Trying To Read The KD Tea Leaves Is Fruitless

By Randy Renner

Funny how things work out sometimes.

A lot of folks, especially in the national media, figured Kevin Durant would sign a huge new endorsement deal with Under Armour.

The reasoning mostly was, it was a huge offer and Under Armour is based in Maryland, just down the road from KD's home town of Seat Pleasant.

And since LeBron James had decided to go back to his Ohio roots and sign a new deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, in just stood to reason that Durant would abandon Nike as that contract ended and sign on with Under Armour as a precursor to then leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for his hometown Washington Wizards.

It all just seemed to fit so easily.

Except for the fact that it didn't.

Like most kids growing up when Durant was a teenager, and still today for that matter, the Nike swoosh meant and means something special.

Durant was eager to sign on with the swoosh folks his rookie year in the NBA and probably hoped all along to re-up with them.

Their initial offer was reported to be about $20 million per season. The Under Armour trumped that with a massive 10 year, $265-$285 million package.

Under Armour also offered Durant the chance to be THE face of the company. He would have been by far the biggest basketball star the company had ever signed.

With Nike Durant would be lumped in with Lebron and Kobe Bryant and others.

But the swoosh folks swooped in and stepped up their offer, some reports have indicated it will end up being worth more than what UA put on the table, a possible $300 million over the next 10 years.

Durant's KD brand accounted for $175 million in sales for Nike last season and with Durant now the reining MVP who will have another decent shot at winning a championship with his Thunder teammates this season, those sales numbers figure to go much higher.

So in the end the money numbers were fairly close but KD's loyalty to the company that signed him originally trumped the hometown draw of Under Armour and the chance to be the top dog in their group.

Will that loyalty extend to the Thunder when Durant's basketball contract runs out and he becomes the most sought after free agent in 2016?

Who knows, I don't think one has anything to do with the other and I never have.

If Durant had left Nike and signed with UA, I didn't think that would mean he would also leave the Thunder for the Wizards or any other team. And I don't think his re-signing with the swoosh means he is more likely to re-sign with OKC.

Loyalty though will indeed play a major role. The partnership so far between the Thunder, Durant and Oklahoma City has been mutually beneficial.

Money isn't really going to matter. The Thunder will be able to offer a little more than any other team because of the way the NBA's rules are written but there will be no out of control bidding process like there can be in Major League Baseball.

So you figure it will come down to loyalty to the organization that drafted him and to his teammates versus where he thinks he'll have the best chance to win a championship. Hopefully, Durant figures Oklahoma City is the best of both of those worlds.

Winning a championship this season and or next season would certainly help to cement that belief.

But right now, still some 22 months away from when a decision will be due, trying to predict the future based on what's just happened is a ridiculous task.

 

Thunder Send Thabeet To Philly

By Randy Renner

The NBA career of former #2 overall draft pick Hasheem Thabeet, which had been revived to a certain extent by the Thunder, will continue somewhere else.

Thunder officials have confirmed that Thabeet has been traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers, it's believed, will almost immediately waive the 7-3 center.

The Thunder would have had to guarantee Thabeet's $1.25 million salary next season come Monday, September 1st if he was still on the roster.

Instead of just waiving him, Thunder GM Sam Presti has engineered a trade that sends a $1.25 million trade exception to OKC and the Thunder also obtain a second round draft pick but it's thought to be heavily protected so it may never amount to anything.

The Thunder will have one year from today to use that exception.

With the rapid improvement of Steven Adams and the drafting of Mitch McGary the Thunder seem pretty well situated with young bigs. Thabeet's value to the team didn't match his salary and so the Thunder decided to part ways.

Thabeet's playing time fell away this past season after he saw action in 66 games in the 2012-13 season, his first in Oklahoma City. He averaged almost 12 minutes a game and when he was on the bench his enthusiasm made him a fan favorite.

He was also a favorite among his teammates and coaches for his attitude and work ethic, but his talent lagged behind both those other qualities.

Last season Adams got better faster than most anyone expected and took most of those extra center minutes and Thabeet appeared in only 23 games and even then played only a couple of minutes.

Thabeet has often said his time in Oklahoma City has been his favorite but the big guy could surely see his time here was limited.

With the move the Thunder open up a roster spot so maybe rookie Josh Huestis won't be sending his entire first season of pro basketball with the 66ers afterall.

Or, since the Thunder are now almost $3 million under the luxury tax line, they may decide to stick with the original plan and leave Huestis in the D-League and bring in someone else as we get closer to training camp or just leave the spot open for flexibility down the line.

Stacey King On Thunder TV?

By Randy Renner

The Thunder are still looking for a TV analyst for their games on Fox Sports Oklahoma after the resignation of Grant Long a few weeks ago.

Among those that have been mentioned as possible candidates is former OU star and current Chicago Bulls TV analyst Stacey King.

King grew up in Lawton and became an All-American center at Oklahoma during the Billy Tubbs era.

King was back inside the Lloyd Noble Center over the weekend playing the OU Legends game and he was asked by reporters about the opening on the Thunder TV team.

"I've been in Chicago nine years now as a broadcaster so I'm pretty much entrenched there. But I do hear my name brought up in rumors about doing the Thunder but I don't really concern myself with that."

He did however, seem to leave the door open just a bit.

"I live in Chicago right now and I'm happy in Chicago so until I hear something, Chicago doesn't want me anymore or Oklahoma City comes after me, who knows?"

The Thunder have kept the search for Long's replacement under wraps but it's believed they would prefer to have someone hired by Thunder media day on September 29th.

King was also asked what he thought about the Thunder's chances in the Western Conference this coming season.

"Well, you gotta stay healthy," he said. "If (Russell) Westbrook stays healthy and no one else gets hurt I like their chances."

But King said the guy who could play the biggest role (besides Westbrook or Kevin Durant) in securing a possible championship season for OKC is second year center Steven Adams.

"He's the key for them this year," King said. "If he can really develop and give them that low post presence they lacked last year I think Oklahoma City can come out of the West. Of course San Antonio is the defending champion and they've got their whole cast coming back so it's gonna be an exciting NBA season."

A season, like the last several, that will have King dividing his loyalties.

"If (the Thunder) aren't playing the Bulls I'm an Oklahoma City fan but when they're playing the Bulls, I'm a Bulls fan."

King was drafted 6th overall by Chicago in the 1989 NBA Draft. He played a decade in the league for the Bulls, Timberwolves, Heat, Celtics and Mavericks.

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.