KD Stops By Summer League Says Rehab On Schedule

By Randy Renner

Superstars in general don't swing through the Summer Leagues very often but one superstar in particular does and he did it again over the weekend in Orlando.

Thunder superstar Kevin Durant sat courtside between OKC general manager Sam Presti and head coach Billy Donovan for Saturday's game against Charlotte.

Durant seemed upbeat and jovial while engaged on conversations with Donovan and Presti. He met with reporters before the game and spoke with NBATV at halftime.

During that interview KD told the television audience his rehab is progressing and he will be ready before training camp begins in October.

"Yeah, no doubt, no doubt. I'm workin' hard every single day trying to get back right," he said. "I miss the game so much, competing against the best players in the world and I'm looking forward to getting back."

Durant was also asked bout any changes that might be ahead for the Thunder as far as new looks on offense and defense that Donovan might be adding.

"I really can't tell you now, I've been with Billy since he got the job but as far as practice and games it's a little different but I'm definitely looking forward to it. I'm just looking forward to playing again, man, I miss it so much."

Durant said it's been different, not having Scott Brooks around but he has liked what he's seen overall from Donovan who actually worked out with Durant on the court the last few days.

“It’s pretty cool to see your head coach on the floor with you and putting in work with you. So it’s like he’s been on this journey with me since he got in and that’s making us closer.”

And that's a good thing for the organization and its fans. Durant told reporters before the game he loves the additions of assistant coaches Mo Cheeks and Monty Williams.

Cheeks of course was with the Thunder for four seasons before leaving to become head coach of the Pistons and Durant and Williams became friends while working together with Team USA.

Durant wouldn't get into his upcoming free agency frenzy saying he was just concentrating right now on his rehab and this next season with the Thunder but as his relationship grows with his new head coach that could prove helpful down the line.



Just One Thunder Regular On Summer League Roster

By Randy Renner

In past years the Thunder have used the Orlando Summer League to showcase rookies and young players on the roster, this year not so much.

Injuries (yes I know I'm as tired of the darn things as you are) are playing the biggest part in limiting the Thunder to just one regular player and just this year's 2nd round draft pick.

Thunder power forward Mitch McGary is the only Thunder regular who will play in Orlando in games that begin on Saturday. Shooting guard Andre Roberson had been hoping to play also but ongoing problems with the ankle he sprained toward the end of last season canceled those plans.

The broken finger suffered by 1st round draft pick Cameron Payne during a workout in Denver before the draft will keep him out of action also and a torn pectoral muscle will prevent last year's late 1st round pick, Josh Huestis , from playing. 

Despite those absences, the Thunder will have some familiar names on the Summer League team.

This year's 2nd round pick Dakari Johnson will play and should be fun to watch. Johnson was the third team center at Kentucky but is talented enough to have been a starter for most every other team in college basketball last season.

Five members of the OKC Blue will play. Point guard Semaj Christon, the Thunder's 2nd round pick last year, headlines that group. Joining him from the Blue will be Frank Gaines, Richard Soloman, Talib Zanna and Marquis Teague. 

Former OSU center Michael Cobbins will play also along highly regarded Duke guard Quinn Cook, a player the Thunder brought in for workouts before the draft.

The Summer League team's head coach will be Thunder assistant Darko Rajakovic. Thunder assistants Mark Bryant and Anthony Grant will be on the staff along with Blue head coach Mark Daigneault and assistant Royal Ivey.

The Thunder opens Summer League play Saturday afternoon at 2 o'clock against Charlotte and also has games scheduled for Monday at 2 against Orlando, Tuesday at 4 against the Clippers and Thursday at 4 against Memphis. All the games from the Orlando Summer League will be televised live by NBA-TV.



Thunder Have Deal with Singler But Kanter's Price Going Up

By Randy Renner

By now the Thunder had hoped to have handshake agreements with both Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler. 

Singler's deal is done but there's still work to do with Kanter and it looks like the Thunder will have to spend more than they'd hoped.

Singler ended up with a better deal than probably most Thunder fans figured he would, 5 years/$25 million. That fifth year is a team option for the Thunder. Last season Singler made just over $1 million so he's getting a substantial raise. 

He was put in an impossible situation last season, starting 18 games in place of superstar Kevin Durant after being traded to OKC in the Reggie Jackson deal, and averaging just 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds a game. His career averages are much better and after getting used to his new environment and a role as Durant's primary backup he should be much more effective.

The Thunder now will almost surely do everything they can to move Perry Jones and or Steve Novak and their combined $5.75 million salary. The Thunder are reportedly asking teams interested in Jones for a first round pick but as you can probably tell that's not going over very well.

The Thunder's offer to restricted free agent center Enes Kanter also apparently fell flat. RealGM reported the Thunder were planning to offer a deal, that with incentives, would approach a max contract. Kanter appears to want a full max deal without incentives and with some big money teams missing out on centers he may get at least one. 

The Knicks thought they were getting Greg Monroe for sure, all the talk was that he wanted to play in NYC. But those bright lights of the big stage haven't helped the Knicks win any championships lately or even get to the playoffs consistently so Monroe surprised everyone by agreeing to a deal with Milwaukee.

The Lakers have apparently missed out on LaMarcus Aldridge and perhaps DeAndre Jordan too so they may make a play for Kanter. Portland wants to talk with him also in case Aldridge does what everyone figures he will and leaves the Blazers. The Mavericks are in the running for both Aldridge and Jordan but if they miss out with those guys Kanter could become an option and San Antonio could become interested too if Aldridge turns the Spurs down, especially now that they've traded away Tiago Splitter.

If Kanter does get a max offer from someone the Thunder will have the right to match it and probably will. They were offering close to the max anyway.

