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Loud Links: Oklahoma City Thunder News for June 29, 2009

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Here are more Loud Links for Oklahoma City Thunder related news. There is a flurry of Paul Millsap to OKC rumors being floated around. Yao Ming could miss next season. White is bulking up and getting ready for next season. warns that a cautious approach may be the best strategy this off-season. OKC is still hunting for an assistant coach. There is more draft reaction and favorable reviews.

What I’m looking forward to is the NBA roster changes that will start to occur soon with free agency and trades. Not to mention the NBA Summer Leagues that will start off next Monday. Speaking of the Summer League, lists the top undrafted players and what teams they are playing on during the Summer League. Here are the most notable commitments - Dionte Christmas: 76ers, Leo Lyons: Pacers, and Jeff Adrien: Grizzlies.

THUNDER: White Making Up For Lost Time
After missing the season’s first 75 games with a benign tumor in his jaw, White has spent the off-season bulking up and doing plenty of skill work. He said he’s already up to 235 pounds, and said he’d like to tack on five more. Whether at the Thunder practice facility or back home in Tuscaloosa, Ala., White has remained busy. "I’m pretty much feeling like my old self," White said. "I’ve had a chance to do a lot of things I haven’t done in the past couple of months. I can workout fully, no restrictions. I can lift weights. I can eat what I want to. I feel good right now."

Report: Injury could cost Yao Ming season, longer - ESPN
The Houston Rockets already said that Yao Ming's recovery from a broken foot was behind schedule, but that setback might now cost him all of next season or worse. "At this point, the injury has the potential for him missing this next season and could be career threatening," team physician Tom Clanton said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "One of the things we are trying to get is a consensus opinion on that, to make certain there is no option we are overlooking that would provide an earlier return or would be an option for treatment that he would prefer rather than doing additional surgery." Cautious approach may be teams' best free agency strategy
Teams with developing rosters, such as the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook-Jeff Green-led unit in Oklahoma City, aren't going to sign a veteran that might impede the progress of a youngster or make it difficult to sign them when their rookie deals are up. Look at Presti's low-risk moves last season -- signing Nenad Krstic and Shaun Livingston, and trading for Thabo Sefolosha. The Thunder just drafted a potential core piece in James Harden and B.J. Mullens will be given every chance to develop. Acquiring draft picks may be more important than cap room going forward. - Orlando Summer Basketball League - Schedule - Vegas Summer League - Schedule

Clippers, Thunder, 76ers, Nets earn high marks - Scott Howard-Cooper -
Why all the talk about James Harden as a surprise pick at No. 3? He was, in many ways, the obvious pick, and certainly a sound pick. The Thunder needed a shooting guard and got the best shooting guard available, a player who didn't generate much predraft buzz because he isn't as flashy or as controversial as other top picks but is NBA-ready with a polished game. No. 24 pick B.J. Mullens is a young center from Ohio State whose personality has created doubts around front offices about whether he will ever be good, but it's low-risk given the draft slot. Just being in the league in four or five years makes any selection that late a successful outcome, and Mullens has lottery-pick potential. Robert Vaden, a shooter from UAB, went 54th.

9 winners from the ‘09 NBA Draft | Dime Magazine (
Oklahoma City Thunder - Looks like they killed the draft again. James Harden will be a star, B.J. Mullens could have gone in the Lottery but fell to 25th, and even Robert Vaden has potential to be a rotation guy. If we were talking about the Sonics, I’d have put them #1 on the list.

Former Hoosiers teammates together again in NBA |
Back when White and Vaden were rooming together during their freshman and sophomore years with the Hoosiers, they'd chat about the future and envision themselves playing in the NBA. White was the Big Ten freshman of the year before breaking his left foot and missing most of the following season, while Vaden started all 60 games and averaged 11.9 points. "We always thought we would play against each other, never with each other," White said. "It's here now, so things work out in weird ways. But I'm happy it did."

Paul Millsap to Oklahoma City? -- NBA FanHouse
The Thunder is one team with space to sign a free agent like Millsap. The team currently falls about $15 million under the cap, and Millsap has been pegged to pull a starting salary around $7-8 million. Oklahoma City can certainly afford to get into that ballpark, should Sam Presti desire to. Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune seems to believe OKC, in fact, desires Millsap. On the surface, the relationship makes sense. OKC really needs some skilled frontline brawn. The Thunder finished the season the worst shooting team in the league, belying a lack of inside scoring that generally becomes the base of a strong field goal percentage. OKC also finished poorly in shot defense, and an active paint defender like Millsap (who, by the way, blocks a surprising number of shots, given his underwhelming height) could help. Millsap's third great quality -- which is actually his most impressive -- in offensive rebounding would bolster a squad already near the top of the league's rankings, thanks to Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison.

