Am I Wrong ?

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By Stefan Anderson

The annual free agency period normally creates a domino effect, where the biggest star on the market garners the attention of his desired team, then all of the remaining options follow suit. This year’s was a bit different–more like a complicated game of dominoes. Each team made its moves and the important piece, Kevin Durant, put his block on the game with his signing with the Golden State Warriors.

Durant joins the historic Golden State Warriors after they fell to Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. Similar to James in 2010, Durant is leaving his beloved Oklahoma City to chase the Larry O’Brien trophy.  In his short career, the Texas product has earned an MVP trophy, multiple scoring titles and Olympic gold medals but still lacks the most important piece to his resume, an NBA championship.

The 2013-14 MVP has been ridiculed for making his decision to join a team that just won 73 games, was a game away from earning their second consecutive championship– a team that his former team the Thunder, was one game away from beating as well. Since 2012, when the Thunder were defeated in the Finals by another super team, the Miami Heat, they have seen the Western Conference Finals twice and been knocked off both times.

Boston’s big three in 2008, the team that birthed this new era of super teams was formulated after Kevin Garnett, the Wolves’ biggest star to date, and Sonics standout Ray Allen forced a trade out of their respective teams and gathered savvy vets to help them meet their goal of winning a championship for Boston. When Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh teamed up to form the Heatles, it was for the same goal and they accomplished it twice. The lament for Durant can be understood. Ultimately he made the best basketball decision for himself as he stated in his Players Tribune essay.

If you look at it from a larger scale ,each of the last 10 champions in the NBA have all had 2-3 potential Hall of Famers and/or great supporting casts. A special consideration to Cleveland and Golden State because we cannot project where Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving will finish, but they will all have a pretty good shot at it.

San Antonio (2014), Miami (2013, 2012), Dallas (2011), LA Lakers (2010, 2009), Boston(2008), San Antonio (2007), Miami (2006).

After looking at those rosters, look how many of the same teams were formed because great players understand that after battling for so many years and not achieving the ultimate goal of winning the NBA Finals, you have join another team to do so. Elder fans scream “Barkley would never have teamed up with Jordan,” but  he did team up Hakeem and Clyde after losing year after year to them.  They say “Magic would never join Bird,” but fail to reference the other teams that won during the 80’s like the Philadelphia 76ers with two NBA MVP’s and the Bad Boy Pistons that collected a ton of Hall-of-Famers on their roster, to dethrone the alpha-dogs, Lakers and Celtics. Also see these Lakers and Celtics.

The Warriors were organically grown into their position, by drafting their core players, by being bad for many years to now climbing out the bottom of the West and becoming a powerhouse. A star like Durant, who is still in his prime after bringing Oklahoma City up from the pits to contender, has been through the struggle and contemplates if they are able to reach that place again in OKC. Rather than pondering that decision, Durant now is in contention for the prized possession. In the current NBA, we often see players as free agents make the choice to get paid the amount desired or play for what they most desire. Kevin Durant made the decision to play for what he most desired.

Thunder in Oklahoma City

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By Stefan Anderson

It was all good just a week ago, well maybe a few weeks ago.

Prior to the All-Star break the Oklahoma City Thunder were rolling through teams, gathering wins in seven of its eight games during the stretch, and showing they are amongst the elite of the NBA. It has been a different story as of late for OKC , losing its last six of eight games heading into a downward spiral heading into the latter part of the season. But what has caused the Thunder to come falling down ?

The second ranked offensive team has struggled to complete games due to their inconsistencies of lineups have led the Thunder to fall out of the discussion of the top teams and one game from losing their 3rd place standing in the Western Conference.

OKC’s lineup has two gaps in the shooting guard and center position.

Since James Harden was sent to Houston, the Thunder has yet to find a solution at the two spot.  Andre Roberson has shouldered the load due his defense prowess but offensively just allows teams to help on drives and trap the teams prolific scorers, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Dion Waiters appeared to be a solution for a brief stint , but his streaky shooting has given Coach Billy Donavon and fellow teammates headaches. Although OKC traded for Randy Foye at the trade deadline, Foye has yet to find his niche amongst his new roster.

Why not give a proven shooter an opportunity? Anthony Morrow has been known to be less of a defender than a Roberson, but has a better offensive skill set than Roberson and with Waiters giving the Thunder a -5.7 rating while on the court and not to mention his current 24/68 shooting slump over the past  few games. I think Morrow makes a good fill-in for Thunder.

Also, Steven Adams gives solid minutes each night as a starter we practically ever seen their $70 million dollar signee, Enes Kanter,when it matters.  Kanter gives the Thunder another scorer when the possessions are closer allows another option for Durant and Westbrook to make more plays.

