All along, I’ve taken the position that I wouldn’t get too upset about this lockout until games are actually missed. Because right now, nothing is all that different in the NBA world other than we missed Summer League and didn’t get a couple weeks of players signing extensions and with new teams. Blah blah, I know the sides are really far apart and that it’s looking pretty dreadful, but there isn’t a real reason to get THAT angry.
Well, wasn’t a real reason. Because with last week’s stuff about David Stern being unavailable for two weeks (allegedly) and meetings being cancelled because of scheduling conflicts — that’s sort of miffing me off. All I want is a real — a REAL — effort to get a deal done before the middle of September when games would be missed. I want legitimate movement towards the middle. Just something to say that these greedy owners and these greedy players actually have the best interest of the game and fans in mind.
Because right now, I’m not getting that impression. All I’m getting is that they don’t really give a crap about what happens right now. Which is a message I’m not loving. Anyway, on to your letters:
I keep reading that the Thunder are going to need a bench scorer as well as a legitimate backup SF to give KD a spell from time to time. Is there any chance that Jeff Green could be a legitimate option if Boston decides he isn’t worth an extension? — Brent
I got this question a lot. Obviously, some Thunder fans still have a pretty strong emotional attachment to Jeff Green. And I get it. I understand. He’s an awesome dude and the team was kind of more fun (off the court, not on, mind you) with him on the squad.
But I doubt it. Actually, “doubt” isn’t a good word. “No freaking shot” would probably be better. Uncle Jeff is going to be in the market for $30-$40 million from someone. Some team out there that needs a small forward — New Jersey, Minnesota, Golden State — is going to be able to spend a whole lot more on that position than the Thunder.
Would he fit? Truly, yes he would. He would really have a chance to play an ideal role as a scoring small forward off the bench, getting some 20 minutes a game. It would be what he kind of did in Boston, but in a more comfortable setting. It won’t happen because the Thunder would only be willing to go in the $3-5 million a year range while Green is definitely seeking a number well above that.
1.) Is there any possible reality of Nate Robinson staying in Oklahoma City? There has to be no way a team can have FOUR point guards. 2.) Is Nick Collison the best human being on the planet? — Chase, Edmond
I just can’t see it. First, it doesn’t make sense. Like you said, four point guards on a roster isn’t the best allocation of resources. He is most definitely the league’s best benchleader, but I don’t think that’s worth handing out a new $4 million contract for. If I were guessing, Nate’s bench antics probably counted for roughly 0.003 wins, according to a metric I just made up in my head.
Second part: I’m sure he’s not, but I’m just going to say yes because of my irrational love for Nick.
Now that it’s all but confirmed that Harden’s moving into the starting lineup or at least getting substantially more minutes, I wonder what type of trade value Thabo has. What do you think he would yield in a trade? Would the Thunder be better served by keeping him on the second unit or selling relatively high while Thabo still has a reputation as a defensive stopper? — Sam, NY
I don’t think his return is worth giving him up. Thabo doesn’t make a whole lot (about $3 million a year through 2014) and keeping a quality wing defender on the roster doesn’t hurt. I think the dislike of Thabo will recede quite a bit once he settles into a role more suitable for him. He’s not Bruce Bowen. That was the hope, but Thabo just hasn’t been able to develop a consistent long range shot. Not for a lack of effort, because he’s worked hard at it. But it just hasn’t come.
Someone would like to have him because we’re talking a second-team All-Defense guy from 2009-10 here, but nobody is going to be dangling something that intriguing in front of Presti for Thabo. Plus, what would OKC want in a trade for Thabo? What gaping need is there to really fill by trading a marginal role player? With Harden likely starting next season, Thabo can slide over as KD’s natural backup and a situational defender. He’s tradeable if a deal that’s too good to be true comes across the desk, but for what he’s worth, he’s better to keep than give away for nothing.
Have any opinions on who should be the guy to replace Mark Jackson in the Mike Breen-JVG booth? I say either Bill Simmons (would provide great views on the game from an eductaded fan’s perspective) or Michael Wilbon (has a lot of NBA knowledge, but gets overshadowed working next to Magic). — Scott
Both are quality choices in my mind. I thought Simmons was fantastic in that Warriors game he did last season. Smart, clever and on time with almost everything. If he got some serious seasoning and built up chemistry with Breen and Van Gundy, I think you’d have a terrific trio. Not going to happen obviously, but it’s fun to think about.
I don’t know how Wilbon would fit, but he’s definitely an authoritative NBA voice and I think he’d do well there. I’m sure they’re going to be looking at a former player because it fits well next to Van Gundy who approaches the game from the coach perspective. Who that is, I don’t know. One person I can almost guarantee it won’t be: Malik Rose. How disappointing was he last year in studio after Thunder games? I’m getting that uncomfortable feeling just thinking about it.
Even if Brooks knows how to motivate his team, do you think he’s the right person to bring OKC to the title? –Thai Huy Nguyen, Switzerland
Somehow, Jeff Green’s replacement as “Person that everyone complains about” surprisingly became Scott Brooks after Green was dealt. Yeah, there are quality reasons to rag on Coach Scotty. He was overly stubborn with his starting five in the biggest games of the season. He sometimes trusted in some of his players too much. His offense sometimes bogged down into something I think even a group of third graders would say, “Really coach?” His last second play designs were elementary, he didn’t know how to get quality execution out of his team in crunch time moments and his answer for everything appeared to just be: play harder!
