This should be the time of the year where I take a break from writing about Thunder basketball. The operative word there is “should.” In the past couple of weeks, though, there has been more news about the team than comes about even during the regular season. So instead of a drawn out intro, let’s just get to what happened…
It started when Bulls.com writer Sam Smith had these big words to say:
It’s being whispered now among NBA types because, I believe, under a secret NBA/ESPN provision you are not permitted to say aloud anything that might be interpreted to suggest LeBron James isn’t the best thing to ever happen in anyone’s life. But sitting in the stands in Las Vegas at the USA Basketball mini-camp and hearing NBA coaches and general managers, the gasps have been for Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. I’ve now heard more than one say Durant could be a better player than James given Durant’s combination of amazing size at about 6-10 and pure shooting stroke. And he’s still 20. The feeling is Durant is on the brink of being a 30 per game scorer. Plus, Durant is a serious worker. The Bulls’ Derrick Rose has become close with Durant and the two have worked out together considerably this summer. Said Rose, who is five days younger than Durant: “KD is great. He’s real talented. I look at him as like a big brother to me even though we’re the same age. He’s been in the league longer. He’s a great talent, 6-10 guy who can dribble, shoot like a guard. He’s going to be a great talent in the league.”
As crazy as it sounds, Smith does make some good points, such as the fact that Durant is a hard worker when it comes to the game. James basically coasted on natural ability and physical gifts for his first five plus years of his career. It was not until playing with Kobe Bryant on the “Redeem Team” that LeBron saw Kobe’s work ethic and realized that it takes effort to improve. Durant has always been a gym rat who loves the game so much it is all he wants to do. Given that KD is four years behind LeBron age-wise, Durant’s worker mentality could lead to him being much better than LeBron is now by the time he hits the 24 year old mark.
Kevin Durant has a different take than Smith. On Twitter, he had this to say:
STOP COMPARING ME TO BRON…HES ON ANOTHER LEVEL!! CMON PEOPLE..BE SERIOUS
Of course, he followed that up moments later with this tweet:
But yall dont get it twisted i can hoop a lil bit…im just not there wit him yet….give me sum credit
I like how he says “yet.”
Meet the new guy
Before the draft, I suggested that Thunder GM Sam Presti could bolster the post position by acquiring former Tulsa high school star Etan “Don’t Call Me Derrick” Thomas. This week, that happened.
Thomas was pretty far down on my list, so it’s not like I expect him to be the type of player that makes the team a playoff contender. He is definitely an upgrade to the center position, though, because of his defensive ability and interest in standing near the basket on offense.
If he never blocks a shot for the team, though, the deal was worthwhile. It sent off the last two deadweight contracts the team still had on the books (Damien Wilkins and Chucky Atkins) to free up a roster spot that could be used to bring back Desmond Mason…or even somebody else. The deal also brought a free spirit player who should be great for people like me to write about.
Seriously, how many 6’10” athletes are also poets that have blogs on the Huffington Post?
Don’t let the door hit ya…
A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along I-44 and finally saw a billboard marketing the Thunder. This would have excited me, except the two players featured on the board were Jeff Green (which I was okay with) and, get this, Earl Watson. Earl Watson? The guy who whenever he touched the ball, which as point guard was often, had to hear a chorus of fans in the lower bowl yell “you suck” at him?
It became an even deeper mystery when Watson was abruptly waved off of the team. Of course, that wasn’t a total shocker. The front office tried to trade him all of last season, but found no takers. Then, Coach Scott Brooks stopped playing him at all after the trade deadline passed making it unneccessary to showcase the unwanted player. Somehow the marketing department missed this chain of events. On the bright side, within days of Watson’s departure, the billboard was changed.
As for Watson, he actually was not as bad as some people, including myself, portrayed him. He was not starting point guard material, and he certainly did not deserve to be the highest paid player on the team…which, depending on the buyout amount, he still might be at season’s end. As a back-up earning league minimum, which he will now be for Indiana, he has value. But, the Thunder were smart to let him go, because he had the potential to become a clubhouse cancer if he had to sit behind Russell Westbrook and Shaun Livingston another season.
Thunder Girls at Full Strength
Thanks largely to the support I offered, the final spot on the Thunder Girl squad belongs to last year’s captain, Erica. Unfortunately, that brings down the average kidney number on the squad, and we probably won’t receive anymore xenophobic, all cap rants from Stacy’s mom.
U! S! A! U! S! A!
The United States national team had its summer workouts in Las Vegas last week, and the Thunder had a big presence. Along with one of the team trainers working for U.S.A. basketball, three players were invited to practice with the returning players from last year’s gold medal winning Olympic team for what is called the “U.S. Select Team.” They were: Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook.
