Michael Wallace of ESPN.com: “Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti insists the Thunder’s approach this week was no different from any other NBA team that aimed to develop young prospects at the Orlando Pro Summer League. That’s not completely the case. What separated the Thunder was their level of urgency and opportunity with superstar Kevin Durant in need of help and Russell Westbrook recovering from knee surgery. While most teams were breaking in draft picks or searching for talent to invite to training camp in a few months, Oklahoma City’s priority here was to groom a few key players for primary rotation roles on a title contender. So it should have come as no surprise that the Thunder cruised through the week with a 5-0 record that culminated with Friday’s victory over the Houston Rockets in the championship round of the 10-team league tournament.”
Darnell Mayberry: “It’s been a polarizing summer for Thunder fans. Many wonder why the team isn’t doing more. But those fans seem to have forgotten a major element that defined the Thunder’s season in the two months since OKC was knocked out of the playoffs in the second round. Russell Westbrook suffered a season-ending knee injury. Had the team’s star point guard not gone down with a fluke injury, who knows how the Thunder’s season would have played out? That’s the main reason the Thunder hasn’t made any sweeping changes or departed from its process. When Westbrook returns, the Thunder is expected again take its place at the top of the Western Conference. But money matters also have shaped the Thunder’s summer.”
I wrote a thing for CBSSports.com about the Thunder’s offseason, or lack thereof.
Rembert Browne of Grantland went to KD’s hometown: “For a day so authentically “Kevin Durant” in its storytelling, artifacts, and key characters, it was completely scripted. I was torn over how to feel about what I’d gotten myself into, leaning toward cynicism but impressed by Nike’s marketing genius. They nailed every point on the Kevin Durant checklist. After the rec center, we visited Kevin’s grandmother’s house. And then the hill that Kevin ran up every day to train. One bus trip was narrated by Kevin’s brother and the other by Kevin himself. When we returned to the gym for lunch, we had soul food catered by a Seat Pleasant restaurant. And then, after lunch, we went back into the gym, where Kevin would be given a key to the city by the mayor.”
Mayberry on Summer League: “We didn’t need Jackson’s single-game Orlando summer league record 35 points — which included a 23-point, fourth-quarter explosion Tuesday — to know this. We saw enough out of Jackson when he was thrown into the playoff fire to know he’s capable of more. But the Thunder’s projected sixth man was full of swagger this week, on and off the court. From the outside, it appeared he carried himself with as much confidence as he ever has. The way he walked. The way he talked. The way he hooted and hollered from the bench. If he didn’t before, Jackson now knows he belongs. What we still don’t know, unfortunately, is how much Jackson has improved as a shooter. He attempted eight 3-pointers in his two summer league appearances and made only two.”
Berry Tramel says Daniel Orton is a likely cut: “But Orton is one of four centers on the Thunder roster. In the modern NBA, you don’t need four centers. Heck, in the old NBA, you didn’t need four centers, not when you’ve got Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison, too. So look for the Thunder to try to trade Orton. Probably a second-round draft pick is all OKC could get for him, but that’s better than nothing, which is what the Thunder will get if it has to waive him. It’s possible the Thunder could trade or cut Orton and sign two players in his stead – both at minimum salaries. That would drop the Thunder just below the luxury tax threshold.”
A happy birthday to KD’s fiancee Monica Wright, who turns 25 today.