Thunder Trade For Denver Center, More Moves Coming

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

The Thunder’s endless summer of deals continued Tuesday when GM Sam Presti sent two 2017 2nd round draft picks to the Denver Nuggets for 6-11 center/power forward Joffrey Lauvergne. The picks are the Thunder’s own and one they acquired from Memphis.

This move will automatically trigger at least one more because the Thunder now have 16 players under guaranteed contracts and the NBA permits only 15. Teams can carry up to 20 players through training camp but have to be down to 15 by the start of the regular season.

Lauvergne is another young big, he won’t be 25 until the end of September, until a very cap friendly contract. He’s scheduled to make just $1.7 million this coming season and the Thunder are on the hook for just half that until regular season starts. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer.

He’s been mostly a backup center in Denver the last two seasons, but 15 of his 16 career starts came last season when he averaged 7.9 points on 51.3 percent shooting while pulling down 4.9 rebounds. He averaged just under 18 minutes playing time per game.

He most recently played for his native France in the Olympics, where he averaged 9.8 points and 4.2 rebounds. The French team was 3-3 in Rio and did not win a medal. Lauvergne helped France to a bronze medal in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He averaged 9.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in those games.

He’s an excellent free throw shooter hitting 62 of his 69 attempts (89.9 percent) last season and has also been outstanding finishing at the rim where he shot 64.3 percent. A little further out (3-to-10 feet) his percentage dropped to 48.9 percent. Mid-range jumpers (10-to-16 feet) seem to be a struggle, he hit just 35 percent of those shots last season but on out closer to the arc he hit slightly more than half (50.8 percent) of his shots. Beyond the arc his numbers plummet to 24.5 percent.

According to Basketball-Reference.com 77 percent of Lauvergne’s career minutes have been logged at the center position and 23 percent at power forward. The Thunder already had plenty of guys at both spots with Steven Adams as the incumbent starting center and Enes Kanter his backup. Then Ersan Ilyasova the likely starter at power forward with backups Domantas Sabonis, Nick Collison and Mitch McGary.

McGary, Ilyasova and Kanter have each been involved in trade speculation. McGary has shown flashes but he’s mostly been disappointing especially when it comes to off-court issues. McGary is suspended for the first five games of the regular season for violating the league’s drug policy.

This is believed to be McGary’s third violation, all involving marijuana so he is probably the most likely to be shipped out.

The Thunder have a lot of big men and a lot of guards but Kyle Singler and Josh Huestis are the only small forwards listed on the roster.

Presti may be working toward a package deal to bring in a scoring wing. The only thing certain at this point is another move is coming.

 

Steven Adams Having A Fun Summer (Winter)

Photo By Dale Budge/New Zealand Herald

Photo By Dale Budge/New Zealand Herald

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Thunder center Steven Adams is used to an August chill. August for Adams back home in New Zealand can be a bit like February here in Oklahoma, the last full month of winter, still weeks away from the beginnings of spring.

For Thunder teammates Andre Roberson and Nick Collison the calendar is flipped. They’ve joined Adams on a trip down under along with Thunder assistant coaches Mark Bryant and Darko Rajakovic and some Thunder staffers.

Collison hosted Adams for several days at his home in Seattle last off-season and Adams wanted to return the favor. He’s also wanted to bring other members of his Thunder family down to the southern hemisphere to see what life is like for a “Kiwi.”

Adams has been sharing his adventures on his Twitter and Instagram accounts and by the looks of it he and his mates have been having a wonderful time.

In addition to showing off his homeland Adams has been hosting and helping out with basketball camps.

Kris Shannon, reporting for the New Zealand Herald, talked to Adams inside a small gymnasium on New Zealand’s north shore.

"My main thing in coming here for this camp is showing the kids that basketball is a fun sport to play, but also showing them that there's an opportunity there to use it as a vehicle, if they wish, to get a free degree and stuff like that. That's so good - it's such a good headstart in life,” he told Shannon.

Adams, as many Thunder fans already know, didn’t grow up playing the sport but once he started with it he quickly grew to love the game. His raw ability and his 7-foot frame led to a scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh and then on to the Thunder where he has become one of the best centers in the NBA.

