Image courtesy of William Bennett Berry.
As we found out last year, getting a major star injured on your team can actually be a rewarding experience. For the 27 game stretch that Russell Westbrook was absent last year, the Thunder went a strong 20-7 amidst a MVP performance from Kevin Durant. The goings may not be as easy during Durant’s expected 15-25 game absence this year, but we’ll definitely be able to learn a lot about who we have. With three regular rotation pieces from last year (Butler, Sefolosha, and Fisher) all now out-of-town and two more rotation players in the decline of their careers (Perkins and Collison), the Thunder figure to be working in a lot of new people.
Last year, the injury did a variety of things to the team. Most importantly, it solidified Reggie Jackson as somebody who was dynamic enough to earn a starting role based on talent alone. This is good for OKC in the short-term and certainly helped us against the Grizzlies (see: game 4), but will definitely hurt us when figuring out how to pay him after this year.
Anyway, let’s get down to brass tacks. Here’s 5 bold predictions on things we’re going to learn about the Thunder thanks to Kevin Durant’s injury. Get well soon, KD.
1. Russell Westbrook is an MVP-caliber player
I know that everyone has their doubts about Westbrook’s ability to carry this team on his own. But I couldn’t be less concerned. Sure, KD has barely missed any legitimate games over the course of his career, but in those rare instances where he has missed a legitimate game, Westbrook has shined.
For example, when KD missed seven games during the Thunder’s inaugural season, Westbrook managed to lead the Thunder to a 5-2 record on his own. I know that was five years ago, but it was the same season the Thunder started 3-28 and finished 23-59.
Furthermore, Westbrook’s supporting cast of Jeff Green and a bunch of role players wasn’t exactly as impressive as the roster is today. Need more evidence? Consider that Westbrook’s 2009 win against Dirk’s Mavericks also came without Jeff Green. Also consider that Russ was able to beat Garnett’s Celtics without Durant or Green back in 2010. Russell hasn’t exactly gotten worse since then, and that he was 3 rebounds and 2 assists away from averaging a TRIPLE DOUBLE during last year’s playoffs can’t be ignored.
Image courtesy of William Bennett Berry.
It’s been a long off-season, but we’re only a few weeks away from the regular season tip-off of Thunder basketball. But before we get into what our team will do on the court, let’s take a look back at what the players did over the Summer, using absolutely ridiculous social media posts and my personal anger as your guide.
So, here’s the Thunder’s off-season from my perspective. At the close of last season, the Thunder had three players under contract (Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka) that should have played very major roles on international teams in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. I was excited, because I’m the only person in the world that really loves international basketball. Thus, I applied for press credentials and booked travel to Spain, along with travel to follow Team USA’s exhibitions. Shortly after I did that, Russell Westbrook decided not to play for Team USA. Then, disaster struck when Under Armour offered KD a lot of money, and Paul George forced KD to face his own mortality. Durant decided to quit Team USA in the middle of training camp. I was now stuck covering a team that had absolutely no relation to my Thunder-centric website. Serge Ibaka would be at the competition, but his team was staggered on the other side of the bracket, and thus at the other side of the country for the vast majority of the competition. As it would turn out, I’d never see Serge Ibaka play live.
So, how was Serge Ibaka’s 2014 FIBA competition? Well, I’d say it can be effectively summed up in this picture:
As I’m sure you’ve heard and seen by now, the Thunder officially revealed the name and logo of the team’s D-League franchise that’s relocating to Oklahoma City this season.
It’s the Oklahoma City Blue.
Yep, that’s right. Blue. Not blue cheese, blue bells or blue balls. Blue… as in the color. Expect a Jenni Carlson article any day now that praises the name and logo for its creativity. I bet Berry Tramel is even scribbling down a list of possible nicknames to use in his future columns about the team. $20 bucks he calls them the “Baby Boomers.”
The only thing more ridiculous than the name and logo – a vanilla monstrosity that’s so bland that I won’t post it on this obscure local social blog – is the Thunder’s reasoning for it.
