Thunder Get Embarrassed in Orlando, 121-108

Again, for the most part the NBA is a star/agent driven league. Stars and their agents drive this league. Sure, there’s Pop, there’s Steve Kerr, and there’s Brad Stevens. But for the most part, the other coaches in this league don’t drive the bus.

I started with this paragraph only because it’s the only reason I wouldn’t fire Billy Donovan on the flight home from Orlando to Oklahoma City.

You could fire Billy Donovan right now. You could do it, but it wouldn’t make any difference regardless of what you think of Billy Donovan as an NBA coach.

The three guys who should be driving this team…aren’t. Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony must have thought this was going to be a cakewalk of a season. They must have thought they could just flip a switch and become a Super Team whenever they felt the need. There have been several flashes of genius, but for the most part it’s been twenty games of heartless, walking through the motions basketball.

For the first time in the Thunder Era in Oklahoma City, I wanted to boo the Thunder. This team was boo-able in Orlando on Wednesday night. I came within an inch of booing them, but then thought to myself it’s not worth it—they apparently don’t care. The diva lab Pauli, with her head on my thigh, looked deeply into my eyes as if saying, “Don’t do it, Mike. They’re not coachable. Don’t let them drag you down like this. Don’t let them define you.”

This wasn’t the second night of a road back to back. This Thunder team hadn’t played a game since their equally embarrassing performance in Dallas on Saturday night.

Orlando entered this game on a nine game losing streak and arguably as bad of an NBA team as the Dallas Mavericks. But none of that mattered as the Thunder stunk it up in every way imaginable in losing 121-108.

Aaron Gordon had 40 points and 15 rebounds. You would have thought he was Karl Malone playing against this feeble excuse of a Thunder basketball team.

I’m not letting Russell Westbrook off the hook for those last six minutes of the fourth period when he scored 20 of his 37 points on the night.

This is Russell Westbrook’s team. This is his deal. But if he doesn’t play hard for 48 minutes then why should anyone else.

After the game, Westbrook slumped in a chair and appeared to be near tears. Distraught with the turn of events. Then my eyes followed Paul George where he was laughing with and hugging DJ Augustin. Billy Donovan in his post presser said he found it unfortunate his team didn’t share the same vision of the team as he did.


Are you fucking kidding me?

There is no leadership on this basketball team at the present. Not from the reigning MVP. Not from the coach. Not from the big free agent pick up this past summer.

And when you don’t have ‘real’ leadership… you have the ugly piece of junk which we’re currently witnessing in Oklahoma City.

Minnesota Timberwolves in Oklahoma City on Friday night.

Thunder View the Abyss With Dismal Loss to Mavs

Let’s do the score first. OKC’s reeling Thunder dropped to 8-11 on Saturday night by losing to the now 5-15 Dallas Mavericks. The final score read 97-81 and this loss might be especially revealing in that these Mavs without any rim protection just basically throttled the Thunder. This wasn’t a case of OKC choking on another second half lead, this was more of a case of the anemic Mavs outclassing OKC for most of the game.

I’m not stunned by the loss, but somewhat surprised by the margin. Sure, it was the second night of a road back to back as Brian Davis and Michael Cage chirped throughout the Fox telecast, but this was a Mavs team without rim protection. And, yet, OKC for some reason was outscored 36-24 in the paint and I’m to assume Coach Billy Donovan never came up with the thought maybe the Thunder should attack the rim at some point in the game. Maybe Donovan and staff figured Salah Mejri protecting the rim was just too much to encounter or that Dwight Powell and Dennis Rodman will at some point be mentioned in the same breaths.

Of the Thunder’s losses, this is by far the worst because OKC wasn’t really in this game and never gave the impression they were going to win this game.

The fork in the road post the victory over the Warriors has happened for sure, but not in the direction Thunder Nation had assumed it would take. OKC is in a fork headed south which is stunning considering all the potential with this roster.

Is Billy Donovan in over his head or is this group of players just uncoachable as a whole?

I don’t know. But for some reason with Salah Merji and Dwight Powell serving as Maverick rim protectors the Thunder decided to jack 35 three point attempts of which 13 were made.

Russell Westbrook scored 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and had nine assists. Paul George had a brutal shooting game going 1-11 and finished with 2 points. Carmelo was blah scoring 15 points. Steven Adams, who’s getting paid $25 million this year attempted 8 shots. I guess OKC just figured Salah Merji and Dwight Powell were too much.

