Whats Next In OKC ?

okc

By Stefan Anderson

After helping the Thunder to 338 wins that included a trip to the NBA Finals, 3 conferences championship appearances and winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year honor, Scott Brooks was dismissed as the Oklahoma City play caller this afternoon.

The Thunder are now faced with a dilemma on many ends including seeking their head coach. With Russell Westbrook showing that he can be a superstar, does OKC take their chance to fight with other teams for the services of the reigning MVP Kevin Durant. More importantly, “Loud City” has to figure who is going to make their team gel and help propel that talented roster to the next level.

Here are some coach choices Oklahoma City could choose from:

The first two choices put out there is Kevin Ollie of the University of Connecticut, who played for OKC in his final years in the NBA and built a great relationship with Kevin Durant and could relate well to the roster. Also, Billy Donavan of the University of Florida, who has shown his coaching ability with his back-to-back National Championship and has flirted with the thought of the NBA for the past seasons. Donavan could be a great fit but will be a hard transition to coaching a great amount of talent those OKC possesses in a tough Western Conference.

But there are some other coaches that could make things interesting for the Thunder:

Mark Jackson: The former Golden State Warrior coach, who has now reverted back into the broadcasting, would be a great leader for OKC. Jackson instilled that culture of Golden State and brought that roster together that has now transformed into the league’s best team. The ESPN analyst could help bring the Thunder to that next level similar to what Steve Kerr did with his Warriors roster.

Stan Van Gundy:  Another coach turned broadcaster, Stan Van Gundy would be ideal for OKC as he has the tough mindset that his teams have already displayed with his teams in prior years (New York Knicks and Houston Rockets).  SVG could help with the progression of big men like Ibaka, Adams and Kanter, while handling a proflic scorer like Durant or Westbrook and combine the talents to make the Thunder reign supreme again.

Mike” D’Antoni: The high pace scoring and offensive guru could really fit the Thunder’s needs to offensively, imagine Russell Westbrook having the keys to D’Antoni offense, scary if you ask me.  It gives Durant the space needed to score from wherever he wants offensively and helps guys like Anthony Morrow become a standout shooter and Serge Ibaka to become a ferocious finisher. OKC already plays great defense but if he had an offensive assault that D’Antoni’s offense provides that could be a hand and glove fit for them.

Other coaches that could fall in the job search would be Brian Shaw, Mike Woodson, P.J Carlesimo, Doug Collins and with the questioning of Tom Thibodeau in Chicago he could also end up in the search for OKC’s vacant spot. Regardless of who takes the position, they will inherit a team with two of the top ten players and an plenty of talent that could end up as a championship team.

Beasts of The East

easternBy Jazmine August

The time has finally come. From Derrick Rose playing in his first playoff game since 2011 to Lebron James attempting to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy home to Ohio for the first time in NBA history; the 2015 NBA Playoffs kick off this Saturday at noon and this year’s post-season surely won’t disappoint. Before anyone can hoist the trophy they have to make it out the first round, so let’s get into Eastern Conference matchups and predictions.

(1)Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

Despite popular belief this won’t be an easy matchup for the Atlanta Hawks. We may see the emergence of the old Joe Johnson in front of his former home crown in the Phillips Arena. Despite the Hawks having the second best record in the league and finishing the season with a franchise record 60 wins, they have trended down since the All Star break. With the loss of Thabo Sepholosha (out for the season with a broken leg), there defensive strength has dropped considerably. On the contrary, Brooklyn has finished the season strong with Brook Lopez being named Eastern Conference Player of the week two weeks in a row and Deron Williams appearing to have turned back the hands of time to his Utah days. I believe this matchup will be more exciting than we anticipate but in the end the Hawks will pull it off and advance to the second round.

Prediction: Hawks in 6

(2)Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics

Just when you thought Lebron James made the wrong decision in returning back home, the Cavaliers acquire Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith and go 34-9 to finish the season. By securing the second seed in East, the Cavs will have home-court advantage over the young Boston Celtics. This Celtics team has had an amazing end to their season and after acquiring Isaiah Thomas from the Phoenix Suns has put together a successful playoff push. Unfortunately, for the Celtics they will have to face The King in the first round, who will finish this battle victorious and continue his quest for a third ring.

Prediction: Cavs in 5

(3)Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks

For the first time since the start of the season, the Chicago Bulls starting five will all be healthy and eligible to play after a season riddled with injury. With the return of Derrick Rose and swingman Jimmy Butler, the Bulls have made themselves an honorable mention in the race to the Finals but let’s not completely count out Jason Kidd’s Bucks. The Bucks have held the 6th spot pretty much all season and Kidd has done an amazing job with a young and inexperienced team; it is possible for this team to win two games in this series. However, Chicago is too big, too strong and too hungry; they will advance to the second round.

