The Thunder's second Pre-Season game will be against Euroleague club Fenerbahce Ulker. The Thunder have played Fenerbache once before, prior to the 2013 season. That time, the Thunder traveled to Istanbul to play Fenerbahce. This time, Fenerbahce comes to Oklahoma City.
Who is Fenerbahce Ulker?
Fenerbahce is one of the Euroleague's premier clubs. Last season, Fenerbahce finished as the fourth best team in Europe. This season, Fenerbahce has beefed up their roster even further. The Turkish club managed to acquire four players who have seen NBA rosters in the past two years. Those players are Pero Antic, Ekpe Udoh, Luigi Datome, and Jan Vesely. Antic will be out with injury tonight, but he's probably the best player of the bunch.
In any case, the other three new faces should have a big impact for Fenerbahce. Luigi Datome is a scoring focused forward that can hit floaters and shoot it outside. Ekpe Udoh is an athletic forward who focuses on defense. Lastly, Jan Vesely is a high flying center that has mastered the art of the pick.
The other big name on Fenerbahce is Bogdan Bogdanovic. (Bogdan is not to be confused with Bojan Bogdanovic, a shooting guard for the Brooklyn Nets.) Bogdan was the 27th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Fenerbahce signed Bogdan last season. Generally, Bogdan is a pretty typical wing. Bogdan can hit some really clutch threes around screens, and finishes well through contact at the rim.
Perhaps the most challenging thing about tonight is the fact that Fenerbahce will be well-practiced before the game. The Turkish club has practiced since September 21st, and this will be their sixth game together. By comparison, the Thunder have been practicing since September 28th, and have only gone through one official game together.
How Fenerbahce did against the Nets
During this pre-season, Fenerbahce has already played an NBA team. On October 5th, Fenerbahce defeated the Brooklyn Nets, 101-96. It's worth noting that the Fenerbahce starters got to play roughly 5-10 minutes more than the Brooklyn starters did. Had Brooklyn been serious about the game, the outcome might have been different.
The most impressive Fenerbahce player in the game against the Nets was Jan Vesely. Vesely scored 18 points on 9-14 shooting that night. But that's not the only impressive recent performance for Vesely. During the 2015 Eurobasket, Vesely averaged 19.3 points and 9.1 rebounds for the Czech Republic. That's good for third best in the entire tournament. It shouldn't be surprising, considering that Vesely was the 6th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The Thunder will definitely have to watch out for Vesely's range and ability to finish on the pick and roll.
A surprising face to emerge as a factor in the Nets game was Kostas Sloukas. Certainly, Sloukas knows how to be a champion. Sloukas was a regular contributor to two Olympiacos teams that won the Eurobasket, and participates on Greece's national squad. But Sloukas has a career Euroleague average of 2.2 assists a game. That's certainly a lot less than the 11 assists Sloukas dropped on the Nets in just 32 minutes.
What's going on with the Thunder
Russell Westbrook is looking as strong as ever, and is coming off of a near triple-double against the Timberwolves on Wednesday. Kevin Durant is looking equally strong, working well in the high post and on the wings for 15 points. Coach Billy Donovan played Westbrook and Durant for the nearly the entirety of the first and third quarters on Wednesday. Donovan also claimed that he'd like to keep the duo between 18-22 minutes generally.
There were four players who played more than Westbrook and Durant on Wednesday. Kanter led the way with 27 minutes, while McGary, Waiters, and Roberson all played 23 minutes each. Considering that Steven Adams was out with minor back soreness, it makes sense that Kanter would log the most time on the floor. Adams status for tonight is unknown at the time of this article, but Coach Donovan was "hopeful" as of Wednesday.
Serge Ibaka was probably the Thunder's most impressive player against the Timberwolves. Ibaka scored 18 points on just 12 shots, and had a really amazing block on Zach LaVine.
The only Thunder player under guaranteed contract to not see time on Wednesday was Josh Huestis. Additionally, the Thunder's four training camp signees (Talib Zanna, Julyan Stone, Dez Wells, Michael Qualls) did not see any time on Wednesday. Generally, as the season gets closer, teams like to rest their stars more. Expect the Thunder to keep things relatively competitive tonight, though.
Kanter's history with Fenerbahce
If there's one player who will be worth watching tonight on an emotional level, it's Enes Kanter. The following is from an article I wrote this summer:
Kanter played for various levels of Fenerbahce's teams from 2006-2009. Interestingly, Kanter didn't leave Fenerbahce on the best of terms. Back in 2010, Kanter decided to depart Istanbul and enroll at the University of Kentucky. Before Kanter could enroll though, he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Allegedly, Kanter received benefits from Fenerbahce that violated his amateur status.
In 2011, Enes Kanter stated that he believed Fenerbahce to be responsible for his NCAA ineligiblity. In a 2010 interview, Kanter's father, Mehmet, stated that Fenerbahce was trying to 'make an example' out of Enes.
Kanter's wounds haven't completely healed from that time. During media day, Kanter brought up the fact that Fenerbahce made him ineligible. Apparently, it was out of the blue.
During last season, Kanter faced a similar situation. The Jazz traded Kanter to the Thunder after four losing seasons. Kanter was frustrated with the way the Jazz had treated him. So when the Thunder played in Utah, Kanter made the media aware of his frustrations. Unsurprisingly, Kanter was booed in the arena. Kanter took the whole thing in stride, egging on the fans as if he were a wrestling heel.
Kanter clapped at booing fans at least once during the game, and registered a technical foul as well. Afterwards, then coach Scott Brooks promised to address the way Kanter had handled the introductions.
Given that tonight's game is in Oklahoma City, I wouldn't expect Kanter to be as much of a centerpiece. But Enes will certainly have personal motivation to do well. With opposing center Jan Vesely coming off of a 18 point performance against Brook Lopez, I certainly hope that Kanter can do a better job defensively.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 111, Fenerbahce Ulker 92.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!
|2015-16 NBA Pre-Season Game 2|
|October 9th, 2015|
|Chesapeake Energe Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|7:00 PM Central Standard Time|
|Injury Report: Steven Adams (Questionable), Pero Antic, Ricky Hickman, Ali Muhammed (Out)|
|Last Season's Matchups: 2013|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Kostas Sloukas|
|Andre Roberson||SG||Bogdan Bogdanovic|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Nikola Kalinic|
|Nick Collison||PF||Ekpe Udoh|
|Serge Ibaka||C||Jan Vesely|