As a team, the Thunder shot 36%. Got outscored 36-24 in the paint. Had 24 assists vs. 17 turnovers-which isn’t horrible. Got outrebounded by a team with Dirk as its starting center by a 43-39 margin and made the Thunder look to be in tanking mode versus a franchise which plunged deep into the luxury tax this season. I told you Rick Carlisle is a smart coach.

I have no idea whatsoever what to write about these guys presently. I’ve tried Al Pacino pleading for scratching, bleeding and clawing. I’ve tried poetic narration by Robert Redford on the parallels between life and trout fishing. I thought the fishing parable might motivate Paul George, instead he’s stunk since the Warriors win. Go figure.

Is this the bottom of the abyss or does it get worse? Can it get worse? Will it get worse before the Thunder as a unit opt for a Twelve Step Recovery strategy? Fortunately, for me, the Sooners are streaking at 11-1 heading into the Big 12 Championship Game. My favorite team in the East—the Sixers are a compelling young team to watch. I need these things right now to divert my glare from the Thunder play.

So…let’s hope this ‘performance’ was rock bottom. Let’s hope the players body language doesn’t go completely south. Let’s hope Billy Donovan can get a grip on some of this and present a coaching voice the team will listen to. Hope, hope, hope — that’s pretty much what I’m clinging to right now…the hope this Super Team doesn’t completely meltdown between now and Christmas.

OKC in Orlando on Wednesday. The Thunder are now 2-8 on the road and this team needs a win in the worst way.

It’s all about hope heading into Orlando.

2014 Spurs—Ball Movement

Evidently this Thunder team doesn’t have meaningful film sessions with their team like our hockey teams used to have. When you sit down as a team it’s all there for you to see. OKC leads the NBA in the fewest passes made. Granted, some of that is due to the amount of rebounds Westbrook grabs, but until this team learnes to pass the ball for 48 minutes they’re going nowhere.

Basketball, like hockey is a game of movement, weaves, poetry in motion and should look like a tapestry of sort. One or two guys holding the ball is not a tapestry of movement–more it’s a sign of team with no winning soul.

Take a look. It won’t kill you. It’s not against the rules. The basketball shouldn’t just be your friend, it should be all five guys’ friend. Pass the ball.

Thunder Can’t Finish Pistons in OKC

Ostensibly, the reason Scott Brooks was fired and replaced by Billy Donovan was Sam Presti wanted an offensive system installed which got away from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook playing two against five in the offensive zone. Some called it Hero Ball. And in the end, it was Hero Ball which doomed the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals as Hero Ball reared its ugly head as the Thunder choked on a 3-1 series lead against the Warriors with Durant and Westbrook forgetting what got them the 3-1 series lead.

Some bad habits die hard and the Thunder for the eighth time this young basketball couldn’t hold on to a double digit second half lead in blowing a 15 point third quarter lead to the Detroit Pistons in a 99-98 home loss.

So…gone for the moment is the notion the Warriors win would be followed by a performance which would indicate a bridge had been crossed. I watched part of Billy Donovan’s post game presser and puked. He was okay with the shot selection, the offense, and pretty much seemed unfazed. He also didn’t seem to like my suggestion of Raymond Felton playing alongside Russell Westbrook some more to improve the decision making in the last six minutes of the fourth period.

Here’s the offense Billy Donovan was okay with. It was an offense which generated 98 shots and 22 assists. Of those 98 shots, 32 of these shots were three point attempts of which the Thunder made eight on the night.

Let’s delve a bit deeper. Of those 98 shots, 70 were collectively taken by Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. Anotherwords, of 98 shots taken by the Thunder, only 28 were taken from players not in the Big Three Club. MOre revealing…of OKC’s last 50 shots attempted, 41 came from the Big Three Club.

Russell Westbrook was brilliant on Wednesday night, he wasn’t brilliant tonight against the Pistons. Westbrook alone took 29 shots and made 10. From beyond the arc he was 1 for 10 and took one three too many as with five seconds left and down by one, he heaved a tough deep three when he could have gotten much closer to the rim for the game winning attempt. Billy Donovan thought it was good shot. I beg to differ.