Prediction: Bulls in 6

(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards

Easily the most enticing matchup in the Eastern Conference first round; the Toronto Raptors will face the Washington Wizards. Both teams have not been very impressive down the stretch, with Wizards posting a below .500 record since the All Star Break. However, the Wizards have significant advantage when it comes to size with Gortat, Nene and Gooden all having the ability to get offensive and defensive rebounds. The Raptors have the advantage when it comes to depth, with the potential 6th man of the year Lou Williams coming off the bench. These two teams are pretty evenly matched with great qualities and weakening flaws. The outcome of this series will really come down to the X-Factors, Kyle Lowry for the Raptors and Paul Pierce for the Wizards. This matchup is really a toss-up for me but I’m going to ride with the higher seeded Raptors to pull off the win.

Prediction: Toronto in 7

Wild Wild West

western

By Stefan Anderson

The Playoffs are here and the Western Conference is an all-around juggernaut with great games in each matchup. Let’s take a look and make predictions on the Wild Wild West.

(1)    Warriors vs. (8) Pelicans : Many might highlight the huge game winner over the Thunder, but the April 7thwin over the Warriors is what helped New Orleans reach that 8th seed in the Western Conference.

Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis stated “We look at ourselves as an elite team. We feel like we can play with anybody and we can beat anybody on any given night”. New Orleans will have that same character to complete a first round upset over the Warriors. But Golden State has the best team in and has an abundance of styles they can play with.

The fear of the Warriors high pace game to slow down with the playoffs is their biggest worry but their depth can solve that solution easily. The Pelicans bring a physical style but can move with small ball as well, and can compete with Golden State  most nights if they can contain them under 100 points.

Overall, it’s going to be a tough feat for the Pelicans therefore, I am going with Golden State in 6.

(2)    Rockets vs. (7) Mavericks: After surviving the toughest division in the NBA on top, the Southwest, and The Houston Rockets have to face their first test, the battle tested Mavericks in a Texas showdown.

The Rockets have been impressive all season without their defensive anchor in all-star Dwight Howard, but it will be interesting to see how they respond to the former DPOY’s return.

With the loss of Patrick Beverly, this could be the perfect opportunity for the underachieving Rajon Rondo to have his redemption against the aging Pablo Prigioni and Jason Terry.

I look for the Rockets to feature Harden at the 1 in a lineup alongside Brewer, Ariza, Smith and Howard that could present problems on both ends of the floor for the Mavs.

Overall, I think Houston has more firepower than Dallas and scrapes away this series in a 7th game win.

(3)    Clippers vs. (6) Spurs: For the LA Clippers their window of the opportunity is closing in on them and have put the pressure on themselves but one thing is the way, The Spurs. San Antonio who has been on cruise control the entire season and fret about the window of opportunity closing .

To fear the Spurs is understatement, because you can never expect less than a hard fought series out of the defending champs. The Clippers on the other hand have yet find playoff success since the resurgence of the franchise a few season ago. LA will have to find offensive output from their role players like Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick which is asking a lot.

With the health of Tiago Splitter in question, DJ and Blake Griffin can take the battle down low that will extend the series a game or two, or possibly taking the series.

Overall, I would be crazy to bet against San Antonio, which is the reason why I am taking them in 6.

(4) Blazers vs. (5) Grizzlies: The heart of the West always collides in the 4-5 series and this year is no different. The Grizzlies grinded their way into another playoff spot and will have to face the great play of Portland. This matchup is going to heavyweight bout between the two, with the battle of the bigs Gasol/Randolph versus Aldrige/Lopez and not to mention guards Lillard and Conley fighting to make their conversation amongst the elite point guards in the league.

But the key to the series is the wings for each team, Portland has Affalo, Batum and off the bench McCollum and Blake, while Memphis features Allen and Green with Vince Carter and Courtney Lee off the bench. The key each to team to gain the edge amongst each other it will come from these players.

Overall, this is going to be a hard fought battle that goes to the Grizzlies in Game 7. I think Memphis grinds their way past Rip City.

Looking Ahead

futureBy Stefan Anderson

The 2014-2015 NBA Season is coming to abrupt ending, and 16 teams are gearing up for the postseason but there are other teams looking to expand on their progression this off-season. Like we have seen in teams like the Thunder, Wizards and Raptors, these are teams are on cusp of becoming the next franchises to make noise in the association. Let’s take a look at the budding talent arising for the upcoming season.

Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks have already made the biggest step into the future this season, hence their social media tag #OwnTheFuture and at the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference the skies are the limit.  The wisdom of Jason Kidd was best suited for this young roster who accepts the knowledge of Kidd unlike the mature Nets did last season.  With glue guys like Zaza Pachulia, Jared Dudley and Khris Middleton, Milwaukee has the right mix of players to go alongside their young talent of Michael Carter Williams, Giannis Antetokounmpo.  Not to mention how good they can become when their top draft pick, Jabari Parker returns. With the great cast of characters, the Bucks will continue to remain amongst the best as they long as they keep the same team together.

