Media day excitement at The Peake

By Addam Francisco

After media day, the players look very well rested, and physically look to be in mid-season form… Without the injuries. This could easily be a year to remember, with this team having all the parts I think they need to win a championship, with the only thing still in question being the lingering defense topic. That’s just something that we are going to have to evaluate in these few preseason games.

This Monday afternoon was media day for our Thunder, and players like Mitch McGary, Steven Adams and Dion Waiters kept things pretty light-hearted, along with a blurb about getting open shots by Kyle Singler. I was most impressed by rookie point guard Cameron “Smooth” Payne (nickname given to him by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant), and fifth year center Enes Kanter. These two were very poised in front of the camera and didn't seem rattled at all. They also gave very good points on this season.

“I want to try and get better as a player and an individual. I just want to get that at home feel and take each step in my career day by day.” Said Payne. “I’m a very competitive guy, I’m going to come in and give 100 percent everyday, and do what I can do to help this team win a championship.”

Of course with Kanter, the questions went straight towards his one and seemingly only major short-coming and we all know what that is, defense. His answer was simple, but definite. “My focus was defense this off-season, along with losing weight.” He also shared with us that losing weight is exactly what he did. After his surgery this off-season, Enes claimed he weighed around 275 pounds and now he’s down to 245. I agree with him, in todays day of the finesse big-man in the NBA, you have to be quick and nimble at times down in the post, and cant be caught flatfooted or on your heels because premier players like LaMarcus Aldridge, or even Tim Duncan will take advantage of that, like we saw at times last year.

There’s an 18-man roster, which gives some extra guys a chance to earn a spot on the team, but this roster will not be the regular season roster. There will be three players cut, to lower the count to 15 players, then there will be three guys from that official roster, that wont be on the roster,(because an NBA team can only have 12 active players). With a total of six players from this 18-man roster expected to play with the Oklahoma City Blue squad.

The training camp roster is below.

If you like bright colors, you'll like the new alternate uniforms

By Addam Francisco

Do you like the new Thunder alternate “sunset” uniforms? Well, if you don’t it may bother you that they will wear the jerseys 18 times this season. The first time on Nov. 1 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena versus the Denver Nuggets.

The uniform has a bold orange color, that reflect the blended Oklahoma skies upon sunset and will have ‘OKC’ on the front in dark blue bolded letters. On the back will display the players names, under the numbers. The shorts will display the sunset color, with navy blue panels down the side of the leg with the Thunder logo on each side.

“This new uniform not only features another of our primary team colors, it also reinforces the strong connection our team has to our hometown and home state,” said Brian Byrnes, Thunder senior vice president of Sales and Marketing. “The ‘OKC’ on the front of the jersey echoes the chant that rings through Chesapeake Energy Arena during Thunder home games. This sunset-colored uniform adds a fresh perspective on the identity our team has built over the past seven seasons.”

You will see these jerseys 18 games this season, and all 13 of their Sunday games. This will be uniform number five for this squad. The primary jerseys will remain the white for home games, and Thunder blue for away games, with the navy alternatives and sleeved white jerseys being the two other alternates.

Personally I like these new uniforms a lot. I’ve always wondered why this organization hasn't embraced the orange color more for a uniform. I think theres a lot the organization can do with those colors. With the jerseys, I think we could do an “orange out” with the crowd for home games that they wear the alternates. I guess I am content with the primary home and away jersey, they are as basic as they are supposed to be. The dark blue jerseys I am definitely not a fan of, they’re a bit too straight laced for my liking and the white-sleeved ones have been my favorite up until now. I really love the orange ones.

The games that the Thunder are set to wear the new sunset jerseys are below.

Sunday, Nov. 1, vs. Denver Nuggets

Sunday, Nov. 8, vs. Phoenix Suns

Sunday, Nov. 15, vs. Boston Celtics

Sunday, Nov. 22, vs. Dallas Mavericks

Sunday, Dec. 6, vs. Sacramento Kings

Sunday, Dec. 13, vs. Utah Jazz

Sunday, Dec. 27, vs. Denver Nuggets

Wednesday, Jan. 6, vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Sunday, Jan. 10, at Portland Trail Blazers

Sunday, Jan. 17, vs. Miami Heat

Sunday, Jan. 24, at Brooklyn Nets

Saturday, Feb. 6, at Golden State Warriors

Sunday, Feb. 21, vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Sunday, March 6, at Milwaukee Bucks

Wednesday, March 16, at Boston Celtics

Monday, March 28, at Toronto Raptors

Sunday, April 3, at Houston Rockets

Saturday, April 9, at Sacramento Kings

The Thunder are stacked for 2015-2016

By Addam Francisco

The Thunder are back to being an elite team like they were in 2012 again. Well, from the outside looking in. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant are fully cleared and healthy, along with the rest of the team. Thats something that we couldn't say last year, pretty much at any point in the season. There seemed to be something wrong with somebody from day one.

*“He saw his surgeon,” said Presti regarding Serge Ibaka’s status. “He’s had regular check-ups with his surgeon. The surgeon has continued to feel very confident and encourage him to continue to move and play. He’s fully cleared.”*

Not only is Serge healthy, but in a press conference Wednesday, Presti ranted and raved about Serge’s growth over this off-season, stating that he thinks Serge has improved the most in his overall game. As a fan, I love the sound of that. Personally, I was a little frustrated with Serge last season when it seemed like he went from a premier post player to another big man that seemingly wanted to shoot mid and long-range shots all the time and I didn't understand why, with him being one of the strongest players in the NBA. His stats were still good and I am glad that he developed an outside game but I wish he would incorporate both aspects of his game into one. That will put him in the top of the league, at least in his position. With Serge being an inside and outside threat, and a threat defensively along with Enes Kanter, being an immediate threat in the post offensively, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook remaining who they are, and players like Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, Mitch McGary, Steven Adams, and Nick Collison, along with rookie Cam Payne being the supporting cast, this team is stacked and very dangerous, probably a better roster than in 2012.

Of course, with this being KD’s contract year, everyones so preoccupied with keeping him. The only thing that needs to be worried about is winning a championship. The Western Conference is stronger than its been, possibly in the NBA’s long history and we aren't even the favorites to come out of the West this year, even with the former MVP, reigning scoring champ, and a total of three olympians on one team. I think thats alarming, but its also a good challenge for our guys and with Russell being the competitor that he is this is right up his alley.

*"Serge has felt some discomfort at times," Presti said, "but he's fully cleared now. Some discomfort is to be expected during the rehab process. He says he feels really good right now and he looks great. Serge may have had the best summer of any of our players.”*

Presti and the players seem to love new head coach Billy Donovan as well. He’s earned a lot of respect in these first few months as the OKC’s new head coach after he replaced former head coach Scott Brooks following the 2014-2015 season after they didn't make the playoffs by one game to the New Orleans Pelicans. Hopefully Donovan is a better situational coach (which I think he is) and a better when it comes to being more aggressive in his coaching style, like he was at the university of Florida. I think that players like Westbrook, Durant and Waiters will perform better under than kind of coach.

KD Says He Is The Best... Again.

By Addam Francisco

Oklahoma City fans, remember when a lot of us along with most of the NBA questioned two things about Kevin Durant? Durability and confidence? Well confidence definitely isn't the issue now after KD told media in Spain that he is still the best player in the world, while he was promoting the Nike KD VIII basketball shoes.

“We’re under the radar, exactly where we want to be,” Durant stated after questions about the upcoming season, “And yes, I’m still the best player in the world.”

Kevin is entering his eighth year in the NBA at 26 years old, averaging 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game last season where he only appeared in 27 games due to the injury we all know about. Kevin Durant being only one year removed from being the leagues MVP, people wonder why he would make such comments after such a disappointing season for the team and individually, with no guarantee that he will return as the same player he was before his mentally and physically taxing injury.

Many people disagree with the statement from Durant, but agree that if he would have made this statement exactly a year ago it may have been more believable. Even though there will always be an argument that Lebron is the best player in the world due to his physical appearance, and the fact that he’s won four MVPs and two NBA championships. Some also may argue on James’ behalf that he kept a completely run down Cleveland Cavalier team relevant, well actually elite, getting them all the way to the 2014-2015 NBA Championship series, later losing to the new MVP Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors.

With statements like this, comes more pressure for KD, he has to prove he can remain healthy and that his team can be a championship contender like they once were. Kevin isn’t the only one who thinks he is the best in the world, because James and Curry do too, along with Anthony Davis, who is one of the leagues hottest players right now. So talk is cheap, we need to see KD live up to these bold statements he’s been making lately.

Basketball Season Up Next, Preseason Schedule Released

By Addam Francisco

Football season is starting, which means basketball season is up next. Yes, the regular season for our Thunder starts in about two months but the preseason is right around the corner. Unfortunately though, we’ll only see one of the Thunder preseason games on TV as usual, so that means that we will have to either attend the games, or tune into 98.1 WWLS, the Sports Animal for game coverage. Something interesting this preseason is Enes Kanter facing his former squad from Turkey along with returning to his former NBA home Utah to play the Jazz in the final preseason game. Yes, Tulsa fans will get to see them play, as they play the Mavericks at the BOK Center.

Full preseason schedule

  • Wednesday, Oct. 7 at Minnesota Timberwolves 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 9 vs. Fenerbahce Ulker (Kanter’s former team) 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 13 vs. Dallas Mavericks 7 p.m. (Tulsa)
  • Friday, Oct. 16 at Memphis Grizzlies 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 18 vs. Denver Nuggets 6 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 20 at Utah Jazz 8 p.m.

Why should we keep Waiters after this season?

By Addam Francisco

As many may know, this year has become the national campaign year for teams to appeal to Kevin Durant, but what many people may not know is that Dion Waiters will be set to become a restricted free agent as well. I think that Waiters may be the one we all should be trying to keep (along with KD). With the NBA not being as stacked as it could be when it comes to the shooting guard position, I think its vital that we keep Dion Waiters, he will also be a huge part of a championship run if we make it that far this year. This guy averages 12 points per game, after just three seasons in the NBA. Not saying he’s as good as James Harden, but his playing style reminds me a lot of James. The only difference in playing style is that Dion can play some sort of defense, something that James never seemed to grasp.

With other premier shooting guards in the league all having something hanging over their head, whether it's a size issue, being injury prone, or age (Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant), I think this could be a window opening up for Waiters to be a premier 2-guard in this league. Not to mention, in Dion’s last game of the season he scored 33 points in just 36 minutes and shot 62 percent from the three point line. Now if that isn't a pretty exciting stat for Thunder fans, I don't know what is and thats not the first time Waiters went on a scoring rampage in his short Thunder career.

Yes, there are instances where we all can agree Dion may need to stop shooting as much and look for other open players, but thats the same criticism that plenty of shooting guards have dealt with but turned out to be pretty good players. Ever since the trade speculations came about involving Dion, I’ve been a huge supporter. I remember his college days and remember how he could single-handedly take over a game offensively. I think with proper coaching within the Thunder organization, Dion could lower his shots and improve his shooting percentage while getting his point average up in the 15 to 18 point range, maybe even better! The goal for this year is to keep Kevin Durant AND Dion Waiters in Oklahoma City and to not let them sneak away to another team.

Russell Scores Again, But Not On The Court

By Addam Francisco

Lets take a second to step away from the statistics, criticism and all aspects of basketball and acknowledge a huge milestone reached by one of our teams stars. This past weekend was a very happy one for the Westbrook and Earl family, but in some cases bad news for women who were interested. Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is off the market after he finally marries his beautiful college sweetheart Nina Earl in a beautiful Beverly Hills hotel. Russell and Nina met back in their days at UCLA, where they both played on the basketball. Sounds something like a Love and Basketball story remake.

The lovely couple got hitched outside of the historic Beverly Hills Hotel Saturday afternoon. Many of Russell’s friends and family attended, including his brother Ray, of course and notable names like Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kevin Love and Dorrell Wright. Yes, with James Harden came his significant other, Kloe Kardashian and Serge brought his lady, R&B singer Keri Hilson. It was like a celebrity showcase within a wedding.

Nina showed out by wearing two dresses, one by Vera Wang and the other by Monique Lhullier. The dresses were beautiful… Even I could see that and I'm your typical guy when it comes to wedding fashion. With the bride being so stunning, you know that the suave man, Russell Westbrook (that always seems to think outside of the box when it comes to fashion), had to be stunning as well, wearing a tuxedo designed by his favorite designer, Tom Ford. As the two walked down the aisle, Beyonce was playing and Lauryn Hills’s “Nothing Even Matters,” played for the couples first dance. That wasn't it though, Miguel surprised everyone with a late night performance during the reception.

This is a huge step taken by Russell. We as fans have seen him grow from the time he was a 19 years old bachelor just out of college to now, 26 and married. I think this major step by Russell may roll over to other players on the team in long-lasting relationships, players like Serge Ibaka… Maybe? I also think it will motivate other players to possibly get serious with someone and take that next step in their life. Coming into Oklahoma City, Russell, Kevin and Serge were very young, teenagers to be specific, but now they are NBA veterans and getting up there in age (for NBA standards). This marriage was obviously strategically planned just before training camp, which is set to start in October, giving a month for a possible honeymoon.

Remember Hurricane Katrina, and what brought the Thunder here

By Addam Francisco

By Addam Francisco

Does everyone remember what brought the Thunder to Oklahoma City? Better yet, what brought more motivation to bring a permanent NBA team here? It’s been 10 years since the horrific hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans that caused the New Orleans Hornets to relocate to Oklahoma City which jump-started the campaign to bring a permanent team to the city.

I was only 12 years old when all of this happened, but vividly remember everything about it. I remember seeing the gruesome images on the news and I also remember the blessing it turned out to be for the city of Oklahoma City sports wise and for our economy (I mean that in the best way possible). Also, the blessing it ended up being for the city of New Orleans in the long run and a place for a young Chris Paul to make his name known in the NBA. Lets not let this take away from the tragedy that happened in New Orleans that ended many lives and altered so many peoples life’s, some for the good and some for the bad and the fact that New Orleans is such a huge part of the United States’ tourist scene, it really effected the entire country in some way. It’s amazing but impressive that the City of New Orleans recovered well from the natural disaster and turned back into the city it was once before.

I actually remember it like it was yesterday, OKC Mayor Mick Cornett jumped on quickly after seeing the aftermath of the hurricane and met with NBA Commissioner David Stern in New York City about the Hornets relocating to Oklahoma City while the city of New Orleans recovered. All of this happened about two months before the NBA season was set to start with no chance that New Orleans would be prepared to handle a professional sports franchise. Just weeks after that, the New Orleans Hornets had a new temporary home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma right before training camp started. This was a huge move for many of the players. The first season wasn't successful for the team record-wise, they didn’t do great but the support that the developing Oklahoma City community gave the team left a lasting memory for NBA officials and fans, that maybe this city should have their own NBA franchise when this all clears up, whether it’s the Hornets or a new franchise.

When in Oklahoma City, their attendance went from 14,221 to 18,168 fans and moving from the worst attendance in the NBA to 11th during their two seasons here. They didn't hit 40 wins in those seasons, winning 38 the first year and 39 in the second season, and missed the playoffs in both but that didn't matter. George Shinn wanted to relocate the team to Oklahoma City permanently and so did former coach Byron Scott. This wouldn't happen though, because the NBA already decided they would move the team back to New Orleans because that was the fair thing to do and I agree. With Oklahoma City fans knowing this and the fact that they wouldn't change David Stern’s mind, the attendance dropped in the second half of the second and final season here. Though, Oklahoma City at this point was the prime location for a possible expansion or relocation for another franchise.

At this point, Clay Bennett and some associates made the proposal, and the rest is known about the Seattle SuperSonics moving to Oklahoma City. That year without a professional team was rough for us though. I remember, it was a very dull year for us because the city has been spoiled by the previous two seasons and my generation especially, being in that 10-16 year old age bracket at the time, we really came accustomed to the professional basketball.

I personally remember when I was thinking about quitting basketball due to a horrible AAU experience, until the Hornets came here and I saw the explosiveness of NBA basketball. It was like basketball was reborn within me. Chris Paul, David West, and Rasual Butler, being three of the teams key players at the time, really motivated me and I am sure many other kids around my age to keep playing, or push harder in order to reach their goal. I think that parlayed into me going on to play college basketball along with a lot of kids in my generation and specifically in my class (2011) going on to play division one basketball and in a couple cases, go on to play in the NBA.

Now Oklahoma City is a prime NBA franchise, ranking in the top 10 in attendance and the Oklahoma City Thunder obviously turning into a successful franchise.

Stop The Worrying, OKC Is Still A Championship Team

By Addam Francisco

This off-season has been quite eventful for the NBA for free agency. Not so much for our Thunder and some fans are wondering about how this team will stack up against enhanced teams like San Antonio, Los Angeles and even the Suns. The reason for the lack-of off-season activity is simply because we don’t need too much.

The big hire of head coach Billy Donovan was our big move for the off-season. We are hoping that Donovan can perform where former coach Scott Brooks struggled to. Drafting Cameron Payne was second on our list this summer and we got that done, that provides great depth off the bench from the point guard position and possibly an alternate starting lineup that can throw teams off when need be. Re-signing Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler was the final thing that we needed to handle this summer. With Kanter in the middle offensively will give us a scoring threat from inside the paint, something we haven't had much of. Also with Singler, he provides great depth on the wing, that of which we needed.

Not to mention, Oklahoma City still features Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, two of the top six scorers in the league and two MVP-caliber players along with an all-star two way forward in Serge Ibaka. In my opinion, when you add all of those components together plus what we have on the bench, you get a championship caliber team.

Shooting guard Dion Waiters seems to think this team is a championship contender, per Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman.

*“We got to come in knowing what’s at stake and that’s a championship. We got the team. If you look at our team, we don’t have any missing links. We have everything that we need. And it’s up to us just to go out there, build that chemistry on and off the court and go out there and get it done. It’s not much else to talk about.”*

Even though the Thunder don’t have any obvious weaknesses, that also means there aren’t any excuses for failing to win a championship this year. The pressure is on, the restless Oklahoma City fans are at their finest this season. Injuries have ruined the teams championship dreams over the past few seasons, but once again, assuming everyone stays healthy, OKC has more than enough talent and depth to compete with any of the NBA’s “super teams”.

OKC’s starting five consists of the following:

PG- Russell Westbrook 28.1 ppg

SG- Andre Roberson 3.4 ppg

SF- Kevin Durant 25.4 ppg

PF-Serge Ibaka 14.3 ppg

C-Enes Kanter 15.5 ppg

That’s roughly 87 points per game just from the starting 5. Not to mention they have Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, Nick Collison, Steven Adams and Mitch McGary coming off of the bench, all of which are capable of putting up big numbers.

Lets be realistic, having DeAndre Jordan or LaMarcus Aldridge would be pointless for this team. We have a close-knit team and honestly don’t need any more personalities to mix things up. Plus, who would you propose sit on the bench if we had Jordan or Aldridge in the rotation? Serge? Enes? That wouldn't work, because we are paying them too much money to come off the bench. Moral of the story is, trust Sam Presti in what he’s doing, the Thunder are entering their eighth year in Oklahoma City under this management. That’s not even a decade, there are teams like the Warriors who had to wait 40 years to win a championship. Lets be grateful that we are this close to a championship this early.

Thunder Re-Sign Kanter To Big Time Deal

By Addam Francisco

The pressure has been on the Oklahoma City Thunder to re-sign Thunder center Enes Kanter. Well, its official now. OKC matched the offer sheet by the Portland Trail Blazers, Executive Vice President and General Manager *Sam Presti* announced late this afternoon. The exact terms of the deal weren't disclosed but the contract is said to be a 4 year, $70 million deal.

“We traded for Enes last season with the intention of keeping him as a member of the Thunder for several years to come and we are excited that he will continue with us,” said Presti. “He adds valuable depth to our roster, diversity to our front court and the dimension that he brings offensively will positively impact.”

Kanter averaged 18.7 points along with 11 rebounds per game in 31.1 minutes of play last season. The 23-year-old big man registered 17 double-doubles last season including eight straight in the month of March for the Thunder which is a franchise record.

I think this is a home run deal personally. It seems like the same people who were upset about *James Harden *leaving the Thunder are upset about Enes Kanter signing a big-time deal with the Thunder. However, stat wise, Enes Kanter has the upper hand on the All-Star shooting guard. When James Harden left OKC following the 2011-2012 season, he averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, which are lower totals of Enes Kanter in his only season with OKC. The only thing he had over Enes in that comparison are assists and thats probably because Harden plays shooting guard and Kanter is a center. Defensively? They are pretty much equal in their poorness. The difference is publicity and showmanship. James was our first round pick and was a little more well-known out of college, and his spectacular long-range shooting and athletic ability stuck out. Thats not the case with Enes, he isn't a highlight reel or anything like that, but he is a spectacular young big man who does his job on the offensive end of the court. Also, considering his age he is still learning. He possibly could develop a respectable defensive game with development and playing with two defensive big men in Olympian Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams.

The only bad side of this deal, if there is one is the remaining and even more puzzling question of how will we keep Russell Westbrook and *Kevin Durant*? Durant’s contract will be up after the upcoming 2015-2016 season and Russell’s will be up after the following 2016-2017 season. Assuming they both stay at All-Star status, they will want more than what Kanter is making which is already a lot and possibly more than OKC has to spend, even with the increasing salary cap. Keep a close eye on this team this year and the years coming up. OKC has the fourth best odds to win the NBA title at 17/2, only behind defending champion Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.

Stay Calm, We'll Keep Kanter

By Addam Francisco

All the free agent drama focused around Thunder center Enes Kanter should be over soon. OKC fans, just so you know, we will more than likely keep Kanter. I am aware that reports have circulated about the future of this player with our Thunder but do you really think that *Sam Presti *would let go of the potential final piece of the puzzle for a championship? In my opinion, that wouldn't be smart at all. Without Kanter, we are left with *Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Mitch McGary* as our primary forces down low and though they are good players, they aren’t the offensive stud that Kanter is.

OKC and Kanter have been playing cat and mouse all off-season with this new contract, and now its down to the limit and ultimately Kanter will make the final decision. There’s been many teams interested in Kanter, but the Portland Trailblazers seem to be the most interested team other than us. Portland has offered Kanter a $70 million dollar contract over four years which is a max contract. We have the opportunity to match that offer after Enes officially signs the deal, which like stated earlier, I believe they will do.

I couldn’t help but notice that there are many fans that don’t agree with us potentially spending so much money on a big man that struggles so much defensively like Kanter, but with us having two other defensive minded big men on the team, one of which is an Olympian, I’m not to worried about Kanter’s weakness. Though the defense needs a lot of improvement, I would hate for us to lose a player that basically averages just shy of 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. Especially considering his age. At just 23 years old, he has the potential to be the next big thing in the NBA if developed correctly. The growth he’s shown within the past year, just after the trade from Utah to Oklahoma City has been spectacular, so I can only imagine what another year or two could have to offer. With Kanter in the lineup, the trio of he, Russel Westbrook *and Kevin Durant *averages close to 75 points per game alone, not to mention 15 points per game from Ibaka, and eight from Adams. This team will be offensively stacked and with proper coaching and development could be an above average defensive team.

I am more than excited to see what the Western Conference has to offer this upcoming basketball season, with the re-stocking of the already elite San Antonio Spurs squad, it's going to be quite interesting to see the level of competition between teams like OKC, San Antonio, LAC, Houston, Dallas and Phoenix.

Could this be our year? Only if we learn how to play defense. We had a hard time last year with defense and this next year will be even more offensively competitive. It’s going to take an even more well-oiled defensive game plan to beat San Antonio this year. I think if we do have a chance to do so, we need the assistance of Kanter along with our other big men.

Mitch and Semaj Hold It Down

Our OKC Thunder beat the Orlando Magic “Blue” team 73-65 Monday afternoon in the Orlando Pro Summer League. Mitch McGary was the shining star in this game and I guess thats what we expect out of McGary going into his second year in the NBA following an above average rookie year.

Mitch finished the game with 19 points off 9-12 shooting with three rebounds along with Semaj Christon finishing with 12 points and nine assists but on a bad note committed nine turnovers as well. With this win, OKC gained 6.5 points and are tied with the Orlando “White” team for first place.

Mitch McGary’s weight loss may be the biggest change I've seen so far. He appears so much quicker and has a lot of bounce when he jumps. He’s also improved his shot that was so awkward last year. Hopefully this improved play will transfer over into the regular season. A healthy and lighter Mitch McGary will provide great depth off the bench for us. He’s expected to be a potential scoring threat that can provide tough defense in the post. Semaj Christon is in such an awkward position. He knows chances are he wont be on the Thunder roster, he will be on the Blue but for the second consecutive year he’s dominating summer league. Today he finished the game just shy of a double-double.

It shows a lot that Kevin Durant, Anthony Morrow and Dion Waiters were present during this game. Knowing that there’s only one NBA player on the roster, therefore theres only one player that they are going to have to encounter during the regular season. They really have no reason to be at the games other than the fact that they want to be there for their teammates whether they are on the NBA team or the OKC Blue. You never know who may get bumped up, so developing relationships with everyone thats a part of the organization is key to a teams chemistry and long-term success.

Oklahoma City will play the Clippers on Tuesday at 4 p.m. CT and are off on Wednesday. Don’t expect to see McGary in tomorrows game.

Edmond Native and Old Friend Josh Richardson To Work Out For Thunder

With the 2015 NBA draft being on Thursday, the Oklahoma City Thunder are getting their last workouts in from possible prospects. One that stuck out to me is my childhood friend, and Oklahoma native, Josh Richardson, senior shooting guard out of the University of Tennessee. As many may know, this guy was one of many stand-out basketball players to come out of Santa Fe High School in Edmond, Oklahoma. After watching Josh’s last two seasons at the University of Tennessee, I became optimistic on him having an NBA career, then when I saw his offensive improvement and All-SEC First Team honors he received this year, I started thinking that he would be great as our second round pick.

Josh is a 6’6 200 pound defensive specialist that seemed to improve his offensive game this last season at Tennessee. Starting three full seasons at Tennessee, Josh was expected to do great things, but in most people’s mind that meant a long and successful overseas career. Well, that clearly wasn't in his plans. Richardson has great length for a shooting guard in the league and one thing I noticed is that he moves quickly at all times, even when he doesn't have the ball. I saw him come in as a timid freshman that didn't seem 100 percent comfortable handling the ball that turned into a true ball-handler, that never seemed overwhelmed even when there was a press put on him. He increased his three point percentage from a sub-par 24 percent his freshman year to 35 percent his senior year. Thats still something he needs to improve on, but considering that drastic difference I think it’s very reachable. Plus, I forgot to mention, he shoots 50 percent when wide open from three pointer. Thats very respectable numbers. He averaged 16 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game in college.

Josh is and always has been known for his defensive game. He’s come a very long way though. Growing up with him, playing against him multiple times, I always remember him being the awkward, tall and skinny kid who couldn’t do anything really but block shots, and he was a post man, nothing more at the time. The transformation has been amazing. Now, his NBA caliber size and quickness allows him to jump passing lanes very well and rack up a lot of steals. He averaged a little over 2 steals per 40 minutes which ranked sixth among NCAA guards. He has the potential to grow into a tough defensive player and three point shooter in the league. That’s something we don’t have on the Thunder right now. Roberson is the best defensive player we have and his strong point isn't so much shooting, only at home seemingly.

Josh has a few things to work on if he wants to stay in the league for a long time.

  1. *He has to develop his body, get bigger and stronger. He's playing a tough, gritty position in the NBA so 200 pounds may not cut it, with the type of game that he plays. He lacks the girth to physically defend premier players that play the two and the three, players like Lebron James and James Harden. *
  2. *Gain more control offensively as he handles the ball. His assist to turnover ratio decreased from his junior to senior year. (But that could be because of his increased ball-handling.)*
  3. *Doesn't have an intimidating defensive stance, he appears lackadaisical at times, which caused him to get beat off the dribble a little too often. *

These are all things that he can fix on his own, they don’t take any transformative, outrageous amount of work. Its safe to say that those are all very reachable weaknesses to overcome. Like noted earlier, Josh was named to All-SEC First Team in 2015, All-SEC Defensive Team in 2014 and 2015 and with 67 steals, he ties a Tennessee record for most steals by a senior. This is a great kid that will if not anything else, bring great character to this Thunder team, something they have a lot of already but could always use some more. He would fit right in and I think that he would be a great choice for OKC’s 48th pick.

Cameron Payne Could Be A Steal For OKC: Draft Speculations

With the NBA Draft being just a few days away, Thunder World is beginning to get excited about who will be the newest member of the organization. Historically, our picks grow into stars or contributing role players.

The player we’re expected to draft this year is sophomore point guard Cameron Payne from Murray State. Yes, I know when you hear Murray State, you don’t get excited because it’s not a big name or one of the countries historically elite programs, but that doesn't mean a thing. If you remember, a player by the name of Stephen Curry, that plays the same position came from an even smaller school, Davidson University. I think he turned out to be a pretty good player right? Cameron Payne has that same talent and the stats to be an elite point guard in the league.

Standing at 6’1.5 and weighing in at 183 pounds, Payne’s never really been the most athletic, or the most physically imposing player like we are so used to seeing with Russell Westbrook and former back-up Reggie Jackson. However, this player has the highest basketball IQ I have seen at such a young age, being only 20 years old. He’s also been said to be the most traditional point guard in this league and a sparky player who can pass, shoot and defend the ball well. I’ve seen this kid climb up the draft boards from not expecting to be drafted, to middle second round, into the first round and now he’s a lottery pick.

In his last season at Murray State he averaged 20.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, six assists, a half-block and two steals per game in 32 minutes of play. These are great numbers for a player that’s only two years removed from high school basketball.

Strengths

Scoring: After playing just two seasons, he still managed to rack up 1,279 points in that short period of time.

Defense: He averages a half-block per game which may not sound like much but considering this kid is a point guard, and just under 6’2, thats spectacular, along with averaging two steals per game.

Basketball IQ: Like i said earlier, this player may be the purest point guard in the draft. He knows exactly how to play the position. He had a 39.5 percent assist rate, which rivals a player by the name of Chris Paul.

Weaknesses

Athleticism: Mentioned earlier, Cameron is not Russell Westbrook, as fans we have been spoiled with one of the most athletic point guards to ever play the game. This guy wont physically manhandle most of his competition.

Shooting: He shot 38 percent from the three point strike. This is VERY close to being considered a consistent and solid three point threat but it’s not quite there. This is something he will have to improve on if he wants to be our assumed back-up point guard.

While at Murray State, Payne was named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year and won 1st Team All-Ohio Valley Conference for the 2014-2015 season. He is a great young player who can for sure back up a Russell Westbrook and slow down the offense a little bit as needed. He reminds me of Mike Conley or better yet, former Thunder guard Eric Maynor before he tore his ACL. Sam Presti is a trustworthy guy when it comes to his draft picks. Lets see where this one takes us if he does indeed decide to draft young Cameron Payne.

Could OKC Move Up? Draft Speculations

By Addam francisco

With the NBA draft approaching in approximately two weeks, Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder are looking to make big, unexpected moves which has been the norm for them lately for us. We have the 14th overall pick in this years draft lottery, the highest we’ve had since 2013 when we chose Steven Adams at the No. 12 selection. Sam Presti likes to mix things up as we know, and just under re-signing center Enes Kanter, obtaining a young player that can back up Kevin Durant would be ideal and the biggest thing for us to focus on this offseason, considering all the injuries he’s had and the possibility of his departure after the 2015-2016 season and even if we do keep him, it would be nice to have a back-up small forward that can play both ends of the court. This would be the perfect year to do that too, with the draft being full of talented small forwards, with six of them in the top 15 picks.

Early reports said that the Thunder are interested in the 6’2 point guard Cameron Payne from Murray State, but usually when Sam Presti is expected to draft of sign someone, he goes the complete opposite direction and it seems like that may be the case this year. Rumors have been going around that he wants to move spots in the draft and Presti alluded to that immediately after the draft lottery a few weeks ago.

“I think history shows it’s not an easy proposition to move up into the lottery period. When you get to the place where we’re currently anchored, to penetrate into the top 10, it becomes a little more challenging. It always comes down when making a transactions with another team is finding how to partner so that you have aligned interests with them. That’s what the next several weeks will be about is having those conversations. I could probably write your stories for you guys already, because we’ll have conversations with teams that are in front of us, we’ll have conversations with teams that are behind us, and we’ll probably have conversations with teams that aren’t even in the draft, without picks. So that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody, that’s part of the job at this point. Its part of the thorough and rigorous process, but certainly moving up is a different formula than moving out or moving back.”

Unfortunately, Due to the NBA's Stepien Rule a team cannot trade first-round picks in consecutive years which means the Thunder cant offer another first round pick until 2020. So with that rule, we would have to most likely get rid of some of our young talent that doesn't get as much playing time. Players like Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones are players that would be perfect for that. Many know that though Jeremy and Perry love the city, they are a little unsatisfied and want an opportunity to play more, even if that means moving to a different team. Both Lamb and Jones are young players (22 and 23) and could be a great fit for a developing team where they can be more of a focal point in the offense. Lamb’s contract is only worth $3 million and Jones is only worth $2 million so two young, developing players to a struggling team for only $5 million dollars may be the best deal.

So could the Thunder move up to the ninth spot from the Charlotte Hornets for Lamb, Jones, the No.14 pick and their No.48 pick? Or with Dion Waiters finishing the 2014-2015 season strong offensively, could he be good enough to lure the Nuggets from the seventh sport down seven spots to the 14th? Another speculation would be to trade McGary to the Heat for the 10th spot.

One of the small forward names that have been mentioned in the draft for the Thunder if they were to move up has been Arizona’s Stanley Johnson who’s already claimed to be “the best player in the draft” and says OKC is interested in him.

“They really like me. They’ve been watching me since I was in high school. I remember seeing their scout at my practices all the time when I was at Arizona and they know a lot about me. I got coached under Billy Donovan already so he knows a lot about me as well, which makes everything easy. So I think they’re very familiar with who I am and what I do.”

At 6’7 245 pounds, with a 6’11 wingspan, he’s been compared to a mix between Kawhi Leonard and Ron Artest (without the out of control attitude).

In my opinion, this could be good for us, but I don’t think we need to get rid of Waiters or McGary, they could very easily be a big part of the future Thunder roster and I don't think they should mess that up. Although I am a personal Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones fan, I think that would be the best trade to make, only because we wouldn't be sacrificing too much. With such an uncertain future for our team, Presti needs to do his best to move forward and acquire some quality players in this years draft.

Mo Cheeks Back In Action?

By Addam Francisco

If you haven't heard, Billy Donovan and The Oklahoma City Thunder are interested in bringing back former assistant coach Mo Cheeks to this brand new Thunder coaching staff, along with the recent controversial firing of New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams. Even though Oklahoma City fans aren't as familiar with Monty Williams, most are huge fans or at least know of Cheeks. He was a huge part of Oklahoma City’s team when they made the NBA finals in 2012, and I believe he was a huge part of the teams defensive intensity during that time. Though some don’t like him due to his experience as a head coach, I believe it’s clear that he makes a great assistant coach. Those are two completely different jobs, that require two completely different skill sets. As an assistant coach, the pressure isn’t as intense for him. He can focus on what the team wants him to focus on and that is most likely going to be Russell Westbrook, DJ Augustin and the other Thunder guards.

As many also know, with the ending of Kevin Durant’s contract nearing, the Thunder are making multiple moves to make themselves more attractive than the other NBA teams throwing themselves at Durant. Same goes for Russell Westbrook who's contract is up after the 2016-2017 season. Russ and KD are known fans of coach Cheeks and would more than likely love this re-hiring. With Mo being a former point guard in the NBA and seemingly the coach that best influenced Russell, I think this would be a home run deal. This seems to be the only coach that Russell really respected and listened to from 2009 to 2013, before Mo left Oklahoma City to take the head coaching job for just one year with the Pistons.

The West Texas A&M alumni, played 15 years in the NBA and 11 with the Philadelphia 76ers where he made it to four NBA All-Star games, helped the 76ers earn three trips to the NBA Finals in a four-year span in the early 1980s (1980, 1982, and 1983), including one NBA championship in 1983. Cheeks wasn’t so much known for his offensive game, but was known most for his defense game, which seems to be our weakness after this last season. He demands defensive pressure, and along with coach Donovan believes that defense creates offense and wins championships. Not to mention, he was named to four straight NBA All-Defensive teams from 1983 to 1986, and then earned a spot on the second team in 1987. He also ranks fifth all-time in steals and eleventh all time in assists. This could be motivation for Russell to become an even better all around player. I believe if these rumors are true and it happens, this will be great for our team and may be a huge factor in keeping both Durant and Westbrook in an Oklahoma City uniform for years to come.

New Coach, New Mentality, Same Expectations

After Sam Presti and the Thunder organization hired Coach Billy Donovan on Thursday, everyones expectation is the same. Donovan is expected to win a championship and have success almost immediately. After being in Florida for almost two decades and winning two championships, he has experience being successful.

Kevin Durant and Nick Collison, the only two players that are still a part of this franchise since they moved to Oklahoma City were watching Friday afternoon as Coach Donovan introduced himself. He is Oklahoma City’s third coach since the team moved to Oklahoma City 7 years ago and with many people disappointed about Scott Brooks’ termination as coach, the heat is on for Billy to do nothing less than win a championship or at least make a run towards the NBA finals his first year as coach. Many have said, Billy Donovan will be the most hated, or the most loved man in Oklahoma City by this time next year.

I love the passion this coach seems to have, he has a fiery personality that during games reminds me of Russell Westbrook. It takes a special and strong minded coach to be able to earn full respect from Russell and there are only a few coaches that can and I strongly believe this coach can do just that. I like his defensive philosophy, more than I liked Scott’s. Billy believes in tough, intense man defense, which is what he displayed at the University of Florida, so thats what I expect from him here. He believes that defense should be drilled on a regular basis and there should be no time taken off under any circumstance. Offensively he believes in the uptempo type of play, ball movement, playing fast and not stopping the ball on offense. This is exactly how this team needs to play and this is the most comfortable way for OKC’s back court to play. This new hire may be good for the Thunder for future deals as well. Coming from college, Billy Donovan had the most former players, currently active in the NBA, most notable,Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Chandler Parsons, Mike Miller and Nick Calathes. All of these players are considered stars or great contributors to their team. In the event that Sam Presti looks for any additions to this team, I’d like to think one of these guys would be a target provided they are available.

As soon as Coach Donovan found out the Thunder organization was interested in him as coach, he consulted his family and got their support before there was any kind of offer man , which was huge for him and his decision. He said that community involvement was also one of the biggest factors in his decision.

“After 19 years, I’m leaving my heart and soul in Gainesville, Florida. My family was a huge part of the community, so this isn’t easy for them I'm sure.”

He plans on getting to know his new team and organization better after he and his family return from Florida, this weekend, presumably moving some of their belongings to Oklahoma City.

"I'm excited, there is a level of the unknown sure but right now I'm excited about impacting a lot of people in a very positive way. We have to take care of today, there's a process to go through.”

People were asking and there were rumors spreading across the sports world assuming Westbrook wasn’t content with the hiring, because he is a key player for the team and wasn’t at the press conference. Well, he is in Las Vegas with his younger brother to celebrate his twenty-fourth birthday, during this busy weekend in the desert.

With this hiring, I was wondering if he was really serious about this move or if he was just doing it for the image and publicity due to his wishy-washiness in previous years involving the NBA after he was named Head Coach for the Orlando Magic eight years ago, only to change his mind a few days into the job when he asked out of his contract. This speculation of mine quickly changed after his press conference Friday afternoon when he said that he was in a different place mentally, coming off of two National Championships at Florida.

I like this coach so far, lets see where he takes our Thunder squad.

Tough Day In OKC, Brooks Fired As Head Coach

By Addam Francisco

“This is an extremely difficult decision on many levels. Scott helped establish the identity of the Thunder and has earned his rightful place in the history of our organization through his seven years as a valued leader and team member,”said General Manager Sam Presti, “As we all know, this past year we had unique and challenging circumstances and as I have conveyed, not many people could have accomplished what Scott and this team were able to. Therefore, it is very important to state that this decision is not a reflection of this past season, but rather an assessment of what we feel is necessary at this point in time in order to continually evolve, progress and sustain. We determined that, in order to stimulate progress and put ourselves in the best position next season and as we looked to the future, a transition of this kind was necessary for the program. We move forward with confidence in our foundation and embrace the persistence and responsibility that is required to construct an elite and enduring basketball organization capable of winning an NBA championship in Oklahoma City.”

As many may know, Coach Scott Brooks has been dismissed as coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder after speculations and rumors spread across the NBA over the past week. Sam Presti in his press conference Wednesday night said that he personally flew to Los Angeles to inform Brooks that he was indeed fired. Many people are happy about this move, many are not but personally I think it was a smart move for the Thunder, looking towards the future.

Many are upset about him being fired after he led the Thunder to five playoff appearances in his seven years as head coach of the Thunder. However I see it in a different way and I stand by Presti’s decision. OKC should be able to make it to the playoffs with ease just based off pure talent. We have two of the best scorers in the world on one team, one of the best post players in the league and probably the best bench in the league. This team is built to go deep into the playoff just based off that. We need someone who will be able to take us to the next level and that "next level," is a championship. There’s been many instances in the past seven seasons where Scott looked confused and scared when an opposing team would change their lineup and throw a curve ball our way. He is known for “sticking to his lineup,” even when it was obvious he needed to change who was in the game. There were also instances where he would say something to Russell or Kevin and they would look at him and roll their eyes, or do what they wanted to do anyway, despite what was said by coach. Kevin Durant was seen standing up on the bench coaching, while Coach Brooks sat down on the bench. It was all a bit unorthodox for an NBA team and from the time I saw that on, I knew there may be a coaching change at the end of the season.

The Thunder need a coach who is everything Scott Brooks was, but can be assertive and put his players in their place when they need to be, no matter who they are. Someone who can make in-game changes and think on their feet. Most of all, a coach who may be a deciding factor in keeping both KD and Russ. Theres been rumors about both Kevin Ollie and Billy Donovan, both coaches at the collegiate level who could make a huge impact in the NBA. Ollie played in OKC with Kevin, but Ollie claims that he doesn’t plan to make any moves away from his University of Connecticut squad even though there’s been reports that he’s talked to Presti a few times in the past couple of weeks. University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan seems to be the top candidate for the job here recently. He has ties to the Thunder organization somewhat, after referring his old assistant Mark Daigneault as head coach for the Thunder’s D-League affiliate the OKC Blue.

This next week will be interesting, as Sam Presti has a lot on his plate, having to find a new head coach and with the NBA draft coming up soon.

The Three That Knocked OKC Out Of The Playoffs

By Addam Francisco

The Anthony Davis three pointer literally ended up costing the Oklahoma City Thunder the season. The New Orleans Pelicans beat the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier in the season after Anthony Davis hit the game winning three, which was his only three pointer of the season. When he made the three pointer, he even looked surprised. Basically it wasn't supposed to happen, but it did and now the Thunder are out of the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-2009 season, after New Orleans beat San Antonio Wednesday night.

This is disappointing for the Thunder of course, but like I said in my last story they have a lot to look forward to. Next year they will have a clean slate, with everyone being healthy, no worries. Defensive players back, everything. This year roll players learned how to be a key part of this team and Westbrook learned how to be a bigger leader. Westbrook also won the scoring title over James Harden by averaging 28.1 points per game. This apparently doesn’t mean to much to him, after saying that he doesn't care about winning that and that he’s still going to be sitting at home watching other teams play. Thats actually a good sign to me coming from Russ. He doesn't care about the personal stuff, he just wants his team to win a championship. Also, Anthony Morrow said during this off-season he is going to shoot 80,000 shots to better his shooting percentage, which is pretty high any ways (top 5 in the league three point percentage).

The season may have not ended the way we wish it would have, as many fans and I am sure some players are a little upset with San Antonio after they seemed to sleep walk through three-fourths of their final regular season game against New Orleans. We have a great team though, a team that I believe talent wise is the best team we have seen in Oklahoma City.

Win Or Lose, The Future Is Bright

By Addam Francisco

The Oklahoma City Thunder are one game out of the playoffs and people are putting a lot of pressure on them. I also feel like if they don't make it in, fans will be down on them and will be calling for all these coaching and roster adjustments going into next year. That is something I don’t agree on. We have to see the good that came out of this season even if its hard to do. Despite all the injuries, this year has shown a lot of promise for the near future.

The additions of Enes Kanter, Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, DJ Augustin, Kyle Singler and Steve Novak has been great for our team. The popular complaint after last season was lack of balanced scoring. Other than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, there wasn't another consistent scorer. Now, we fixed that, we have a dominant big man who can shoot beyond the arc and hold his own in the paint by getting rebounds with Kanter, another athletic play-maker who is fearless, reminding me a lot of James Harden in Dion Waiters, a backup point guard, resembling a healthy Eric Maynor in DJ Augustin and one of the leagues best three point shooters in Anthony Morrow. These are all great signs going into next year. Many people in the media and other coaches in the NBA have said that we have a championship caliber roster, and probably the deepest bench. There are seven guys on our roster that average 10 or more points per game. Next year assuming everyone is healthy, I don't know a team that can stop us. This team depth wise reminds me of the 2012 Miami Heat championship team that was so dominant.

This team is dangerous and if they can get into the playoffs with Serge coming back, they may just make it further than many think they will. We do have the leagues best point guard and seemingly one of the best big men in the game. Don't sleep on this team, they are better than you think and if they don’t make it where we want them to make it this year, don't lose hope on them. I just feel like they need is another defensive presence down low, or maybe a large wing-man who can guard the post as needed.