Hello all! It’s 2013, and outside of one team from L.A., the Thunder continue to dominate the NBA landscape. Since it’s a new year, it seems like high time we make a resolutions list, highlighting what I’d like to see out of the Thunder as we continue this fantastic season. I know that the Thunder are 24-6 right now, so it’s hard to complain about anything that’s happened so far. But when you get right down to it, that’s what New Year’s Resolutions are. Complaints about silly things like being overweight and or drinking too much Diet Dr Pepper.
So I’ve got a list of resolutions the team may want to consider.
1. Throw T-Shirts in different places. Is it just me, or do the same people get T-Shirts every single game? They have this Balon Blaster that shoots T-Shirts at exactly the same distance every time, resulting in exactly the same folks getting shirts every time. I’m betting if you sat in a good strategic position, you could get a free shirt at least every other night. There’s also this rubber band thing that shoots into the 300 level, but it always seems to land in the first row. Put it this way: I’ve sat in the same seat since opening night in ’08, and I haven’t gotten a free non-playoff shirt since 2009 or so. I want a free T-Shirt! Just once!
2. Play more Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb.
The reasons for playing these two guys are obvious. For one, Hasheem Thabeet, no matter how rapidly he may be “improving”, is mostly a warm, tall body out there on the floor. Why not bench him and go small with Jones? Jones proved himself to be an effective scorer in the pre-season, even when playing against starters. Brooks himself said Jones was going to get playing time before the season started, but that promise has come up largely empty. Given that the Thunder still struggle against teams that go small against us (the Heat), why not try playing their game? It couldn’t hurt.
In Lamb’s case, I don’t see a problem with giving him Cook’s old minutes, which amounted to about 17 a game. He’s proven himself to be a sharpshooter, so seeing him out on the floor with Martin could prove to be a very deadly combination.
3. Please get rid of those sand drawing commercials. I don’t know what it is, but these commercials are getting old. They were cool at first, but I’m getting tired of hearing the same darned acoustic guitar song over and over, along with an overly sweet woman’s voice describing a sand painting you’d see on a Hallmark card. It’s probably like riding the Silver Bullet at Frontier City. Fun for a bit, but then you’re just repeating the same motions time and again. In any case, I’m just glad that I never have to see the “If Integrity Were Celebrity” commercial again. Never, ever again.
(Editor’s Note: Get rid of the one where the lady decorates cakes, too)
4. Make Russell Westbrook adjust to the half-court game. Westbrook’s offensive game this season has been all over the map. Sometimes he shoots extremely well and looks like one of the league’s great scorers, and other times he bricks every shot and looks like a ball hog. At first glance, it looks like there’s no rhyme or reason to it. But if you look closer, the reasons become more clear. Russell Westbrook is having trouble adjusting to the half-court game. He excels in contests against teams like the Suns or Rockets, who will play transition with you all day. But against other teams, he sometimes starts to struggle.
The reason for this is a decrease in overall pace since the departure of James Harden. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to complain about the trade. But it’s undeniable that the foursome of Durant, Westbrook, Sefolosha, and Harden was one of the best transition quartets in the NBA. By losing Harden and inputting Kevin Martin, you’re changing a scorer for a shooter. Kevin Martin can shoot extremely well and can easily fake out defenders, but he rarely steals the ball, and he doesn’t have the handles to push the ball up the floor. As a result, the Thunder’s pace decreases overall.
Westbrook is affected by this because a lot of his points came in transition, or at lease semi-transition. He loves to shoot that mid-range stop and pop jumper before the defense is set, and he loves to recklessly drive to the hole off-balance. The problem with doing both of these things just a couple of seconds too late is that it gives the defense a chance to react, and ruins the element of surprise that Westbrook relies so heavily upon.
To see Westbrook succeed, he needs to develop more plays that will work in a half-court setting. Personally, I’d like to see more isolations in the post, where he can take advantage of what’s usually a smaller point guard opponent. I’d also like to see more two-man action with Ibaka, Perkins, or Collison, which could really help him get open looks. Lastly, I’d love to see him work off the ball more, taking advantage of Durant or Martin’s ability to draw the defense and cutting inside for some easy baskets. Really, if he could just go about things a bit differently, I think the Thunder could become a far, far better team. (And that’s a tantalizing thought.)
5. Win a title. It would be the perfect completion of a five year cycle. Lottery, First Round Challenger, Dark Horse, Contender, Champion. It’s about time I finally get to say, “Oklahoma City, Champions of the World.” Nevermind that the Thunder’s best in-state player is Daniel Orton.
Random Thunder Highlight of the Week:
I know it’s not a singular highlight, but this is definitely worth a view. It’s no secret that the Thunder were struggling against the Mavericks offensively last Thursday, and they needed someone to pick up the slack. As a result, Durant couldn’t relax until the fourth quarter, and needed to play aggressively all game. He forced baskets where there were none to be found, and totally embarrassed Chris Kaman in the paint. Seriously, watch this video. He’s not hitting open shots, he’s making highlight play after highlight play. Styling and profiling, son.