So…here the Thunder are back exactly where they were two nights ago when they were two games under .500 and apparently not any smarter, not any more poised in holding second half leads, and firmly embracing a new form of Hero Ball which is 3 vs. 5 instead of the 2 vs. 5 template which got Scott Brooks canned.

Until this Oklahoma City team learns that they have to move the ball for 48 minutes, they’re not going anywhere in April but home early. Teams which don’t pass the ball are like dogs that play in the street, namely–you don’t see them around very long. I heard a Putnam City high school coach say that once, but it sounds more like something Abe Lemons might have said during his OCU hay days.

So…here the Thunder are at 8-10 headed to Dallas tomorrow to play against Rick Carlisle’s rebuilding Dallas Mavs. Carlisle is a good basketball coach. A smart dude. His 2011 Dallas team won the NBA championship with a roster less talented than the one Billy Donovan is trying to coach currently. Even with the Mavs struggling, what you’ll see tomorrow night is the young Mavs moving the ball. This is not a complex concept. Same thing in hockey, you move the puck. Touch, touch, touch…finish.

Tomorrow morning when I read the usual OKC media suspects give their respective takes on the Thunder’s woes–it’s fairly simple move–the ball and play 5 on 5 basketball.

Again, note to Russell Westbrook…even Kobe trusted Big Shot Bob Horry. Bad Little Dude until you learn this you’re not winning anything from a team standpoint. I love your heart, but……

Thunder in Dallas tomorrow night. On the road this season the Thunder are 2-7.

Big Shot Bob Horry–even Kobe trusted him. Please watch and take note, Russell. I’m assuming Presti wanted Carmelo to be your Big Shot Bob. Deferring here and there is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being a championship player.

Who should take the last shot?

Time For the Thunder to Make a Run

So…I’m well fed and suntanned from a restful Thanksgiving. Don’t remember all that many Thanksgivings when I was wearing shorts and bass fishing before dinner, but yesterday was one of those. Call me sometime, Paul George. Joe Carter Sr. was formative in my passion of fishing and I know some spots, PG. When I read Paul George is an avid fisherman he catapulted to my third favorite Thunder player. I love that he’s doing charity events for kids thru instilling the passion of fishing with the youngsters. Young men and some older need mentoring, maybe he could sponsor Trump as an enrollee in his program.

Enough of that, and just so you know I kept my mouth shut during Thanksgiving dinner and didn’t offend one Trump voter in the room. I’m not losing any loved family members or inner circle friends over this piece of shit douchebag…not happening. He’s not worth it. I hope others at other dinner tables throughout America showed similar restraint. Love is patience. That’s in Corinthians, right?

So…as I write the Thunder are 8-9 and the No. 8 seed in the West. I’ve said this from the get go that the Thunder’s record these first twenty games isn’t uber critical, but starting tonight at home versus Reggie Jackson and his Pistons it’s time for the Thunder to get on a roll. Namely, it’s time to start winning basketball games. Enough of the process, go get on a roll and win eight of the next ten is what I’m hoping for from these guys. The schedule is set for a run after a win over the Warriors.

I think OKC needs to at the least get a second or third seed in the West if they want to make a serious post season run…so it’s time. You can experience a process and still win games. No more excuses.

From what I see as I write this morning and to date from what I’ve seen in the West…I still believe OKC has either the second or third best roster in the West. Roster wise..I’d go 1 Golden State, 2 OKC, 3 Houston, 4 San Antonio, 5 Minnesota, 6 Portland, 7 Denver, 8 New Orleans. The West is improved, but overall it’s not improved to the point where this Thunder team can’t make a climb.

If you were putting a West All-Star team together with twelve members, the Thunder would have three players on the squad. And to date, I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Steven Adams, Jerami Grant, Andre Roberson, and Ray Felton. OKC’s first seven players are solid, but Billy Donovan needs to get more from Patrick Patterson, Alex Abrines, and Josh Huestis. Those three need to start pulling their collective link on the chain every night.

So, actually I feel pretty good right now, especially seeing OKC dominant versus Boston and Golden State in six of the eight quarters played against these two teams.

OKC needs to start winning close games and I’d suggest to Billy Donovan that whenever he can it might not be a bad idea to pair Westbrook and Felton together if for no other reason than to settle Russell down during bumpy moments.

