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Loud Links: 12|26|09

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Peace, Love and Thunderstanding: Bargain Shopping | Daily
[This is a nice article recapping some of the moves Presti has made since becoming the GM of the Thunder/Sonics.] This past week, he may have struck gold again. Armed with salary cap space, he was approached by the Utah Jazz hoping to alleviate their luxury tax liability. The Jazz had expected several players to opt out of their contracts this past Summer, but were burned when Carlos Boozer (who had informed them he would become a free agent last season) and Kyle Korver surveyed the market and realized their best bet was to stay put. Then Portland hosed them by offering Paul Millsap a front loaded contract which Utah, not wanting to lose him, matched. In essence, their payroll during a recession became alarmingly overwhelming. Again, the Thunder happened to be the only team that could provide relief.

Again, Presti made them pay through the nose to do them a "favor." In return for the draft rights of Peter Fehse and taking basketball invalid Matt Harpring’s expiring contract (which is being paid by an insurance company), the Thunder received another valuable piece in the roster building process. While I am not as in love with Eric Maynor as Royce, (I wanted a point guard with Maynor’s instincts that could shoot, too) he is still a fantastic return for taking the contract of a guy the team doesn’t have to pay and a second round pick that was never going to play in the United States.

Thunder readies for softer schedule |
[Like I said, I can see the Thunder being a few games over .500 by January 1st.] But the upcoming stretch will be a welcomed breather. Charlotte, New Jersey, Washington, Utah, Milwaukee, Chicago, New Orleans, Indiana and New York are a combined 94-154, a 37.9 percent winning percentage. Only Utah, at 16-13, is above .500.

"It’s obvious if you’re not playing the best teams you have a better chance to win," said Nick Collison. "But in terms of what we need to do every day nothing changes. We just need to continue to work hard. Hopefully that will help us win more games." The Thunder is 14-14 heading into the start of the slate Saturday against the Bobcats, who are just 11-16 and 1-12 on the road. It should help Oklahoma City that seven of the next nine are against Eastern Conference teams. The Thunder is 7-3 against the East this season. And unlike the past seven games, which saw the Thunder play three sets of back-to-backs, Oklahoma City is scheduled to play only one back-to-back during the upcoming stretch.

"There’s never such a thing as a soft schedule in this league," said Kevin Durant. "Every team can bring it every night. We just have to bring the type of energy we’ve had the past couple of nights and continue to grow." The importance of the next nine games can be found in a stat detailing the Thunder’s performance against the league’s best and worst teams. Oklahoma City is 9-2 against teams with records below .500. The Thunder is just 5-12 against teams above .500. "We won’t take any teams lightly," said James Harden. "We just need to compete hard every night. We’re not there yet."

Thunder notebook: Kevin Ollle likely out of rotation once healthy |
[Is Ollie going to primarily be mentor now?] Ollie likely out of rotation once healthy With rookie Eric Maynor now serving as the backup point guard, veteran Kevin Ollie probably won’t be in the rotation when he returns from arthroscopic knee surgery. Ollie has been sidelined three weeks. Ollie hopes to return to practice next week but might be out longer than the original four-week estimate. "That’s what I’m shooting for, but I couldn’t tell you definitely," Ollie said. "I’m feeling good. I’m running close to full speed." Ollie can now mentor two young point guards, Maynor and second-year starter Russell Westbrook.

Thunder made right call on Tyson Chandler |
On Tuesday, Feb. 17, Thunder fans rejoiced when their team appeared to get away with grand larceny, acquiring a rare athletic young big man who would fit perfectly with the team’s current core. Twenty-four hours later, general manager Sam Presti played the role of party pooper, announcing that the Thunder rescinded its trade with New Orleans for center Tyson Chandler because of health concerns. The decision by Oklahoma City was deemed everything from despicable to dumb. The Thunder passed up a potential All-Star center and game-changing interior defender because of a bad toe.

To many, it didn’t make sense, especially since the exchange package was two expendable veteran forwards, Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox, and the draft rights to 2008 second-round pick, DeVon Hardin. "There were some things in the medical process and outside consultants that gave us some concern," Presti said in February. "We feel the right decision for us is to move in another direction. We’re disappointed it did not work out." Who among you is still disappointed? blogs | ASU-USC Upstate rewind
[Harden visits ASU before the Suns game.] James Harden said it was a little strange being back in Wells Fargo Arena. The former ASU star watched most of ASU's win over Upstate, leaving to go prepare for that night's game against the Suns in downtown Phoenix. In his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden is averaging 10.1 points, 3.3 assists and 2.5 rebounds. He had 14 points and four rebounds against the Suns, as many of his former ASU coaches and teammates watched from US Airways Arena. "He came in the locker room before the game, and I wish I could've put him in the lineup," Sendek said. "It's amazing. He's where he needs to be. He made the right decision to go to the NBA. When you're going to be the third pick in the lottery, you have to go. Having said that, we miss him incredibly and he misses us. He loved ASU and he wants to be here, and that's the hard part." | Firing Up The Trade Machine
[Obviously this guy thinks Presti will part with a 1st round draft pick for next to nothing.] Thunder Receive: Marcus Camby (9mil/1yr) Clippers Receive: Etan Thomas (7.9mil/1yr), Rights to Phoenix’s 2010 first round draft pick Why the Thunder would do it: If the Thunder are in the playoff race, a trade for Camby could really help push them to a new level. Maybe they’d be reluctant to make the move for fear of stunting Serge Ibaka’s growth, but the potential playoff success would probably outweigh that. The Phoenix pick is also going to be a late first rounder, so the value on that selection isn’t as high as it sounds, and the last time I checked Oklahoma City isn’t exactly strapped for 2010 draft picks. Why the Clippers would do it: It’s important to mention this caveat: The Clippers would likely only move Camby if they were out of the hunt. This particular trade is very similar to the Simmons deal, except the Clippers don’t have the stress of dealing with Steve Blake and they get to hand pick their own prospect.