Five Things to Watch: Oklahoma City Thunder


Russell WestbrookWe’re entering Year Six of Thundermania here in Oklahoma City, and the level of expectation surrounding the team is as high as it has ever been. But with that expectation comes a certain degree of uncertainty.

After all the years of hearing about how the Thunder were an organization based around a true “team” concept, fans are now coming to accept that the Thunder are a two-headed horse. There’s simply no way that this team could hoist a championship banner without a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

But last season’s collapse in the conference semifinals can’t be blamed on Westbrook’s injury alone. Serge Ibaka was a huge part of it, disappearing offensively once he didn’t have anybody to feed him the ball. Kevin Martin also played a large role, perpetually disappointing Thunder fans with his inconsistent shot. And I would be remiss to forget the performance of Kendrick Perkins, who went from serviceable to useless, even when he was in his element against the “Grit ‘n’ Grind” Grizzlies.

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Evening News: Mavericks nab Blair; Thunder add Gomes; Deng had “life in danger” during playoffs

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Hello and welcome to the Evening News.

As the offseason continues, we’ll keep you updated every night.

What’s happening today?

SH Blog: Rambis shocked that D’Antoni wanted him, Paul George expects championship

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220px-Kurt_Rambis_huddle_croppedFormer player and coach Kurt Rambis has long been known for being the main assistant to Phil Jackson for a better part of the Zen Master’s tenure as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in the ’00s. The two are very close, and Rambis openly slammed Jim Buss back in November for the way he mistreated Jackson during the hiring process.

Knowing these things, it was quite a surprise to hear that Rambis would be a real candidate to become an assistant to Mike D’Antoni a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, the hiring of Rambis became official on Monday when he announced the decision on his twitter account, from Mark Medina of Daily News:

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SH Blog: Parsons credits himself for influencing Howard’s decision, Wall and Wizards in advanced talks for max contract agreement

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Chandler ParsonsDuring the recruitment of Dwight Howard, you often heard the name Chandler Parsons attached to the Houston Rockets anytime there was news about making efforts to convince the center to join them.

Most of us took the news that Parsons had been talking to Howard everyday with a grain of salt with the mindset of “as if he can really make a true difference.” But as it turns out, the forward played an enormous part in helping Howard make his decision. Just ask Chandler himself, from Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

“I think I had a big impact,” Parsons said at USA Basketball’s mini-camp. “The first thing he said at the press conference was that, ‘You guys should thank Chandler Parsons because he is a big reason why I am here.’

“Obviously, he loves the team, [general manager] Daryl Morey, coach [Kevin] McHale and all that. But I think I just gave him that comfort that you got one of your boys here who is also a key part to the team, a young guy. And we can grow on this for a long time.”

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SH Blog: Pau won’t be benched when he comes back

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The Lakers can’t seem to buy wins right now. Tonight’s loss to the Jazz put them back to 9-12, eight back of West-leading San Antonio and Oklahoma City, and a game and a half back of eighth-place Minnesota for the last playoff spot in the conference. And yet they’re scoring 3.1 more points per game than they’re allowing, and also they have Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant. Something doesn’t seem right here.
Meanwhile in the East, things are shaking out slightly more according to the script. The Knicks topped the Nuggets tonight to keep a hold on their perch atop the conference, holding off the 13-5 Heat.
In non-game related results, the NBA dished out a few fines today, for such offenses as saying things on Twitter and criticizing ref performances. Also on SH, we’ve got a new run of MVP rankings, which you should check out.
Now here’s the latest NBA news:
  • The latest episode of the soap opera that is the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers is Pau Gasol’s knee tendinitis, and the question of whether he’ll retain his starting spot. Dave McMenamin of has the word from Mike D’Antoni: “Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol missed his fourth straight game because of knee tendinitis Sunday against the Utah Jazz, but whenever he is able to return he won’t be coming off the bench. ‘Not yet, that’s not what we need to be doing right now,’ Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said of the possibility of using Gasol in a sixth man role. ‘We need to find him and Steve (Nash) in there together and look at it and make a good assessment. I envision him being really good at what he does at the four, so I don’t see that.’ Even though part of the motivation of keeping Gasol in the starting lineup is to see how he performs alongside Nash, D’Antoni said that Gasol will retain his starting spot even if he returns to the lineup before Nash is back.”

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