But I’m not the overthink type, just find gritty ways to win…because it’s time to win.

Find your inner balance, boys. No more Pacino speeches,let’s go–winning is fun.

Thunder Ring the Bell Against Warriors

It was only one in eighty-two games, but the Thunder finally rung the bell last night. The key now being to keep ringing the bell all the way into April and beyond. We’ll see. For but for today, it’s Thanksgiving and I’m still celebrating till about six tonight then it’s Reggie Jackson and the Detroit Pistons on my mind. But you should always savor a big win with a cigar and a song. Winning is fun. Make sure and have fun along the journey.

Keep ringing that bell, Thunder, ring the bell.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Why I Love Steve Kerr

My three favorite coaches in the league are Pop, Steve Kerr, and Brad Stevens. It wood be so cool to have the opportunity to talk to any of the three for an extended period of time on the world, not so much the basketball world, but the human world we now live in day in and day out. To me, the great coaches always keep their ‘coaching voice’ interesting. Phil Jackson used to hand out each player a book to read and then they’d talk about the book. I wonder what books Phil gave to Steve Kerr when he played for him? Pop is the same way. He’d rather talk about Trump than a pick and roll play. Kerr is the same way. So is Brad Stevens. They connect with their players–which needs to be part of the job description when you play 82 games and familiarity can drag on season long relationships. Some nights you’re gonna suck out of 82 nights.. the key being to limit those nights.

I love Kerr. His take on the game, “The millennials couldn’t lock it in tonight.” Priceless.

Steve Kerr on 1997 championship winning shot.

Thunder Dismantle Warriors in Thanksgiving Eve Rout, 108-91

So…I guess losing and pissing away games against inferior teams finally got old. Let’s be clear, OKC still didn’t play 48 minutes up to their full potential, but this is a start and something to build upon. I didn’t like the five minutes in the fourth period when Russell took his last shift of the game, but otherwise it was around 43 minutes of enough good basketball to make the Golden State Warriors look anything close to a lock to win the NBA championship.

OKC led from wire to wire and fed a frenzied Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd like this was Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in a lopsided 108-91 standing eight count TKO in which Steve Kerr waved the flag and benched his starters early.

Note to Kevin Durant: it’s okay to tell everyone you were texting Draymond Green this morning— he’s on your team now. Maybe this will be a game changer for you and you’ll be texting Paul George now and see if you can be on his team next season. Just so you know…that’s how fucking weak you looked in going from the Thunder to the Warriors after blowing the 3-1 series lead.

Where to start?

How about with the league’s reigning MVP who was brilliant, simply brilliant. In 36 minutes of play Russell Westbrook in essence triple doubled with 34 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists and was a +17. Westbrook set the tone, established the flow, and worked the crowd into a frenzy. MVPs rained down from all points in the arena as Westbrook took center stage and delivered the goods to rout the Warriors for the Thunder’s first win against the Durant version of Golden State.

As was the case last season when the Warriors swept the Thunder all four games by double digits—there was some wolfing between Westbrook and Durant. The difference tonight was on this night Westbrook didn’t have a rookie scale team surrounding him. Instead, he had two other future Hall of Famers in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony who stepped up with 20 and 22 points respectively. Collectively, the Big Three scored 76 points, but more importantly, for the first time this season all played well at the same time.

Steven Adams was easily the best big on the court in this game and double doubled with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Adams could have had an even bigger night if he’d finished on two dunks, but it’s not like I should be bitching on a night when the Thunder made Draymond Green and Klay Thompson look like the Cupcake Twins…or Lollipop Twins, or whatever. Weakest game I’ve ever seen Klay Thompson play in the Peake, but again…OKC’s perimeter defense was stellar.

I thought OKC’s defense was excellent tonight. This is an OKC team with enormous defensive potential with guys like Paul George, Andre Roberson, and Jerami Grant. Name another team with three wing defenders like this. I challenge you, name another team. You might say Golden State with Thompson, Green and Durant, but the Thunder showed tonight what they can do defensively when they want to show up.

My key stat of the game was OKC scoring 34 points on 15 steals and getting their transition going early and keeping it going throughout the game. Another key stat was OKC pounded the Warriors 50-39 on the boards. And if you want another key stat…the Warriors didn’t live on the free throw line.

