Is there reason to be concerned? The Thunder (0-3) lost 122-102 to Golden State (2-1) tonight, which really wasn’t a big surprise. We all knew the Thunder wasn’t going to be good, but with Kevin Durant taking it on the chin again with a 4-16 night from the floor, is there reason to wonder about the season? The team is 0-3 and hasn’t really played all that well. Should we worry?
It’s preseason basketball.
If Allen Iverson were here, he’d say “Preseason? We talkin’ bout preseason! Not the regular season, not the regular season, not the regular season. We talkin’ bout… preseason.” Obviously, “worry” is relative because we know what the expectations are for this squad.
But I’ll tell you one thing to maybe worry about – Jeff Green’s ankle sprain. The guy was coming on. He played well against Sacramento and was looking good for a half against the Warriors. But hopefully it was just a light tweak and he was held out for precautionary reasons.
Other than that, there’s really nothing to be worried about. The team wasn’t playing with a loaded gun, seeing as Nick Collison was held out and a bunch of other contributers didn’t see any time on the hardwood either. The squad is playing a stream of games in just a few days so they’re pacing themselves. And the point of preseason is to get better, get more acquanited with your teammates and freshen up your game. Hard to say if that’s really happening right now, but again, it’s preseason ball and there’s still four more to come.
Defense. But in reality, Golden State is very good offensively. So in most cases, in order to beat them, you have to outscore them.
Jeff Green’s injury. Probably not too serious, but with the growing laundry list, it’s not good to have another guy out. With the rate these guys are going down, by the end of this preseason schedule, Matt Pinto may be suiting up.
Fourth quarter. The team hasn’t closed well at all. Tonight they went 4-17 in the fourth and overall, have been outscored 81-56 in the money period. That’s not good. Definitely the youth showing through.
Damien Wilkins. In double-digits every night so far this preseason as he had 23 points tonight, including 3-6 from downtown. Good stuff. The Thunder is looking for another scorer like a six-year-old is looking for Waldo and Wilkins may be that answer.
The team looked much crisper and the offense showed serious life. They scored over 100 for the first time and at times looked very crisp offensively. Russell Westbrook once again impressed and John Lucas had a nice game. The team is young, but tonight it showed improvement.
In Tulsa against the Rockets Monday night.
TV: Thunder TV, KSBI-52 (Cox 9)
Radio: The Sports Animal, (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
Oklahoma City looks to rebound after Thursday’s 88-82 loss at Minnesota in Billings, Montana. The Thunder had trouble at times scoring, but eventually put together a solid run to hold a lead of seven late in the fourth quarter. The Thunder had trouble in the post as they only had three players to rotate into the four and five spot. Tonight Joe Smith and Chris Alexander will likely see the bulk of the playing time in the post as P.J. Carlesimo looks to rest his other big men as the team has five games in seven days. Also, Carlesimo said he’d divide the time a little more evenly tonight, looking to get each player about 20 minutes, also planning to play John Lucas, Derrick Byers and Kyle Weaver (if healthy).
What to watch for:
Russell Westbrook. He was electrifying in game one but a little erratic. After having time to watch tape and reflect on his first live NBA action, it will be interesting to see how Westbrook performs.
And for all six of you that come here to read what I’m feverishly writing, I won’t be here to recap tonight’s preseason game against Sacramento and likely won’t be here to recap tomorrow night’s either. I’ll be in Dallas screaming my face off for the Sooners.
This is what we all have waited for. It’s amazing to think about where we are at. Thousands of us sat in front of a television tonight and watched a professional sports franchise that had “Oklahoma City” across the front and we didn’t have to worry about them leaving. Try and imagine this happening four years ago. You can’t. Why? Because there was no shot, no chance, no hope for little OKC to get a pro sports team.