"I didn't actually like the game at first," Adams is quoted as saying in the interview. "But I really fell in love with the progress, just seeing a little bit of progress, and it made me feel like I had a bit of purpose in my life, as cheesy as that sounds.”

Adams said he and his teammates going in-depth with their basketball teachings during the camps. It’s really much more about just making sure the kids have fun.

"That's the main motivation behind it - it ain't like a high performance camp or anything like that. We're going to go teach kids high fives and make sure the enjoy the game, just keep the excitement up around it. And give them some free stuff."

Free stuff is always good, there are cool camp tee shirts and caps and other gifts for the Kiwi campers.

Between camps Adams, Roberson and Collison also gave time and money to a fundraising effort for a basketball court at a Ronald McDonald House in Auckland and they’re finding enough spare time for plenty of sightseeing too.

“They love the land and everything like that,” Adams told the Herald. “They're trying to get used to the raw fish but they'll come round to it. They really enjoyed the welcomings and stuff. They just find New Zealand people amazing in how respectful and how much they care about them being here. That's something that they're going to take away to America and really hold on to and remember about New Zealand - how the people really care."

It really sorta sounds like they’ve found a bit of Oklahoma in New Zealand.

Thunder Home Schedule Packed In November, Nearly Empty In January

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

The Oklahoma City Thunder, with several new faces on the roster, will get a little extra practice time early in the season spending much of the first full month of the season at home. 10 games are scheduled at The Peake in November, but when the schedule rolls into 2017 the team will have only three games at home in January.

Most of you already know some of the really big dates, a couple were leaked early, with Kevin Durant making his first return visit to OKC on February 11th and then back again on March 20th. Both games will be nationally televised. ABC has the February game and TNT the one in March.

The Thunder will have a Christmas Day game for the seventh straight season, this time hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s the T-Wolves first ever appearance on Christmas. The game will tip at 7pm so you’ll have time to open presents, share a meal and come on down to the arena. ESPN has the game that night.

New Year’s Eve in downtown Oklahoma City will once again include a Thunder home game, just like every season past. This season, the last night of 2016 will feature a marquee matchup with the Thunder hosting Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the LA Clippers.

The season opener is on the road at Philadelphia on Wednesday, October 26th and the home opener is two nights later on Friday the 28th against Phoenix. The season ends at home against Denver on Wednesday, April 12th.

10 of the Thunder’s 17 November games are at home including a stretch of five straight between the 5th and 13th. The Thunder fly to Detroit for a game on the 14th but are then right back home for three more.

In January the schedule flips with just three games at home, Denver on the 7th, Memphis on the 11th and Dallas on the 26th. OKC will be out on the road for a dozen games including the longest road trip of the season, six games, from the 13th at Minnesota to the 25th at New Orleans. Games out west against the Kings, Clippers, Warriors and Jazz fill out the rest of the trip.

The Thunder also have five 3-game road trips, six 2-gamers and eight trips away for just a single game.

The longest home stand is that 5-gamer in November, there’s also a 4-game home stand in February and five featuring three games.

Despite Durant’s departure the Thunder remain popular with the major TV networks. OKC has 30 national TV appearances on the schedule (sixth most) with 10 games on ESPN, nine on NBA-TV, eight scheduled for TNT and three on ABC.

In a major departure from seasons past the Thunder have eight Saturday home games. Most seasons OKC has one or two and sometimes none at all. This season even includes a couple of Saturday home games (November 5th and 26th) during the college football regular season but neither conflicts with OU or OSU home games. The Cowboys play at Kansas State on the 5th and are off on the 26th. OU is off on both the 5th and the 26th.

In addition to Durant’s visits with the Warriors former Thunder players Serge Ibaka, James Harden and Reggie Jackson all return to OKC in November and so does former coach Scott Brooks. Ibaka and the Magic will be at The Peake on November 13th, Harden and the Rockets on the 16th, Jackson and Pistons on the 26th and Brooks and the Wizards on the 30th. Houston also visits OKC on December 9th and in addition to the Clippers December 31st game at The Peake, Griffin and Paul will be back in OKC on November 11th too.

