Just as we think OKC is about to turn a corner, they are suddenly having to deal with potentially crippling injuries. Kendrick Perkins, as we have always known, is out for a few weeks. Now, reports are confirming today that Kevin Durant is likely out tonight as well.
The Thunder will likely be without Kevin Durant and his 28 points per game tonight, but the Hawks may be short-handed as well. Josh Smith is still nursing a sprained knee and may miss this evening's game. Like Durant, he is a long and athletic small forward and currently averages about 17 per game. In terms of replacement cost, instead of the Thunder now needing to make up 28 points of missing offense, they might need to account for about 11 incremental points. Doable.
Russell Westbrook says he noticed an immediate difference with veteran Nazr Mohammed playing behind him. I believe that sense stems from trusting a guy who has been around the best and been coached by the best and is not prone to making the mental mistakes that younger players do.
Charles Barkley, never one to shy away from a controversial opinion, is not a true believer in the Spurs this season. He actually thinks that the Thunder could actually beat them now, with their recent acquisitions:
"I think the only team that really helped themselves a lot was Oklahoma City. I like what they did. "They got the two studs that can score on anybody and they got enough big guys."
Here is the difference though, and why I would still probably pick the Spurs in a series - the Spurs always play hard, and they always play smart. They've been a part of virtually every scenario you can think of, and their coach Gregg Popovich knows how to game plan around all of them. The Thunder simply haven't had enough time to acquire that knowledge base yet, and in an even series, that decides who moves on.
This accolade underscores the difference between the visionaries and the rest of us. It is one thing to be able to pick apart a trade and see its perfection. It is another thing entirely to see the perfection before it actually happens, and then to guide the chisel to make the proper indentations to the finished sculpture.
More links after the jump
In which the author compares the NBA landscape to a woman giving birth. Yeah, a bit of a stretch.
/ducks flying TV remote
As of today, both the Trailblazers and Nuggets are looking up at the Thunder with a little more than a month left in the season. They're within shouting distance, so the Thunder, despite being short-handed, still must focus on the regular season finish before they can start fantasizing about playoff series.
Here for once is an accurate description of the real problem that many franchises face. It isn't the need for more revenue sharing, or better TV rights, or a revamped draft. It is the straight-forward need to run the franchise better.
Even as the enemy, I still love Phil Jackson.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy offers some candid thought on the current set-up regarding how players can have their contracts bought out:
"You spend all this time in your locker room talking about trying to get guys to put aside personal things and 'it's all about the team...and then on March 1st you're changing the team and sending guys out the door. I think pretty quickly players pick up that you're sort of full of crap..."
It's always fun to listen in at college sports pages. This one actually makes a salient point though - the Thunder had a big red warning sign flashing up in Portland about how there is never any guarantee about tomorrow; sometimes you have to force the issue a bit. The article also looks at the rest of the league trades; try not to smirk too much when you see that the writer tries to turn Ibaka into a Spaniard.
Here is a quick run-down on a list of collegiate underclassmen who could be making waves if we actually have a draft this year.
Byron Mullins was recalled last Friday afternoon and was in uniform for Friday's game.