Tag:Oklahoma City Thunder
Posted on: July 29, 2010 1:59 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2010 1:57 pm
 

Offseason Reviews: Northwest Division

Posted by Royce Young



The Northwest Division has become one of the best and most competitive divisions in the league. There's rising teams, star power, a traditional great and then there's the Timberwolves. Regardless, it's a fairly fascinating groups of teams that all had quite different summers.

Utah Jazz

Added : Al Jefferson (trade), Raja Bell (free agency), Gordon Hayward (draft)
Lost : Kyle Korver (free agency), Ronnie Brewer (free agency), Carlos Boozer (free agency), Wesley Matthews

Philosophy : "Keep on keepin' on."

Lose one star player, replace him with another. It's just how this Jazz train keeps on a'rollin'. Utah scored Al Jefferson for relatively nothing and he replaces the exported Carlos Boozer quite well. The Jazz love that pick and roll and Jefferson should be able to team with Deron Williams to keep it at a high level. They also signed Raja Bell who is a pesky defensive player. However, losing Wesley Matthews stings a bit just because he was a rookie last year and appears to have a promising future ahead. But Utah just didn't want to pay the price tag to keep him.

Drafting Gordon Hayward certainly helps as he'll look to fill some of the void left by Matthews and Kyle Korver who signed with Chicago. This offseason was more of just scrambling to maintain in Utah and with the Jefferson deal, it looks like it should do that. A lot depends on the progression of Hayward because he'll see meaningful minutes, but the Jazz didn't let a mass exodus to Chicago burn down their walls.

Grade : B

Denver Nuggets

Added : Al Harrington (free agency), Shelden Williams (free agency), Brian Butch (free agency), George Karl's returned good health (hopefully)
Lost : Johan Petro (free agency), Malik Allen (free agency), Joey Graham (free agency)

Philosophy : "Staying good, but not great."

Denver is a team that feels like it's a piece away. Just one player to push them over the edge from good, competitive playoff team to great, actual contender team. So they signed Al Harrington. Is he that piece? Eh...

The reality is the Nuggets will be good. Their starting five has Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Harrington and Nene. That's pretty darn solid. Then instant offense with J.R. Smith off the bench, defense in Chris Andersen and quality players in Kenyon Martin and Ty Lawson. That's a pretty stout roster. But is that really good enough? This is clearly a 50-win team and it's destined for a top five seed in the West. But can it get to the Western Finals, which of course is the goal for a squad of this caliber? Again, eh...

Grade : C+

Portland Trail Blazers

Added : Luke Babbitt (draft), Eliot Williams (draft), Wesley Matthews (free agency), Marcus Camby (re-signed)
Lost : Martell Webster (trade), Juwan Howard (free agency), Travis Diener (free agency),

Philosophy : "Get right."

If there was a goal for the Blazers this offseason, it was simple. It wasn't to sign a big name or move up in the draft. It wasn't to restructure or make a big trade. It was just to get healthy.

Nobody dealt with the adversity Portland did last year. Greg Oden. Joel Pryzbilla. Brandon Roy. Nic Batum. Rudy Fernandez. All of those players missed at least some significant time because of an injury. And yet, the Blazers won 50 games and made the playoffs. That's... impressive.

But Portland didn't sit on its hands this summer. The Blazers re-signed Marcus Camby, who was huge for them down the stretch. The traded Martell Webster to grab Luke Babbitt, an extremely promising and gifted forward from Nevada. They inked Wesley Matthews to a big deal, who is someone that will give them a little scoring insurance and wing defender help. The turned over the front office and hopefully remedied any tense situations between ownership and management. Now there are talks they'll lose Fernandez who sees the logjam in the backcourt in Portland, but Matthews and Williams are worth replacements.

All in all, not a bad offseason for the Blazers. Is it enough to push ahead in the West? That depends on the factors that snuck up and bit them last year: health.

Grade : B+

Oklahoma City Thunder

Added : Cole Aldrich (trade/draft), Morris Peterson (trade), Royal Ivey (free agency), Daequan Cook (trade), Kevin Durant (contract extension)
Lost : Kevin Ollie (retirement), Etan Thomas (free agency), Kyle Weaver (waived)

Philosophy : "If you think it's good now, just wait until we grow up."