Orlando Magic: The Magic have stayed at the bottom of the NBA’s totem pole since the departure of Dwight Howard, but after their years remaining at the bottom it appears that success will be in the near future for the Magic. It will all start after the Magic find the appropriate leader to propel them to the next level from the bench. On the floor, it is looking very promising with steady improvements of Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic, but the ceiling for Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon is what makes its scary for the league. Orlando will be in the lottery once again and could put together a great team filled with young talent that can fight its way to the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Minnesota Timberwolves: After trading away their former All-Star Kevin Love, the T-Wolves found their answer with the acquisition of Andrew Wiggins.  Wiggins has shown that he is in fact the next great shooting guard the league has to look out for. Minnesota brought back their former leader in Kevin Garnett to be a mentor for the young talents like Ricky Rubio, Adrien Payne, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad who have all shown the great improvements this season will all be needed for the Wolves to make that next step. Pending their upcoming lottery draft pick, Minnesota will have a good amount of talent to attempt to steal one of the bottom seeds in the West.

Utah Jazz: The Jazz have been able to assemble talent through the draft because of their inability to gather talent through Free Agency. The Jazz have found a gem in Rudy Gobert, the center who gives Utah a prominent rim protector an makes life easier defensively. But their major issue is offensively where they lack with players like Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward, great players but  do not possess consistency to give that offense output needed on a nightly basis. If those two along with whoever they acquire in the offseason can boost their offense, the Jazz will be back in the mix for the first time in years.

Will The Thunder Light up The Playoffs?

By: Jazmine August

Uncomfortably holding the 9th seed in the Western Conference Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves in a position far from the 2012 season when they were crowned Western Conference champs and went on to face Lebron James & the Miami Heat in the Finals. Unfortunately, their season has been a rollercoaster ride riddled with injury ; both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were out during the start of the season; Westbrook with a fractured right hand and Durant with a Jones fracture to the foot , along with 5 reserves being out at the same time.

After struggling during the first half of the season, things started to turn around after a 3-team trade that sent Reggie Jackson to the Pistons and Kendrick Perkins to the Utah Jazz (subsequently traded to Cavs) . In return, the Thunder received D.J. Augustin, Enes Kanter, Steve Novak, Kyle Singler and Deion Waiters.  The chemistry seemed almost instantaneous between the newest members of the team and soon after Russell Westbrook went on a legendary run. Since the All-Star break, Russell Westbrook has had 11 triple doubles and with his 54 point performance in Sunday’s, has passed James Harden for this season’s scoring title. Playing at a MVP caliber level, Russell Westbrook has willed his team to this point. It is only one thing standing in the way, the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans have had an outstanding season, with their star player Anthony Davis making a strong case that he is one of the Top 5 players in the NBA; averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds. New Orleans currently clings to the 8th seed in the Western Conference and holds the tie breaker over the Thunder. OKC’s roller coaster ride will come down to the 82nd and final game of the season and a loss by the Pelicans to the defending champion Spurs; to keep their post-season hopes alive. My gut tells me the “basketball Gods” will be on Russell Westbrook’s side and Round 1 of NBA Playoffs will look something like OKC vs. Golden State. Seven games. Winner takes all.

One For The Ages

national chip

By Stefan Anderson

The 2015 NCAA Men’s basketball final was the most compelling final that I have seen since the infamous Memphis meltdown/Kansas comeback in 2008, for many reasons as the game showcased this evening.

Who’s the best big man in the Country? Frank Kaminsky versus Jahlil Okafor Part II, went in favor of “the Tank” similar to the Player of the Year award.  Kaminsky lived up to the praise that has been given to the upperclassmen finishing with 21 points and 12 rebounds against the Chicago native.  The Wisconsin senior exposed the holes in the potential lottery pick’s game by drawing him out to the perimeter while using his array of post moves to keep Okafor off the floor with foul trouble and controlling the paint throughout the night.

Guard Play: Although Wisconsin got his win in the post, their guard play could not contain the play of the blossoming Grayson Allen and the poised Tyus Jones. The Apple Valley, Minnesota product put together another tough outing against Wisconsin again. In the previous meeting, Jones exploded for 22 points, 4 assists and six rebounds and concluded his freshman season with 23 points that included 2 huge three pointers and a perfect 7-7 from behind the stripe. Duke’s guards combined to outscore Wisconsin guards 45-12.

One Shining Moment: After the departure of senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon ,due to disciplinary actions, Duke went on an astonishing 18 out of 19 en route to sweeping up the National Championship. The loss of Sulaimon also made Coach K and company transition to a 8-man rotation that offered Matt Jones, Marshall Plumee and Grayson Allen to have more defiant roles on the roster.  Allen made the most of his opportunity showing that the future of Duke will be secure with him at the helm. Down 9 with no offensive output from his Blue Devils teamates, the freshman engineered an 8-0 run that brought Duke within 4 for fellow diaper dandy Tyus Jones to take over.