Random Observation: Draymond Green didn’t kick Steven Adams in the crotch tonight. Is that a trend to victory for the Thunder?

Not all that much from the bench tonight, Ray Felton was solid and his minutes gave Westbrook a chance to get some air while the lead was kept intact. Jerami Grant provided some key defensive energy early, but never got going offensively.

Abrines, Patterson, and Huestis played, but didn’t do much except absorb some minutes to rest the starters.

So… is this that fork in the road game we’ve been waiting for? Is this that moment Westbrook, George and Anthony huddled up and said enough of this bullshit…we’re so much better than this?

I don’t know, but what we all know after seeing OKC seriously outplay Boston and Golden State for six out of eight periods is that this team has the potential to be as good as they want to be if they show up to play.

For the first time this season, I’m heading out to the back porch in Deer Creek to smoke a victory cigar, so for me at least–I feel like a bridge was crossed tonight.

Here’s Cox sideline reporter Leslie M in her black S&M outfit interviewing Paul George postgame. Brian Davis needs to buy her a whip. I’m liking the look. It’s much more provocative than Jenni Carlson on Thunder Buddies.

Either Step Up or Shut Up Tonight in OKC

It’s early in the season, but at some point these guys have to look within themselves and either compete for 48 minutes and take some fucking pride in their craft or come to terms with some things about their respective games. OKC is already five and a half games out of first place in the Western Conference and three games back in the Northwest Division. I feel like it’s late April with all the bullshit excuses from the Cox telecast crew so far. There’s four guys on this team making in excess of $20 million dollars and a decent enough bench. Scott Brooks was fired to make room for Billy Donovan so there’s no need here for any excuse making moving forward. Just do your job.

Mentally bear down. Stop looking around at each other. Read and react. Head on a swivel. Move the ball. Talk on defense. Move your goddamn feet. Rebound the basketball. Talk some more. Command your space. Get out in transition. Play hard. Move the ball. Finish like a winner.

That’s it. There’s no need for metrics figuring this out, there’s a need for some coaching and some heart to manifest itself in Oklahoma City tonight when the Golden State Warriors come to town.

It was cold this morning in Deer Creek. So this is my pregame music to get myself in the right frame of mind. This song always gets me in a positive frame of mind when things seem somewhat cloudy. It reminds me of the beach ending in Shawshank Redemption. I’d play the Pacino video, but I’m not sure that’ll work with these guys. Have a wonderful first ever Caligula Thanksgiving and thank god the constitution has somewhat held up so far.

Thunder Fall Apart in New Orleans, 114-107

Sixteen games in and the Thunder are clearly the league’s biggest disappointment. With each passing game, it becomes harder and harder to watch as no identity, no chemistry, and little urgency seem to be aboard this Thunder super team.

One observation I made tonight while watching the Thunder lose to the Pelicans 114-107 was that the team just isn’t very good even though on paper they would appear to have one of the league’s top five rosters. Even when DeMarcus Cousins got ejected for a Flagrant 2 elbow thrown into Russell Westbrook’s head I never once had the feeling this team had the mental stuff to take advantage of the ejection and turn it into a measurable advantage.

Billy Donovan looks lost. He looks like a college coach who should still be coaching level ball in that he can’t seem to put any offensive identity together with this team, nor on this night any defensive identity.

Calling the Thunder horrible at this point would be an overreaction, but they’re not good, especially not good when you consider what Clay Bennett and his ownership group paid to put this poser Super Team together.

You look into the eyes of Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo and they just look hollowed out like they have no idea what is going on. Billy Donovan looks even worse if that’s possible.

The Thunder now stand at 7-9 and headed nowhere for the time being. Kevin Durant and the Warriors come to Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday night. I would strongly suggest Thunder fans leave the Cupcakes at home and not do anything overboard to motivate the Warriors to beat the Thunder by twenty or more points.

I know that’s a horrible attitude to have a mere 16 games in, but from I’ve seen to date…that’s how I honestly feel about Wednesday. Just hoping they play well enough to be competitive and not embarrass themselves on national television.

In Year 1, when the Thunder went 23-59, I never felt this way. I loved every game because the team was young and you could see them work hard every night to get better. This is the polar opposite. This is the side of the NBA you try to avoid if possible.

My check engine light went on tonight.

I’m concerned.

Warriors in town on Wednesday night.

Oh, boy.