Nick Collison Exit Interview

I didn’t cry, but a very real sense of sadness came over me as I watched what I assumed was Nick’s last exit interview as a Thunder player. Nick along with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been the cornerstones of what has personally been for me a lovely experience of NBA basketball in my hometown for this past decade.

Listening to Nick Collison talk NBA basketball always grounds me and brings me off my emotional cliffs I sometimes place myself on at times as a fan/rogue blogger. He grounds me because he’s smart and he knows what he’s talking about.

Nick has been my favorite Thunder player for the decade…period. This hurts, yet I’m glad Nick will now be able to spend more time with his daughter.

In the world of sports, I observe so much around me which makes me shake my head at times– but Nick is a refreshing throwback. A reminder of what things used to be like in our country as far as work ethic and pride of craft.

Nick will go down as one of my favorite all-time NBA players even though some might say his resume stat wise isn’t one which would justify that lofty of a perch from a person like me who’s been an avid NBA fan since say 1963… when I was then driving my parents crazy in our driveway pretending to be the next Billy Cunningham.

In my office/study, I have several photos of sports players who have my admiration for what they represented to me with their careers. In baseball, it’s Roberto Clemente from the Pittsburgh Pirates. In football, it’s Barry Sanders from the Detroit Lions. In hockey, I have two photos, Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque–both defensemen for the Boston Bruins. My basketball photos? It will be Maurice Cheeks from my beloved 1983 Philly 76’er team and Nick Collison from my beloved Oklahoma City Thunder team.

Nick Collison, thank you. Good luck with your life. I’ll be thinking of you as I write my little book.

Carmelo’s Exit Interview, April 28th

I listened to this and of course as usual was disappointed with the local media’s inability to ask the one obvious question in regards to Carmelo’s role on this team moving forward.

The question would be simple, “Carmelo, in this recent series against Utah it was obvious Utah was specifically attacking you on the pick and roll as the entry point–from your viewpoint, at this stage in your career how do you justify a starter’s role from a defensive standpoint? How would you adjust to this next season given you weren’t able to this season?”

Not one Oklahoma writer asked this question. Not one. If you watched this series it was obvious Quin Snyder was using Donovan Mitchell off the pick and roll by specifically isolating Carmelo on an island of space.

Not one Oklahoma writer asked this question.

Otherwise, from a human standpoint, I thought it was revealing in how Carmelo Anthony still views himself as a basketball player who cannot come to terms with where his body is at after fifteen seasons of NBA play.

Actually– I thought it was sad. I hurt for him in him not being able to be an honest enough person within himself to come to terms with where he’s at in his basketball playing life. Bill Walton came to terms with it and won a second ring with the Celtics playing 19.3 minutes game. Why does Carmelo Anthony view himself above this? I don’t get it.

I don’t hate Carmelo at all. In fact, there’s something in him I find as likeable and very interesting. Maybe he’ll talk to me for my book. I can assure you he will find me much more compelling than Nick Gallo. He’s definitely someone I would enjoy talking to person to person. But, I mean, c’mon—this is what I constantly allude to when I talk about Billy Donovan’s coaching voice…as in, I haven’t observed one yet to date. TELL YOUR PLAYER WHAT HIS ROLE IS AND HOW YOU WANT IT DONE.

I only plan on watching one more Thunder exit interview from this season and that will be Nick Collison’s. Yeah, I’ll be crying. This will be emotional for me.

Thunder Season Mercifully Ends in Game 6 Loss at Utah, 96-91

Of course, Carmelo Anthony started and on cue went a -19 in 25 minutes of play as the Thunder season which never really happened… came to a merciful end in Salt Lake City as the Jazz without starting point guard Rickey Rubio ended the Thunder’s Season From Hell tour with a series clinching win by a 96-91 count. I’m sure somewhere on Donovan’s Mitchell’s wish list is the thought Carmelo could be playing 25 plus minutes a game for the Houston Rockets in Round 2 of these NBA playoffs.

Paul George in what was probably his last game as a Thunder was horrific going 2-16 from the field and scoring less points (5) than turnovers committed (6).

It was a final fitting end to Sam Presti’s version of a Wal-Mart NBA Super Team.

The only hope for the Thunder moving forward is that after Paul George most probably leaves Oklahoma City to hook up with LeBron somewhere near a Pacific Ocean coastline… some other team in the NBA is dumb enough to take Carmelo Anthony.

