Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop writes about the death of the back-to-the-basket game: “Name one guy here who can can hit a jump hook over their left shoulder,” an NBA assistant general manager asked. “I can’t think of one.” Whether it’s the trickle-down effect of the European game, the rule changes implemented by the league a few years ago, or college teams appropriating Mike D’Antoni-style basketball, the vast majority of the young bigs who were in Las Vegas are face-up players who work either along the perimeter or out of the pinch post: Anthony Randolph, Earl Clark, James Johnson, Taj Gibson, Dante Cunningham, DaJuan Summers, Austin Daye, and even Blake Griffin. Is this a momentary trend, or will the pendulum eventually swing back? “If I were a big man about to enter college, I would develop that back-to-the-basket game,” the executive said. The implication: At some point, those skills will be at a premium, and that kid will be impossible to defend. Forward-looking teams are all about buying low and, right now, traditional post players are undervalued because they don’t conform to the current climate of the NBA game.” Obviously, I agree.
Darnell Mayberry asseses OKC’s youngsters: “Robert Vaden can really stroke it from the perimeter. The 54th pick out of Alabama-Birmingham wasn’t as consistent as he wanted to be this summer, but when he got it going you could see flashes of how the Thunder could use him as a specialist off the bench. The only question is whether Vaden can adapt to becoming an effective scorer while being presented much less opportunities. He struggled in that role in Orlando and Las Vegas, but if he can adapt he could be a great weapon off the bench down the road.” Overlooking the fact that Vaden hit just 8-23 from three and shot just 37 percent overall in 10 games, I would agree.
Nice big story on HoopsWorld talking with Sam Presti: “We’re around Kevin Durant every day. None of us take for granted the fact that he’s a true team guy and continues to show that, whether it’s working out with guys in the offseason, coming to summer leagues, going through shoot-arounds in the summer leagues”, Presti said. Durant is just about as humble and real as they come. “I saw him do those types of things in his rookie year going back to the University of Texas during the all-star break when he could have been doing other things,” said Presti. “I think that’s just what he’s about.”
Mayberry says the playoffs are a possibility next year: “But Oklahoma City is also in the cutthroat Western Conference, where 46 wins didn’t make the cut for Phoenix last season and 48 didn’t do it for Golden State in 2007-08. You can probably already pencil in seven teams into the Western Conference playoffs — the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver, San Antonio, Portland, Utah, Dallas and New Orleans. That leaves one spot. It’s possible but not probable it’ll be snatched by the Thunder.”
Indy Cornrows on signing Earl Watson: “While everyone in OKC expected the team to trade Watson, the Thunder decided to pull an Anti-Pacers policy by actually buying out the player’s contract (Larry Bird, please take notes on how this is done). He immediately signed with the Pacers, becoming a security deposit for the loss of Jarrett Jack, which is expected to happen on Monday. It is presumed that Oklahoma City paid for part of his buyout, while the Pacers paid for the rest. That number should be around $2-$3 million. And if it’s lower, well kudos to the men in the suits.”
Kevin Durant attended the Gatorade high school athlete of the year awards: “Durant had about a dozen interviews following the luncheon. I’m pretty certain I was the last. Often times, this type of situation leads to a very brief interview. Not the case. Durant rolled up on me with a smile and said, “SLAM Magazine, how you feelin’ today?” We proceeded to discuss the real estate market in Seattle, the sneaker game, Sam Presti, going back to UT to earn his degree and much more.”
KD was also at the ESPY’s: “There appear to be two ways to handle an ESPYS snub. Kevin Durant, a former College Male Athlete of the Year, practiced humility, conceding “It’s gonna be a long time till I win another ESPY, going up against LeBron and D-Wade and those guys.” … Kevin Durant said, “This was my first time wearing sunglasses out in public,” which we thought was weird.
“Detroit signed former Thunderer Chris Wilcox to a two-year, $6 million deal.
Chris Paul’s pants are on fire: “After a report appeared in Pro Basketball News on Friday that had Paul on the record acknowledging the fact that given the Hornets’ financial situation, there was the possibility that he could be traded, Paul updated his Twitter page with a complete denial, which effectively accused the reporter of making the whole thing up. The only problem? The reporter in question, Chris Tomasson, has the whole thing on tape.” And PBN editor Sam Amico wrote a response to Paul.
An interesting story about the market on naming rights and how the Ford Center plays in: “Just a couple of years ago, Oklahoma City leaders had plenty of cause to believe a big money deal could be cinched for an NBA team making Ford Center its permanent home. A study presented by ICON Venue Group LLC for the Thunder owners before the team’s move from Seattle projected naming rights for the Oklahoma City arena would be worth $2 million to the owners the first year, $3 million the second year, $3.5 million the third year and increase 3 percent a year for the remainder of the deal. The estimates were based on assumed attendance of 14,569 for the 2008-2009 season and 14,269 the following year. The Thunder’s average attendance its first year (2008-2009) was 18,594.”
Ian Thompson of SI: “A franchise like Oklahoma City is wise to be patient in building around Kevin Durant, who won’t peak for several more years. But the Mavericks need to win now, and their fans — as well as those in Detroit — should appreciate the efforts to add talent as fast as possible, as opposed to waiting for a 2010 cavalry that may never arrive.”
James Harden says the player he most wants to dunk on is Shaq in this interview. Also, KD and Shaun Livingston both have interviews in there if you look.