all to the dunk. I don’t know whether they say Griffin assault Perkins or whether they say paint dry. Way to at least support your man, Thunder bench. The Thunder that were on the floor did the customary “don’t look at the two involved in the play and don’t hardly move from where you’re at” bit. But, I do have to give props to the Clippers fans. They did what you are supposed to do after a great play. They stood up and applauded and acted a little bit happy. Baby steps, I guess.

In the Midst of Chaos

Here’s a hypothetical scenario: Let’s just assume you and every one of your 29 friends is married. You guys would always talk and hang out, but were kept apart by some controlling power (let’s say the wives) for about 5 months. Now, you and the guys are allowed to hang out again. But to spice things up, let’s say the wives felt bad and decided to all chip in and get each and everyone of you a week together in Miami and an MHP (Marital Hall Pass). Now, you know some of your friends would immediately use their MHP. But the question that needs to be asked is whether you, in the midst of all this chaos, would go against the very fiber of ethics and virtue that you’ve stood by for the past half decade because you were given permission to? 

This is the scenario and question I would pose to Sam Presti. We know that Presti was the honor role student at the San Antonio Model Academy. We’ve seen and read the book on how to do it. Develop a culture, build a great core, get good contributing players, and the rest will fall into place. It has worked in San Antonio and Utah for the better part of two decades. And it is beginning to work in Oklahoma City. The Thunder have developed a culture of community and hard work. They have a great core in Durant, Westbrook, Harden, and Ibaka. And they have good contributing players in Perkins, Sefolosha, Collison, and Maynor. But there is one thing that is missing from the equation that was always promised to us once we started our march to the promised land. 

In December 2008, while in the middle of the one of the worst beginnings to any NBA season, the question was always brought up about who would want to come to play in Oklahoma City. The answers ranged from sad to comical (redemption projects to Mark Price). The one answer that always intrigued me, though, was veterans wanting to win a ring. In the middle of a 3-29 start, the last thing you are thinking about is contending for titles. But now that we’ve knocked on championship’s doorstep, shouldn’t this be the next logical step in our player development? 

Leading up to opening of the free agency period, there was word that the Thunder had interest in obtaining Shane Battier. A veteran who would have been a great compliment to Kevin Durant off the bench and a good source of wisdom for our young team. Someone who was defensive minded and would fit seamlessly into the culture of the team. Even Kevin Durant wondered what Battier would look like in a Thunder uniform via his Twitter account. Instead, as the courting came down to the final days, the Thunder were not a part of the list of teams that Battier was looking at. He ended up signing with Miami for what is rumored to be 3 years / $9 million. Now, I wouldn’t have given him 3 years, but I would have given him $3.5 million per for 2 seasons. Don’t quote me on this and I hope I’m wrong, but I could see Battier hitting a big 3 against us in the Finals sometime in the next few seasons.

 Then there was the Chauncey Billups waiver wire Ebay auction. When the New York Knicks decided to amnesty Billups, all the non-tax paying teams had the opportunity to put in a bid for Mr. Big Shot’s services. It was rumored that OKC put in a bid, but like any skilled Ebay bidder, the Clippers came in at the last minute and offered $100 K more than any other team. Again, I could see Billups hitting a big shot against us in our probable first round match with the Clippers come May.

 Vince Carter was on the market after being waived by the Phoenix Suns. Carter always kills the Thunder. In 6 games over the past three seasons, Carter has averaged 22.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists on 20/45 shooting from 3 point land. Can you imagine if he were able to supply half of that to the Thunder off the bench? It would’ve made the transition to Harden starting a lot more smoother. Instead he signed with the team we faced in the Western Conference Finals last season.  

Presti is probably a better man than me. His patience reminds of the Chuck Norris quote, “He doesn’t sleep, he waits.” Presti has always tried to put himself in a position of power when dealing with any other team. He’ll take advantage of your mistakes while minimizing his. But at this point in the game, with us at the doorstep of becoming championship caliber, isn’t it time to take that risk on a veteran? 

Young players make mistakes in crunch time, especially in the playoffs. And while young players eventually (hopefully) learn from their mistakes, the time it takes to get there can be fraught with disappointment and frustration. A veteran player can be that bridge that helps guide a young team through rough seas. While we already have a few veterans on the roster (Mohammed, Collison, and Perkins), signing a free agent for the purpose of them wanting to compete for a championship makes it that much more important for the young guys. How many times have we heard, “We just want to win one for (Player X) who has never won a championship.” 

As a fan, you know that the window of success can close on your team as quickly as it opens. A tweak of the knee here, a bruised ego there, and the entire dynamic of the team changes overnight. When we experience success, we want to continue experiencing that feeling. It’s the reason why men think of sex 19 times an hour; its our epitome of success. I don’t necessarily want to see a big splash (i.e. paying Jamal Crawford $20 million for 2 seasons). But something to help the team in the immediate future, especially off the bench. 

I understand Presti has to look at the today AND the tomorrow, especially with us being a small market team. But myself, as John Q. Fan, just saw 3 of our biggest competitors get a piece that will probably make them better in the short term and am seeing a few of our other competitors making moves to obtain great players. In a time where we are financially sound, why not take a risk and use your MHP on something safe. It could make the difference in May and June.