The Thunder beat the Celtics 87-82, which is CLEARLY the most important thing from the day. I mean, what’s bigger than a July 5th win? But here are some quick notes and observations from the game:
- Serge Ibaka has been working on his offensive post game. He looked terrific on a few post spin moves and though he didn’t shoot the ball that well, really appeared to be confident in his shot. However, he was injured on a play late in the second half and didn’t return. He left favoring his left leg and official word out right now is a sprained left ankle. While he was down though, I definitely stopped breathing for around two or three straight minutes.
- Of course it’s one summer league game against nary a real NBA roster opponent, but Byron Mullens looks much, much improved. Word has been that he’s been working his tail off and it showed for the most part. He finished with 24 points and seven rebounds, going 12 of 15 from the line and 6 of 12 from the floor. His hands looked softer, he looked much more aggressive, his footwork was improved and he looked somewhat comfortable in the post. I don’t know if he’ll ever been a quality defender, but hey, that’s what Cole Aldrich is for. I think there’s hope yet for Mullens. He was drafted as a project and projects tend to take a little time to develop. More stuff like today will go a long way in that, but the thing with Mullens is, is that there’s the possibility that he could go 2-8 with five points and four rebounds tomorrow.
- James Harden struggled for most of the day from everywhere but the free throw line. He scored 19 points, but only made two baskets. He did go 15 of 18 from the line though. And honestly, today’s performance from him reminded me a bit of Russell Westbrook in summer league last year. Russ got fouled constantly just because he was faster and more skilled than most everyone there. Harden had that same look. He really took over late in the game and had a beautiful drive to the basket that helped cap OKC’s big comeback. Don’t worry about his shot – that’s fine. It’s all about finishing at the rim for Harden. He didn’t do great at it today, but that’s definitely a focus for him this week.
- I fear Kyle Weaver just doesn’t have a place on this team. No player has the ability to just completely turn invisible on the court quite like Weaver. His jumpshot still hasn’t come around (and I don’t know if it ever will), he’s not a great slasher and finisher and he can’t really run point effectively. With Daequan Cook, I just don’t know where he’ll ever fit. He’s the fourth shooting guard on a roster, which is never a good place to be. Weaver is a really good defender and a guy that will make two or three really great, smart plays a game, but I don’t think he’s much more right now than a good practice player. But then again, sometimes those are extremely valuable.
- Robert Vaden is a good shooter. I know he’s a good shooter. He knows he’s a good shooter. The Thunder know he’s a good shooter. But for whatever reason, he just doesn’t seem to show it in summer league. Last year, he hit something like 20 percent from deep. Today, he went 1 for 5 and 1 for 3 from deep. He’s a guy that only has value if he’s knocking down the long ball. And he just hasn’t done that in the times he’s worn a Thunder uniform.
- Eric Maynor played excellent. You can just see his natural point guard skill. He knows when to take over, knows when to pass and knows when to just fit in. D.J. White, also excellent. I have no idea where White will ever fit in, if he even does, but the guy can play. He’s always forgotten about, but White is a player with a ton of talent that will absolutely have value to someone. I’ve always said he looks like a career role playing bench guy, much like a P.J. Brown or Antonio McDyess’s current form. He’s got a specific skill (the mid-range jumper) and he’s a pretty good body on the block. I’m not ready to just throw him out yet.
Oklahoma City plays next against Charlotte at 2 PM Tuesday.