During the limited minutes experienced the lineup of Westbrook, Morrow, Durant, Ibaka and Kanter has been a plus in the majority of categories including points and field goal efficiency.  I am aware that the two players listed are not adept defenders but they Thunder have not been able to come up with stops with better defenders on the floor and cannot gain points either.

In their recent fourth quarter debacles, the Thunder have reverted to their old offensively ways of Durant/Westbrook isolate and score.  The two are in the top ten in isolation possessions this season, with Durant in 6th with 220 and Westbrook in 8th with 199, but have taken nearly half of their team’s shots during the final period.

For example:

  • In their loss to Indiana: Durant and Westbrook combined for 9-21 shots taken in the 4th.
  • Loss to vs New Orleans , 16-24
  • Loss to Golden State, 13-24
  • Loss to LA Clippers , 11-20
  • Loss to Golden State, 11-20

That ball stopping offense cannot help them win as it has been proven these past two weeks. The lineup change could be what they are looking with the recent slide. The Thunder are one of the best teams in the NBA, but will fall short again if they cannot figure out to close out games.

Whats Next In OKC ?

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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.

Love Is Stronger Than Pride

 

By Stefan Anderson

In 1992, when FIBA allowed professional players to participate in the Olympic competition the United States have always decided to assemble the greatest rosters known to man on their Men’s National Team. The United States later seen their fate in the 2004 Olympics, where the roster they put together looked inferior to its international competitors. Ultimately the Men’s national team left Greece with a bronze medal, walking away with an Olympic gold medal for the 3rd time in their illustrious history.

The bronze medal affected the stars of the NBA and brought their attention back to international competition as Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, LeBron James and company all signed to compete in the 2008 Olympics to help “redeem” the United States pride and bring the gold back to their native country.  They did just so and with the opportunity to play along the best competition in the NBA and under legendary Coach K, players are honored to join the national team again.

In a friendly, Blue versus White competition between the USA’s prospects, the attitude for the Men’s national team changes. One of the rising stars and premier players of the NBA, Paul George suffered a tragic injury, shown above.  Not only players, but the brass of each organization are now speculating if they are going to let their star and prized franchise players continue to compete in international games in the future.

George’s injury could be a freak accident and could happen anytime you step on a court; it still makes many conscious about the situation. Mark Cuban, one of the most outspoken people in the NBA, of course has his opinion about what he thinks about international competition and NBA players in it. Cuban takes his jabs at the IOC and NBA by stating “The (International Olympic Committee) is playing the NBA. The IOC is an organization that has been rife with corruption, to the point where a member was accused of trying to fix an Olympic event in Salt Lake. The IOC (pulls in) billions of dollars.”

The Mavericks also went on talk on why he believes there should be a separate World Cup and went on to add “The pros in multiple sports are smart enough to not play when they are eligible free agents. But teams take on huge financial risk so that the IOC committee members can line their pockets. The greatest trick ever played was the IOC convincing the world that the Olympics were about patriotism and national pride instead of money.”

Also, The NBA’s MVP and the proclaimed leader of this summer’s World Cup team, Kevin Durant, withdrew himself from the competition. Stating that he would rather take the time to focus and prepare himself for the upcoming season.

Based on speculation, many believe that the George’s incident can be a cause especially because the injury could taint the young superstar career forever. Also with superstars not willing sacrifice their career for a game that only happens once every 3 to 4 years makes no sense to some. Kobe Bryant never played in international competition until “The Redeem Team” came about so it’s not unusual to see that happen.

All sides have a valid point and make clear arguments but what the Olympic games does for certain superstars are unparalleled because it has a lot more pros then cons. Players like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, are great examples of that, when went and played in FIBA world championship games and then returned to the NBA, you seen the great impact on their games it had. Many players on the 2008 team refer to playing with true professional like Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant have shaped their NBA careers in a great direction.

Of course the cons that can happen like injury can happen but it is ultimately apart the NBA and playing basketball in general.  Seeing the greatest athletes compete with and against each other makes a great sight for viewers and gives the players their best chance to succeed as well. So NBA owners and GM’s should continue their star players and franchise players continue to compete and solely leave that reasonability on the players themselves who rave for the opportunity in most cases.

Scapegoat or Savior

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By Stefan Anderson

A lot of people put unfair criticism on you as a player, and I’m the first to have your back through it all. Just stay the person you are. Everybody loves you here. I love you.” MVP Kevin Durant uttered those words about his running mate Russell Westbrook after receiving the honor of becoming the league’s superior award.  But the speculations about Westbrook have been love or hate, or maybe hate to love from the majority of sports fans. I believe that Russ takes the blame for things that he has no fault taking blame for.

