Now that the NBA season has come to an intense an unforgettable end, the slow season for beat writers is approaching. After the draft later this week, there is usually a flurry of activity when the free agency season opens, and then nothing interesting to report for a few months. This is the time of the year when all of the sports writers look into stretching out their end-of-season recaps as far as possible.
The Oklahoman has been running a series of ‘report cards,’ where Berry Tramel gives out grades to guys like Nazr Mohammed and Josh Huestis that you probably don’t even remember seeing on the court. But who’s grading the sports media? That would be us! We decided to do a little rundown of the local Thunder beat writers and radio personalities and grade them on how well they’re covering the team that performed an incredible choke job against a team that choked even harder in the Finals. Here are your OKC Thunder media report cards!
Television play-by-play Announcer
He missed a B by a stickman! Look, I love Brian Davis. His color commentary ranges from mildly interesting to hilarious. Every night, you can expect to hear him drop some crazy superlatives, and on road games he will make some very specific, hyper-local references. If Damian Lillard banks in a 30-footer in Portland, you can bet that David will use his “THAT SHOT CAME FROM THE BANKS OF THE WILLAMETTE” line. He’s also a super nice guy, and if you run into him in public, he will talk basketball with you until his face turns the color of Big Blue.
But he’s clearly under the control of The Thunder Ministry of Propaganda. He never criticizes a bad shot or lazy defense, instead coming up with an excuse as to why they’re playing poorly. His broadcasting partner, Michael Cage, is even worse. When they’re announcing games, sometimes it sounds like Sam Presti is standing behind them, slapping a leather blackjack into his palm as a warning not to say something about the Thunder that might not be glowingly positive.
Also, he needs to spend some time in the offseason writing new cliches. If I have to hear and ponder the meaning “rattlesnake jam” or “chicken salad out of chicken something” one more time, I’m gonna have to mute the game.
Reporter for The Oklahoman
Report Card Grade: B-
We were skeptical when The Oklahoman stole Slater away from… Bleacher Report… but he’s been covering the Thunder for a few years, and seems to be the most even-handed writer covering the Thunder. He covers the team with a journalistic distance that is almost shocking for The State’s Most Trusted News. You won’t find any vitriolic takes leading Slater’s articles, which is refreshing in sports writing, but this also docks his grade slightly. Tell me the score, break down the stats, but sometimes I just wanna read about how they should trade Roberson because his jumpshot sucks. I trust his perspective over most other local sports writers, but it tends towards the dry side.
Regular Jim Traber
Talk show host for the Sports Animal
Report Card Grade: D
Rarely do I listen to the radio, but on those occasions where I find myself in the car and need to hear the gravely croak of a bridge troll, I flip the dial to WWLS and hope that Traber is on the air. The dude constantly fires out takes that are hotter than an Oklahoma summer, and most of them are so unreasonable that the whole thing is entertaining. He either goes after the easy targets like Kyle Singler, or absolutely melts down over Westbrook taking bad shots.
If you’re looking for good insight into the sport and informative talk, Traber is not the source. The only things keeping him from receiving a failing grade are the entertainment value of listening to a man on the edge of imploding, and the fact that he’s at least not afraid to criticize the Thunder organization like most other media figures in Oklahoma.
Writer for ESPN and Dailythunder.com
Royce has been writing about the Thunder longer than just about anybody. His longtime blog, DailyThunder, is worth reading every single day for all the basketball insight, fun details from the games, and snippets from around the web. His hard work at that site (Editor’s Note: And The Lost Ogle) landed him a job writing for ESPN, where he does game recaps and news for the Thunder.
Royce’s writing is colorful and engaging, and his stories break down the X’s and O’s in a way that’s easy to digest for anyone. He does a great job at balancing a neutral perspective with the shared hopes and anxieties as a fan of the team. This makes his articles relatable to both casual and hardcore fans. Plus, he plays video games with Kevin Durant and helped Sam Presti plant a vegetable garden, so he’s always in the know on big Thunder stories.
His only knock is that the blog has, understandably, taken a backseat to his ESPN work. The post-game updates are rushed and only worth reading for the notes at the end. Not blaming him at all, though, since it’s better for him to save his energy for writing things that pay him money instead of free blog posts.
Owner of TheLostOgle.com
I don’t want to jeopardize my cushy job here at TLO, but items like this should be pointed out:
My impersonation of the 2015/16 @okcthunder: ¯_(ツ)_/¯
— The Lost Ogle (@TheLostOgle) January 11, 2016
It's kind of scary to see what the Thunder will look like next season after KD leaves for Golden State and Serge retires to become a model.
— The Lost Ogle (@TheLostOgle) March 30, 2016
OKC Thunder games are much more enjoyable when you don't watch them.
— The Lost Ogle (@TheLostOgle) March 13, 2016
It's not over. If OKC is able to find a new coach, bring in new players, and develop a new scheme, they may have a chance.
— The Lost Ogle (@TheLostOgle) May 1, 2016
Columnist for The Oklahoman
Berry has written some pretty weird takes all season. Traber can at least pass because he is so fervent about his takes, I almost think he believe the things he’s saying, and the dumb viciousness is like watching a a sick animal. Tramel’s usually don’t make any sense, and he only seems half-convinced of what he’s saying.
Take his column from yesterday, where he argues that OKC helped the Cavs win:
The Cavaliers rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the series, winning game 5 in Oakland after Green was suspended for hitting LeBron James below the belt after a whistle in Game 4. It wasn’t a vicious hit. It wasn’t a wild hit. Just a quick flick. If it had been a first offense, Green might have been assessed a technical foul and not a flagrant foul, which sent him over the threshold of flagrant violations and mandated a one-game suspension.
But as you know, it wasn’t a first offense. Green’s kick of Steven Adams in the family jewels, in Game 3 of the Thunder-Warrior series, ignited a huge debate on Green’s propensity to assault opponents where they’re most vulnerable.
Green avoided a suspension against the Thunder, which won Game 4 in a rout anyway.
But he was on alert. And when the same kind of action occurred in Game 4 against the Cavs, the NBA had no choice. Out went Green in Game 5, Cleveland rallied and eventually took the series.
The Thunder had nothing to do with that! Draymond Green got himself suspended because he’s a dick-puncher. It’s not like OKC invited him to repeatedly kick Adams in the groinal region. If anything, Green should’ve been called for the flagrant back in the Western Conference Finals. Why would you try to take credit for something outside of your control?
There are plenty of other sports media figures we missed. What are your report card grades?