After one day of practice, it appears one of those guys will not be on the Select Team long. Coach Mike Kryszewski went out of his way to praise the play of Kevin Durant.
Everyone who was watching from our group said you could tell that Durant was a little bit on a mission — and that’s good for them to see that; it picks everybody up. He’s that versatility guy, and the other thing is he’s a shooter, and with the way we were playing defense for most of the Olympics, with his length, he could be a heck of a defender.So he’s really at the head of the list for me.
Basically, he is saying you can count on Durant to replace Tayshaun Prince when the team goes to Turkey for the 2010 World Championships. Of the other two spots the Senior Team is looking to fill, replacing Jason Kidd and Carlos Boozer, the odds are long for the Thunder guys. Westbrook reportedly looked really good in practices, but he is competing against Derrick Rose for that point guard spot. As for Jeff Green, there would have to be a mass exodus of players before he would secure a roster spot.
When God Closes a Door, Someone Else Jumps Through the Window
Remember when Tyson Chandler was a member of the Thunder? You know, all 24 hours of that era. Apparently, if the doctor had looked the other way when it came to Chandler’s bum toe, the Thunder could have parlayed him into the Bobcats’ Emeka Okafor.
I’m not really sure what the Bobcats were thinking when they made this deal with the Hornets. Okafor is the superior player statistically, and had he not been mired in the wasteland of Charlotte, I believe others would have taken notice. Plus, he’s younger, less expensive, and has no ego. He would have been a great fit in Oklahoma City.
On the bright side, Etan Thomas is a much better poet.
Who you calling “Joe Blow?”
In an interview given to DailyThunder.com, Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman vented about “Joe Blow” bloggers getting access to NBA teams like regular members of the media (emphasis mine):
Unfortunately we’re starting to see things head in that direction, with no real checks and balancing system in place of determining whether someone deserves a credential. There is a difference between blogging and professional writing, ethical journalists and fortunate fans.
I respect, appreciate even, the bloggers who have substance, style and, most importantly, standards. It’s the basement-dwelling, jobless, inexperienced, inconsiderate “Joe Blow Blogger” with no integrity or proper training that I don’t think has any place in or around a professional locker room or clubhouse. Because a fan has an audience we should give him or her a press pass? I don’t agree with that. We wouldn’t let a political enthusiast cover the White House. Making matters worse, some of these bloggers don’t even use their real name. They’re nameless, faceless people who are fans of the league and want to be close to the action because they have a vehicle for delivering “information.” That’s what I meant by “Joe Blow Blogger.” They aren’t held accountable for anything they write. I’ve even heard about bloggers who will have access but aren’t allowed to ask questions, only stand around the interviews and listen. That means I’m doing Joe Blow’s work for him. Thanks, but no thanks.
I can understand Mayberry’s desire to maintain the corporate media monopoly on coverage, considering that he is an employee of the corporate media, but I just wish he were more self-aware of where his disdain for bloggers being recognized is coming from.
One point that really bugged me is when he says, “Because a fan has an audience we should give him or her a press pass?” Why not? Does he really think NBA teams hand out the press passes as charitable support to the media industry? The reason he gets a press pass is that the league wants the free advertising that comes from television, radio, and newspapers covering their events. If blog coverage does the same thing, why would the league keep them out? My impression is that Mayberry thinks that he would still be allowed in the locker room if The Oklahoman were a barely circulated paper so long as he was an objective journalist.
Part of me (the megomanical part) thinks that he may have been thinking of us when he complained about bloggers not using their real names. It is a complaint we have also heard from The Sports Animal which reeks of sour grapes. Pseudonyms have been a part of journalism and entertainment for as long as journalism and entertainment have existed. Guess what, no one named Mark Twain ever wrote a column, and John Stewart from The Daily Show is actually John Stuart Liebowitz. Ann Landers was not the name of the woman giving the advice. For that matter would those two organizations complain if “Pork” or “Lump” were granted press passes?
At least Darnell didn’t shy away from stereotyping bloggers as basement dwellers.
Personally, I would not turn down a press pass if it were offered, but I doubt it would improve my writing about the team. The perspective I offer is from the point of view of an educated fan, and even if I were allowed to ask questions (cutting into Mayberry’s facetime, which I’m sure would make him happy so his generic press gaggle questions wouldn’t be doing my job for me), the spin the players and management put on would hardly make my analysis better. On the other hand, I’d snap up the pass in a second so I could get into all the games.
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