Darnell Mayberry on the schedule: “The good news for Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant is there is ample rest built into the Oklahoma City Thunder’s schedule next season. That was the biggest takeaway from OKC’s standpoint when the NBA unveiled the league-wide schedule for the 2014-15 season Wednesday. The Thunder will receive as much rest as any team can ask for over the course of an 82-game season. Road trips are relatively short, games are sufficiently spaced out and the entire schedule is about as balanced as can be. It’s an unexpected luxury for a Thunder team needing to again monitor Westbrook’s surgically repaired right knee, as well as better manage Durant’s league-leading minute tally while looking to capture its first NBA title.”
James Herbert of CBSSports.com on best games: “The Thunder will be looking for revenge after losing in the Western Conference Finals, and it’s a Christmas Day game so the whole world will be watching. These were the consensus best teams in the West last year, and nothing has changed on that front.”
Anthony Slater: “But the premier game on the Thunder’s schedule may come on the NBA’s showcase day. For the fifth straight season, OKC is slated to play on Christmas, this time against the defending champion Spurs in San Antonio. It’ll be the first meeting between the two since the Spurs eliminated OKC in Game 6 of the Conference Finals. The two elite franchises will meet twice more – on March 25 in San Antonio and April 7 in OKC – in a pair of late-season games that could carry some important seeding implications at the top of the Western Conference.”
Dane Carbaugh of Sporting News on 2016: “Teams have left salary open for 2016 for one reason, and that’s to nab Durant. Washington recently hired David Adkins, Durant’s high school coach, while the Raptors have gone the less subtle route as Drake posited a hypothetical to the crowd at his concert with Durant in attendance. Whichever way Durant leans, it will be a combination of his upbringing and his desire to be one of the NBA’s best players that swings his decision. Winning a championship ring, for a player of Durant’s devotion, will be top of mind as he considers his next contract. Durant will likely go wherever that seems the most possible. Yes, even Toronto.”
Best games for ESPN.com, where I mention a lot of Thunder games.
Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider: “More than anything else, the quality of the conference in which a team plays determines the strength of its schedule. That’s been particularly true because of the large gap between the stronger Western Conference and the weaker Eastern Conference dating back nearly a decade and a half. Last year, the West won 63.1 percent of matchups between the two conferences, the second-highest mark since the NBA-ABA merger. So naturally, West teams had it more difficult schedule-wise than their East rivals. In fact, to demonstrate the importance of conference-to-schedule strength, every single Western Conference team played a tougher slate of opponents than every single Eastern Conference team.”