Darnell Mayberry has an excellent breakdown of the schedule: “Time to gain ground: With so many teams improving this off-season it’s hard to find a month in which the schedule turns in the Thunder’s favor. But February looks to be the month of least resistance for Oklahoma City. The Thunder will play six games against five teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season — Golden State, New York, Minnesota (twice), Phoenix and Toronto. The remaining teams in the month — Atlanta, New Orleans, Portland, Dallas and San Antonio — are all teams the Thunder played relatively well last season which should bode well this year.”
Lang Whitaker of SLAM transfers NBA players to college football: “So Dwyane Wade is our starting tailback. How many times have you seen Wade dribble at the top of the key, then somehow weave between three or four defenders and get to the rim untouched? That elusive quality will serve him well as our feature back, plus Wade is strong enough to fall down seven times and get up six, or something like that. D-Wade is backed up by Tony Parker, Baron Davis and Russell Westbrook … And for a punter, I couldn’t think of anyone obvious, so I went with Kevin Durant. My thinking is that he probably won’t have to punt much anyway, and besides, I want him around this team, encouraging guys, working hard, staying out of trouble.”
Shaun Livingston is back in his hometown for his annual basketball camp: “Shaun Livingston knows he isn’t 100 percent. But he also thinks 100 percent isn’t far away. The former Peoria High School All-American is back in his hometown for his annual basketball camp this week. The camp is free to all the players as it is underwritten by the five-year NBA veteran.”
Damien Wilkins on going to Minnesota: “After spending the last five years with the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, Damien Wilkins admitted that joining a new team felt “strange.” However, it was a good kind of strange for the Washington native. Wilkins was sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with Chucky Atkins, for Etan Thomas. The NBA veteran was ecstatic about the trade. “I love it,” Wilkins said Monday. “When they called and told me it was done, I was excited. I’m still excited. I’m going to a team that’s young, but everyone is starting over from scratch.”
Jon Schuhmann looks at five teams set to make a playoff run: “If the Rockets collapse and Suns continue to fade, one of the six teams in the West that last season couldn’t win 30 games would have to show great improvement. The Thunder are the most likely of that group to do it. Kevin Durant is the NBA’s next superstar, and with several other young talents around him, Oklahoma City has a bright future. General manager Sam Presti chose not to use his cap space this summer to make immediate improvements, but instead stood pat with his team. That may be the best plan for Oklahoma City’s long-term future. That plan may keep it from gaining more than 10 or 12 wins this season. While everyone is high on the Thunder (and rightfully so), asking them to bring the postseason to OKC in 2010 may be a little unrealistic.”
Charley Rosen breaks down the young stars in the league: “Kevin Durant (almost 21 years old, two seasons in NBA): Every aspect of his field-goal shooting showed marked improvement from his rookie season to his sophomore season — as did his rebounding totals. However, his individual defense is still inferior, and this is where he needs to exhibit the most improvement. After all, if he scores 25 points and the man he’s guarding gets, say, 20, then Durant’s total impact on the game is minimal. Moreover, with opponents continually attacking him, Durant will habitually be in foul trouble, which will limit his court time and limit his point production. A lack of physical strength is his biggest problem on defense, and it will be interesting to see how much offseason time he’s spent in the weight room. Another category that requires improvement is Durant’s negative assist-turnover ratio, but this is mostly a function of his poor court vision. His normal maturation process should greatly reduce the number of times Durant tries to force his dribble through hostile crowds — as well as his errant passwork. Also, as his team improves, Durant won’t feel compelled to take as many quick shots as he has in the past. Right now, there’s no question that Durant is an excellent shooter. But to become a legitimate NBA icon, his defense, handling, passing and decision-making will have to make quantum leaps.”
Pounding the Rock is comparing every team against the Spurs right now. Now up, you know who: “Arguably one of the most exciting young teams, and I’m not talking about our second unit, the Thunder feature all sorts of youth and potential. They are of course headlined by [university redacted -ed.] player, Kevin Durant. These upstarts trumped us twice last year out of four meetings making them the worst team (by winning percentage) to beat our team. I was even at the home loss. Double burn. I could not find overall head to head records against the Spurs but .500 might be one of the best of the last decade. That is a .500 record in San Antonio too. Nice start in your inaugural year, OKC.
Sam Amico has a few games that folks shouldn’t overlook: “Anyone who doesn’t get excited about watching Oklahoma City doesn’t really care about the NBA. The Thunder are just so young, so talented and have so much future star power in Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and first-round pick James Harden. Actually, I take that back. Durant is a star now, and I fully expect to see him in Dallas as a member of the Western Conference All-Star team. (The All-Star game, by the way, is Feb. 14.) As for the Lakers, well, you already know about them. Kobe, Phil Jackson, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, defending champs. But I can’t help but wonder if another year of Derek Fisher at point guard will hurt them? I doubt it, but we have to come up with something to debate, right?”
Dime has 10 games to watch: “Jan 29 – Nuggets @ Thunder – Two of the NBA’s best pure scorers in Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant will get after it in what should be one of the highest scoring games of the year.”
A tweet from Yahoo Sports: “Grgurich’s annual camp in Vegas has attracted dozens of NBA’s best young stars. Witnesses say Flynn, Harden, Jennings, E. Gordon look great.”
Berry Tramel on the disrespecting of Kevin Durant: “Truth is, Durant ranks with LeBron and Kevin Garnett (when healthy) and Dirk Nowitzki as the NBA’s most unique players. There’s really no one else in the league like any of them. But the NBA’s television networks don’t buy the Durant-might-pass-LeBron idea. If TNT or ESPN/ABC believed that Durant was the second coming of King James, your Oklahoma City Thunder would not have just one measly national telecast this coming season.”
Chris Sheridan looks at intriguing games: Nov. 14: Oklahoma City at San Antonio: Both teams are off the previous night, which means Spurs general manager R.C. Buford probably will take his former assistant Sam Presti out to dinner and Presti will get carded. (The guy looks about 19 years old.) … Nov. 22: Oklahoma City at L.A. Lakers: TiVo alert. If we are correct in our above reference to the Thunder being a sleeper team, this will be one to watch: Kevin Durant versus Kobe (unless Scott Brooks makes the unwise decision to let bearded rookie James Harden check No. 24).” I imagine Scott Brooks will make the wise decision and let Thabo check No. 24.