Via a team press release:
After being busted by Channel 25 for having a poor credit score, Grant Long finally resigned as the Thunder’s TV color analyst a few weeks ago. It was sad news for those people who enjoyed Long’s deep knowledge of sports commentary clichés and ability to make any negative play seem positive through the art of twisted analysis. Listening to Long call a Thunder game was like listening to someone try to B.S. their way through a job interview – OKC’s only weakness was that they sometimes worked a little too hard:
“Russell Westbrook worked a little too hard to get the ball in there to Serge Ibaka, but great effort by Russ!
“Kevin Durant worked a little too hard to get to the basket there, but that’s okay, because he’s giving great effort.”
“Kendrick Perkins worked a little too hard to miss that open lay-up, but I love the effort by the big fella!”
Since his announcement, there’s been a lot of speculation on who will be Long’s replacement. In fact, The Oklahoman is now asking their readers to submit ideas.
There will be a new Thunder TV team in 2014-15.
We need to get this figured out. The combination of Brian Davis and Grant Long had become a Thunder television staple since the team arrived in 2008. But with Long resigning in July after six seasons on the Thunder broadcast, there’s a void that needs to be filled.
“The Thunder wishes Grant well and will immediately begin the search of finding his replacement,” the Thunder said in a release following Long’s resignation.
The search starts here. Who should be the next Thunder TV analyst?
Give us your suggestions in the comments section below, via Facebook, on our Twitter page or email email@example.com. Your suggestions don’t have to be someone with a long pedigree of broadcasting work. It can be anyone from a radio personality, to a former Thunder player.
We’ll run a special Main Event with your suggestions in Monday’s Oklahoman.
Okay guys, you know what we have to do. We have a mission and it’s an important one. Let’s flood The Oklahoman with suggestions that Jenni Carlson be the next Thunder TV analyst.
Here are some important reasons why:
Grant Long may want to start a Go Fund Me.
Last night, KOKH Channel 25 ran a sad investigative report into the finances of the Oklahoma City Thunder TV color analyst/ propagandist / creepy selfie taker. It centered around a high interest $5,000 loan that Grant never paid back to a local loan shark.
From KOKH Channel 25:
A local business owner says one of the television commentators for the Oklahoma City Thunder owes him thousands of dollars.
Larry Rowell is one of the owners of R&R Estate Jewelers in Northwest Oklahoma City. He deals in high-end jewelry and on occasion will provide small short-term loans.
“I do loans to help folks that need help,” Rowell said. He doesn’t usually ask why people need quick cash, but Rowell says he’s never had problems doing occasional loans. He said he usually only loans out a few hundred dollars at a time.
Rowell told Fox 25 that was his expectation when the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Grant Long walked into his store. Long is the color television analyst for Thunder games who Rowell says asked for a $5,000 loan.
“The premise was that he just needed some emergency money and he was going to take care of it next month,” Rowell said, “It felt logical and I went along with it.”
Yeah, I’m sure it seemed really logical that Grant Long, a guy who earned over $21,000,000 during his NBA playing career and likely brings in low six-figures stuttering his way through Thunder TV broadcasts, was in a jam and needed $5,000 in emergency money at 20% interest. It’s not like he has any wealthy friends or connections from the basketball world that could loan him the money.
Rowell said Long also promised to introduce his store to some of the Thunder players who might be interested in purchasing some of his higher-priced jewelry.
“I swallowed it hook, line and sinker,” Rowell told Fox 25.
The handwritten agreement called for Long to repay Rowell $6,000 in 45 days. Rowell said it was a much larger loan than he is used to providing and that it was Long’s idea to repay $6,000 for a $5,000 loan. Long left the title for his 2009 Cadillac Escalade as collateral for the loan.
Those 45 days were up last October.
“There is an agreement between Larry and I,” Grant Long told Fox 25 during a phone interview, “Without going into much detail, which I won’t do, I just say that his loan will be satisfied. It’s not like I’m running out of town on a deal that I left on the table.”
Long said he never promised Rowell he could bring in any Thunder business. “I don’t have any control over that so I couldn’t promise that because I couldn’t deliver that,” Long sad, “I’ve never made the promise that I would bring in any players or coaches or anybody.”
When I heard last night that Channel 25 was running this story, my initial thought was “Who cares? It’s not like he’s Jesse James or anything.” But then I searched Grant Long’s name on OSCN, and well, it looks like the Credit Jewelry Cowboy wouldn’t even give him loan.
Check out this screen shot from OSCN.net:
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