Russell Westbrook scored 46 points on 43 shots in the loss. So… excuse me for being cynical, but I’m not really all that sure the Billy Donovan offense which was supposed to steer the Thunder away from hero ball ever came to ‘pass’ for the Thunder after the firing of Scott Brooks.

Steven Adams was excellent on Friday night and I hope I run into him again this off season at our favorite 7-11 store on Western Avenue in Oklahoma City.

You know who else was excellent on Friday night? Victor Oladipo in Indiana as his Pacer’s routed LeBron and have pushed the Cav’s to a Game 7 date in Cleveland in what could be LeBron’s last game as a Cavalier.

Moving forward in Oklahoma only two things seem somewhat certain in what should be a very tough off season for the Thunder. Those two things are that the Thunder are now really a franchise with only two players in Westbrook and Adams who have any top tier NBA value given Jerami Grant is a now a free agent and could end up in Indiana with his former Thunder buddies Victor Oladipo and Domas Sabonis.

Wouldn’t that be the fitting end to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Season From Hell tour?

Maybe if the Thunder dismiss Billy Donovan as their head coach they could convince him to stay on as a player.

Maybe the new Thunder coach could convince Billy to come off the bench and do the right thing for the team.

Don’t laugh.

This is Oklahoma.

It’s time for me to get to work on my book.

I now know how it ends in Oklahoma.

Oh, Wait…Carmelo Should Come Off the Bench

If I were to fire Billy Donovan this would be the reason why– that being, his inability to deal with what Carmelo’s role on this team should have been way back in early December. With $134 million plus luxury tax on the table the Thunder are still fucking with this as tonight they enter Game 6 in Utah on the brink of elimination.

Are you kidding me?

This is why your coach has to have a strong coaching voice. It’s Rule No. 2 of Coaching. You coach thru your character, your personality, and your coaching voice. Not Sam Presti’s, not Troy Weaver’s, and not even ownership.

You coach thru your voice.

And that coaching voice has not been there this season for the Thunder.

You didn’t have to be John Wooden or Greg Popovich to see way back at the beginning of this team’s struggles the pieces weren’t fitting with Carmelo starting or his role as some sort of equal piece to Westbrook and Paul George.

Bring him off the bench or go with an extremely short leash if you start him, but for the love of God–do what good coaches do…namely, give your team the best chance possible to be successful.

Watching the way this team has been coached this season is almost as painful as watching the Oklahoma state legislature and Mary Fallin address education reform in Oklahoma.

Carmelo can still get 22 minutes and help the team, but it’s the way those 22 minutes are crafted into every unique game which the coach has to orchestrate.

Pray for Billy Donovan tonight. Pray for his coaching voice to be discovered. That’s what it’s come to for me with this team and coach…prayer.

BOSTON BRUINS ADVANCE, Thunder Extend Jazz to Game 6, 107-99

Well, I was wrong, after the Boston Bruins scored four third period goals to rally against the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs, I went ahead and watched the second half of the Thunder game live and with the volume not muted of all things.

I know, what the fuck. Maybe it was the euphoria of those four Bruin goals which had me feeling giddy and somewhat above the doom of what has become this Thunder’s Season of Hell tour.

Ten seconds on Fox and I kid you not Brian Davis said something stupid, yet the volume stayed. I was in that good of a mood. My wife had to come in and tell me I was too loud for the neighborhood twice during that Bruin goal outburst. I was walking on sunshine, baby.

So I sit and watch as the Thunder fall 25 points behind the Utah Jazz with something like eight minutes or so left in the third period and wondering to myself which Thunder player will get ejected first as this season mercifully comes to an end.

But then the oddest thing happened…Russell Westbrook made two three point shots and Rudy Gobert got his fifth foul and had to leave the floor. Then Westbrook went from being Rickey Rubio’s bitch in this series to being Rickey Vaughn and fuck me if I didn’t see this with my very own two eyes this fucking team of dysfunction somehow followed Westbrook’s lead and rose from the ashes of death to somehow beat the Utah Jazz by a score of 107-99 inside of a Chesapeake Arena gathering of witnesses who like me–had to be in complete disbelief as to what they just witnessed.

