Oklahoma City Thunder 3 Games In

The Thunder have started off the condensed 2011 – 2012 season a red hot 3-0.  So why am I feeling the urge to rip right into them?  Russell Westbrook.

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Now, stay with me here.  I know the guy is an all-star.  I know he's one of the "10 best players in the league" yada yada yada.  OK, that's great, but the guy just rubs me the wrong way.  Tonight he goes 0-13 with 7 turnovers.  That's just one game, you say, and besides the Thunder won anyway.  Yes, the Thunder did win anyway, but it was no thanks to #0.  That makes a perfect three straight games of 7 turnovers in each.  That is flat out unacceptable.  The guy just can't seem to grasp the concept of playing the PG position and tries to force it even when he is clearly having an off night.  He hasn't made a bucket all night and Durant can't miss.  What does Westbrook do with time winding down and the Grizzlies within striking distance?  He does his patent dribbling out the shot clock and sends up a horrible one handed fade-away that never has a chance.  I just don't understand how someone can be so selfish.

Am I being too hard on Westbrook?  Maybe.  But I'd just assume make a deal suggested by my partner in crime, TheMayor, and make a move for Dwight Howard.  Send Westbrook, Perkins, and a first rounder and I don't see how Orlando can say no.  I'd much rather have Maynor distributing to KD and Harden with Howard cleaning up everything that rims out.

On the brighter side of things, Durant has already started off the season with MVP-like numbers dropping 30+ in every game thus far and averaging less than 3 turnovers and 5 rebounds.  Durant has come through big in the clutch in close games vs Memphis and Minnesota.  #35 is the star of this team, not Westbrook.  I was hopeful Westbrook had taken some of the criticism from last season to heart and tried to work on honing his game as a true PG during the extended offseason, but it is clear that Russell will be Russell no matter how many detractors come his way.  Brooks refuses to put a tighter leash on Westbrook in fear of pushing him away and having his PG turn against him with only a year left on his contract.

The Thunder are 3-0, but it is not because of Westbrook.  The Thunder are 3-0 because of the superior play from Durant, Harden, Ibaka, Perkins and crew.  Harden has continued to thrive coming off the bench playing possibly even better ball than last season.  Serge has had a bit of a slow start, but is still fulfilling his role on the team.  Perkins came into the season in the best shape of his life and finally with a healthy knee and boy does it show.  Perkins has been a huge boost down low thus far and I am very impressed with his transformation from last season.

Westbrook is heaving up almost the same number of shots per game as Durant, yet connecting on roughly half of the shots that Durant is downing.  Something needs to change.  This team is good, but not good enough to continue to cover for #0 all season long with any hopes of a title coming to OKC.  I don't think he will ever change though and I don't think the Thunder will ever be able to get over the hump with him at the reigns.  I hope I'm wrong, but I wouldn't bet on it.

What’s Happening in Norman?

As we've all heard, freshman running back Brandon Williams and a host of other Sooners players are asking for a transfer from the University of Oklahoma. Why? Williams used the excuse of having a baby in Houston and he needs to take care of it better. Why not go to Houston? Why Texas A&M? I know College Station is semi-close to Houston, but why not just go to Houston if you need your baby in your arms every night? As for the others, who really knows. I have some thoughts, though. Bare with me as I might get a little animated.

Continue reading What’s Happening in Norman?

Has Stoops lost this group? I think partly, yes. I think these players are upset with the coaching staff. Here's my first example.

Justin McCay – 5 star rivals recuit – WR – 6'3" – 215 lbs. He's never played one snap as a sooner. Played in the Army All-American game out of high school. One of the most highly touted receivers in the country. Yet, not good enough to beat out playing time from "Pan Hands Miller"? I don't buy that. I think it's something more than that. Broyles went down. Jaz Reynolds went down. Why didn't the coaching staff play McCay? I don't get it. Sure, Kameel Jackson is going to make a very solid receiver for OU, but why not try McCay. His redshirt year is over. No sense in shelving him for a whole year again. At least let us see what he's got. 