Most saw the Thunder's cap space and expected something. Something big. Something grand to take them from up-and-comer to favorite in the West. Maybe go grab Chris Bosh. Maybe make a run at Amar'e Stoudemire. Maybe flag down Carlos Boozer. Instead, Oklahoma City did what it does best: stuck to the plan.

Rather than blowing its extra cap room, OKC deferred to utilizing its assets to move up in the draft and fill a need from the ground up. This is a franchise that is absolutely committed to the long term and to player development. Most agreed the Thunder needed an tough, physical inside prescence to defend the paint and rebound. So what did they do? They went and got the best player at those two things in the draft in Cole Aldrich.

Another underrated move from OKC was acquiring Daequan Cook from Miami. The Heat were looking to dump any contract player to anyone to make room for basketball free agency apocolypse, so the Thunder got a former 3-point champ and shooting specialist at a discount price of a single second-round pick.

Oh, and one other thing: They signed Kevin Durant to a five-year extension. I'd say in terms of what the Thunder's goals were before the summer started and how it finished, they'd say mission accomplished.

Grade : B+

Minnesota Timberwolves

Added : Darko Milicic (re-signed), Michael Beasley (trade), Luke Ridnour (free agency), Delonte West (trade), Sebastian Telfair (trade), Lazar Hayward (draft), Kosta Koufos (trade), Martell Webster (trade), Wesley Johnson (draft),
Lost : Ramon Sessions (trade), Ryan Hollins (trade), Al Jefferson (trade), Delonte West (waived), Ryan Gomes (free agency), Damien Wilkins (free agency), Sasha Pavlovic (free agency), Brian Cardinal (free agency), Alando Tucket (waived), what remaining respect David Kahn had from media and fans of the NBA

Philosophy : "..."

Honestly, you know what David Kahn reminds me of a bit? Someone that likes playing fantasy football just so he can call other players, offer up deals, trade players and sign others off waivers. Sometimes it seems like Kahn makes moves just for the sake of not getting bored.

No one can determine a real plan from here. My best guess at what he's doing is trying to put together a roster Ricky Rubio likes and then build a team around that. That's all I can figure. They have a bunch of draft picks and some cap space, but those things aren't great when the man in charge doesn't know what to do with it.

What exactly is going on there though? What's the point of signing Sessions and then signing Ridnour just to trade Sessions? I don't get it. Basically Kahn traded a player he signed for $16 million for Sebastian Telfair. Huh? Then of course the Darko deal. What? Then drafting Wesley Johnson only to bring in a player via trade in Webster that plays the same position. Come again? Then trading Al Jefferson, the face of your franchise, for a couple draft picks. Excuse me?

There's just no rhyme or reason to all this right now. I have no idea what to grade it because I have no idea what the questions even are. Did they get better? I don't know. Did they get worse? I don't really know. Did they set themselves up for the future? I have no idea.

If Sam Presti and Daryl Morey are playing chess and everyone else is playing checkers, right now it looks like everyone else is playing checkers and David Kahn is playing duck-duck-goose.