But at 8 p.m. Wednesday night, we were all witnesses to the birth of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball. Just awesome. They lost 88-82 to Minnesota but who cares? We were watching our own team play pro basketball. (Highlights)
Anyway, enough of that. A few observations from the game:
But keep in mind one thing – this was the preseason. This game didn’t count for anything and doesn’t mean anything. The starters didn’t play for virtually an entire quarter at a point. But there are a lot of good things and bad, bad things to take from it. And now we get ready for Sacramento.
|Earl Watson, PG||28||1-7||0-1||0-0||1||4||5||2|
|Kevin Durant, SF||27||3-13||0-0||4-4||7||2||3||10|
|Jeff Green, PF||17||1-7||0-1||2-4||5||1||4||4|
|Chris Wilcox, PF||30||6-10||0-0||5-8||3||0||2||17|
|Nick Collison, PF||31||2-7||0-0||0-0||6||2||0||4|
|Desmond Mason, SF||8||1-2||0-0||2-2||2||3||1||4|
|Russell Westbrook, PG||8||5-9||0-1||3-4||3||3||6||13|
|Damien Wilkins, SG||16||7-12||1-2||4-6||5||0||2||19|
|Johan Petro, C||7||2-2||0-0||0-0||7||1||2||4|
(Preseason stats are far from accurate by the way, especially the minutes played. Westbrook actually played almost 20 minutes in the game, not eight.)
There aren’t a lot more satisfying things for a man than to finish up a little project or job and then stomp proudly over to that cursed to-do list and cross it off. Feels good.
So like a nagging wife, I’m giving Oklahoma City a little to-do list for the preseason. And more like a nagging wife, I have little faith the team can actually complete all the tasks on the list, to which I’ll cross my arms and nag them from my seats high above in Loud City.
To-do #1: Establish a consistent starting lineup.
Right now, the probable starting lineup for tonight’s game against Minnesota is Earl Watson, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison. The likelihood that’s the starting five for the first 15 games? Unlikely. The team has got to use these meaningless games to figure out who plays well together and who should start.
To-do #2: Find out if Russell Westbrook can play at the League level.
The consensus after Draft Day 2008 – Thunder GM Sam Presti took a chance on the UCLA guard. Why not D.J. Augustin? Why not Mario Chalmers? Why Russell Freaking Westbrook? Well, after summer ball, Presti had to have had a little smug smile on his young, chiseled, wrinkle-less face. Westbrook played top-notch and had the look of a real-deal NBA guard. He could defend, he could handle the ball and he was athletic – boy was he athletic. But that was against other first and second year players and a couple fifth year guys that were hoping and praying to make a preseason roster. But now Westbrook will have the chance to handle real NBA pressure and defend real NBA scorers. It will be interesting to see how he does.
To-do #3: Mesh, jell, chemistrify, mold, whatever.
I mentioned it in No. 1 briefly, but this team needs to figure one another out. There’s a bunch of new pieces and the team’s average age is 24. Desmond Mason and Joe Smith are new acquisitions. Westbrook, D.J. White and Kyle Weaver are new to the League. Robert Swift hasn’t seen a competitive basketball floor in years because he’s injured all the time. And then there’s a couple of guys that are up in the air whether or not they’ll make the roster that are new. Oh yeah, and then there’s the whole “brand new to Oklahoma City” thing, so they need to jell to the City and its fans. Just get used to playing here and living here.
To-do #4: Stay healthy.
I guess this doesn’t apply to you Robert Swift (or any other center on the team for that matter) since you’re already hurt, but the team needs to stay injury-free. There isn’t a lot of depth here so if one or two main cogs go down before the season even starts, this thing could get ugly. P.J. Carlesimo has already said Kevin Durant and a few others won’t play all the games, but the key is don’t take any unnecessary chances. The guys trying to make the roster – have at it. John Lucas, dive on the floor, jump on people’s backs, climb inside the rim – do whatever it takes to make it. But the mainstays need to stay clean, especially players like Westbrook so he doesn’t lose his season before it even gets started and then is set back a year.
To-do #5: Look good.
This means a couple of things: 1) Literally, look good. Look spiffy in the new duds, put on your headbands and armbands and act like this is the big-time. Start getting your mind revved up for the actual season. 2) Look good by playing good. If the team exceeds expectations and plays tough defense, doesn’t turn the ball over and has someone emerge as a decent second scorer, then that builds confidence going into the regular season. Confidence is a wonderful thing, but it’s a tough thing to build. Look at the pre-2004 Red Sox compared to now. Then, they were looking for something to go wrong so they could say, “Oh, here we go again” but now, they know something is about to go right so they can say, “Oh, here we go!” A big key is building that winning, confident attitude.
There’s five, pretty simple things to try and do. I know they probably won’t get around to all five, but just tackling two or three would be a nice start.