Harden, Pendergraph off to play with the pros | ASU Web Devil
Turns out, OKC landed on none other than James Harden, the bearded, bow-tie wearing wunderkind from ASU. Don’t give him too much credit for his draft night attire, though. "My stylist did an amazing job dressing me and making me look good," Harden told The Oklahoman. "The bow-tie thing did it." Harden told reporters he believed he would be drafted anywhere between the No. 2 and No. 6 spots, but said he thought Oklahoma City was the best fit.

The Painted Area: 2009 NBA Draft Musings
There's a lot I appreciate about Harden: strength, wingspan, ability to draw fouls, court vision. I understand where the Brandon Roy comparisons come from, in terms of being guys a little under the radar from the Pac-10 with sneaky athleticism and good basketball IQ in general. But on a certain level, I don't get the comparisons at all. Harden is a much less efficient player than Roy across the board. On top of that, Roy has always been such an assertive player who's controlled his team's offensive decisions, whereas Harden has been much more passive in the games I watched. He did not step up and take charge in any of the three games I saw, even though ASU desperately needed him to do so each time - he just kind of drifted through the games offensively. In the Arizona game, his numbers looked good: 7-12 FG, including 3-6 3PT, but all 3 threes were created by others, wide-open shots because of a brain-dead Arizona zone, and another was an easy dunk inside off of a nice assist. Harden didn't really create any offense for himself, though he did create some open shots for others. I will note that he did rebound and pass well when I saw him, though he is also a high-TO player - Arizona knocked the ball out of his hands on several occasions.

Thunder has "family" bond | NBA in OKC
Jeff Green (Washington, D.C.), D.J. White (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) and Kyle Weaver (Wisconsin) were all in Oklahoma City on Saturday when the three rookies –James Harden, B.J. Mullens and Robert Vaden — were introduced. That speaks volumes that they planned trips to OKC when their new teammates would be in town. General manager Sam Presti constantly refers to acquiring high character guys who will work hard and play hard for each other. That’s why the "family" references aren’t by happen stance. Those are the type of players Presti wants to build around.

Utah Jazz: Okur likely to opt out - Salt Lake Tribune
There also was speculation Sunday that Oklahoma City might be preparing to make a push to sign Paul Millsap as a restricted free agent. Former Jazz director of player personnel Troy Weaver now is an assistant general manager with the Thunder. The Thunder unsuccessfully tried to sign away C.J. Miles from the Jazz last summer. They are expected to have $11 million in salary-cap space and could offer a contract in the neighborhood of five years and $65 million to a free agent. Detroit and Portland also could be potential Millsap suitors.

James Harden seems to fit in Sam Presti's plan |
Fit has been the Thunder's favorite buzzword since Sam Presti took over this franchise two summers ago. It's not very exotic to talk about fit — does the piece fit? — but it's absolutely relevant in the building of this franchise. And here's why. The Thunder now has four top-five picks from the last three drafts. That's a rush of top-shelf talent almost unmatched in NBA draft history. Only the Chicago Bulls, with four players from 2000-02, have done such an extreme roster makeover using elite draft picks.

Main event: Sam Presti, Thunder shopping for NBA free agent bargains |
"We feel good about the position we're in. We think we have a young group of guys that work hard and like playing with each other. But it's our job to explore ways to maximize the group. That's part of the process in free agency."

Lengthy journey takes Robert Vaden to Oklahoma | | The Indianapolis Star
"I played on the perimeter at Indiana, but I was guarding (power forwards) on the defensive end,'' Vaden said. "At UAB, opponents were double-teaming me and designing gimmick defenses to stop me. I think that experience is really going to help in the NBA because I'm used to having hands in my face and people all over me.''

Creative draft-day fashion won't come back - FOX Sports on MSN
Amidst a night of monumental trades, swirling rumors, and long-suffering Knicks fans bemoaning yet another first-round draft pick, there was a bow tie in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. Yes, Oklahoma City Thunder first-round draft pick James Harden wore a bow tie to the NBA Draft. A nice one, too. It was pinkish, maybe purple, and he wore it with a striped shirt, a vest, and a swank blazer. Don't be fooled. This was significant.

Showcase: UAB star Vaden makes huge leap for loyalty to coach - NCAA Division I Mens Basketball - News, Fantasy, Video
Vaden traded all that in for a 500-mile move, a frustrating year on the sidelines and a much lower profile at UAB in football-mad Alabama. More importantly, for loyalty to a coach who stood by his side through the death of his father and in some ways filled the painful void.

2009 NBA Draft: The Good and the Bad " Aaron Torres Sports
Maybe my favorite quality about Harden is one you can’t find on a stat sheet or in a box score. Despite playing with teammates at Arizona State that would just as easily been overwhelmed by a good intramural team as any of their Pac-10 opponents, Harden continued to keep everyone involved, refusing to take the role of the selfish superstar. While it might have been best for the team, it showed that Harden does in fact have his teams interests at heart.

