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Who’s better? 2014 “Injured” Thunder or the 2008 “Bad” Thunder?

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Image courtesy of William Bennett Berry.

It’s almost scary to think that it was six years ago….

Back in 2008, the Thunder were the biggest joke of the NBA. They had a roster packed with overpaid journeymen and long-forgotten prospects, mixed with a few diamonds of young talent. Oklahoma City was certainly excited to have a team to call their own, but everybody knew that the roster was far worse than what the Hornets had to offer. Pretty much everything about the Thunder, including the logo, seemed thrown together at the last minute. I mean, the in-arena entertainment re-played “Everybody Clap Your Hands” six times every game, games airing on TV were rife with technical errors, and the team was run by a coach whose most notable NBA accomplishment was getting choked by Latrell Sprewell.

Things improved quickly, though. Even in that first 23 win, 59 loss season, there were moments of glory. KD got into scoring battles with Melo, and we managed to steal a couple of games from playoff teams. By the time the winter of 2009 rolled around, the Thunder were winning regularly and OKC had fully embraced them.

For a long time, I thought the image of the Oklahoma City Thunder as a bad team would never return. That is…..until this year’s team was hit with the injury plague of the century.

As it stands, the Thunder are 1-4 over their first five games, and will likely field their weakest lineup of the year on tonight against the Grizzlies. Perry Jones was the one shining ray of hope during the first five games, as he’d picked up a few of KD’s old offensive sets and proven himself able to score. Unfortunately, PJIII hurt his knee in Tuesday’s game, effectively destroying the Thunder’s lineup for the time being.  I’m expecting the Thunder to get at least another player back from injury by the time Sunday’s game rolls around. Thus, Friday night will likely be your last opportunity to tune in and watch one of the worst Oklahoma City Thunder teams you’ll ever see.

One important question remains. Are tonight’s injury plagued Thunder better than the opening night 2008 Thunder? Which team is the worst Thunder team of all-time? Let’s break it down.

10 burning questions facing the Thunder this season…

It’s kind of hard to believe, but the Oklahoma City Thunder tips of their 7th (!) basketball season tonight at the Rose Garden in Portland.

Before we take a look a 10 totally serious questions facing the team to open the season, here are some totally random bold predictions that will probably be wrong:

- The team will face more injuries, Kevin Durant will only play 20 – 30 games, and they barely miss out on the playoffs.

Yikes, that’s insanely sad and negative. Screw that, how about this:

- The backups gain valuable eperience during the injury outbreak, Durant comes back healthy, the team flourishes, and then at the trade deadline Reggie Jackson and Kendrick Perkins are moved in a blockbuster deal for a veteran All Star that helps the team reach and win the the NBA Finals

Whew, that’s better. Unfortunately, it would lead to…

- The team will re-sign Scott Brooks to a four year extension…

Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.

Anyway, those are just random, somewhat pessimistic predictions. I’m sharing them with you so I can “Give It Up To Myself” later. Here are the questions…

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1. Who will be the the next Thunder arena emcee?

Jonathan Meisner. Joel Decker. Matt Vaughn. Those are the last three people to hold the job as Thunder arena emcee, and not coincidentally, a who’s-who list of people who either want to borrow money, deejay your next wedding, or, well, borrow more money. They are also not pedophiles.

Yes, according to a source, Matt Vaughn is not returning as Thunder emcee. That means we’re going to have a new person wear a backwards hat, stick to the script, and remind fans that if they hit the backboard or rim, Midfirst Bank will still give them $100.

Who is this new person and how will he do? Is his name Chad or Colby? Will he have fun with the job, and when someone makes the corner three in the Cox Communications three-point contest say something like “Everyone in section 305 wins a free on demand movie from Cox! I hope you use it for porn because “Cox” sucks!”

Or will he just stick to the script, show no personality, and be another lemming for the Thunder Ministry of Propaganda?

As I said, these are all burning questions.

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2. Did Thundor and Thunder Princess raise enough money for season tickets?

College Football Musings from the Train: Week 9

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10) OSU/West Virginia

If you look at the statistics, it wasn’t that bad (Total yards –448 to 436; First downs – 22 to 23), but the final score in Stillwater was more indicative of what we saw on TV. West Virginia went into town and hammered a bad Oklahoma State 34-10 on homecoming.

The offense, despite decent numbers, was again mediocre. No first down conversions until the 4th quarter. One touchdown the past 10 quarters. At times, the offense clicked – inside running plays using Desmond Roland. Outside running plays using Tyreek Hill. Crisp passes to the outside. At other times, the line couldn’t get a push, the quarterback was pressured, and poor throws ended drives prematurely.

Daxx Garman was wildly inconsistent. Give him time, he can throw a 20 yard out to the opposite hashmark. Put forth any sort of pass rush, and dude folds. Or throws the ball six feet above a slot receiver running an eight yard slant. He’s the Oklahoma of starting quarterbacks – you have no idea what you are going to get pass to pass. Dacks was 21 of 41 for 242 and 2 awful interceptions, one of which effectively ended the game in the fourth. The other was a terrible pass into double coverage when OSU had somewhat figured out a way to move the ball in the first half.

The good: OSU seemed to figure out how to run the ball against team with a pulse. The bad: OSU could not stop the run. Here’s an emasculating example: Holgerson going for it on 4th and 7 in the first half on his own 34 … and calling a running play … and getting the first down. Right now, this Oklahoma State defense is Emmanuel Ogbah, Kevin Peterson, James Castleman, and the 8 craptastics. Aside from a few plays by the interior line in the second and third quarters, the Poke defense wasn’t good, and at times awful.

This wasn’t quite the disparity OSU experienced last week. But the result was no different. The Pokes have talent at certain positions – defensive end, wide receiver, running back. But aren’t any good at important positoins – offensive line, secondary. Youth be damned. Yes, Oklahoma State wasn’t embarrassed to the tune of TCU last week. But they were embarrassed by at best an equally talented team at home on homecoming.

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9) Oklahoma State’s Lost Season

5 things we’ll learn about the Thunder thanks to Kevin Durant’s injury

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.

College Football Musings from the Train: Week 8

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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 …

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9) Trevor Knight and the play calls