Hey Thunder Nation!!!
Time for another edition of Daily Rumbles. I know the “Daily” is pushing it, but let’s be honest, since the last edition the story with the Thunder hasn’t changed and writing “ditto” every day seemed a waste of time.
Finally, there is something real to write about and it’s coming from behind the scenes. A voice crying out in the wilderness. A voice speaking truth, and one that deserves repeating over and over until someone listens. That voice comes from Antonio Daniels, Fox Sports Oklahoma’s Thunder game analyst, and after the Thunder’s loss to the Orlando Magic, Daniels dropped the gloves, spoke his mind and earned a standing ovation from this lowly blogger, if no one else (although others did notice).
I rarely listen to the Skip Bayless’s of the world out there. They are over-hyped blowhards paid to cater to and draw an audience. Like used car salesmen, they say what their customer wants to hear, but when a 14 year NBA vet opens up, I listen:
Daniels was a role player throughout his career, but when he talks about the good teams he played for, they were very good. He was with the Spurs when the Tim Duncan era began from 1998 to 2002 and helped them win their first championship. Daniels played back-up point guard and was a big part of the last really good Super Sonic team in 2005.
From winning a championship with the Spurs to a season with the Trailblazers in which Zach Randolph, before becoming the darling of Memphis, punched out one of his Blazer teammates, Daniels pretty much saw it all during his NBA career, and he nailed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s problem to the wall for everyone to see.
There comes a point where guys have to stop talking and start doing. And from the moment that this season began, guys have been saying all the right things, ‘I’m willing to do whatever they need me to do, I understand it’s about ball movement, I understand it is about player movement....’ and right now, this team is about talk.
(paused and nodded before continuing)
This team is about talk right now. They aren’t taking anything from the pre-game or post-game press conferences and applying it to the floor.
It’s important to note that Daniels did not point fingers at any individual and there is a reason. Daniels was talking about everyone. Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Steven Adams, and anyone else wearing a Thunder uniform.
Passion, or better yet, a lack thereof, is the problem, and it’s rampant. I have seen senior citizens at a quilting bee show more passion over a missed stitch than I saw from this Thunder team while blowing a game against a team coming off a nine game losing streak!!!
This is not an afternoon tea we are talking about here...
...Or a weekly Bridge Club meeting; this is the NBA. Nobody outside the Thunder locker room and their fans give a hoot whether this team wins 60 games or loses 60, and it’s time for someone in a Thunder uniform to take charge.
Daniels echoed the same sentiments I shared in the comment section yesterday about every good team he ever played for having that guy, that someone who held the others accountable. The guy that would lead the charge and hold his teammates to a certain standard. The guy no one wanted to get on the bad side of. The Thunder had that guy in Kendrick Perkins and haven’t had him since Perk was traded two seasons ago.
I spoke about the need for “that guy” with J.A. Sherman last season. My hope was that Ray Felton was going to take on that role. He said he was during his Media Day interview. Well... let’s see it Ray.... or somebody... anybody.... because the Polite Police need to exit stage right and the Reality Patrol needs to step up before it’s too late.
To reach 50 wins the Thunder must win 42 of their next 62 games. That’s winning at a 69% clip. Currently, the Thunder are blundering along at 40% and have yet to see the toughest part of their schedule. How is that for reality?
Which brings me to another important aspect of Daniels’ post-game analysis — what he didn’t say. Daniels didn’t say the answer to the Thunder’s problem was firing current coach Billy Donovan.
Show of hands. When the Thunder went 1 for 19 in the second half, who thinks Billy Donovan called time out and said, “okay guys, no more passing after we cross mid-court”? Because that is what happened. I can’t remember seeing more than 4 passed balls after the Thunder crossed mid-court during that fiasco in the second half.
Donovan has remained consistent since day one that ball and player movement is the key to this group reaching their goals. These players know better than to stagnate like they have been, or at least they say they do.
One of the more interesting reasons given for firing Donovan is that his players aren’t listening to him. My question is, who have the OKC 3 ever truly listened to? Paul George’s old coach at Indiana, Frank Vogel, just beat the crap out of the Thunder with a team on a nine game losing streak. How many coaches has Melo gone through and not listened to and believe it or not, Donovan never ran an iso heavy offense at Florida. I heard Scotty Brooks preaching more ball movement at least a time or two during his tenure so Russell doesn’t come out squeaky clean here either.
The truth is that all three of the Thunder stars have lamented at some point in their careers that they needed more help but ironically, now that they have it, other than a few brief spurts, they are refusing to take full advantage of it.
Here are some interesting numbers. Last season, after 20 games, the Pacers started the season 10 and 10 with Paul George, this season, without George, the Pacers went 11 and 9. Last season, the Knicks went 11 and 9 with Melo, and only dropped to 10 and 10 without him. On the other hand, the Thunder started last season 12 and 8 without either Melo or George and yet sit 8 and 12 with them, and that WITH a win over Golden State, something the Thunder didn’t come close to doing last season.
The Golden State win alone tells us that Donovan is not the problem. The Thunder pounded the defending champs so badly that night Steve Kerr called “calf rope” with over half the 4th quarter remaining and pulled his starters.
Clearly, as we saw on November 22nd, this team can beat the best, but just as clearly, as we’ve seen in every game since besting the Warriors, the Thunder could piss it all away and be a lottery team.
It’s not up to Billy Donovan. It's up to these “adult” professional athletes to decide whether they are to be feared or the cure for every teams ills. Words are cheap, and like Daniels so passionately explained, it’s time to stop talking a good game and start playing them. Over and over, the players have made a verbal commitment about how they have to play, now they have to make an emotional one and do it.
You cannot continue to go out every game and just talk about doing the right things, then not do the right things and expect a different result. That’s not the way professional sports works. - Antonio Daniels, November 29th, 2017
Do you agree with Antonio Daniels assessment of the Thunder?
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