Grade : D-
Posted on: July 28, 2010 8:29 am
 

Shootaround: 7.28.10

Posted by Royce Young
  • Oklahoma City will waive Kyle Weaver, reports Marc J. Spears . After the Thunder signed Royal Ivey, Weaver was in a tight spot. The roster was at 16 and Weaver just didn't have a role. Weaver is being released because his salary of $935,484 becomes guaranteed on Aug. 2 if he's still on the roster. He should be able to easily find work overseas if he can't land with an NBA team. According to Spears, Maccabi has already offered him a deal.
  • Shoals and Ziller have nine trade demands that nearly shook the foundation of the NBA , but didn't: "Not only did Barkley successfully demand a trade in 1992, but he lobbied for help all through the late '80s. Only an embarrassing season involving heavy doses of Hersey Hawkins and Armen Gilliam gave Sir Charles the political capital needed to enact change, which came in the form of a trade to the relatively loaded (but still imperfect) Suns. Barkley is one of the few pre-millennial stars to request a trade for on-court reasons; remembered more as a surly malcontent, doesn't Barkley instead represent the ideal of the perfectly hellbent-on-winning competitor?"
  • Team USA will make roster cuts today. As Chris Sheridan of ESPN says , he feels like there's some debate going on as to who to keep: "To me, this is a clear sign that there is an internal debate raging over which four players to cut. When I spoke to team director Jerry Colangelo after the Team USA intrasquad scrimmage Saturday night, he was adamant that the decision would be made Monday, and the roster would shrink to 15"
  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe says the Celtics need a few more pieces and lists Shaq, Delonte West and Roger Mason as options: "The speculation that hasn’t died down since the start of free agency revolves around Shaquille O’Neal’s interest in the Celtics. The 38-year-old center wants to play for a contender, and even though Ainge wouldn’t directly address the team’s interest in O’Neal, he said, 'we’ve had some discussions.'"
  • Coach Scott Brooks on the Sports Animal in Oklahoma City talking about Team USA participation leading to some tired legs: "It’s not going to be easy to win the gold. It’s going to take a lot of effort, a lot of energy, but our guys are young and they’re excited to play. They’re going to play basketball all year long. Kevin, I wanted him to take a couple of weeks off and he took two days off. ... There’s going to be a little bit of time where I’ll say 'OK, you guys gotta rest,' and maybe I can rest them a few days during that month of October, but it’s going to be like pulling teeth to get those guys to sit out of things." (Via Sports Radio Interviews )
Posted on: July 27, 2010 11:34 am
Edited on: July 27, 2010 11:36 am
 

What's actually in your food at the arena?

Posted by Royce Young

A report on Outside the Lines Monday looked in detail at stadium food and the vendors that serve it.  The report compiled inspection reports for 107 venues and the results were pretty interesting. Or maybe actually, disturbing.

For instance, remember how Ted Leonsis said he was going to take everything up a notch for the Wizards' home games to make fan experience as good as it can be? Well, maybe instead of urinal cup holders he should start with removing the mice droppings for his concession stands. One hundred percent of the vendors in the Verizon Center were found in criticial violation. Yikes.

Some of the worst scores in the NBA :
  • Utah Jazz: 50 percent found in critical violation (Hot dogs waiting to be served had dropped below safe temperatures at several locations)
  • San Antonio Spurs: 48 percent (Inspectors found 18 pounds of hot dogs that had expired more than 10 days prior.)
  • Dallas Mavericks: 40 percent (Expired milk, brown lettuce and employees caught drinking or eating while they were working in the stand accounted for some of the stadium's critical violations.)
  • Portland Trail Blazers: 53 percent (In a cooler, inspectors found raw meat and seafood stored above ready-to-eat tacos during a prior inspection.)
  • Charlotte Bobcats: 73 percent (At one location, inspectors found debris under a slicer blade and pulled three pans that needed to be cleaned again.)
  • New York Knicks 61 percent (At one stand, inspectors found "53 mouse excreta" including 38 on top of a metal box underneath the cash registers in the front food-prep/service area and 15 on top of a carbonated-beverage dispensing unit.)
  • Orlando Magic: 75 percent (At a location that sells fish, inspectors found potentially hazardous ready-to-eat food not consumed/sold within a week of opening/preparation.)
  • Miami Heat: 93 percent (Critical violations included several safety issues related to electrical wiring and such equipment as gas boilers.)
  • Denver Nuggets: 67 percent (At one bar, inspectors found phorid flies, sometimes called coffin flies, in a bottle of cognac.)
So who can't wait to take their family to a ballgame and have some nachos with a side of phorid flies? Me either!

Some of the best were the Bulls and Raptors who had a stellar zero percent found in critical violation, the Thunder, the Lakers and Clippers, the Cavs, the Rockets, the Grizzlies and the 76ers. All of those scored under 20 percent.

Nobody goes to a game thinking they're getting a five star meal. And every food establishment battles these issues. But regardless, it's eye-opening. Knowing that mice poo could be near your hot dog in Madison Square Garden or raw meat next to some tacos in Portland is a little disturbing. Well, scratch that. A lot disturbing.
Posted on: July 22, 2010 12:31 pm
 

Presti, Thunder agree to multi-year extension

Posted by Royce Young

In another brilliant move in no-brainerness, the Thunder have signed general manager Sam Presti to a multi-year extension.

