David Thorpe of ESPN.com on KD: “That is what I thought of as I watched Durant grieve after Game 4. No, the series was not officially lost that night, but Durant probably knew right then that winning a ring in 2012 was not likely. Game 5 almost seemed like a foregone conclusion for most of the Thunder players, perhaps even Durant, who didn’t go down swinging as he might have. Just as LeBron emerged a far better and tougher postseason player after last season’s debacle, so too will Durant, who has played beautifully since late April. An improved Durant can go head-to-head with LeBron for league MVP … and win.”
David Aldridge of NBA.com: “ESPN’s Marc Stein reported Friday that the Thunder was indeed contemplating the Zen Master, or ABC/ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy, if talks with Brooks fall apart. OKC’s thoughts on Brooks, I’m told, are that while management understands the central role has played in developing the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the other members of the team’s core, there remains a question of whether Brooks is the guy who can drive that group over the top to a title. On the surface, it’s not an unreasonable question, given the paucity of coaches who have actually won titles the last two or three decades. On the other hand, it’s unlikely in the extreme that players as offensive-minded as Durantula and Westbrook would be all that eager to settle into the triangle. They made the Finals playing their way — up tempo, shooting from all over.”
Here’s what I’ll add to the Brooks negotiations: In terms of what the Thunder want, they want Scott Brooks back. It’s why they made an offer to him already. The Thunder are absolutely not exploring other coaching options right now. Brooks is the priority.
Via Reuters: “Under the direction of CEO Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake Energy Corp. plotted with its top competitor to suppress land prices in one of America’s most promising oil and gas plays, a Reuters investigation has found. In emails between Chesapeake and Encana Corp, Canada’s largest natural gas company, the rivals repeatedly discussed how to avoid bidding against each other in a public land auction in Michigan two years ago and in at least nine prospective deals with private land owners here.”
J.A. Adande of ESPN.com: “LeBron got his championship, and he got his Bill Russell Finals MVP award with a unanimous vote. The two glistening trophies bracketed him at the postgame podium, providing visual evidence that made it unnecessary for him to say, “Told you so.” He stayed true to his pledge to be less angry and more joyful this season, even in his hour of vindication. He even finished his time with the media by saying, “Love you guys.” Then he paused on his way out, held up the trophies once more, and exited into his new role of champion, a title that a Nike executive believes can boost him to Jordan-like brand status given today’s social media and global impact. Meanwhile, Durant is on the clock.”
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com has OKC taking Festus Ezeli: “The Thunder aren’t really looking to add to their core, but Ezili gives them a big they can send to Tulsa to develop and helps in the future when they need backup centers.”
Sekou Smith of NBA.com on OKC’s future: “Technically speaking, this is yet another lesson the Thunder have learned from the Heat team that schooled them in The Finals. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all took less than market value to play alongside each other and chase championships. Don’t laugh. They did actually leave millions on the table to join forces in Miami. And it paid off. Obviously, the Thunder players up for contract extensions this summer wouldn’t necessarily have commanded maximum extensions. But in a small market where Durant, Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins are already owed large sums of money in the coming years, the price tag on the franchise’s future is a hefty one. Sacrifice is absolutely the only way this team stays together without the Thunder having to go into the deep end of the league’s salary pool.”
Henry Abbott of TrueHoop: “Yes, the Thunder lucked into some crazy talents like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and competing executives would like you to believe that’s all Sam Presti did that matters. But it’s only part of the story. This organizational stuff, the stuff that makes it so all of their players (James “you won’t find another team like this, I love it here” Harden is proving it right now) never want to leave … that’s the kind of stuff every team could be doing. That’s about role modeling — for instance like those three trainers — working smarter and harder. That’s about investing in young players and taking so much time to develop them that the relationships surpass basketball.”