Tag:Serge Ibaka
Posted on: October 8, 2010 4:04 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2010 5:50 pm
 

Brooks thinks the Thunder are coming along nicely

Thunder coach expects difficulty in managing frontcourt versatility, praises Westbrook's leadership growth.
Posted by Matt Moore


Scott Brooks simultaneously has an extremely difficult and conveniently easy gig right now. He's got a top club in the NBA's Western Conference, but operating with a young roster in a small market, expectations aren't through the roof. He's got a high volume of frontcourt depth, but he's got to figure out how to manage all the rotations and minutes. And he's got guys that love to play together. There's really no downside to that.

At practice Friday morning before OKC's preseason game versus the Heat, Brooks talked about that frontcourt depth. Cole Aldrich, the eleventh overall pick (acquired in a trade with the Hornets that also netted Mo Peterson) will get the start tonight in KC, less than an hour from KU where he made his bones in college. The Thunder this year have worlds of depth down low, with Aldrich joining Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison (another KU alum), and Nenad Krstic with Byron Mullens mopping up the excess. Brooks says the depth is a good thing to have, but a challenge for the staff.
"I like the depth we've got at all five spots. It makes it challenging for the coach, but it's better. You'd rather have that than have to bleed every minute of the starting five. I feel very confident that our guys off the bench whoever they may be will come in and do well. I like the frontcourt. We've have a lot of different style of players. Serge brings his game, and then on down the line: Cole, Nenad, and Jeff, with Byron and D.J. It's my job to figure out how to mesh it all together."
Brooks also spoke about Russell Westbrook and the leadership skills he took from his work this summer with Team USA:
"Any time you're around a great group of athletes like he was with Team USA, it's going to help your game and your leadership. Coach K's a terrific coach, and you learn something from every coach you have. Russell's leadership skills have improved every year. I think as a point guard you want that. It's hard to lead a team as a rookie. The only one I can remember is Magic. But Russell's done a great job in developing his leadership skills."
Westbrook will get his chances to show the offensive leadership tonight against a Heat team that will start Mario Chalmers (another former Jayhawk) and Mike Miller, filling in for an injured Dywane Wade.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 6:49 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 10:29 pm
 

Preseason Primer: Thunder

Posted by Royce Young

Over the summer, the Thunder quickly became an "it" team. Behind Kevin Durant's humble contract extension, the team's pushing of the Lakers in the first round, Durant and Russell Westbrook's performances in Turkey and the additions to the roster, expectations are high. But there are still questions for camp. What about Jeff Green? He didn't get an extension this summer. Could that upset the normally stellar chemistry of the Thunder? Or how about James Harden? Can he steal the starting job from Thabo Sefolosha?

Training camp site: Edmond, OK

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Cole Aldrich (draft), Morris Peterson (trade), Daequan Cook (trade)

Key subtractions: Um, Etan Thomas? (free agent), Ron Adams (assistant coach moved to Chicago), Rich Cho (now GM of Blazers)

Likely starting lineup:   Russell Westbrook, PG; Thabo Sefolosha, SG; Kevin Durant, SF; Jeff Green, PF; Nenad Krstic, C

Player to watch: All eyes will surely be on Kevin Durant who has received as much offseason hype as any player. But there are two guys to keep an eye on in Thunder camp: Serge Ibaka and James Harden. Those two player will be as key to OKC's success as anyone. Both are immensely talented and both are expected to take big steps forward this season. Training camp is a chance for both to earn extra minutes, and maybe starting spots.

Chemistry quiz: There probably isn't a team in the league with as much real chemistry as the Thunder. They hang together, play video games together, go see movies together and in general, are all friends. Any time new faces are added to it, there's a small question as to how they'll fit in, but young guys like Cole Aldrich and Daequan Cook shouldn't have any issues.

However, mainstay Jeff Green has a contract extension hanging over his head right now. While Kevin Durant got paid over the summer, buddy Green did not. Thunder management is looking for Green to prove his worth this season and while Green is a great teammate, it could potentially become an issue.

Camp battles: The Thunder are pretty set in their ways right now, having started the same five in all but six games last season. But James Harden could push Thabo Sefolosha for the starting 2-guard spot. A big camp that showcases improvements on the defensive end could earn Harden the minutes. Also, Scott Brooks prefers to play just nine and right now, the Thunder's rotation appears set. So how does Cole Aldrich earn minutes in that group?

Injury watch: Nenad Krstic is out after having surgery on a finger. This is a big chance for Aldrich, Serge Ibaka and second-year player Byron Mullens to potentially make a case for more playing time.

