Your Phoenix Suns
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Oklahoma City Thunder
|6:00PM Mountain / 8:00 PM Eastern|
|TV: My45 HD|
|Steve Nash||PG||Earl Watson |
|Raja Bell||SG||Damien Wilkins |
|Matt Barnes ||SF||Kevin Durant |
|Amare Stoudemire ||PF||Jeff Green |
|The Big Tweet||C||Nick Collison |
The best commendation I have for Oklahoma City is that it is actually in Oklahoma. I appreciate the logicality of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma like New York City, New York. That's way better than Kansas City, which is in Missouri. Although it may seem boring and redundant, at least it's not Miami, Ohio or Brazil, Indiana or Paris, Texas or some other re-used but out-of-place city name. It also doesn't end in "ton", "ford," "ville" or "port" like all those cities on the East Coast.
I have a vague sense of hate for the Thunder that has nothing to do with the players on the team or the wicked deals Sam "Spurs Jr" Presti has made to the detriment of the Suns. I even like the team name. It's really unfair, but there it is.
Let's not pretend. Oklahoma City sold it's soul for a strap-on. Instead of starting fresh with its own team, the stole someone else's team, hawked all its assets for a pocket full of promises such are draft picks, dressed it up in new clothes and pretended it was their own. The heap of condemnation falls on the dishonest OKC owners, on David Stern, but also lands a bit on the complicit owners of all the other NBA teams which see value in holding cities and taxpayers at ransom. The heap does not miss the eager and welcoming arms of fans who look past all this in an effort to legitimize their city with the whitewash of professional sports teams. May they take the Arizona Cardinals too.
Okay, with that diatribe out the way, let's discuss the game... =)
The Thunder come into the game with an odious 1-13 record and with a new head coach, Scott Brooks taking over for recently fired PJ Carlesimo. Under PJ, the team had been blown out, seemingly at will. Brooks has reshuffled the line-up to add greater scoring punch and moved Durant to SF, the position he played in college. Brooks has a heavy load to train all of these rookies not only to be good NBA players, but to be winners. Check out more analysis on this from Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus, here. (Thanks to Joe at Thunderguru.com)
This is probably the youngest team in the NBA and Sam Presti has stockpiled a large number of draft picks for the future. In some ways, the masterful GM has achieved a more fresh start than a new franchise would have in an expansion draft. In an expansion draft, a new franchise would pick up seasoned players from the rosters of other teams and then build up slowly through draft picks over the years. Presti instead divested the team of its seasoned assets and has 4 rookies, two second year players and a third year player. The veterans are Joe Smith (13 years), Desmond Mason (8 years), Earl Watson (7 years), Chris Wilcox (6 years) and Nick Collison (5 years). Only two seasoned vets, Earl Watson and Nick Collison, make the starting lineup, although Chris Wilcox off-the-bench is not chopped liver.
It will be interesting to see if Presti is able to cash in on all that Potentiality and get some actuality or if the momentum dissipates at the critical moment of fulfillment, as was the tragic case of the Chicago Bulls a few years ago. People will be watching both the Blazers, Grizz and Thunder to see if these teams can convert picks into wins. No matter what, Thunder fans can rest easy knowing they have a committed owner, a smart GM and lots of talent for the future.
And despite the title and tone of this thread, this is still an NBA game with no guarantees that the Suns will win at Ford Center. The worst thing the team can do is take the fan approach here and presume we have this one, given the youth and the record of the Thunder. I hope the Suns are hungry tonight and treats the game with the respect it deserves, plays hard and gets the George W. I want to see crisp execution, a crushing margin of victory and lots of playing time for the bench.
We had the great opportunity to interview Joe the Thunder Guru. His coverage of the game is here. He is a transplanted Sonics fan and has some awesome and interesting insights on the Thunder and on his experience as a fan. Overall, the fans in OKC seem like really good ones, just like they were for the Hornets.
With NBA attendance down this year, how is the attendance at Oklahoma City? How hip is it for locals to be at a professional sports game?
In all fairness, I don't know. I moved away from Seattle years ago, and I don't live in OKC. I've been following my team from afar for years, so it's not terribly different for me to follow them in OKC. That being said, despite the overall downturn in attendance, OKC is third in attendance in the NBA at the Ford Center with 148,444 so far this season. All of the season tickets have been sold out since the opening week they were offered. The team held back a few thousand tickets for promos and game day sales etc.. Of those, not all have sold. There have been 1000 or so tickets available for a few games thus far, but over half have been complete sell outs so far I believe.
My contacts in OKC tell me that it's very popular, and that it is a good experience at the Ford. I've also heard that some of the pregame activities are kind of lame, and there really isn't much to do until the game starts. On Friday's and Saturday's home, back to back against the Hornets (Friday in OKC on ESPN) and Saturday at the Hive, the seats were full at the Ford Center, yet there looked to be thousands of empty seats at the Hive...of course, it was the Thunder playing the Hornets. Take that for what it's worth.
What do you think about the recent coaching change? What is Scott Brooks bringing to the table that PJ could not? Why couldn't the highly respected PJ make this thing work?