Makes it sound like things could be pretty rough with Brooks, doesn’t it? Despite that though, I do believe the Thunder can win a title with Brooks at the helm. They were close last season and with him as the full-time head coach have won 50 and then 55 games. I don’t think there’s any reason to can a coach when the team is trending upwards. You make a change when things stall or regress. But making a panic move now when things appear to be going well doesn’t speak well at all to any sort of stability within the organization. And I’m pretty sure Sam Presti is going to name his first child Stability.
I do think Brooks could use another strong-willed, no nonsense assistant like Ron Adams again though. He’s got Mo Cheeks, which is good, but Cheeks has always been a players’ coach too, like Brooks. Brian Keefe is in the role of Adams, but he’s a young coach without a ton of experience, am I’m not sure how strong a voice he has in the locker room and on the practice court. Mark Bryant’s basically just there to teach Serge Ibaka has to use a drop-step. And I’m not really even sure what Maz Trakh does, though I do know he’s a good coach.
But strengthening the staff is certainly something that could help Brooks. Coaches are a bit overrated in terms of how much they contribute to championship runs. Rick Carlisle got a ton of credit — a lot of it well deserved — for outcoaching a bunch of people and pushing the Mavs to a title. But let’s be honest here: It took some pretty incredible performances and some pretty unlikely moments for the Mavs to do that. Carlisle pushed buttons well and made good decisions, but he’s not the reason OKC choked that lead in Game 5. He’s not the reason Miami choked a lead in Game 2 of The Finals. You win with players. A coach just has to know when to get out of the way most of the time.
In the past, dynasty teams have had three All-Stars. Do you think James Harden or Serge Ibaka wil develop into that player for the Thunder? — Scott, Ithaca, NY
Harden, almost definitely. I think Ibaka probably has a higher ceiling because really, he could become a shot-blocking menace that grabs 10 boards and scores 15 points a game. He’s got that kind of ability somewhere in him if he can just bring it out.
But Harden’s going to get the chance to be the third scorer/playmaker alongside Westbrook and Durant. He’s going to be in a position to score, distribute and create. Ibaka will always likely find himself in a reduced role as the enforcer and open-15-footer-guy. Harden’s likely going be a key cog in the offense.
I know, as many Thunder fans do, that the media and public have openly wondered whether the Thunder would be better served by a pure PG. However, given our roster’s strengths and weaknesses, don’t we need a scoring PG? Ibaka, for all of his potential, will likely not ever average more than 15 points a game anytime soon unless he makes drastic improvements (which is a possibility but not likely). Perkins, as demonstrated by his all too common awkward-pounding-the-ball-for-five-seconds-while-posting-up, pulling up the dribble, and finally panicking while traveling while hurling the ball towards the goal, is not a natural scorer.
If these two players represent our starting front court, with Nick Collison being the third big man, it would seem we will be lucky to average 35+ points out of our core big men going forward with none of them being capable of consistently creating their own shots.
Consequentially, I don’t understand the demand to get a “pure PG” as that would relegate the vast majority of scoring to Durant and Harden which would be dangerous due to injuries, fatigue, and defensive gameplans in the playoffs. So I don’t understand the demand for a pure PG, unless its just because of how well Maynor has worked as a change of pace point guard. But that works precisely because its a change of pace, and teams don’t spend much time gameplanning Maynor as compared to Westbrook or a starting PG in my opinion. What’s your opinion? — Alexander
I think you’re pretty much dead on. The supposed “pure” point guard thing is so overrated in my mind. I don’t even know what that means. I think Jose Calderon fits that definition of “pure” point guard but do you want that, or Russell Westbrook?
I think people have this idea that a distributing point guard would get the ball to Durant a lot more and make OKC’s offense more traditional. Then adding a scoring shooting guard into the mix — James Harden — means the Thunder would have that more balanced, clean-cut attack. Durant as Option A, the clear alpha. Harden as Option B, the second banana. And then a solid point guard that fits in where he needs to. I’ve heard a bunch of people — smart people too — claim Steve Nash would be an ideal fit in OKC. I’m sure he would, but I just don’t get the fascination with having a “pure” point guard on the roster.
It’s like some think Durant doesn’t get the ball enough. Think about this: With Russell Westbrook as his point guard, you know, the guy who never ever passes him the ball and hogs it all the time, Durant was not just the youngest player to win a scoring title, but the youngest player to ever win TWO scoring titles. Durant finished fourth overall in the league in total field goal attempts and third in terms of per game. Man, that darn Russell Westbrook really needs to get Durant the ball more.
Look, I understand what people see with Westbrook. I’ve only been over it like 50,000 times. But in basketball, it doesn’t matter how you get things done. It doesn’t matter if you score and win in a traditional basketball way. It matters that you finish with more points than your opponent. Westbrook’s 22 points a game have a lot to do with that. Did you know in today’s NBA, nine point guards averaged more than 15 points per game last season. In 2005, that number was eight. In 2000, that number was seven. A scoring point guard isn’t something entirely foreign to the NBA.
It’s frustrating to me when people don’t see that Westbrook played his position EXTREMELY well last season and not just in a scoring sense. He averaged 8.2 assists per game for crying out loud! That was ninth in the entire league! More than Derrick Rose, Andre Miller, Chauncey Billups and a number of other really good point men. There’s an obsession with players fitting into a supposed mold. I get it. But I care about my team having good players that win. Russell Westbrook fits both of those categories.
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