Biggest strength: Talent. This Thunder group is full of ability. In every sense of the word too. Athleticism, speed, skill - you name it. Still one of the youngest rosters in the league this group aged and matured a hundred years worth with its baptism by fire against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Some might think they're still inexperienced, but after Russell Westbrook and Durant's maturation in Turkey and over the summer, these guys are ready.

Glaring weakness: Interior size. The jury is still out on Jeff Green's power forwardness. Aldrich helps, but he's a raw rookie. Ibaka came a long way but he's likely not ready to start. Krstic is a finesse big man that doesn't rebound. Nick Collison is a scrapper, but undersized to play big at center. The Thunder rebounds as a team and actually led the league in blocks last year, but against the giants in the West like the Lakers, size could be a problem.

Posted on: September 16, 2010 12:08 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2010 12:09 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Are the Thunder legit contenders?

Posted by Royce Young

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

Is Oklahoma City actually ready to contend for the Western Conference crown?

The expectations started immediately following a rousing standing ovation Oklahoma City fans gave their home team after being eliminated by the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

I was in attendance at that game and while Thunder fans were obviously disappointed not to have forced a Game 7 in Los Angeles, once people started filing out of the then-Ford Center, the chatter began.

"Well, this shouldn't happen again next year," one guy near me said.

"Yeah, next year we shouldn't see the Lakers until the Western Conference Finals," another answered.

Then add in the summer Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had playing for Team USA and the Thunder has maybe moved away from fan expectations to now having a bit of pressure.

The talent is there. It was no fluke OKC won 50 games last season. And they know because of the earlier-than-expected success, expectation to do bigger and better things are there. It's the nature of the hype machine beast.

But forget expectations. Forget hype. The question is, is this Thunder squad actually good enough to contend in the West? Yes, they're fun to talk about and a trendy pick, but they were the youngest team in the league last season. Actually, here's how young they are: In three years, they'll still have over half the roster under the age of 26. So can this young group that overachieved last season take the next step?

Answer, plainly put: Yes. Absolutely yes.

If Durant showed the world anything in Turkey, it's that he's ready. Ready to shoulder the load of having 11 other teammates look to him to bail them out. He's ready to take on the pressure of a tough atmosphere. He's ready to carry a team. He was close to ready last season, winning the scoring title with 30.1 points per game and finishing second in the MVP voting behind LeBron James. But in the playoffs, he didn't play like himself. His percentages were way down, his scoring was down and in the heartbreaking Game 6 loss, Durant went just 5-23 from the floor.

But he hasn't forgot. No way. He talked about how much he learned in that series when he was leading his country to gold in Turkey and he's going to be thinking about that as motivation going in to camp. I almost think people need to be reminded daily that Durant isn't even 22 years old yet. The more he learns, the more hard experience he has, the more dangerous he becomes.

Not to mention the apparent improvement of Russell Westbrook. People don't realize how good Westbrook was for Oklahoma City last season, especially the last half of the year. Against the Lakers, he showcased his versatility and skill. In Turkey, he blew people away with his defensive ability and athleticism. And just like Durant, Westbrook is only 21 and will be entering his third year. He's darn good now, but just wait until he starts to figure things out.

Now OKC has questions. Jeff Green has looked overmatched at power forward. Nenad Krstic may not be a legit starting center. They didn't deal with any significant injuries last season. And of course, they're still young. If you don't want to believe that they can really contend, the reasons are there.

Plus, the West is always tough. The Rockets will be better, New Orleans has Chris Paul back for a full season, the Blazers will be healthy, the Grizzlies and Kings are improving and the old dogs like San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix can still play. But keep in mind: Oklahoma City didn't win 50 last season in a Western Conference that was down. They won 50 in a year that all eight playoff teams hit at least that mark.

Common sense says the Thunder should be better this year. They improved the roster with an inside presence in Cole Aldrich, shooters in Morris Peterson and Daequan Cook and an extra defensive-minded guard in Royal Ivey. And then of course the natural progression of all the young guys. Don't overlook the potential improvement of a player like James Harden who as a role playing rookie put up quality numbers and percentages. With an extra year, he might be a potential Manu Ginobili type player that can make a huge impact off the bench. And I haven't even mentioned Serge Ibaka yet.

Winning 50 seems like it should be a given with some even tossing around 55 or 60 for OKC. And after that once they get into the playoffs, you never know. They got the hard part out of their system last season with their first playoff experience. This time, they should be ready.

Last season, everybody told the Thunder they couldn't. They were too young, too inexperienced, too raw. They weren't ready. And they used that as motivation to prove everyone wrong. This season, all the expectation is there. They've got talent. They've got their star. They've got a great coach. But most don't think they're actually prepared to play for a trophy. Those questions are there. What happens if someone gets hurt? Aren't they still a year or two away? Aren't they missing one more player?

Just keep telling the Thunder they can't. I think they like it.

 
 
 
 
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