Torrea Peterson – 4 star rivals recruit – DT. Has OU ever been this thin up front? JaMarkus MacFarland and Stacy McGee did well. No doubt. But why didn't OU get to see this beast most thought he would be? OU has been notorious over the years for swapping in and out defensive lineman. This year, the Sooners ran MacFarland and McGee into the dirt. Hardly any substitutions were made up front. It was baffling. Now, rumors speculate he's leaving as well.

These are just two examples of players leaving. Rumors are swirling that there are up to 15 players applying for a transfer, which would be a mind-boggling number. Also, Ronnell Lewis is most likely going to the NFL. Personally, I think he's super raw, but kudos to him for being able to take care of his family now. Some have speculated that he's never really been happy at OU. He could have been a monster at linebacker, but the coaches insisted he play at defensive end. Not sure what that was all about. 

There can be a million reasons why this is happening. My guess, "OU is full of a team of characters, not a team OF character" – Chris B. Callahan.

Stoops and the staff has always prided themselves with being a team of prestige, graciousness, gratitude, integrity and loyalty. I think this year was different. It seemed at the first of the season, the players were dedicating this season to their fallen teammate, Austin Box. I don't know if that kind of went away, or after their first loss to Tech, it kind of killed that mojo. It did seem this year that it was all about the name on the back of the jersey instead of the name on the front. Maybe OU should go back to the season of 2005 where all the name were taken off the back of the jerseys. Maybe I'm over thinking and maybe I'm not giving enough credit to the staff. There was just something missing from this season. The swagger left the team after OU/Texas completely. A 55-17 drubbing of your arch rival and you tank? I don't get it. I hope to get a lot of responses to this. Maybe someone can enlighten me on what exactly is going on in Norman. I can guarantee you this. If there's no changes made with the staff, players and overall persona, Oklahoma will never get to number 8 in our lifetime. 


In A Bind

The league owned New Orleans Hornets have finally traded All-Star Chris Paul to the Clippers to join Blake Griffin. The Clippers, Lakers, Dallas, have all made moves to improve their roster. What should OKC do to respond?

OKC can respond in two ways.

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The first is quite simple, get Westbrook to sign his extension before the trading deadline. Most fans will be quite happy with having one of the best emerging point guards in the game. He’s young, quick, still learning the position, and has gotten better every year he’s been in the league. Westbrook is just beginning to scratch the surface on his potential. GM Sam Presti and the rest of the staff need some time to look over the new CBA and get everything squared away. That’s fine. Westbrook seems to want to stay in OKC, even after his contract ends, and there are not many teams he could go to via free agency, make max dollars, and still compete for championships.

The other way the Thunder can respond is to trade him. With CP3 off the trading block, the only real option is New Jersey’s Deron Williams. Williams has indicated that he will not sign an extension unless the team can become more competitive. The only real way that happens is if the Nets can get Dwight Howard, who is off the trading block… for now. If New Jersey fails to get him, the Nets and Thunder could exchange point guards (plus a player(s)/draft picks). The Nets win by having a new fresh face of the franchise to go with the rest of their young talent and OKC wins by having arguably the best point guard in the game. If you’re Williams, you get to play with the two-time scoring champ in K.D., great atmosphere in Loud City, and a chance to start winning now. New Jersey does not offer any of those things nor could any other city offer him a chance to play on a contender NOW.

The team is still quite young and growing. I believe they will eventually get to championship contender status soon, possibly this season or next. The Lakers, Dallas, San Antonio, are getting old, and fast. Their window of opportunity is closing rather quickly. The Western Conference will soon be controlled by young teams like the Thunder, Clippers, and don’t sleep on Memphis or the Timberwolves either.

Gold Ball Champs

The Oklahoma Football Playoffs are over. TCS would like to update you on the Champions and Runners Up. Also, we have declared an Oklahoma MVP from the Regular Season and Playoffs.