First and foremost Brooks brings a little credibility and relevance to the table. He was a player in this modern era (albeit in the short shorts old school sort of way). The guy played with Barkley and Olajuwan, and played for Rudy T and George Karl. He's only 43, so he's not some old guy who the players can't relate to. Secondly, Brooks is a bonafide NBA coaching prospect. He had a second interview with Sacto two years ago, and was the runner up to Reggie Theus in the hiring process. Players talk and players read, they know these things. As compared to P.J. there is quite a bit of difference. P.J. never played at this level, and he is a screamer (remember Latrell Sprewell). There was an article in the Seattle papers last year where the players had a term for P.J.'s screaming at them, they called it "getting P.J.'d".
As far as coaching style, based on only one game, it appears that Brooks is going to slow it down a bit. Coach P.J. was using assistant coach Paul Westhead's "guru of go" offense. It's somehow similar to the 7SOL, but I'm not 100% sure of the difference. Essentially run, run and run some more. It was sort of duck and chuck as far as I am concerned.
We were playing at the third fastest pace in the NBA at 96 possessions/48; right behind New York and Golden State. Our team may have some young guys, but we are a terrible jump shooting team. We weren't built for that, and so this thing never got off the ground. In the first game of the Brooks era Saturday night, we had our highest FG% of the season, our highest offensive rating, tied for our second highest scoring output, all this while slowing it down to 86 possessions/48, our slowest of the season.
In doing so we forced the Hornets to keep all their starters in until the end, at the Hive. I know coach Scott didn't want to have to play Chris Paul 40 minutes against the Thunder. Quite a difference after being behind by 30 points or more in like five of the 30 games under P.J.. That's a moral victory for a team this offensively inept. The early impression of the Brooks era is heavy emphasis on spacing, ball movement, getting to the cup and better, closer shots at the rim. I didn't see us double team David West in the post at all.
A lot of people thought spending the 4th pick on Russell Westbrook was a mistake. On the other hand, a lot of people think Sam Presti is pretty smart. What's your early take on the Westbrook pick?
He's quite a specimen. Physically, he looks a lot like former Sonic Antonio Daniels, but style of play separates the two. RW is super quick and an incredible leaper, and all things being equal, he loves to drive to the rim better than just about anything. When he is going to the rim, few can stop him. I bet there aren't a handful of people in the NBA that can stay in front of him.
Unfortunately, he has some trouble finishing. At this writing he is shooting a lowly .319 from the field, and .269 from deep. His finishing around the rim is a work in progress. He expends so much effort in getting to the rim, he winds up trying to lay up some weird off balance thing and it doesn't drop as much as we would like. His jumpshooting is well….like a lot of the rest of the Thunder, stinky. I think he probably leads the team in airballs.
His defense is fantastic. He really gets a charge out of locking down the other guy. He's going to be a fantastic rebounder in this league. He's second on the team amongst rotation players in offensive rebounds, in only 25 minutes per night. He leads the team in steals at 1.5 per. The other night in Brook's first coached game, was the first night I actually saw RW play like a real point guard. He was probing the interior, finding the open man, getting the ball to the shooters in the right spots etc. He had 11 assists, and 9 in the first half.
It would have benefited this team more probably to have O.J.Mayo at this spot, but he was gone at 3, so you really can't say what if. However, I think that Westbrook may be a star if he gets his shooting straightened out. He has all the potential to be the next Gary Payton, but a lot of players have potential. Realizing that potential is the hard part.
Although you must be pleased to have an NBA team, how do you feel about the process of getting the sonics franchise and about the ownership's moves in getting the team to OKC?
Again, I am not an OKC guy, but I have a few new friends there, and I was a Seattle guy, so I can see the issue from both sides. For Seattle, it really sucks. The fans in Seattle were thrown under the bus by the political machine in Washington, Seattle, and King County. The taxpayers have financed a new football stadium and baseball stadium both in the last 5-10 years.
When Clay Bennett bought the team, he said all the right things until he laid out his proposal to get the taxpayers to fork over 500 million, without a significant contribution by him. That went over like a turd in a punchbowl as you can imagine. The voters as a whole moved the process to a point where the Legislature wouldn't even allow the funding to come up for a vote. Bennett had his out, and moved the team. You will never even get the rational thinking fans in OKC to deny that this was probably his intention all along. David Stern should be ashamed of himself for allowing this to happen. He should have been man enough to force a better conclusion than the vacancy of the 14th largest sports market, for the 41st. Be that as it may, the people that got screwed were the fans who supported the team for 41 seasons. The new found fans are rightfully happy to have a new team. OKC sports up to this point started and ended with OU sports, and this is a great addition.
Personally, I separated myself from the process before it got ugly. It's still my team that I've followed since the Bernie Bickestaff days, and I don't let the politicians or the Millionaires dampen my love of team, regardless of geography or uniform color.
If you could rename the franchise, what name would you prefer?
Uhhmmm. Based on our shooting, how about the OKC bricklayers?
Finally, here is some important scouting information for the game at the Ford Center: