Thunder Picks New 66ers Head Coach

By Randy Renner

Once again the Oklahoma City Thunder have gone to someone with roots back to the University of Connecticut for a position within the organization.

UConn grad Mark Daigneault has been chosen to take over the 66ers, the Thunder's D-League team formerly located in Tulsa but moving to Oklahoma City for the upcoming season and beyond.

Daigneault has been an assistant coach at the University of Florida for the last four years under Billy Donovan.

The Thunder released the following statement and background information on Daigneault this afternoon.

“Mark has placed a high value on development throughout his career and we feel that he is well aligned with the goals of our organization,” said Thunder GM Sam Presti. “His experience at Florida under Coach Donovan has provided him the platform to apply his intelligence and relationship skills to help strengthen the program. We are excited about Mark joining the organization and continuing his professional growth.”

Last season, the Gators became the first SEC team to go 18-0 in conference play, and during Daigneault’s four years at Florida, the program posted a 120-30 record (.800) while advancing to the Elite Eight each season.

 “Mark has been a valuable member of our staff the past four seasons, and I'm very happy to see him get this opportunity with a great organization,” said Donovan. “We all wish him the best of luck and know he'll do a tremendous job.”

 Prior to arriving at Florida, the Leominster, Mass. native spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Holy Cross.

 “I have had a great deal of respect for the Thunder organization throughout my career, and I'm excited to immerse myself in the culture there, and focus on the continued development of the program,” said Daigneault.  “The University of Florida, Coach Donovan, the Florida basketball staff and players that I had the privilege of working with contributed to my personal and professional growth, and for that I am grateful as I embark on this opportunity with the Thunder organization.”

A 2007 graduate of the University of Connecticut, Daigneault served as a student manager with the Huskies under Jim Calhoun from 2003-07.

Daigneault, who holds a master’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Florida, will replace Darko Rajakovic as head coach of the Thunder’s D-League affiliate.  Amongst multiple front office members and coaches who have been called up from its D-League affiliate, Rajakovic was the third straight head coach of the Thunder’s D-League affiliate to make the move to an NBA bench, after he accepted an assistant coaching position on Scott Brooks’ staff last month.

The 66ers are expected to play their games this season across the street from Chesapeake Energy Arena inside the Cox Center however, those details have not been announced.

The Thunder decided to move the 66ers to OKC after their Tulsa area home, the Spirit Bank Events Center in Bixby, decided not to continue hosting sporting events.

Other staff members and the 66ers roster will be announced later but Thunder 2014 draft picks Josh Huestis and Semaj Christon will play for the 66ers this season and fellow 2014 draft pick Mitch McGary will also likely play at least a few games for the D-League team.

Thunder Lightning Round

By Randy Renner

Several things to jump into so I figured it was time again for another edition of the Thunder Lightning Round.

Harden Best In The World??

We all know former Thunder sixth man James Harden has a really big beard but turns out his ego is even bigger.

Harden did some interviews this week at the NBA 2K event showcasing the debut of the latest version of the popular basketball video game NBA 2K15 which features Kevin Durant on the box cover.

In an interview with ESPN's Scoop Jackson, Harden didn't hold back when asked who he thought was the best basketball player alive.

"Myself," Harden told Jackson.

Jackson then elaborated, asking Harden whether that was an easy question for him to answer.

"It is," Harden said. "Myself."

Um, okay.

Harden may be the only person on the planet who has that opinion. Most experts would say LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world followed closely by our own Kevin Durant. KD's teammate Russell Westbrook is high on that list too, in fact more and more folks are placing Westbrook at #3 on that list.

Harden wouldn't make most folks Top Five.

Despite The Beard's optimism, the Rocket man has yet to win an MVP award or a scoring title and hasn't reached the second round of the playoffs since departing Oklahoma City.

KD Talks Team USA

Durant was at that same NBA 2K event this week and he sat down with a group of reporters to talk about his withdrawal from Team USA basketball and some other things too.

Durant again said he pulled out of his commitment to Team USA to be able to get some quality rest leading up to this coming NBA season.

“It was definitely tough,” Durant told the group. “I’ve (played) before and being with Steph (Curry), 2010, was one of the best experiences of my life. Being with James (Harden), (Anthony Davis) in 2012 was great as well. So it was tough. But I think for myself I just needed to take a step back and get ready for next season and rest up. Played a long, long 82-game season this past year. So I wanted to be smart with myself and realize that of course I love to play the game, I love USA Basketball, I love these guys, but I think it was best for me to take a step back, rest and get ready for the next season.”

Durant was also asked about basketball's best player, he didn't nominate Harden and wouldn't say he was either.

“I think I’m best at scoring. I feel like I’m an all-around player. I may not be the best rebounder or passer or defensive player, but I feel like I’m the best scorer.”

No argument here, KD has won the NBA scoring title four of the last five seasons afterall.

Durant also said when it comes to the video game he was in New York to promote, he's pretty good at that too, "For the summer, I’m about 100-4. That’s my record this summer. I feel real confident about my game. But the guy that would give me the most trouble would probably have to be James (Harden). James or Russell (Westbrook). Those are the only two guys I’ve played against who can play pretty well. But like I said, I’m very confident in my game right now.”

Under Armour Offer Now Official

It's been rumored and talked about for a few weeks but now that huge endorsement deal offer from Under Armour is officially on the table for Durant.

His management team at Roc Nation notified Nike that UA is offering KD a 10 year deal worth from $265 to $285 million. Nike will be given an opportunity to match the offer. Either way Durant will be making more cash per year off this one endorsement deal than he will through his basketball current contract with the Thunder (or his future contract with OKC or any other team).

Tickets On Sale September 30th

The Thunder's preseason and regular season schedule is out now and tickets for all the Thunder home games will go on sale on September 30th. There will be two preaseason games at The Peake and then 41 regular season games there.

The Thunder will have two other "home" games away from The Peake in the preseason, one in Wichita and one in Tulsa. Tickets for those games are on sale now through Wichita's INTRUST Bank Arena and Tulsa's BOK Center.

New Clips Owner Takes Shot At Thunder

By Randy Renner

The rivalry between the Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers had already gotten pretty good but now that boisterous Steve Ballmer has taken over ownership of the Clippers from idiotic Donald Sterling things are about to get really fun.

Ballmer is the multi-billionaire former CEO of Microsoft who bought the Clippers for a cool $2 billion and then won a court challenge from Sterling.

He was introduced to Clipper fans yesterday during a wild pep rally inside LA's Staples Center. Ballmer came bounding into the arena high-fiving fans and bouncing around to the beat of an Eminem song.

He told fans if they want to get in touch with him, just shoot him an email (sballmer@clippers.com) and he promised them the good times are about to really roll predicting "many, many, many, many Larrys." Larry is short of the Larry O'Brien Trophy named for the former NBA commissioner and handed out every season to the NBA Champion.

Ballmer seems like the second coming of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban who also likes to communicate with fans and sports reporters through email and he's a big fan of "Larrys" too.

Ballmer lives in Seattle and for a while there was talk that he might buy the SuperSonics before Clay Bennett and his group did so yesterday Ballmer couldn't resist taking a jab at the Thunder.

"I love Seattle but I'm going to love beating the old Seattle basketball team," he said over the roar of the Staples Center crowd.

The Clippers open their home regular season schedule with the Thunder at the end of October and those two teams of course squared off in a memorable Western Conference Semi-Finals series last season.

You can check out the Clippers rally here, Ballmer's shot at the Thunder is about 3 minutes in.

 

Thunder Announce Preseason Schedule

By Randy Renner

The Oklahoma City Thunder will play two preseason games inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, two other "home" games in Wichita and Tulsa and three games on the road in October as the team gets ready for the regular season schedule which tips off just before Halloween.

The preseason schedule opens on the road on October 8th in Denver against the Nuggets and then moves on down to Dallas on October 10th.

That game in Big D (as we previously reported) is on the Friday of OU-Texas weekend is something both the Thunder and the Mavericks have been trying get scheduled for the last three years.

Now that it's done for this season executives of both teams hope it can become a fixture of the preseason schedule on that Friday of OU-Texas weekend.

The first game at The Peake will be Tuesday, October 14th, when the Memphis Grizzlies come to town. They're back out on the road on the 16th for a trip to the Big Easy for a game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Thunder will be in Wichita (for the third straight preseason) the next night "hosting" the Toronto Raptors at the INTRUST Bank Arena. Two nights later OKC will be up the Turner Turnpike in Tulsa "hosting" the Minnesota Timberwolves at the BOK Center.

The Thunder then will come back home to The Peake on Tuesday, October 21st, to host the Utah Jazz in their final preseason game.

The regular season begins on the road in Portland the next week.

Tickets for the games in Tulsa and Wichita are already on sale in those cities and tickets for ALL Thunder games inside Chesapeake Energy Arena will go on sale on September 30th.

 

Bid On Collison's Blood Stained Sneakers

By Randy Renner

This month's Thunder Cares auction ends at 7 o'clock Oklahoma time this evening and you have a chance to get an unusual piece of memorabilia.

Remember last season when Thunder forward Nick Collison got clocked on the top of his head in the April 3rd Spurs game?

That's the one where his scalp wound had to be stapled shut and Nick left the court with blood dripping down his face.

Well, several drops of his blood wound up on his basketball sneakers and they've become the star attraction of this month's auction.

As of this writing (at 7:30 Monday morning) the lead bid is $1100 but chances are it will go higher the closer we get to the close of bidding.

The other items up for bid this month are an autographed Kevin Durant shooting shirt and a fan pack which includes an autographed photo of Reggie Jackson.

You can check out the items and make your bids here. You can also go to the Thunder's website http://thunder.nba.com