Thunder Lightning Round
By Randy Renner
Scattershooting around the NBA while wondering whatever happened to Mo Sene....
Durant Most Popular
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is a popular guy. He's been considered the second best player in the world behind LeBron James for the last few years but when it comes to favorite players KD is at the top of the list as voted by incoming NBA rookies.
Every year after the NBA Draft league officials poll the picks on a variety of topics. Among the questions, "Who's your favorite player?"
The name most often at the top of the ballot was Durant's. He finished with 21.2 percent of the vote despite playing in only 27 games last season. Kobe Bryant, who's played in only 41 games over the last two seasons, finished a surprising second with 18.2 percent. LeBron James was third and Dwyane Wade and Steph Curry, last season's MVP, finished tied for fourth with 9.1 percent of the vote.
KD will be popular all around the NBA this season. Fans in opposing arenas have always treated him well but this season, with Durant's free agency looming, fans will show him the love like never before hoping he'll decide to walk away from the Thunder.
Pre-Season Schedule Finally Released
It took a bit longer than usual and it's shorter than it usually is but the Thunder's pre-season schedule is out now.
The team will only play six games before the regular season starts, they've played eight pre-season contests a couple of times but usually they play seven. And this time around, unlike in recent years, there will not be a game in Wichita, Kansas.
OKC's first game will be October 7th, about a week and a half after camp starts, at Minnesota. They'll be at The Peake a couple nights later on the 9th to play Fenerbahce Ulker, a Turkish team. Enes Kanter played for Fenerbahce back when he was 16 years old.
The Thunder make the annual trek up the Turner Turnpike on October 13th to play the Dallas Mavericks. Then it's over to Memphis on the 16th, back home to play Denver on the 18th and out to Utah to play the Jazz on October 20th.
Those last two could have some fun aspects. Bad boy Matt Barnes, who has made no secret of his dislike of Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka, now plays for the Grizzlies. A few weeks ago Barnes said on ESPN, "Me and Serge would fight right now if he were here. I just don't like him." Thunder center Steven Adams has also gotten into it with Grizzlies star Zach Randolph in the past. Pre-season games don't generally generate fights between players but who knows with this group.
And then out in Salt Lake City Jazz fans will have another opportunity to boo Kanter, their new least favorite player. Enes took some verbal shots at the Jazz management, when the Thunder played in Salt Lake City toward the end of the last season. Before the trade that sent him to the Thunder he'd been asking to be dealt and fans in the Beehive State were already on him a little bit. From now on they'll be on him constantly.
The pre-season should also finally provide us at least a little insight into how head coach Billy Donovan plans to run things. Right now any changes in schemes and sets and rotations are mostly mysteries.
ESPN Picks Thunder Fifth In West
While some NBA insiders have a healthy Thunder team as a favorite to not only win the Western Conference but also the NAB Championship, ESPN's team of experts picks OKC to finish 5th in the Western Conference, having to go on the road in the first round of the playoffs.
Their experts leave some wiggle room though with only five games separating the top five teams in the West. ESPN predicts Golden State finishing first at 60-22, San Antonio second at 57-25, Houston and the LA Clippers tied for third at 56-26 and the Thunder fifth with a record of 55-27. The other predicted playoff teams are Memphis, New Orleans and Dallas.
So What Happened To Big Mo?
Mouhamed Sene was drafted 10th overall by the Seattle SuperSonics in 2006, a couple years before the team moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. Sene was supposed to be the next great center at 6-11, 230 pounds and a 7-9 wingspan. Sene's raw talent never developed with the Sonics/Thunder. The organization released him in 2009 and he's bounced around the Euro League and the D-League since. Last season he played for the Austin Spurs.