Zach Lowe of SI.com: “And Eric Maynor is back! Remember Maynor, the guy who in 2011 looked like one of the league’s best backup point guards and replaced a benched Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City’s only Western Conference Finals win? Replace Derek Fisher/Daequan Cook/Thabo Sefolosha with Maynor as the fourth guard/wing in the Thunder’s small lineups, and they should become even more dangerous. Almost any player, big or small, can guard the Cook/Sefolosha/Fisher types — classic “hiders,” all. But Maynor is a good long-range shooter and an accomplished off-the-bounce guy, and that presents problems for any second big man trying to stay on the floor against these guys. A head-to-head against Miami raises the question of whether Durant is ready to guard LeBron for extended stretches. If he’s not, Brooks may be forced to slot Sefolosha in for one of his better offensive options.”
Kevin Kuzminski of News9.com on Harden: “Harden is a great basketball player, but he isn’t a superstar, and doesn’t deserve to get paid like one. The NBA has lost control of its salary cap situation. Without boring you to death, I’ll just say that unless the league changes its salary cap structure, players like Eric Gordon, Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez will continue to receive “max” contracts just like real superstars, and ruin the market value for every other team in the league. Superstars have the capability to lead a franchise to an NBA title as the No. 1 option. The Thunder has that guy in Kevin Durant. James Harden shouldn’t get paid what Kevin Durant gets paid for the same reason Chris Bosh shouldn’t get paid what LeBron does: He isn’t as good. But the fact is, Bosh does get paid what LeBron does, and while it led the Heat to a championship, it also led them into the financial red. If that’s okay with Heat owner Micky Arison, great, but don’t blame Clay Bennett if he’s not okay with a similar situation in OKC.”
Note: It’s frustrating when people don’t understand the concept of a max contract.
John Rohde points out OKC’s riding a six-game losing streak: “The regular season is still two weeks away and already the Thunder has a must-win against the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night. Scoff if you want, but imagine the snickers if OKC — the league’s latest darling and the defending Western Conference champion — lost to the franchise that last season set the record for the worst winning percentage in NBA history.”
Patrick Malee of Dime wonders if Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook traded places: “Still, I think both players would thrive in this re-write of history. Rose is a superstar scorer in his own right, but also more likely to defer to Durant when necessary (in his last high school state championship game at Simeon, Rose totaled eight assists and seven steals while scoring just two points), and the Thunder’s team-first, family-like atmosphere would perfectly suit his temperament. Westbrook, meanwhile, would be free of that “selfish player” talk, and would probably be a perennial MVP contender averaging something like 27-28 points per game. He would thrive as the go-to scorer, and his manic defensive presence would be truly frightening under Tom Thibodeau’s guidance.”
Darnell Mayberry: “Daniel Orton will make his debut Tuesday. He’ll split time with Hasheem Thabeet behind Cole Aldrich. That worries me. Thabeet got the backup center minutes in the first two games, but Orton has to split time with Thabeet in the third game. What’s up with that? Methinks it’s pretty telling regarding where the team stands on Orton v. Thabeet. There will be four preseason games remaining after Tuesday, so there’s plenty of minutes left to be had. But cuts will begin soon, and if Orton doesn’t get much time I think that shows where he is in the pecking order.”
The Lost Ogle on the death of the Zombie Sonics: “I’m sure you’re being 100% honest, and you stopped writing “Zombies” when the word became a “pain in your ass” to include in mailbags, trade value rankings and an upcoming column that will compare 27 NBA players to your favorite characters from Boardwalk Empire. You know, because “Zombies” is so much more difficult to write than “Thunder.” I doubt it had anything to do with the Zombies schtick becoming tired and boring and old news. And lets look forward instead of backward or something like that.”
HoopSpeak on the perception of James Harden: “I’m fairly certain that had Harden been starting his whole career people would not see him as perhaps a bit passive, unfit to carry a team himself. We hear that starting doesn’t matter. That it’s the amount of minutes a player’s on the court, and that it’s more important to finish a game than it is to start. That’s all true, in terms of real statistical merit. Harden contributed more Win Shares in fewer minutes than Westbrook, so there’s a plain argument he was the more important player. But whether it’s his beard that seems — perhaps unconsciously — to tell fans “I enjoy being a third option” or the fact that he was brought along a little more slowly and continues to come off the bench despite being a top three player at his position, there’s something subverting perceptions of his apparent greatness.”