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.
10) The meltdown
It is October 18th, 2014 and I have no idea whether the University of Oklahoma is any good at football. I thought they were pretty good….one month ago. Now two losses and a ridiculous win later, I have my doubts whether this team is any better than the 2013 or even 2009 squads.
Saturday afternoon, at home mind you, Oklahoma out gained Kansas state by 200, won the time possession by five minutes, and committed only three penalties, yet lost 31-30 on what can accurately be described as a colossal meltdown of global proportions. The offense committed monumental mistakes. The defense was hideous the first 40 minutes. Special teams … a shitshow. It was a total loss by what I thought was a pretty good team entering October.
The Sooners were pwned in the first half until a final drive to end the first 30 minutes, which ended in a shanked field goal and pretty sums up the 2nd half. Despite rushing for nearly 200 yards and passing for over 300, the offense was unable to overcome a pick six and an insanely idiotic reverse pass INT in the end zone, as well as a terrible defense, losing 31-30 to Kansas state on homecoming no less.
At some point OU fan must succumb to the realization that Mike Stoops has done a terrible job with this defense. This is the most talented OU defense in a least a decade, and they can’t stop anyone. They made Texas look good and Kansas State’s QB look like the second coming of Johnny Manziel. They can rush the passer (when allowed). They do an average job against the run. But they are horrible … HORRIBLE … defending the pass. There is no one at the back of this defense that can cover anyone with a pulse, save Zach Sanchez. Ahmad Thomas can’t be the best Stoops can put out there. I can’t be convinced he’s the best free safety on this team. It just isn’t possible.
This team is schizophrenic. I don’t know what to expect drive to drive, much less game to game.
Of course, if the offense could just stop doing stupid shit …
9) Trevor Knight and the play calls
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:
10) The Season That Wasn’t
There is going to come a point in time when I stop doing this to myself. When I stop telling myself and anyone who will listen that this is a new season, a different team. That this is a team built to win the national championship.
If that day didn’t manifest Saturday evening, God help us when it arrives.
The Sooners were thoroughly out coached and out played, especially at the most important position on the field in Fort Worth Saturday afternoon, losing to an inferior Horned Frogs squad 37-33. The Sooners, despite winning the time of possession and turnover battle, had little success stopping the TCU offense, and no success establishing or executing an effective offensive gameplan. Tied 24-24 at half, Oklahoma manged a paltry 9 points the final thirty minutes, none of which came on offense the last 25 minutes.
It was an ugly, turnover and penalty filled shitshow. The vaunted Oklahoma defense looked pedestrian for most of the night, particularly the first two drives of the game in which they surrendered 14 points and gave that mongrel idiot offensive coordinator an excuse to throw the ball on every play. But the defense wasn’t just a first half problem – they also proved to suck hairy ballsack the second half, even with TCU inexplicably moving away from the Zach Sanchez side of the field. The OU defense could muster no pressure against an average TCU offensive line. Bring five guys, bring one guy. Didn’t matter. TCU quarterback Trevon Boykin had all day and a few evening hours to throw the ball. I don’t care who you are. When you have all damned day to complete a pas, you are going to do it if you are on an FBS scholarship…unless your name is Trevor.
And that doesn’t even cover the offense.
I should have known better. Great teams have great quarterbacks. They have great defenses. Oklahoma has neither. I will now proceed to drink all the bourbon in Oklahoma City and sober up in time for next weekend’s pillow fight.
9) Heupel and Knight
10) Oklahoma State and the worst people on the planet not from Louisiana
On a beautiful Thursday night, Oklahoma State defeated Texas Tech 45-35 in a game that featured five turnovers and 26 penalties. And left me wondering if either of these teams are any good. I mean, I guess OSU is sorta good. The Cowboys, who struggled much of the game running the ball against a porous Red Raider run defense, lit up an overmatched Tech secondary to the tune of 370 yards on only 17 completions, or like 87 yards per completion. Though the Poke faithful can’t be thrilled the Cowboys averaged under 4 yards a carry, it was obvious Tech stacked the box, daring the Pokes to throw over the top. Which they did. All damn night.
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