LeBron James brings his Cleveland Cavaliers in for their annual visit on February 9th. The Spurs will be in town on March 9th and March 31st. The Lakers are here on October 30th and February 24th. The Knicks come in on February 15th, the Celtics visit on December 11th.

The Thunder end the season by playing seven of their last 11 games on the road, including four of their last five.

You can see the full schedule on the team’s website (thunder.nba.com) and tickets for all home games go on sale on Saturday, September 24th.

 

 

Thunder, NBA Schedule Being Revealed This Afternoon

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

When and where will the Thunder open the 2016-17 NBA season? Will the team play again on Christmas Day? When will Kevin Durant make his return to Chesapeake Energy Arena?

Those are just a few of the questions Thunder fans will have answered this afternoon when the full NBA schedule is released.

NBA-TV will have a special on some of the highlights of the schedule beginning at 5 o’clock Oklahoma time. The Thunder are expected to post the team’s full schedule on their website at about the same time.

Some dates have already leaked but it’s still not certain if the leaks are from the final version of the schedule or previous versions that may have since been changed.

A couple of fairly sure bets should be a Christmas game for the seventh straight season. Despite the departure of Durant, the presence of Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo will still make the Thunder an attractive team for television.

An interesting opponent for that Christmas game could be the LA Clippers with some of the rumors floating around that the Thunder are interested in trying to bring Blake Griffin home to Oklahoma City either via trade or free agency. Sources have indicated the Thunder are planning to be home for that game.

Another sure bet is a home game for New Year’s Eve. That’s become a Thunder tradition to go along with the Opening Night celebration in downtown OKC.

The Oklahoman is reporting the Thunder will open the season on the road on Friday, October 28th, but at least one other report indicates OKC would actually be home that night and the season opener would be a couple nights earlier on the road.

ESPN’s Marc Stein has reported Durant’s return to The Peake will be February 11th and that the Thunder will meet KD and the Warriors for the first time on the road in Oakland on November 3rd.

Whatever the rumors and reports all the facts will be revealed beginning at 5 o’clock on NBA-TV.

Thunder Set Preseason Schedule

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

The NBA should release the full 2016-17 regular season schedule in the next few days and the Thunder have now solidified their preseason schedule.

Half the games will be here in Oklahoma, one of them in Texas and the other two are set for Europe.

The Thunder begin the preseason on the road and across the Atlantic for a couple of contests in Spain that were previously announced.

On October 3rd the Thunder will play Real Madrid and then on October 5th OKC takes on FC Barcelona. That second game could be interesting because it’s against the former team of Thunder rookie Alex Abrines.

The team will return home for some extended practice then on Tuesday, October 11th, they’ll take on the Mavericks in Dallas. A few years ago the Thunder and the Mavs had hoped to play an annual preseason game in Big D on the Friday of OU-Texas weekend but the schedule has worked out that way just once for a variety of reasons.

Oklahoma City’s last three games of the preseason will be in the Sooner State. The Thunder will play Memphis in Tulsa’s BOK Center on October 13th and then will finish up with the last two games at home inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. Minnesota will come in on Sunday, October 16th and Denver will be at The Peake for a visit on Tuesday, October 18th.

The regular season begins about a week later but we won’t know when the Thunder season will start until the league releases the full regular season schedule.

Tickets for the Thunder-Grizzlies game in Tulsa are on sale now through the BOK Center. Tickets for the two games at The Peake will go on sale through the Thunder’s website on September 24th.

Sabonis, Abrines Update

Thunder rookies Domantas Sabonis and Alex Abrines are having wildly different Olympics so far. Sabonis has had quite a bit of playing time and has looked good for many of those minutes. Abrines has spent practically all his time riding the pine in Rio.

Abrines did not play in Spain’s first game and was on the floor for only a couple lf minutes in the second game. He didn’t have any points or rebounds. Abrines is the youngest member of the Spanish team, a squad that already has several wing players so Abrines may not see much action for the rest of the Olympics either.

Sabonis played almost 20 minutes in Lithuania’s first game and almost 25 minutes in the second. In Lithuania’s 89-80 win over Nigeria Tuesday afternoon he scored eight points on 4-for-7 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds. He also had three steals and finished with a plus-minus of +11.