Oklahoma City’s director of professional player personnel Bill Branch is leaving to become one of Rich Cho’s two assistant GMs.
ESPN’s panel of 93 experts (I was one of them by the way, though I don’t believe I was in the expert category) predicted OKC would win 52 games and finish second in the West: “Is this the same team that stood 1-16 just 20 months ago? Yes, and it’s the same team that put a serious scare in the champs in Round 1. In what could be a wild Western scramble for second, our panel gives the Thunder 0.21 wins more than the Mavs, meaning a potential West finals bid for the Durant-Westbrook-Green team.”
Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook with an incredibly insightful post and breakdown of Latavious Williams: “Williams will probably start the year in the D-League, and that is a good thing. He could benefit from a little more strength to help him with his post defense. Also, he doesn’t have any post moves to speak of, and he doesn’t have a go to move in the high post, and more D-League time could help him with that. However, with all of that being said, I fully expect Williams to have a productive stint in the NBA if he can get himself a call-up with the Thunder, and it is all thanks to his D-League experience last year.”
Matt Moore of CBS Sports looking at the national TV games: “Oklahoma City were the big winners, with 24 big-time appearances, and the first post-Christmas ABC game, facing the Heat at home. It’s a big win for a small market club.”
Zach Harper for TrueHoop highlights a bunch of must-see games: “Thunder at Celtics: Don’t forget about Russell Westbrook. He and Rondo are two of the best defensive and rebounding point guards in the NBA — both with a flair for the athletic. Plus we get to see if Kevin Durant is treated like Michael “Bleeping” Jordan once again in Boston.”
John Schuhmann on yesterday’s Team USA scrimmage: “Durant pulled off two straight lobs in the third scrimmage, one to Rose (which Rose laid in) and the second to Iguodala, which was the highlight of the day. Iguodala caught the lob with his hand under the ball and somehow dunked it with his hand on top of the ball. Put that guy back in the dunk contest, please.”
Darnell Mayberry on the schedule: “I thought the Thunder would receive more than 15 nationally televised games. Don’t get me wrong, 15 is a lot and it’s a sign of just how popular the team has become. Nine broadcasts on ESPN is about right. And two on ABC’s showcase Sunday is more than sufficient. TNT, it seems, is missing the boat. Having only four Thunder games — one in the first five games of the season and the other three in January — means TNT will miss out on what undoubtedly will be one of the top five most exciting teams this season, perhaps even top three. The Thunder’s four TNT games is less than half of what Boston and Miami, each with 10, and the Lakers, Denver and Orlando, with nine apiece, received. The issue might have more to do with the Thunder rather than TNT. The Thunder prefers Sunday home games to placate a family-oriented market. And the Thunder has a whopping 11 Sunday home games. That’s not conducive to tons of Thursday tilts.”
Shoals writing on the positional revolution: “The opposite of this would be the Thunder. Kevin Durant is much like Dirk, and as a result, Sam Presti has set to putting together a roster of unorthodox youngsters who complement each other. Say what you will about Jeff Green; accuse Russell Westbrook of becoming more and more ordinary. The team still depends on chemistry — not just getting along, but being able to work together in a way that depends on their originality, not their ability to fill a preordained role. (Yes, there are roles in OKC, but they correspond to players, not formulas.)”
More on KD being favored for MVP from PBT: “But Durant and the Thunder are coming in to their own. Well, really they did last year but so many national writers with a vote are a year behind what is happening in the game that they will get around to voting for him now.”
KD felt a little slighted for not being invited to the White House to hoop with the president. Though I Durant makes a solid point: “Somebody told me if we win the championship, I’ll go see the president.” Yes indeed, KD.