ESPN's NBA guru John Hollinger chatted with folks today on the playoffs and the impending off-season. He offered a number of answers for questions regarding how the Thunder are doing.
I have excerpted his OKC-specific answers here, but be sure to read the whole chat.
Question: Will let the refs let the Thunder and Grizz get after each other in Memphis, or will the whistles take over at some point?
Hollinger: This will probably be a high free-throw series just because of how both teams play, but that doesn't mean the refs are going to take it over. Last night had free throws but it was still an extremely physical game; I'm not sure how it translated on TV, but there was a lot of smash-mouth stuff off the ball especially.
Question: OKC-Memphis looked like an NFL game last night. The Thunder adopted the "foul all the time, hope the refs only call half of them" strategy, correct?
Hollinger: Let's not get crazy. Thought they stepped up to the challenge after a pretty meek performance in Game 1.
Question: John, was OKC's win an aberration or are the Thunder going to put up a good fight?
Hollinger: I think this one is going at least six and probably seven. Pretty excited to see what happens this weekend at the Grindhouse.
Question: Is OKC-MEM the next NBA rivalry brewing in front of us?
Hollinger: 100% agreed. With the Lakers-Spurs-Mavs axis showing it's age, I have a feeling this won't be the last Thunder-Grizzlies series I end up covering. Have found pretty much universal agreement on this from the other folks covering it.
Question: How great has Eric Maynor been in the playoffs? Do you see him going to another team and becoming a starter after his contract is up?
Hollinger: I think there's a decent chance Maynor will fly the coop once his rookie contract expires, because somebody will give him a contract to be the starter that the Thunder can't possibly match. Fortunately for OKC that's still a couple years away.
Question: Do you see the westbrook-durant situation developing in a kobe-shaq relationship?
Hollinger: It's possible. You hear mutterings of alpha-dog tension, and they're both so young that it's going to be difficult to handle this spotlight. That said, one key difference is that Durant is a much different cat than Shaq was, so he may be able to deal with it better. By the way, Shaq and Kobe won three titles before it fell apart, so I'm not sure this is a terrible scenario.
- It is fascinating to see how Hollinger has come around on the Thunder this season. While he certainly is predicting that the 2nd round will likely go at least six games, If you read into these answers or his other work, you can see that he's now favoring the Thunder.
- The future prospects of a burgeoning Memphis-OKC rivalry is titillating. They are both small market teams, propose a hard-working mentality, and yet play vastly different styles of basketball.
- I agree with Hollinger's take on Maynor. When his rookie contract is up, the kid is going to go to another team for more money. Maynor is too good to stay on the bench forever.
- I've seen varieties of this phrase more and more - "mutterings of alpha-dog tension." I'm not a beat reporter like Mayberry, and I'm not a pro writer/blogger like Young, but I take their word over most when they say that they've never, not once, ever seen anything resembling an alpha-dog struggle between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. And I've never seen any evidence of it myself, and what is ridiculous is that I'm only looking for it because we as the NBA consumers have been trained to look for it, and I kind of resent that.
In fact, the only place I ever see "mutterings" of this sort of tension is by national reporters and talking heads when they try to shoehorn the OKC dynamic into a pre-conceived narrative device. Like Skip here. It is as if it is already a foregone conclusion, and now we're all just waiting for the inevitable divorce to happen. How depressing that is.