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Class 6A
Champion: Tulsa Union Redskins – 23
Runner-Up: Broken Arrow Tigers – 22

Class 5A
Champion: Guthrie Blue Jays – 24
Runner-Up: Lawton MacArthur Highlanders – 7

Class 4A
Champion: Wagoner Bulldogs – 23
Runner-Up: Clinton Red Tornadoes – 0

Class 3A
Champion: Anadarko Warriors – 35
Runner-Up: Cascia Hall Commandoes – 17

Class 2A
Champion: Hennessey Eagles – 21
Runner-Up: Jones Longhorns – 7

Class A
Champion: Wayne Bulldogs – 35
Runner-Up: Woodland Cougars – 28

Class B
Champion: Caddo Bruins – 44
Runner-Up: Davenport Bulldogs – 14

Class C
Champion: Shattuck Indians – 26
Runner-Up: Tipton Tigers – 6

We would like to congratulate all the qualifiers in the 2011 football playoffs. There can only be one champion, and for that, we salute all those with gold balls now in the trophy cases of the schools who won state!

Regular Season MVP: Andrew HearonMetro Christian Patriots
Hearon completed 241-of-365 attempts for 3,695 yards and 42 touchdowns against just five interceptions this past season, leading the Patriots (12-1) to the Class 3A state quarterfinals. (courtesy ESPN)

2011 Playoffs MVP: Sheldon WilsonAnadarko Warriors
Wilson rushed 261 times for 3,335 yards and 57 touchdowns. He led his team to the State Championship where he rushed 38 times for 225 yards and 4 touchdowns in a blowout win over Cascia Hall.

Once again, a big congratulations to all the players. We enjoyed following football in 2011 and can't wait until 2012!

Can the Thunder Pick Up Where They Left Off?

Thankfully, the NBA owners and players came to their senses and heeded my advice to find a way to salvage this season.  Now the question is, has the lockout slowed down the momentum the Thunder built up coming into this season?

Continue reading Can the Thunder Pick Up Where They Left Off?

With the season now being broken down into just 66 games and numerous back to backs being played, this schedule falls right into the strengths of a young Thunder squad. While older teams may experience some issues with the sheer amount of back to back games, the Thunder should be just fine with their young legs.  Until the free agent market clears up and we know which big time players will be playing where, it's going to be hard to break down the Thunder's main competition in the West.

Instead, let's focus on what the Thunder have and how they can build on last season's success.  Obviously having one of the best players in the league in Kevin Durant immediately makes any team forced to be taken seriously.  Throw in another all-star in Russell Westbrook and you've got a team that is a legit title contender.  The fact that both of these all-star players are only 23 years old is almost mind boggling.  They have yet to hit their prime years.  Now, if you regularly follow the Thunder then I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.  But what pieces do Durant and Westbrook have around them to fill out a true title contending team?

The addition of Kendrick Perkins last season didn't exactly take off like most fans had hoped for.  While Perk was hobbled for the majority of the year, he failed to really impress many.  This year there will be no excuses and Perkins has got to be that force in the center of the lane making players think twice before slashing to the hoop.  Serge Ibaka came on strong last season and really established himself as not only a premier defensive player leading the team in blocks, but also finding his rhythm with a mid range jumper.

The emergence of James Harden last season was a huge boost.  Harden spent the majority of last season coming off the bench and filling that offensive void left in the second unit, but is expected to be inserted into the starting line up this year.  Daequan Cook, who just signed a new 2 year deal with the Thunder, also spaces the floor out nicely for the second unit with his 3 point sharp shooting.  Add in Collison and Maynor and you've got a second team that can play with nearly any starting unit in the league.

The Thunder were one of the few teams in the league with no real glaring weaknesses coming into the season and not needing to really make any offseason moves.  This is a team that will only continue to grow and mature so long as Presti can find a way to keep the core together.  Last season was a year in which this young squad did a lot of growing up and took that next step from "could be in a few years" to a real threat right here and now.  OKC opened a lot of eyes around the league last season and have been either rewarded or punished (depending on your outlook) with being paired up with nearly all of the league's elite teams in the condensed schedule this year.  Clearly the big wigs behind the scenes believe the Thunder are for real and are giving them prime time games to get maximum exposure.  Now it's just up to the Thunder to continue doing what they've been doing.

If this team continues to grow and excel at the rate they have been then it could spell trouble for a number of years to come for Western conference foes and the league's elite.  I believe the true test will be to see how Westbrook responds to all the criticism he took during the post season last year and if he will finally be able to find his own while still incorporating the rest of the team.  If Westbrook begins to distribute the ball like a true PG while keeping his cool, there is no telling how far this young team can go.