Five Things to Watch: Oklahoma City Thunder

2 Comments

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.

Pages: 1 2

Tweet of the Day: Luol Deng grateful to be back on the hardwood

1 Comment

Luol Deng may not be knocking down jumpers like he is accustomed to, however, the Chicago Bulls forward is grateful to be on a court after a series of medical setbacks during the Bulls playoff run this season.

Luol Deng forced to watch his Bulls from the sidelines after undergoing a spinal tap procedure.

Luol Deng forced to watch his Bulls from the sidelines after undergoing a spinal tap procedure.

Deng hasn’t played competitive ball in over two months, but the All-Star has taken it upon himself to get back out there, at this point, as a coach.

He’s been in Angola with Thunder forward Serge Ibaka as part of an NBA mission to grow the game in the continent of Africa.

He also added a photo of the young players he coached over the weekend.

Luol Deng in a huddle with his team in Africa.

Luol Deng in a huddle with his team in Africa.

Deng had some unfortunate luck roll his way the past several months. From playing with a torn ligament and a fractured thumb in the latter part of the season, the Bulls were desperate to have their top defensive player in uniform for their series against the Brooklyn Nets.

Hours before tipoff in Game 6 between the Nets and Bulls, Deng announced he was unable to play due to a spinal tap procedure he had earlier in the day. That announcement quickly caused the forward to get ridiculed and his own coach to downplay his condition as “flu-like symptoms.”

Nevertheless, he was unable to play the remainder of the playoffs and has been resting his injuries since.

After a scary few weeks, he’s now healthier and on the road to recovery.

When it becomes a challenge to even walk, like it was for Deng, just being on the court is a gratifying feeling. Deng has always been one to appreciate what his talents have giving him in life, there’s no doubt he’ll appreciate returning to play even more.

NBA Draft: A Betting Preview

1 Comment

nbadraft13_300x250_3 (1)Before we begin our journey up to the 2013 NBA Draft, I personally believe it is very important to get a brief history lesson when it comes to previous drafts. Here were a few proposition bets prior to last years NBA Draft for a decent brief comparison:

Anthony Davis was the unanimous selection to go number one in the draft, which was made obvious by the fact that you had to lay almost $5,000 to win $100.

When it came to the second pick, a little more confusion was brought to the table.

Pages: 1 2

SH Blog: Rockets after Chris Paul; Pacers covet Korver and Redick; Birdman was almost a Knick?

Leave a comment

While the Rockets have made their intentions to pursue Dwight Howard loud and clear, one other superstar should also expect to get a call from Houston on July 1. Jonathan Fiegen of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Rockets have made detailed preparations to pursue Chris Paul in free agency.

Howard has long been the presumed top target for Houston but one source familiar with the team’s plans insists that Paul is just as much in play for Houston as Howard is.

“They are targets No. 1 and 1A,” said the source. Howard-Rockets

Rumors about Howard’s interest in playing for Houston have been swirling for over a month. Paul, on the other hand, has been mum about his intentions in free agency and has yet to give any indication about whether he’d be interested in playing for the Rockets.

Rockets stars James Harden and Chandler Parsons have both already spoken with Howard about the possibility of playing for the Rockets. Harden, who is close with Paul from their days as backcourt mates on team USA, will presumably pitch Houston to Paul in the coming weeks.

Although Chris Paul hasn’t shown signs of interest toward Houston in the past, it’s easy to see why the Rockets’ front office believes they can entice the league’s most popular floor general. After all, Paul is, perhaps, at his best when he pushes the floor in transition and the Rockets had the fastest paced offense in the entire league last season.

Regardless, Fiegen speculates that Howard’s stated interest in Houston could possibly stop the team from ever seriously reaching out to Paul:

“According to an individual with knowledge of Howard’s thinking, Howard has been interested in playing for Rockets coach Kevin McHale and assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff, citing among other things McHale’s style and playing history as a Hall of Famer.”

The Rockets would have to clear about $3 million in cap space to sign either Howard or Paul to a max contract. Regardless, the team has a number of young trade assets that they would be willing to part with to create the necessary room.

Now, let’s see what else is going on around the league:

Pages: 1 2 3

SH Blog: McGrady expresses regret for leaving Raptors; Ibaka expects Martin to leave; Magic trading pick?

3 Comments

The Toronto Raptors possessed one of the most dynamic and electrifying scoring tandems the league had ever seen at the turn of the century. The only problem? Nobody knew.

Now, nearly fifteen years and six NBA teams later, Tracy McGrady is playing in his first NBA Finals with the San Antonio Spurs. Yesterday, McGrady admitted that he and his cousin, Vince Carter, had squandered an opportunity to build a dynasty by not staying together north of the border.  Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter

At the Spurs’ press conference yesterday, McGrady told the Toronto Suns’ Ryan Wolstat:

“At that time, I think Toronto probably could have competed for championships with the Lakers, that’s what I think.”

However, the Raptors never had an opportunity to realize their full potential. In 2000, McGrady, who was tired of playing in Vince Carter’s shadow, left the Raptors in a sign-and-trade for a max contract in his hometown of Orlando.

McGrady does not blame himself nor the Raptors for the premature ending to what could have been a championship team. Looking back, McGrady admits that he was never sure he would amount to the two-time scoring champion and seven-time all star that he became.

“Toronto, they didn’t know I was capable of that type of performance as far as scoring. I didn’t (even) know I had that in me,” he admitted.

After all, while McGrady was certainly a blue chipper with the Raptors, few could have foreseen him nearly double his scoring average from 15.4 points per game in his final season in Toronto as a 20-year-old to 26.8 points per game in his first season with the Magic as a 21-year-old.

Of course, if the Spurs do end up winning the championship this year, McGrady will have little to do with it. He has become the team’s human victory cigar this postseason, appearing in only four of the Spurs’ 15 postseason games. He has logged zero points in just over 17 minutes of action.

McGrady’s decline, in a way, can serve as a reminder of just how important it is for stars to have strong supporting casts and reasonable minute limits through the course of grueling NBA seasons. While Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are both older than McGrady, they continue to produce at high levels because their Spurs have been powerhouses in the West for years and Gregg Popovich has been masterful at giving them proper rest.

McGrady, on the other hand, had to almost singlehandedly will the Magic and (to a lesser extent) the Rockets to the playoffs on six separate occasions. 

“I had to carry a franchise for a lot of years. I had to do a lot more than a lot of some of these guys do and it caught up for me,” McGrady acknowledged.

Still, McGrady has no complaints with his current situation as a Spurs benchwarmer. When asked about his role for the Spurs, McGrady spoke candidly: “S—, I don’t think I’m going to play. I watch just like you. I just have a better seat.”

Be it as a superstar or super-sub, McGrady has always found a way to enamor the media with golden quotes like this one:

 

Now, let’s see what else is going on around the league:

Pages: 1 2 3