Hubbard: Thunder still making some noise

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220px-OKC_ThunderIn Oklahoma City, the source of civic pride is never in doubt.

Trying to walk or drive through the streets without seeing a Thunder sign or flag or banner is like trying to stand in Times Square without seeing a tourist. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you would swear the name of the place is “Thunder” city rather than “Oklahoma City.”

On Thursday night, NBA royalty even appeared at courtside to take in a Thunder game. Beyoncè visited the Thunder’s home arena and brought husband Jay-Z with her.

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Tweet of the Night: Matt Barnes says “I’m DONE standing up for these niggas!”

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IbakaThings got tense between the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday when Blake Griffin and Serge Ibaka got tangled up near the end of the second quarter.

After getting fouled by Ibaka on a shot attempt near the rim, Griffin got a hold of Ibaka’s arm and held on tight. The natural reaction by Ibaka was to set himself free from the hold, but it appeared as if he had shoved Griffin from the back in the process. Interjecting immediately with a shove was Matt Barnes, who is never one to back away from defending a teammate.

Things did not escalate from there, as Barnes, Ibaka and Griffin were all eventually separated. The refs, however, felt all the commotion was bad enough to eject both Barnes and Ibaka, while handing out a technical foul against Griffin. Some weren’t so appreciative of the ruling, as there appeared to be no need to hand out automatic ejections over one shove and a whole lot of talking:

The Numbers Say… Russell Westbrook is the Key for OKC

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westbrookRussell Westbrook is back.

On Sunday, the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard made his early, unexpected return from two knee procedures. He finished with 21 points, seven assists, four rebounds and a steal in 33 minutes, helping lead the Thunder to a 103-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

In honor of his return, Sheridan Hoops takes a look at the facts: the most mercurial and fashionable guard in the NBA is the key to Oklahoma City’s title aspirations.

SH Blog: Trey Burke breaks index finger; Adelman frustrated with Wolves

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Up here in Canada, it’s Thanksgiving weekend. So to all the Canadians reading Sheridan Hoops, happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your turkey and stuffing and whatever else. I know I will, but that’s tomorrow.

Today, I’ve got a whole bunch of injury news for you guys. Tops on that list is Trey Burke’s hand injury. Burke was tipped as a strong ROY contender starting on draft day, but now he looks in danger of missing significant time. This looked like a transitional year for the Jazz anyway, but now they’ll be without one of the pieces who could be particularly important in the transition for a little while. The Jazz have to be hoping he’s back before too long and their core starts to gel so they can start making a run at the postseason next year.

We’ve got some news on what the Jazz will be doing to replace Burke in today’s blog, so let’s get to that:

  • DEN_Miller_AndreAndre Miller survived the Great Denver Exodus of 2013. Here’s his take on what went wrong with the Nuggets last season, via Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post: “Coaches may love Miller’s game, but there probably isn’t a Nugget who is more of a target of fans’ ire. There probably isn’t a Nugget with his ears closed more tightly to that white noise. He hit a game-winning shot in the Nuggets’ first playoff game last spring, but sports-talk radio and social media soon moved on to criticism of his defense, and by the end of the series, the conclusion was he had to go. Those fans didn’t get their way, despite chatter during the summer that Miller was on the trading block. He claims not to have heard any of the criticism and flat-out ignored any trade talk. “It was a tough season last year,” Miller said. “In the regular season, we kind of burned ourselves out. Going into the playoffs, we just didn’t have the legs to play like we played for 82 games. That’s tough to do. I can’t worry about the trade rumors. I do my job every day. Regardless, I show up to work, practice. I’ve never missed a game as a Nugget. I couldn’t care less what people say as far as my preparation and what I do on the court.” “