I swear to God…my father in heaven said to me from aove,”This is really happening, Michael me boy.” It was this kind of ethereal out of body experience.

Russell Westbrook never left the floor the second half. Wild Thing played all 24 minutes and made my heart sing. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before in sports. It was like watching Tin Cup hole that 235 yard 3-wood to make a 12 at the U.S. Open.

Russell Westbrook hit a fucking three wood over the water and it went into the hole for a 12. And here I sit as a grown man blogger feeling like the Thunder just won the NBA Championship even though the reality of Game 6 in Salt Lake with Mitt Romney trolling Russell isn’t beyond the realm.

If nothing the spirit of Westbrook I’m going to drop more fucking F bombs on here today than ever before written anywhere on the Internet in the spirit of Russell Westbrook’s second half.

If ever 24 minutes of play symbolized why you cannot in your heart love Russell Westbrook even when you wanted to strangle him an hour earlier these were those 24 minutes.

This was our championship moment in Oklahoma City. Fuck Kevin Durant—who said you can’t win it all in Oklahoma City.

You know what else happened in that second half…Paul George ended up scoring 34 points of his own to go along with Wild Thing’s 45 points.

One other thing happened… amidst Billy Donovan being fired on Twitter when the Thunder were down by 25 points–Donovan and Mo Cheeks finally benched Carmelo Anthony long enough for the Thunder to get the lead and extend this series.

Note to Billy Donovan—you were fired last night on Twitter while the game was still going on. You have nothing to lose in Game 6. For the love of God as a coach please do the right thing with Carmelo Anthony’s minutes.

So, I guess I’ll torture myself and watch Game 6 with the sound on Fox.

Why the fuck not ’cause right now I’m walking on sunshine and even this Thunder team which can’t get eliminated like a normal group of humans is still alive in the NBA Playoffs.

In closing, I’ll tell you what—if these motherfuckers go to Salt Lake and win Game 6 I’ll be the first guy lined up against that chain link fence at Will Rogers Airport when their flight home lands.

Fuck it. This is for the Mitt Romney Northwest Division Trophy as far as I’m concerned.


Game 5 Thoughts for the Thunder

My first Game 5 thought is that the Boston Bruins will be playing the Toronto Maple Leafs in a Game 7 in Boston while the Thunder are playing the Utah Jazz in Game 5 in Oklahoma City. Note to Clay Bennett and Sam Presti–I’ll be watching the hockey game live and watching the basketball game on the delayed Fox telecast later with the sound muted.

This will be the first time in the Thunder Era in Oklahoma City my schedule won’t be completely revolved around a Thunder playoff game. I’ll watch the rebroadcast with a detached sense of objectivity like someone watching the game from some other city.

How sad a basketball junkie like myself is writing something like this on his blog. It’s incredibly sad because I’m an immensely competitive person who has nothing left for this ‘team’ Sam Presti put together this season.

Quite frankly–I want it to be over. I want Utah to win the game and end the Oklahoma City season.

And know this–I fully realize this means the end of a magical run of NBA basketball in my hometown.

What I witnessed in Game 4 was a virtual disgrace. To me, it was the lowest moment in the history of the Thunder. Worse than the game against New Orleans which got PJ Carlesimo fired that first Thunder season. Even worse than the Game 6 loss to the Warriors which set the table for Durant’s exodus to Oakland.

This was Ground Zero for me. This was the bottom. It made me want to puke.

What we witnessed on Monday night in Salt Lake City made me sad and tugged at my heart because it’s apparent to me it’s time for Clay Bennett to make some very tough decisions about the future of pro basketball in Oklahoma City moving forward. Very tough decisions. Brutally tough.

I need more time before I write what I think those changes should be. Whether OKC wins tonight has nothing to do with those changes. I just need a few days to gather my thoughts and make sure I have it right in my head. To make sure I’m being fair to all parties involved.

But there is a flip side for me. My longtime team the Philly Sixers just completed the ‘Process’ and advanced to the second round of the Eastern Conference by winning its 56th game of the season. Their future burns hot orange bright with Ben Simmons and Joel Imbiid being the new ‘it’ guys in the NBA.

My favorite hockey team in the Western Conference–the young Colorado Avalanche competed in a glorious manner before losing to the Nashville Preds in six games. Colorado’s youthful team has a future which burns bright as well.