When Kevin Durant went on his miraculous tear this season, due to a Westbrook injury many questioned the necessity of keeping the tandem together. In the prior it was shown that Westbrook was vital to Oklahoma City’s success. After a second round exit by the Memphis Grizzlies, it proved that Russell Westbrook is what they needed after defenses set their plan against taking out Durant. A formula that worked previously, did not work this year when Memphis faced OKC in the first round that featured Westbrook.

The Thunder posted a 24-9 record while Westbrook, The team seen the emergence of many roles players including Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, and Serge Ibaka to help fill void of the Thunder’s secondary superstar. Although they played well without him they are fairly better offensively and defensively with Westbrook. With Westbrook the Thunder score nearly 5 more points and hold teams to almost 4 less points a game.

The majority of Westbrook’s criticism comes from his shot intake and erratic play but you cannot blame him for his needed offense. Although Ibaka has shown improvement over the years, his offense is still inconsistent along with Perkins and Sefolosha, lacking that 3rd scorer the Thunder lost when they traded James Harden.  With 2 guys that start and cannot scratch close to 10 points a game, his shot selection is explained well. 

What I can argue with is why Westbrook decides to make himself a better playmaker at times. His playoffs stats are a small sample size but show how he can improve his game slightly. In games that his team has lost this postseason, he averages more points less assists and rebounds (29 ppg, 8 rpg  and 7 apg) in opposite to when his teams wins (24 ppg, 9 rpg, 9apg). But Russell Westbrook competitive spirit is second to none, which is why he is so valued. If Kevin Durant goes cold as he did in Game 5 (6-22 from the field), you need a Russell Westbrook to win games as he showed in tonight game. Westbrook went off for 38 points, including the clutch steal over Chris Paul and then sinking the 3 game winning free throws.

“An emotional guy who would run through a wall for me. There are days when I want to just tackle you and tell you to snap out of it sometimes. I know there’s days you want to do the same with me. I love you man. Durant echoed those words after winning his first MVP award but he meant tonight, as Westbrook proved that he should never be the scapegoat for the losses but credited for all his efforts. 

KD for MVP ??

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By Stefan Anderson

When you mention MVP Candidates for this season, you probably have your choices down to maybe Kevin Love or Lamarcus Aldridge for wild card picks or maybe even Carmelo Anthony for his great play. But the definite choices belong to Kevin Durant and the reigning 4- time MVP winner LeBron James. The two have been known to be close not only in stats but also as good friends off court practicing with each other and making each other their biggest competitors.

After LeBron, earned his first ring against Durant in 2012 and then repeating in the following year, Durant has always the 2nd best to James since their encounter in the finals. But the two envy each other many ways that keeps this rivalry going. With both of the stars envious of each other’s success and wish they could do what each other do. Durant is jealous of LeBron’s MVP’s and Finals MVP’s, and LeBron “jealous” of KD’s “shot selection”. They both have their own reasons to envy each other and after this season KD will finally get his revenge by earning this year Most Valuable Player award.

Here’s Why:

LeBron James is on pace to have one of the greatest seasons for a swingman in NBA History. With the chance to average 25 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds and while shooting an astounding 60 percent from the field.  Those numbers will go down in history but ahead and right behind him is Kevin Durant. King James has already been on record for saying that he is jealous of KD’s shot selection and wishes he could have the opportunity to shoot like Durant. KD only takes 3 more 3’s and field goals than James per game. Durant is not only a better complete scorer than James but has been shown as a better playmaker this season. Durant not only is averaging 31 ppg, he is also averaging 5 assists per game not only taking on the scoring load of his team due to the loss of his sidekick Russell Westbrook. LeBron on the other hand is taking a small hike in his play making statistics, James is only 6.5 assists and 7 rebounds per game, which are some player’s career highs, but for King James this is one of one worst seasons in his career.

Durant has not only been the best player in NBA this season he is also doing it on the best team in the Western Conference, as well.  Not to mention, the fact that have been playing without their point guard and explosive scorer Russell Westbrook. Since Westbrook’s injury on December 27th, the Thunder have been on a tear. With a current winning streak of 8 straight beating some of the Western Conference’s elite, The Spurs, Warriors and Portland , without Westbrook’s help. During this current stretch without Westbrook, KD has stepped up for his team, averaging 38 ppg in the last 10 games. While Miami on the other hand without LeBron James’s sidekick, Dwayne Wade, have not shared the same success. While Wade has missed a few games due to knee injury, The Heat failed to capitalize without Flash, by posting a 5-6 record without Wade. Which gives all the reasons why Durant finally deserves his opportunity receive his first MVP award this season, he has been the best player in NBA, his team and has stepped when his team needs it the most.

With so many storylines between the Thunder and Heat, LeBron and Durant, tonight’s matchup in Miami is going to be a great match. Especially with Miami holding a current 3 game regular season streak over OKC and also defeating them in NBA Finals in 2012. Should be a sight to see.