  • IbakaThe Thunder will need Serge Ibaka to step up this year if they hope to keep up in the vicious West, writes Jeff Caplan of “The backbone of the Thunder’s top-four defense must also step up as its third scorer, a task made even more essential early on as Westbrook’s recovery from two right knee surgeries is expected to drag four to six weeks into the season. Three weeks, Ibaka said, is all the time he allowed to step away after last season’s playoff disappointment. Three weeks and he was back in the gym with an agenda to expand an offensive arsenal that last season introduced a dangerous mid-range, pick-and-pop jumper. It worked to increase his usage from 15.5 percent in 2011-12 to a career-high 18.0 percent last season, and raised his scoring average from 9.1 ppg to a career-best 13.2 ppg. His usage should rise even higher and the Thunder will need his points to as well. “I’m working on my game and creating my own shot,” Ibaka said. “That is something I’ve been doing all summer, so I hope it will pay off. … I’ve been working on putting the ball on the floor and post moves.” To suggest an offense that has been nothing short of a juggernaut the past few seasons could struggle to score beyond its big two might seem odd. But those past teams included the dynamic Harden and last year featured Kevin Martin as the sixth man. As streaky as Martin was, he delivered 14 ppg and better than 42 percent shooting from beyond the arc, on top of Ibaka’s production.”

  • MIN_Adelman_RickThings are not going well in Minnesota. Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports on Rick Adelman’s frustration with his starters: “Upset all week with a starting unit that has started games meekly, Adelman included everybody in Saturday’s postgame, locker-room scolding, even though the starters began the night by falling behind 11-4 early before all five again sat for the entire fourth quarter. He criticized their lack of concentration and preparedness and lamented a second consecutive game when his team had as many turnovers as assists. On Saturday, it was an even 16 in each category, a sure sign his players are not moving and sharing the ball. “I don’t understand,” he said. “Like I told them afterward, we’ve played two games here at home and we’re acting like we’re just going through the motions. We aren’t the San Antonio Spurs and we aren’t Miami. We act like we have plenty of time.” The Wolves have played the last three of these first four games without starting shooting guard Kevin Martin, who again didn’t play Saturday because of a sore Achilles tendon. Alexey Shved started in his place and Adelman took good looks in both halves at a small backcourt that included starter Ricky Rubio and reserve J.J. Barea. The rest: Rubio and Barea combined to shoot 2-for-17. Add Shved’s 0-for-4 night and the three made two of 21 shots.”

  • Chris KamanChris Kaman might win the most bizarre injury of the preseason now that we know Michael Beasley didn’t actually punch himself in the face. Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times reports: “The Lakers have experienced Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles’ tendon, Pau Gasol’s knee problems and Steve Nash’s broken leg over the last year. Now there’s the tobogganing injury sustained by Chris Kaman at the Great Wall of China. One of his fingers was squashed while he was sledding down a slippery concrete track after trekking along the wall for two hours Sunday with Lakers teammates and staffers. His sled, essentially a wheeled cart with a brake, was rammed from behind by teammate Shawne Williams. Kaman instinctively put out his hand as he saw Williams careening toward him and, well, ouch. Visitors to the Mutianyu portion of the wall take a gondola or cable car to the top of a hill where the wall is located. They can return the same way or take the toboggan down. “I didn’t hit the brake the whole time. Guys on the edge were yelling ‘Slow down’ and I just kept going,” Kaman said. “All of a sudden I catch up to this guy close to the bottom, so now I have to brake. Shawne Williams comes behind me without hitting his brake at all and just smashed right into me.”"

Bernucca: Clay Bennett’s skimping may cost him Kevin Durant, too


Jerry WestKevin Durant is a great player. He deserves a great owner.

Durant may not know it yet, but he is becoming this generation’s Jerry West: a fantastic talent and class act whose career was marked by finishing second.

In 14 seasons, West twice finished second in scoring (also winning once). He never won an MVP award, finishing third once and second a record four times. And he lost the NBA Finals seven times before finally winning in his 13th season.

In six seasons, Durant has finished second in scoring once (last season, ending his three-year reign). He has never won an MVP award, finishing second three times already. And he lost in the NBA Finals in 2012, his only trip thus far.

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