Then of course–there’s the Boston Bruins who go against a red hot goalie tonight in Frederick Anderson in a Game 7.

The fact a basketball fan like me will have his heart in Boston while an NBA team is playing an NBA playoff game twenty minutes from my front door says it all for me.

It says don’t insult my intelligence any longer this basketball season.

But I will watch the game on the rebroadcast and blog the closing chapters to what surely will be an ESPN 30/30 film and a book by someone on an intriguing ten years of pro basketball in Oklahoma City even if the ending isn’t the one I hoped for back when Durant, Harden, and Westbrook were college kids playing in the NBA.

Utah Jazz Blow Out Thunder in Game 4, 113-96

Again, I don’t know exactly what to write. I do know this though, Clay Bennett has a great deal on his plate right now as far as the organization called the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This Game 4 was an embarrassment on multiple fronts not only for the organization, but for the city as well. This wasn’t the face city leaders of OKC had on their minds a decade ago when they brought a pro basketball club to Oklahoma City.

There’s really no point in critical plays being cited or stats being all that much needed or strategy being discussed on here today. This is simple, the Utah Jazz in every way imaginable is just outclassing the Oklahoma City Thunder not only on the floor, but on the bench, and in the GM’s office.

For the second season in a row the best team in the Northwest Division isn’t the Thunder, but the Utah Jazz and with this head to head series it’s an emphatic statement the Jazz are making.

The Thunder lost this game by a score of 113-96 in a game in which Russell Westbrook guaranteed a shutdown of Rickey Rubio and the Jazz. Sigh.

Here’s the thing with Rubio and this Jazz team, Rubio only averages 13 points a game so everybody already knew Game 3 for Rubio was an outlier. There was no need for all this drama. The need was for the Thunder moving the basketball and playing sound team defense.

OKC had 5 assists in the first period. For the entire game the Thunder had 10 assists. What this means is that in the final 36 minutes of play the Thunder had 5 assists as a team. Please explain to me how Oklahoma City’s offense has evolved since the firing of Scott Brooks? Please explain that one to me, Sam Presti.

There has been no transformation whatsoever in the Thunder offensive system in three years. None. There was for that brief period an offensive burst which led to the Thunder’s 3-1 series lead against the Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, but none ever since the epic collapse by the Thunder in that fateful series.

Since OKC held that 3-1 series lead, the Thunder have gone 2-10 in post season games and will be 0-3 in post season series. There is nothing here in data which would support the notion Billy Donovan knows what he’s doing with this Thunder basketball team.

But to Donovan’s defense there’s not all that much evidence Sam Presti knows what he’s doing as well as the Carmelo Anthony trade makes no sense whatsoever as the Thunder are now strapped to another season of Carmelo Anthony for $28 million dollars.

Please explain to me why Paul George is going to stay in Oklahoma City?

I’m sure Jerry West already has a page full of reasons why Paul George should leave Oklahoma City.

This is sad for me. This is emotional. I don’t get paid for blogging on the Thunder. It’s a passionate thing for me.

If Paul George leaves what you have in Oklahoma City is basically a replica of the Memphis Grizzlies with Westbrook and Steven Adams under contract as Memphis does with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Only the Thunder will have to absorb another year of the Carmelo Anthony deal.

So–if you fire Billy Donovan how is it any of this which I just listed gets fixed?

Here is one thing I do know though… the OKC Thunder will never win another Northwest Division championship until they get a coach who can get some semblance of order attached to Russell Westbrook’s basketball game.

Triple doubles are fun things to hunt down during the course of grueling 82 game schedules. But in order for the Thunder to be post season relevant either Russell Westbrook changes his game or the Thunder are going absolutely nowhere as a basketball organization which fancies itself as championship relevant.

Game 5 is in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. Teams in the NBA which trail 3-1 in series win something like maybe 5% of the time.

It’s been an ugly season, yet expensive season of NBA basketball in Oklahoma City. Sam Presti put all his chips on the table with the trade of Oladipo and Sabonis to Indiana. It appears the Utah Jazz and the rest of the Western Conference remain unimpressed.

Clay Bennett has some serious things on his NBA plate to consider if Utah advances.

Game 4 Thoughts

I’m not sure I have any thoughts left on this team. To be talking about effort and commitment while the Thunder are in the playoffs is something odd and foreign to me.