But something that looked like a slam dunk deal a few days ago, doesn't look so easy anymore.


Free Agent Frenzy: Thunder Talking To Kanter Today

By Randy Renner

NBA free agency hit Oklahoma at 10:59 last night and by that time the Thunder had already secured sit down meetings with their two restricted free agents center Enes Kanter and small forward Kyle Singler.

Right now those are the only guys on the Thunder's radar, if they can get them signed that's pretty much that. If not, Plan B goes into effect.

The Thunder should have an excellent shot at keeping Kanter and maybe Singler too but economics could come into play more with Singler than with Kanter.

The Thunder have scheduled a meeting with Kanter for this afternoon (first reported by RealGM) at Kanter's agent's office in Chicago. The team is believed to have put together three and four year deals, that with incentives, would put Kanter at or very near max money. For him that number is almost $16 million per season, depending upon exactly where the upcoming season's salary cap settles.

Kanter was not happy in Utah and pushed for a trade last season. After being dealt to the Thunder Kanter became an offensive force, averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds a game, but also a defensive liability unable to defend the pick and roll, especially without help from Serge Ibaka who missed the last weeks of the regular season with a knee injury.

Kanter is the first center the Thunder have had who poses a legitimate offensive threat that opponents have to pay attention to and he and superstar point guard Russell Westbrook developed an outstanding two-man game almost immediately. The Thunder and the other teams interested in Kanter believe his defense can improve with the right coaching and they're willing to gamble on that because of his scoring and rebounding ability.

Since Kanter is a restricted free agent the Thunder will be able to match any offer he receives and the Mavericks and Trail Blazers and perhaps others are interested in talking with him too.

The Thunder hope to avoid those talks by getting Kanter to agree to OKC's deal and that may very well happen.

Many times last season Kanter talked about how comfortable he was with the Thunder organization and his new teammates almost a direct opposite from what he faced in Utah. The uncertainty of what moving to another might entail might be enough for Kanter to want to stay in Oklahoma City without exploring other options.

He's going to get a huge raise regardless, about $10 million more than he made last season.

Singler will at least triple his salary. He only made a little more than $1 million last season and the Thunder are believed to be offering a three or four year deal that average about $3 million per season. Singler is also being pursued by other teams, the Atlanta Hawks and the San Antonio Spurs are interested in talking with him, and that interest could drive his price up into the $5 to $6 million range an area where the Thunder would prefer not to go.

OKC is still trying to work deals that for Steve Novak, who is owed $3.75 million this coming season and Perry Jones, who is scheduled to make $2 million.

Tuesday the Thunder cleared some salary and opened up a roster spot by dealing Luke Ridnour and his $2.75 million contract to Toronto for Euro player Tomislav Zubcic and a $2.85 million trade exception.







Thunder Will Have A Top Shelf Coaching Staff

By Randy Renner

The Oklahoma City Thunder will have one of the most experienced group of coaches on any NBA bench this coming season, especially when it comes to overall head coaching experience.

The Thunder finalized their staff of assistant coaches yesterday when Mo Cheeks agreed to return to Oklahoma City. He joins newcomers Monty Williams and Anthony Grant and holdovers Mark Bryant and Darko Rajakovic.

Among that group Bryant is the only one without head coaching experience but he's regarded as one of the NBA's best "big man" coaches and has been particularly praised by current Thunder big men Steven Adams and Mitch McGary for his role in their rapid development.

Cheeks spent four years as Scott Brooks' lead assistant before leaving to take the head coaching job in Detroit. Cheeks had also been head coach for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Portland Trail Blazers and has a combined 620 games of NBA head coaching experience over parts of nine seasons.

Williams spent five seasons and 394 games as head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. He was fired last season despite leading the Pelicans into the playoffs. Williams also spent five years as an assistant coach with the Trail Blazers and is an assistant coach on Team USA.

Grant is a longtime friend and colleague of Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. He was an assistant for Donovan both at Marshall University and Florida before leaving to be head coach at Virginia Commonwealth and then Alabama. Grant has a combined 303 games of head coaching experience in college.

Rajakovic was a highly successful head coach in Europe before joining the Thunder to become head coach of the Tulsa 66ers, the Thunder's D-League team at the time. Rajakovic then moved to Scott Brooks' staff.

“I’m really excited about the vast experience that this staff will bring to our team,” Donovan said in a written statement released by the team. “The opportunity to bring these coaches together will help us work towards our goal of having a defensive identity, sharing the ball and playing efficiently on both ends. The group delivers an incredible set of individual skills, knowledge and background to the table, and I believe that the impact of their collective efforts will be very beneficial as we continue to build the tradition of the Thunder.”

Not to be overlooked is Donovan's own head coaching experience, though none of it in the NBA. In 21 years as a head coach at Marshall and Florida he made the final coaching decisions in 708 games, winning 502 of those games and two National Championships.

Another plus for both Cheeks and Williams is their previous relationship with Thunder superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Cheeks was very influential in Westbrook's development and could be seen many times having one-on-one conversations with Westbrook on the Thunder bench.

Williams got to know Durant during Team USA activities. Both men grew up in the same area of the Washington, DC suburbs.

“Monty Williams has been a big influence as well,” Durant told USA Today last summer, “just coming from the same area I come from, knowing his background and knowing his story…to know him from afar, just knowing that he put in so much work to become a head coach, just being around him for a week with USA Basketball and knowing how great he is with the guys. He is a phenomenal leader, so he inspires me a lot because he’s from the area I grew up in and the route he took to making it in the NBA and being a coach and being just a great leader.”

With all those head coaches on one bench, chemistry and trust between those guys is going to be paramount but so far Donovan appears to be just the kind of boss who can make it all work.