Matt Moore of CBSSports.com with a checklist: “In truth, the final numbers for OKC shouldn’t reflect who they are as much as they have the past three seasons. OKC needs to rest down the stretch. Kevin Durant will be 25. That’s still young, but it’s no longer spring chicken young. Not when you consider college, the draft, summer league, long NBA seasons, NBA playoffs, international play, and summer pro-ams along with promotional appearances, charity events and business meetings. We see players start to get run down at that age, and keeping a top-heavy team ready for the playoffs means abandoning a premium on the regular season. OKC’s homecourt advantage may be the best in the league. But these guys know how to win on the road, now. They have confidence and ability to close out opponents on their home floor. If the Thunder wind up with a top-two seed, it should be because their early season lead was just too big to overcome and their bench stepped up. These guys are no longer kids. They need to rest like adults do and think long-term. Fun time’s over. From here on out, it’s business for KD and company.”
Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “The defiance is admirable and inevitable from someone as proud as Durant, but there’s no getting around the fact that James Harden and his 2012-13 replacement (Kevin Martin) are both Thunder alumni now. And thanks to the strict budgetary guidelines mandated by Thunder owner Clay Bennett, OKC finds itself banking on the internal development of youngsters Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, as well as the presumed sparks forthcoming when Durant and Westbrook are fully reunited, to make up for the significant losses it has incurred in terms of bench scoring and playmaking over the past year. Which is why so many of us pests on the outside are openly wondering if the Thunder have enough to regain the 60-win form we witnessed before Westbrook went down, since they suddenly have little to show in return for Harden unless they use the trade exception they created via Martin’s sign-and-trade to Minnesota.”
Ben Golliver of SI.com recounting his favorite offseason moment: “And that brings us to the best part of Wade’s note, which was the unflinching response. Durant, who we know is “not nice” and “sick of finishing second,” didn’t apologize or back down. In true competitive fashion, he requested that Wade go ahead and prove it one more time. Harden, meanwhile, said without flinching that he should be considered a top-10 player right now. This movie has played out in a thousand old Westerns: The gunslingers are moseying forward, sizing each other up, before it’s time to draw. The offseason, ultimately, is about setting the table for the new year, and we couldn’t have scripted a better prelude to the 2013-14 season than the one sparked by Wade and Durant. Let’s eat.”
Anthony Slater on KD at 25: “Durant’s hoops résumé still contains a glaring hole: Zero championships. And in an age when NBA legacy arguments often center on that particular stat, no one is more aware and focused on changing that than Durant. There’s still loads of time: Shaq didn’t win his first title until he was 26. LeBron and Jordan didn’t win their first until they were 27. These days, that trio has a combined 12 rings (and still counting, in LeBron’s case). But nothing is promised.”
Berry Tramel on his breakout performer: “I’m going to go with Daniel Orton. He looked really improved in summer league. If his defense can get up to speed, he has a chance to contribute. Center is a crowded position, with four in camp, so I think we’ll see Orton go all-in in trying to make the Thunder brass believe that he’s a keeper.”
Grant Jerrett is not in training camp, but will spend the season in Tulsa.
SLAM has Serge Ibaka ranked No. 39: “Serge is only 24 years old and just finished his fourth full season in the NBA. He put up career highs in field-goal percentage, rebounds and points, with the biggest jump coming in PPG, where he improved to 13.2 from 9.1 the year prior. The departure of James Harden left the Thunder looking for buckets in other areas and Ibaka stepped up his game. Coming into his fifth year, it’s reasonable to assume Ibaka will keep improving as a scoring threat and, coupled with his rebounding and shot-blocking, makes him an invaluable player.”