We enjoyed a delightful game against the Utah Jazz last night. No, seriously. While end-to-end it's not going to make any aspect of SportsCenter, we have to remember that in the pre-season, it's all about what to look for. Serge Ibaka continued to show some real growth as a point-producing big man, Reggie Jackson dialed it back and was the best guard on the court, and Steven Adams is giving the team exactly what they need in the post.
Darnell Mayberry offers up his post game notes for last night's win. Front and center is how Adams did against the first quality big man he has faced, Enes Kanter. Here is what Mayberry had to say:
To me, this game boiled down to the Steven Adams-Enes Kanter matchup. It was the first chance to see Adams match up against quality competition for extended minutes. Each of his previous quality outings had the cloud of crummy competition hanging over them: Spencer Hawes. Lavoy Allen. Gani Lawal. Timofey Mozgov. Greg Stiemsma. Arinze Onuaku. Some dudes from Turkey. There were brief encounters with JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis, but by and large Adams hadn’t gone up against anyone yet. That all changed Sunday. And not only did Adams not disappoint, but he actually dominated Kanter in their 18 minutes against each other, stringing together yet another encouraging preseason effort that surely will lead to even more calling for regular season minutes for the rookie.
Royce Young sums up the Thunder's win over the Jazz in appropriate fashion:
Thabo somehow took 10 free throws
Who has a shot at being the most improved player in 2013-14? First of all, it's gotta be a guy who gets a significant bump in minutes year over year. Secondly, he has to be in a position to impact the team's bottom line. A good candidate? Wages of Wins says:
With Russell Westbrook out until mid-December, [Reggie] Jackson will start the season as the Thunder’s starting point guard. He’ll also see increased minutes as Westbrook plays himself back into shape. Finally, with the loss of Kevin Martin during the offseason, the Thunder will need to find someone to mop up some extra minutes at guard. Put all that together and Jackson should be an MIP candidate.
Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe pen a lengthy discussion on which teams offer the highest quality for your NBA League Pass time. The Thunder obviously come up on the high end of the scale, but it comes in the course of events where Simmons is growing ever more pathological in his complaining about the James Harden trade. I check in with DT's Royce Young to see what he thought on the matter, and we both concluded that there is a term for what Simmons is doing in regards to OKC:
SB Nation's Tom Ziller writes in The Hook that the Thunder still get busted upon for the Harden trade, but in light of everything, they probably made the right decision. Ziller doesn't explicitly call out Simmons in this analysis, but if you read between the lines, it isn't a difficult reach, either. To wit:
So a team loaded with Durant (a three-time scoring champ by age 24) and Westbrook (the NBA's No. 1 shot creator) opted for the elite defensive big man over the ace scorer. In 2010-11, before the breakouts for Harden and Ibaka, the Thunder ranked No. 5 on offense and No. 15 on defense. The Thunder made the Western Conference Finals. Ibaka and Harden had fabulous 2011-12 seasons. The Thunder had the No. 3 offense and the No. 8 defense and made the NBA Finals. Ibaka signed an extension, Harden got traded and in 2012-13 ... the Thunder had the No. 1 offense and the No. 3 defense.
The crew at Hickory High conduct a fun roundtable where they chew through several thought provoking questions. What really grinds my gears in the NBA? Flopping? Foul call consistency? James Harden in Houston? Dwyane Wade being Dwyane Wade? Nah, I'm actually pretty good.
What really happened with Manu Ginobili last year? Pounding the Rock has some ideas, and while this is a story about an opposing team, I think it's important to note that bad years and mental issues can hit any player, no matter how many rings and how many wars they've been through.
There will be Jazz Hands in Utah this season, as Ball Don't Lie reports. It is good to see that rookie hazing (the friendly kind) remains alive and well.
Carmelo Anthony gets the WSJ treatment, asking the question about whether he is worth the money he will be looking for. If it isn't the Knicks, it will be another team, but I'd probably argue that unless 'Melo wants to figure out a way along side LeBron James, NYC is probably the best place for him to be.
Hot Hot Hoops writes to establish LeBron's place in living history. It's a good preview and it makes me excited for the upcoming season. What I found most interesting though were the comments, and how much the tenor of anti-LeBron guys reminds me of the rift between Sonics fans and Thunder fans.