The Thunder will be back in action tonight for their final game of a six game home stand in which they finished 5-1 (darn you, Raptors!). If you recall last time the Thunder played the Warriors, it featured one of the most bizarre statistics that I've ever seen - Golden State attempted 40 more shots than the Thunder. Since the reason why they got that huge advantage was because of 20 offensive rebounds and 20 Thunder turnovers, I'm curious as to how the Thunder will correct those mistakes. It should be interesting.
John Rohde writes about the long-standing debate about the Thunder drafting James Harden over Golden State's Stephen Curry. It is a good exercise in hypotheticals and how there is no such thing as an "a priori" player swap. Also, think of it this way - The Warriors have aspirations of a winning season. The Thunder have aspirations of a championship season. If featured player does not have the ability to stay on the court because of his defense, only the former is possible.
Young takes another stab at figuring out exactly why the Thunder is playing such good defense now. Can it really be because of one player addition?
This is a good look at the contrast in personalities and maturity of the upcoming group of NBA stars and their predecessors. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook comprise the up-and-coming generation of players who seem to play with a greater air of responsibility than guys like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Here is an alternative theory - with few exceptions, young men have a longing to be led by the older generation, but only if that older generation has earned the right. In the NBA, the older generation is practically a lost generation - it includes number one draft picks such as Michael Olowokandi, Derrick Coleman, and Glen Robinson. In a sense, this is no leadership at all.
In the real world, where sports franchises are not protected by collective bargaining and from antitrust issues, there is such a thing as competition. To quote the immortal Gordon Gekko (the 1st version):
The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated.
More links after the jump.
While it is true that every team has its own particular issues, there is a collection of teams that will be representing the East in the playoffs that are exceptionally flawed. Here is a run-down on what will make the Eastern playoffs in the first round less than optimal for how you spend your TV viewing time.
I know very little about either the new draft crop or the international competition, but I would like to see Thunder continue to utilize its resources so that green players have a place in the organization. Whether that is in their D-League team (Tulsa) or overseas, it makes me think about what the Spurs have done with talent. The Spurs are notorious for allowing young players to develop out of sight and then, when help is needed, they step in and perform well. The rest of the league is left wondering where they keep finding such assets.
The Thunder will be playing a number of back-to-backs over the next two weeks, so I hope they have enjoyed their leisurely home stand. Tonight the Warriors come to town, and tomorrow the Thunder will be traveling to Phoenix. Every game is winnable, but the degree of difficulty is about to double.
Here is another look at the discrepancy between the title contenders, the middle class, and the also-rans. This quote is interesting:
"Fan bases are left to wonder when they'll get their chance to cheer for a championship-caliber team."
This statement begs an interesting question: for those fans who have followed the NBA for any length of time, do they really wonder this? Based on the landscape of the NBA over the past 30 years, I honestly can't see how this is even a valid question for 80% of the league.
Kobe Bryant has taken his record-setting 26th player of the week award. Of course, this award only began in 2001, but still, it's quite impressive. If Kevin Durant is to become the kind of player he wants to be, this is the kind of ceiling he needs to approach. Don't worry, there is plenty of time.