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Loud Links: 12|23|09

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Does Sam Presti Really Exist? | Basketball Outsider
[Is Presti a fable, like Santa? No, Sir. Presti is the real deal.] The implications of this trade almost everybody has read by now. The Jazz send away Maynor as a reward because OKC is willing to take on Harpring’s huge deal ($6.5 million), although most it is covered by insurance, which allows Utah to dump salary and upgrade the possibility of either keeping Boozer until the end of the season or at least ask a lot for him until February the 18th (trade deadline). Because it was under the cap, the Thunder is able to absorb Harpring’s deal which expires on the summer without cutting into their projected free cap and get another young talented prospect that will be able to help them right away as they are shorthanded on the Guard spot because Westbrook’s backups are both injured. Although both teams are winners on this deal, it seems like another great move by Sam Presti which makes me wonder: Does Sam Presti really exist?

OKC just added another asset, draft pick without having to send away anything: Fehse will most likely never play on the NBA, they didn’t have to trade any of their four (2 on the 1st round) draft picks and didn’t jeopardize their cap space for the summer. All of that because of their strong cap position (they were way under the cap) and the brain of a smart GM.

Basketball Prospectus | Unfiltered
[Did you guys know that Maynor earned a double-double in his first NBA start?] Essentially, this is a win-win deal made possible by the two teams’ contrasting positions relative to the cap. For Utah, this is the culmination of a process the Portland Trail Blazers helped set in motion by extending an offer sheet to Millsap and forcing the Jazz to pay him market value despite the luxury-tax ramifications. As a result, Utah has to forfeit a useful young player and downgrades slightly in the short term from Maynor to Ronnie Price. In Oklahoma City’s case, this is the latest example of Presti using the team’s salary flexibility to add assets. Maynor has been a capable backup point guard for Utah as a rookie and gives the Thunder a long-term answer at the position behind starter Russell Westbrook. In Maynor’s limited minutes, his assist ratio is sixth in the league, trailing a group of the NBA’s best point guards (Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, former teammate Deron Williams and Jason Kidd). [Please note that the Thunder may have actually set the process in motion when they signed C.J. Miles to an offer sheet the summer of 2008.]

Thunder earning an ‘A’ in chemistry |
Most teams claim to have good chemistry. But when veteran point guard Kevin Ollie says the Thunder’s is the best he’s seen, he’s saying a lot. Oklahoma City is Ollie’s 12th team in 12 NBA seasons. "It’s the best I’ve ever been around," Ollie said. "It’s a young group to where they can finish each other’s sentences. A veteran team has different obligations (with families). Watching what they have going here is truly beautiful to see. They’re the best of buddies."

Implications of Maynor deal far-reaching | ESPN
Additionally, some subtle aspects of this deal make it particularly juicy for the Thunder. Harpring makes $6.5 million this year, but Oklahoma City is on the hook for only $1.78 million while insurance will cover the rest. And since Harpring has an expiring contract, the deal won't cut into their projected $10 million-plus in cap space next summer. Finally, the Thunder can trade Harpring again if they so choose, either alone or as part of a package: Teams under the cap aren't bound by the league's two-month rule on re-packaging acquired players.

Born To Ball: Kevin Durant’s Ascent To The N.B.A.’s Elite | Around the Majors
The Thunder are going to be a tough team to play in the coming years. If they add a true center to the mix, they become a must-watch on a nightly basis. They will be scary good and will be a legitimate power in the West.

As I sat above halfcourt and watched Bryant and Durant guard each other in the fourth quarter, I reflected on the type of player Kobe molded himself into over the last decade. He went through the tantrums and the hiccups to become a champion. With four rings to his name, Bryant is still reinventing his game with new and improved post moves (courtesy of a summer spent under Hakeem Olajuwon’s tutelage). And then I zoomed in on Durant, and the magnificence of it all struck me. Durant is in his third season in the league, and his leadership and desire to win is palpable. Teammates respond to him. Opponents are weary of him. There is no me-first ball hog in the guy. In that regard, Durant is about ten years ahead of Kobe’s development pattern.

No, Durant hasn’t won a ring, hasn’t made an All-Star team, hasn’t won a scoring title, hasn’t really accomplished anything that Bryant has accomplished. But Bryant’s accolades came only after he learned how to be a winner. No historic palace is built on Styrofoam. Where Durant’s career leads to remains to be seen, but he is clawing at the door of greatness and the results could be legendary.

This Year's Rookies Proving the Experts Wrong | Sporting News
James Harden, the most easily overlooked name in the draft, actually went third, and he has proven that his understated style translates to the NBA. Every day, he seems a more important part of the Thunder's future, if nothing else as its key reserve.

Brooks makes Thunderous impression | The Orange County Register
Brooks, you might remember, is the relentless gremlin who brought people into the Bren Center in the late 80s. Back then UC Irvine was running and taking 20-footers when not all that many college teams were, and Coach Bill Mulligan believed in all 94 feet of the court. It was perfect for Brooks, who was just getting loose when taller opponents were strapping on the oxygen.

Brooks had no chance at playing in the NBA, of course, but he showed up at Philadelphia's camp anyway. He was cut but impressed enough people to get invited back, and by the time his tour was over, he had played with Charles Barkley in Philadelphia and Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston. Then he coached and played for the L.A. Stars of the ABA, an economy-class league where the dreams are considerably more sumptuous than the leg room. Finally he wound up on George Karl's staff in Denver and P.J. Carlesimo's in Oklahoma City. Considering Carlesimo's limited shelf life in all his NBA jobs, that was an advantageous spot to be.

Robert Swift Apparently Done With Basketball | NBA FanHouse
[Our former reject bench warmer now chooses to warm his sofa instead.] The tale of Robert Swift might be the most sad of all recent lottery busts, if only because of where Swift is today. The 7-foot redhead was Seattle's top pick in the 2004 draft, the 12th choice overall. The kid battled injury and alienation, barely getting on the court in five seasons with the Sonics/Thunder franchise. When he did, he was underwhelming, at his "peak" averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes.

This year, Swift couldn't find an NBA job and made his way to his hometown Bakersfield Jam of the D-League. The Jam, of course, have their own vaguely neocolonial issues, but apparently the basketball wasn't working out for Swift there. After two games, Swift abandoned the Jam. His coach, Will Voigt, thinks Swift might be done with the sport forever.