Thunder Adding Talib Zanna For Camp

By Randy Renner

Thunder general manager Sam Presti and his staff have added a familiar player to the team's training camp roster according to a report from Real GM's Shams Charania.

6-9 power forward Talib Zanna, who played for the D-League's Oklahoma City Blue last season has been signed to his second straight Thunder training camp deal.

Zanna went undrafted out of Pittsburgh in 2014 and was a teammate of Thunder center Steven Adams the year before with the Panthers. 

He played for both the Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers in July's summer league action, averaging a combined 6.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in about 16 minutes of playing time per game.

Last season with the Blue, Zanna dominated at times while averaging a double-double, scoring 13.3 points and pulling down 11.0 rebounds a game. In college at Pitt he never averaged more than 8.6 rebounds so his skills at pulling in missed shots continues to improve.

The Thunder also have camp deals in place with guards Dez Wells and Michael Qualls bringing their roster to 18. The Thunder could sign another couple of players since NBA allows teams to carry as many as 20 players in the off-season and during training camp but rosters have to be down to 15 by Opening Night.

The Thunder are already carrying 15 players under fully guaranteed deals so if Presti and Billy Donovan decide to hang on to one of the camp players, which is pretty doubtful at this point, a move would have to be made.

Most likely the Thunder would prefer to have Zanna, Wells and Qualls play for the Blue, but all three have also gotten some interest from other teams so it's possible one them could be picked up by another NBA squad once rosters are cut down.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Thunder Working On Training Camp Additions

By Randy Renner

The Thunder have a full roster of 15 players with fully guaranteed contracts but the NBA allows teams to carry as many as 20 players in the off-season and the Thunder are working on adding guys for training camp.

The team has not officially announced any additions and typically players who've been added for camp purposes aren't always known until Media Day but CSNWashington is reporting the Thunder have signed former Maryland star Dez Wells.

Wells went undrafted in June and then hooked up with the Washington Wizards summer league team. He didn't get to do much with the Wizards though after dislocating his right thumb in a practice session.

Several teams had interest in Wells who was an All-Big Ten selection by the coaches after posting averages of 15.1 points on 46.1 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds per game. Wells didn't take very many shots from out beyond the arc, averaging just under two a game, but when he fired them up he hit 51 percent.

Wells was listed as being 6-5 by Maryland and mostly played shooting guard for the Terps but he turned out to be just 6-3 when measured in socks at the NBA Draft combine so he's quite a bit shorter than NBA shooting guards and so may be more suited physically to play the point. He's very athletic and strong weighing in at 221 pounds and 6-4 in shoes at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy.

At least five other NBA teams had talked with Wells and his agent about training camp deals and it's not totally clear whey he chose the Thunder since OKC already has a full roster and would seem loaded at both guard spots.

The Thunder may have partially guaranteed a portion of Wells' contract offer and they are probably hoping to have him play a season for the OKC Blue of the D-League since the Blue's starting point guard last season, Semaj Christon, opted to play in Italy this coming season.

 

 

 

 

TV Networks Still Love The Thunder

By Randy Renner

The Thunder will have plenty of national TV appearances this coming season with 24 games scheduled to be on either ABC, ESPN or TNT and nine more set for national distribution on NBA-TV.

The 24 games on the NBA's big three TV partners is tied for second-most in the league. The LA Clippers will also be on 24 times. The Cavaliers and Warriors are scheduled for 25 appearances on ABC, ESPN or TNT.

The NBA released the 2015-16 schedule late yesterday afternoon and some of the key dates and games for the Thunder include opening the season at home against San Antonio on Wednesday, October 28th on ESPN and closing out the regular season also with the Spurs but in San Antonio on Tuesday, April 12th in a game set for TNT.

ESPN is already billing that opening game against the Spurs as "The Return," when superstar Kevin Durant is expected to be back on the floor to play in his first regular season game since mid-February.

The end of the regular season will offer up one of the more challenging stretches with the Thunder on the road in five of their last six games and seven of their last nine. The only two home games during that part of the schedule are against the LA Clippers on March 31st and the LA Lakers on April 11th.

In November the Thunder have a stretch of playing seven of nine games at home.

The Thunder will be featured in ABC's first NBA telecast of the season at 1:30 on Christmas Day when they host the Chicago Bulls. The Thunder will also be home again on New Year's Eve hosting the Phoenix Suns.

OKC will have one four-game homestand, which comes that Christmas through New Year's week. In addition to the Bulls and Suns the Thunder will host Denver on December 27th and Milwaukee on December 29th.

The Thunder's longest road trip is also four games but they'll have three of those.

Former Thunder sixth man James Harden and the Houston Rockets will be in OKC on January 29th and March 22nd, former OU star Blake Griffin and his LA Clippers will be in town on March 9th and March 31st and former Thunder backup point guard Reggie Jackson brings his Detroit Pistons into The Peake on November 27th.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan will make his first trip back to Florida as an NBA coach very early in the season, the second game, when the Thunder play at Orlando on October 30th.

The NBA Champion Golden State Warriors visit OKC just once, on February 27th but OKC will have to play in Oracle Arena twice so that imbalance could have an impact on tie-breakers.

LeBron James and the Cavs will be in town on February 21st.

Overall the Thunder will play 16 sets of back-to-back games, down from 18 last season, but four of those back-to-backs come the first month of the season.

One of the more interesting notes about the schedule is something no one can remember in previous years, a Saturday afternoon home game not dictated by playoffs or national TV. The Thunder will host the Lakers on Saturday, December 19th, at 4pm. The game will be televised by Fox Sports Oklahoma and that tip time is sure to please merchants in Bricktown with fans getting out of game right at dinner time.

Individual tickets for all Thunder home games will go on sale on September 29th via the Thunder website.

 

 

 

Durant Says, "I can go 100 percent."

By Randy Renner

Thunder fans were no doubt breathing a bit easier after watching superstar Kevin Durant go through drills during USA Basketball's mini-camp session yesterday in Las Vegas.

The session was televised by NBA-TV and KD could be seen moving around easily, hitting step-back jumpers and going through drills with teammate Russell Westbrook and Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams who is also an assistant for Team USA.

“I can go 100 percent," Durant told reporters.  "I’m not going to play 5-on-5 just yet, but everything else is no restrictions. I’ve got to play against some guys to see. But I feel like I’m back to myself."

He certainly looked like it and that is encouraging to everyone since Durant hasn't been able to play in a game since mid-February and he probably hasn't been 100 percent since, well, who knows when.

“You take it for granted a little bit,” he said about the game that has consumed him since he was a kid. “I missed the routine the most. Getting up, going to practice, getting my shots up before practice, I missed all that part. Hanging out with the guys in the locker room before the game, I think that’s what I missed the most. You can take that type of stuff for granted. I think I did and I learned my lesson.”

Durant is being monitored closely by USA Basketball's medical staff which includes Thunder team trainer Joe Sharpe. He'll practice again today but will not participate in the team's showcase event Thursday night.

He will continue to ramp up his work as Thunder training camp approaches.

“It’s a long process, man,” Durant said. “I just tried to stay patient with it. … I have my days where I’m like, ‘Man, it’s not getting any better. I’m sick of working out. I’ve been working out for a year, I’m ready to play.’ … Feels good to stretch my legs a little bit.”

Durant also told reporters if he and his Thunder teammates can stay healthy, or at least avoid big injuries that take players out of the lineup for weeks, they have as good a chance as anyone to win a championship this coming season.

That journey officially begins at the end of next month when Thunder training camp gets underway.