Presti inks Durant to a long-term deal, Clay Bennett signs Presti to a long-term deal. Makes total sense.

Said Bennett in a release: “We are fortunate to have Sam leading our basketball organization. He is extremely committed to the growth of our franchise, of our players, and this community. He has helped build an identity for this organization that we can all be proud of. I look forward to our continued work together as we experience the challenges of creating sustainable success.”

Since taking over as GM four years ago, Presti has basically reconstructed the entire roster. The only player remaining that was on the team before Presti arrived is Nick Collison. Presti has drafted (or acquired draft rights of) eight of the Thunder's current roster players, signed two in free agency and traded for the other four.

Presti has said from day one since arriving in Seattle that his strategy was to build a group of players that can grow and mature together. He constantly preaches process and plan and can't go five minutes without talking about development. Presti is a GM that's truly ahead of the game and never lets outside sources influence his decisions. He's held on to Oklahoma City's cap space like grim death and honestly, there's no sign of him really using it any time soon.

And his process is working out. After winning just 20 games his first season in charge, then 24 the next, Presti's Thunder jumped to 50 last season and a playoff birth against the eventual champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Everyone praises the Thunder for their moves and for doing things right, but it honestly can't be that hard when you're just extended people like Kevin Durant and Sam Presti. Not too many people could really screw those moves up.

Posted on: July 22, 2010 8:16 am
 

Shootaround: 7.22.10

Posted by Royce Young
  • Brian T. Smith of The Columbian with an update on Rudy Fernandez: "Blazers are actively pursuing trade for Fernandez. Team is willing to keep Fernandez, though, and will not give him away for "free." Blazers feel that situation with Fernandez has come to a head. His continuing talk about possible move has team wanting to resolve situation. If Fernandez chooses to play elsewhere, Blazers could place him on suspended list. Team doesn't think it will come to that, though. Only way Fernandez is not on Blazers' roster at start of season is if he is traded. Team will not release him or "sell" his rights."
  • The Painted Area, one of the very best places for international basketball commentary, thinks the US is sn underdog in Turkey : "I'm certainly not counting out the U.S., but to me as of today, the signs point to Spain being the favorites to win gold, and extend a remarkable national sporting run including Rafael Nadal's Grand Slam titles, Pau Gasol's NBA championships, FIBA gold medals at the 2006 Worlds and 2009 EuroBasket plus silvers at the 2007 EuroBasket and 2008 Olympics, and football championships at the 2008 Euro and 2010 FIFA World Cup."
  • ESPN's ombudsman looks at The Decision : "ESPN can brush off concerns raised about "The Decision," but it does so at its own peril. A major component of ESPN's appeal -- a value the network has cultivated for three decades -- is that the audience trusts what it's watching. Viewers want to believe the network is treating them respectfully, openly, fairly and honestly. If not, why should they bother watching."
  • An interesting dilemma for Cleveland: Should the Cavs retire LeBron's number ? On the one hand, no way! How could anyone forgive him in Cleveland for what happened. But on the other, he's clearly the best player the franchise has ever had and led them to the most success they've had. I say no, but it's close. (via TrueHoop )
  • More on the Shaq to Atlanta situation from Hoopinion : "Shaq for $2 million next season makes far more sense than spending the MLE for X number of years on Shaq. Not that it's any more realistic than Joe Johnson agreeing to a 4-year, $60 million extension last Summer, but, hey, it's worth a shot."
  • Rony Seikaly - yes, that Rony Seikaly - has a single out . It's titled "Come With Me" and as Trey Kerby of Ball Don't Lie says, "That's certainly something."
Posted on: July 7, 2010 1:58 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 2:17 pm
 

Durant just does it different, in a good way

They finished one and two in the MVP voting last season. They finished one and two in scoring. They’re two of the game’s biggest stars, captains of their teams and the faces of their franchises. Yet, I don’t know if Kevin Durant and LeBron James could really be much more different.

One plans a one-hour TV special to tell people where he's going. The other quietly announces it on Twitter . Guess which one did which.