The Glue Guys: With Okafor and Winslow on the bench with foul trouble players like Matt Jones and the unsung hero Amile Jefferson , who stats will not show on the box score, made all the glue plays that gave Duke their first championship since 2010.The defensive pressure of the Blue Devils were the cause of holding one of the 2015 tournament’s invigorating players Sam Dekker to 12 points on a tough 6-15 attempts.

Fairy Tale Ending: Fresh off a first round exit to Mercer in the 2014 tournament, Coach K went and coached a group of players for the USA’s World Championship team that have propelled MVP candidates Stephen Curry, James Harden and Anthony Davis, while inspiring the progression of players like Klay Thompson, Demar Derozan and Demarcus Cousins. Then following with the challenge of coaching a youthful roster that included four new freshmen and combine them with the leadership of Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson.  On the way to introducing to conquering the 1,000 win accolade, the Duke Head Coach had to face a lot of great opponents in non-conference play and in ACC play, which set the Blue Devils to be poised when facing adversity come tournament time. Now that Coach K has received his fifth national championship, he has put himself of a class of his own as the only NCAA Men’s head coach with 5 titles only trailing the great John Wooden, who has ten.  The Army grad has now made his already impressive resume look better as he finished his 2015 season in the way possible.

Duke and Wisconsin in the National Championship a Worthy Sequel

Duke v Wisconsin

By Aaron Hampton

Saturday’s Final Four match-ups have come and gone, and the field of 68 has finally been whittled down to just two as Duke and Wisconsin square off to decide a national champion on Monday night.  While certainly not the marquee match-up of Duke and Kentucky that most were clamoring for, Monday’s championship game promises to an exciting match-up between two of the best and most efficient teams college basketball has to offer this season.  Look no further than the December clash between the teams in the Big 10/ACC Challenge for evidence of what Monday night promises to be.

That winter night saw Duke hand Wisconsin their first loss of the season 80-70 on the strength of a herculean effort by Tyus Jones, who went for 22 in that meeting. Both teams knew back then that there was a chance they could meet late in March when the stakes are much higher, whoever neither would have predicted an April rematch in the national championship, which poses an entirely unique perspective on this match-up.

“It’s the national championship game, so you can’t look at it as we’ve played them already,” spoke Jones.  “Both teams have grown a lot.. They’re a better team than they were in December and I feel that we’re a better team as well,” he would go on to add.

The sentiment is the same for Badgers as well, who openly admit that they were not playing their best basketball in December, but will walk into Indianapolis on Monday just as battle-tested as their ACC counterparts.

“That was our first loss, so it was in a moment to where we’re like, we’ve been in those moments more now,” remarked Nigel Hayes after the Badgers stunned then-undefeated Kentucky. “We’ve been in games where we’ve been down.  We’ve been in pressure environments against great teams, so it’s going to be exciting.”

But just how different are current iterations of Duke and Wisconsin?  Back when both these teams met in December, the since dismissed Rasheed Sulamion was still a valuable contributor to the Blue Devils, and Traveon Jackson was still getting the starters share of minutes for the Badgers.  So while some of the cast and their roles on each team may have change,  What has remained constant is the efficient, cerebral, and ultimately unselfish way both teams go about their business on the court.

“Both offenses are geared to anybody stepping up. We both have very unselfish teams,” described Mike Krzyzewski, who will look to notch his fifth national championship on Monday night. “I think we’re both geared that if someone’s having a night, we’ll go to that guy.”

That equal opportunity approach has led to guys like Sam Dekker and Justise Winslow becoming household names outside of the shadows of names like Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor. Both have seen their stocks rise tremendously with their performances in the tournament,  with Winslow averaging 15.1 points per game and a shade under 10 rebounds, and Dekker averaging 20.1 points per game and boasting late game heroics described as “phenomenal” by Mike Krzyzewski.

Curiously enough, when they played each other in December each underwhelmed by scoring only five points.  While it certainly won’t be the determining factor in Monday’s game, whoever is closer to their current run of form than the model they displayed during the winter, that match-up should be a good barometer of which way the match swings.

All in all, Monday night’s championship game is shaping up to be one of the better title games in recent memory with so many plot lines to choose from.  Two all-time great coaches matching wits against each other in Bo Ryan and Mike Krzyzewski, two of the games best big man battling it out against each other in Kaminsky and Okafor, and two teams who endured the gauntlet of March Madness and stand one win away from history.

“We both have earned it to get here.  Their road and our road has been a difficult one,” said Coach K.  After a brief pit stop in December, the road ends Monday night in Indianapolis.