If ever a group of three stars in Westbrook, George, and Anthony should be playing with a competitive chip on their shoulder it should be this group of players.

These three stars went a collective 1-8 in the playoffs last season and you just figured these three players had something they would want to prove to the rest of the league peer-wise.

Very odd and it leaves you feeling this season which never really started has continued along the same theme in post season.

It’s tough to watch.

It’s as if in the ten year era of Thunder basketball in Oklahoma City the program has gone full circle from youthful NBA innocence to what we’re seeing currently.

Game 4 tonight in Salt Lake City.

Utah Jazz Outclass Thunder in Game 3, 115-102

This is when you have to be very careful being an underground blogger. You don’t want to knee jerk or overreact. Which of course is easy for me since I proclaimed this a season which never was before Game No. 80 in Houston.

But still, there’s the human part inside all of us and we hope our sports teams can find some heart inside of themselves from time to time and do semi-miraculous things.

Then again, there are those other times you have to look reality square in the eye and hold truth to power.

The truth being here is that the Thunder have no idea what they’re doing in this series against a very well coached Utah Jazz team which in reality doesn’t have as much talent on paper as the Thunder do.

It matters not who guards Donovan Mitchell in this series. I was wrong on that count. It’s not that simple.

How do you say this and not sound cruel?

I’ll try. Russell Westbrook was absolutely brutal on Saturday night in this pivotal Game 3. Just absolutely brutal. There–I said it.

Oklahoma City got nothing on either side of the ball from Russell Westbrook in this basketball game. And truth to power be known, for the second straight game the Thunder got little of nothing from Steven Adams as well.

Carmelo was actually not horrible. Paul George struggled a bit with his shot, but kept the Thunder in the game somewhat. Ray Felton was still a bulldog and Pat Patterson had some decent minutes.

But here’s what you can’t duck or pretend didn’t happen– that being, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams didn’t show up for the Thunder on Saturday night in Salt Lake.

Now–John Stockton did because I saw him on the ESPN shot without his spirit T-shirt on I might add…cheering for the Jazz. That was cool.

But nowhere to be seen were two parties previously known as Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams. Bad Little Dude and the Big Mate were nowhere to be seen on the season’s most important night.

Go figure.

And here’s another wasn’t three point shooting which torpedoed the Thunder as they went 14-28 from beyond the arc. Nor was it free throw shooting which derailed the Thunder as the Jazz themselves were awful from the line going 18-27 (67%).

And I don’t think it’s fair on this one to blame Billy Donovan for coaching nuance because there wasn’t anything for him to coach in that Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams were evidently not in the building on Saturday night.

Rickey Rubio had a career night of sorts triple doubling the master or regular season triple doubling…Russell Westbrook.

You could also point out Joe Engles came alive scoring 21 points or that Donovan Mitchell slogged thru a pedestrian night with 22 points of his own.

But this night belonged to Rickey Rubio, Quin Snyder, and the memory of John Stockton.

In sports and in life…heart is a simple thing. It really is when you pause and give it thought.

The inches we fight for every day in our lives. Those inches matter. They really do.

But you have to fight for those inches and Billy Donovan has a basketball team which on more nights than not–doesn’t fight for those inches.

Game 4 in Salt Lake on Monday night.

Game 3 Pre-Game Casual Fan Thoughts

So…I’m reading Bret Dawson this morning on newsoksports an he’s quoting Billy Donovan talking about the inches we fight for in sports on every play. My jaw dropped. Because if ever there was a basketball team which doesn’t consistently fight for those inches…it’s this bunch he coaches in Oklahoma City.

By my count this team ranks near the bottom of the NBA in my category of ‘inch fighting’.

But I was somewhat heartened to at least see that Billy Donovan knows his team needs to be better in fighting for those inches a mere six inches in front of our faces every day.

My thought would be…the guys who finally showed to play defense in Game No. 80 in Houston need to find those inches tonight in Salt Lake or else they’re going to be down 2-1 in this series at around midnight.

In the NBA, teams which win Game 3 in a series tied 1-1 go on to win the series 73% of the time.

I’m thinking if were coaching this team…Paul George would be defending Donovan Mitchell and let Corey Brewer take Joe Engles. Just a thought from a casual fan.

You know, and some effort wouldn’t kill anyone.