2009 NBA Draft: Top Undrafted Players |
Dionte Christmas Perhaps the biggest surprise here. Christmas, a 6-foot-5 lights-out shooter, was projected as an early-second round prospect. His lack of athleticism was probably the thing that knocked him off the draft board, but there is likely still a place for him on an NBA roster. He's got an unorthodox release (but then again so does Michael Redd) which may have concerned teams. He also has great length, elevates well on his jumpshot and, after three years as a starter at Temple, is as ready for the NBA as any second-rounder. The (local - Temple) Sixers recently signed him to their summer league squad.

Chad Ford: Looking at the 2009 free-agent class - ESPN
Gortat is big, fairly athletic and very tough, and the Magic may be hard-pressed to match a substantial offer to him. He should be able to get at least a four-year deal worth $16-18 million.

Oklahoma City Thunder's core is growing |
The Thunder is still identifying which players will fit best with Durant, Green and Westbrook, who aren’t the core but are indeed the big three. No. 3 overall pick James Harden, because of his versatility and his ability to be a facilitator, is a great complement and will be around for a while. Fellow draftee B.J. Mullens is a project but one who figures to remain in OKC long term.

PBN | Bargain hunting
Desmond Mason. In his first seven seasons, Mason missed just 34 games. But he has missed 66 over the last two, will turn 32 in training camp and does not appear to part of Oklahoma City's long-term plan, especially with the selection of shooting guard James Harden in the draft. Mason still has the ability to defend two positions and score a little bit, too. He still can be a rotation player for a good team. He may warrant a multi-year deal but not anywhere near the $5.3 million he made last season.

Bordow: Catching up on all things Arizona |
Both players landed in good situations. Oklahoma City is on the rise, and Harden won’t have to be the star; that role is reserved for Kevin Durant. Harden’s unselfishness will play well alongside Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Tribune Blogs -- Jazz Notes
Talking to people Sunday, the list of potential suitors for Millsap is expected to possibly include Oklahoma City, Detroit and Portland. The Thunder are believed to be looking for a bruiser - - Anderson Varejao is another name - - and will have $11 million or so in cap space to sign a player. They are expected to spend this summer.

Paul Millsap: To Sign Or Not To Sign? | Thunder Rumblings
It’s an easy connection to make. Millsap, with his rebounding and interior defense, fits the Thunder’s most pressing needs. Assistant general manager Troy Weaver is also a former director of player personnel with the Jazz and is more familiar with Millsap than most. Add to that, Millsap is one of the best up-and-coming big men in the league after a breakout season in 2008-09 as a result of Jazz starter Carlos Boozer’s injury woes. Millsap averaged 13.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals, all career-highs. He also connected on career-highs of 69.9 percent from the free throw line and 53.4 percent from the field in 30.1 minutes per game.

Thunder notebook: Assistant coaches targeted |
It’s possible that second-round pick Robert Vaden could start his career overseas similar to last year’s draft picks, Serge Ibaka and DeVon Hardin. The Thunder will evaluate Vaden this summer, and much of the decision is based on what else happens with the team’s other offseason transactions. ... Vaden will wear No. 30, B.J. Mullens has jersey No. 23 and James Harden will wear No. 13. ...The Thunder has placed 15 portraits of each player on last year’s season-ending roster on a wall next to the court inside the team’s practice facility. Each one shows the players playing defense. ... Assistant coach Brian Keefe will coach the Thunder at the Orlando Pro Summer League. blogs - Doug Haller : Draft night will help ASU
Before the draft, it was odd to hear scouts, insiders and executives talk about the maturity of Harden's game given his age. He's only 19. They pretty much all agreed that Harden's willingness to distribute made him an instant contributor at the pro level. One scout questioned his killer instinct, another wondered about his conditioning. "But you can tell he's been coached," one executive told me. "He hasn't been coddled," which in this era of AAU tournaments and nationally-televised high school games, is a rarity.

OU Notebook: Griffin brothers go together — again |
"This is your dream," Taylor said. "As far as Blake and I being taken in the same draft... you can imagine maybe playing college together, but never in a million years did I really imagine both of us being drafted on the same night."

Bring on the season, or at least Summer league. | Daily - Where Thunder Happens

Now, consider Brook’s options. He can sub offense for defense on the ball stops and actually put out a high powered offensive five. I’m thinking a lineup of Harden, Vaden, Durant, Green and Krstic can make shots. Who is Pop going to cheat off of? How can he defend all five spots when the ball begins to swing around the perimeter? Good luck with that. If anybody was paying attention in the Orlando/Cleveland series you know what I’m talking about. Dwight Howard in the middle being guarded by Ilgauskus and 4 deadly shooters around the perimeter, swinging the ball and setting screens and double screens. I think Harden is a good enough handle that he can be the primary ball handler in that hypothetical lineup.


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