No lights. No cameras. No fanfare. Just a simple, humble announcement and a thank you. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the way LeBron is going about this, but there’s certainly something refreshing in the way KD did.

I even love the fact that Durant had a typo in his tweet. It was genuine and we know it came from him. Some PR specialist didn’t type that for him. He wrote it himself, and wrote it from the heart. Later, Durant followed up with this tweet :

First time i cried n a while..Seat Pleasant we #outchea , RIp Chucky, we doin wat we dreamed about..i swear i love all my bros!! yessir!!!

Seat Pleasant, Md. is his hometown. Chucky is for his AAU coach Charles Craig who was killed at the age of 35, which is the reason KD wears No. 35. Talk about keeping it all in perspective.

And not only that, but KD pledged his commitment to the Thunder by not insisting on a fourth-year opt-out clause. Most players take the opt-out. Heck, that’s what LeBron is using right now to play this free agency game. But Durant felt compelled to show loyalty to the Thunder because they showed it to him when they arrived on his door a minute after the negotiation period began.

Read that again. Durant chose not to put a clause in his contract that would likely have made him more money down the road, because he wanted to show appreciation to his franchise. Are we still talking about professional sports here? I mean, this is almost unprecedented. But that’s the thing, KD is different .

This is the guy that chose Nike over Adidas even though Adidas offered more money because he’d always worn Nike’s growing up and he said they just fit better. We’re talking about a guy that used to work the scorer’s table at UT during intramural games . We’re talking about a guy that attends his team’s draft in New York City just to show support. We talking about a guy that watches from the bench at summer league. Summer. League. Yesterday, OKC capped a 10-2 run to take the lead against Charlotte. The first off the bench giving high fives? Kevin Durant. We're talking about that kind of guy.

I just can’t help but find it slightly ironic that on a day LeBron tries to grab everyone’s attention with a one-hour television special , Kevin Durant completely upstages him by humbly announcing his extension with a typo on Twitter. Similar ability, different in personality I suppose.

You can try your darndest to win folks over with brilliant marketing and PR, but most times, genuine just wins out. KD didn’t expect this kind of reaction. It’s just who he is. And here’s to hoping, for the sake of sports fans everywhere that are tired of egos and greed, that KD never changes.

-Royce Young


Posted on: July 7, 2010 1:55 pm
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Posted on: July 7, 2010 11:08 am
Edited on: July 7, 2010 12:00 pm
 

Kevin Durant to sign five-year extension with OKC


Wouldn't you know it, right after Matt Moore writes about athletes controlling their own messages and announcements , Kevin Durant goes and alerts the world via Twitter of his extension. KD tweeted at about 9:40 a.m. CT :

"Exstension for 5 more years wit the #Thunder....God Is Great, me and my family came a long way...I love yall man forreal ."

And it didn't even take a one-hour special to do it.

Obviously Durant can't officially sign with Oklahoma City until July 8, and terms are not available right now, but I'm sure this was for nothing less than the maximum amount. (UPDATE : Reports are five years, $85 million.) Durant is the youngest scoring champ in NBA history, finished second in last season's MVP voting, led the youngest team in the league to 50 wins, scored 25 points or more in 29 consecutive games (only second to Michael Jordan in the modern era), nearly went 50-40-90 in percentages and is an all around swell person. Yeah, this was kind of a no-brainer.

Durant has been adamant about wanting to stay with the Thunder since last summer. Many questioned it, but as most should know by now, KD is an honest guy that's not out blowing smoke. He's not into playing games or using the media. He wanted to stay with the Thunder and he signed a long-term extension to prove it.

Also, as Marc Stein reports, KD's agent Aaron Goodwin said Durant didn't insist on an opt-out clause after the fourth year because he wanted to "respond to OKC's proactive offer with the fullest possible commitment." How's that for outstanding? Not only does Durant announce this in the most humble way possible, but he commits as much as he can to his franchise out of respect of their offer. KD is just a different breed of superstar man. 

The big question has been answered for the Thunder. The centerpiece is there for the next five years. Sam Presti is a great general manager, but this one didn't take a lot of genius to pull off. But now the focus turns to Jeff Green and his contract situation. Durant is in place, now where will the other long-term pieces fall around him?

-Royce Young


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com