Growing Pains?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s too soon for anyone to panic.

It’s much, much too soon for that.

But it’s fair to cast a critical eye at the Oklahoma City Thunder six games into this season and wonder what’s going on with the team that so many of us (we’re smack dab in the middle of the mix here at the hideout) expected to play like an elite team from the start.

Marquee matchups haven’t been kind to the Thunder this season. Utah thumped them by 21 points and Boston did what they wanted with them Sunday. They were also handled by the Clippers and if not for a Jeff Green layup at the buzzer in Detroit the Friday before Halloween, they’d be 2-4 instead of 3-3.

The blowback is inevitable when you come into the season atop the media darlings list, get Sports Illustrated cover spreads ahead of Miami’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh and then play middle of the pack ball once the season starts.

Thunder star Russell Westbrook isn’t particularly worried:

“It’s the fifth game, sixth game, no need to panic,” he said. “Last year, they thought we weren’t going to make the playoffs. So you can’t believe whoever they is. We’re going to get it right.”

Perhaps he knows something we don’t know?

That said, we’re not the only ones that have noticed that something is awry with the Thunder early on here. The folks who see them up close and personal on a regular basis suggest that things are out of whack in Kevin Durant‘s playground.

Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman:

It’s all a jumbled mess, which for the second straight Sunday night at the arena formerly known as the Ford Center describes the team formerly known as the NBA’s newest hot thing.

The Celtics took apart the Thunder 92-83, just like Utah did a week ago. So while it’s early, six games into an 82-game wagon train, if the Boomers are to surpass or even match their spirited dash of last season, better to start sooner than later.

This is what we figured we’d see last season. Promising but erratic pups who figured to be on the wrong side of the playoffs.

The 50-win breakout of last season is what we figured we’d be seeing now, a team blooming into something to be feared.

Sunday night was a first-half blowout. Even if it was against Boston, the class of the league … even if it was without Jeff Green, the Thunder handyman … even if the Thunder rallied and made the fourth quarter bearable … how can all that be written off?

OKC is 3-3 and has been blasted out of its own building twice and has shown only occasional flashes of last season’s defense.

Either the injured Nick Collison is one of the league’s most valuable players and departed defensive coordinator Ron Adams should have been coach of the year, or the Thunder has everything mixed up.

Maybe we all had it mixed up after that monster season last year and that spirited playoff series against the Lakers … or maybe we should all just calm down and let this team adjust to being the hunted and not the young hunter …

44 Comments

  1. weeee says:

    Ball Movement is a big problem for this team. As I see it, Kevin Durant doesn’t playmake, even if he can score and score a lot, not getting his teammates involved is something he’ll regret in the endgames when the going gets rough. Scan through his assist numbers this season or maybe even the last, those assist numbers just plain suck. When facing tough D, he forces up bad shots (he makes some if not most of them) just like Kobe, difference is Kobe knows how to get teammates involved and knows it well. KD wants wins, i know that, but he also wants stats too. He passes the ball in 2 conditions. 1) Its gonna be an assist or a highlight play. 2) He doesnt have a choice.

    Dont get me wrong, i love the thunder, but KD (for me) has that great problem of passing. Comparing him to the PS2 or PS3 controller, his X button might be broken.

    • Charles says:

      I agree ball movement is the major problem for the Thunder, but CLEARLY, that’s because of Westbrook, not Durant. The way Russell Westbrook runs OKC’s half court sets are worse than any point guard in the NBA, hands down.

  2. Charles says:

    The comparisons between Kobe, LeBron, and Durant are amusing. Those that say LeBron will never be better than Kobe are two years late, since that ship has already sailed. When objectively comparing athleticism, rebounding, and passing, the gap between the two is too wide to simply be made up even though Kobe is more driven, mentally tougher, and a more skilled scorer. Pau Gasol has more to do with which one of the two received rings the past couple of seasons than anything else. Durant has the potential to be better than both, but as of now, he still needs to catch up defensively and get a little stronger to avoid the excess turnovers before he legitimately reaches their level.

  3. sahil says:

    kobe is the best not durant and the thunder laKERS 3 PEAT!

  4. jared says:

    this team and kevin durant are way overrated, i like the both of them but either of them are elite. Durant is nowhere near lebron kobe or wade

    • OJ says:

      Personally i think after being in the league as long as lebron has been at this point, Durant will be better than lebron.

    • nada says:

      Kobe is an old man comparing to KD. Kobe’s supporting cast shoot about 50% comparing to 25% by KD’s supporting cast. What a match up!

  5. danito says:

    thunder have no inside game ,as long as they dont have a big man in the middle that has an inside game, i dont think they gona make the playoff this year, they are very over rated, the only reason they made the playoff last year cuz no one was paying attention to them, this year is different, iam gona give u 8 teams from the west that going to make the playoff and better than the thunder, lakers, spurs, dallas, denver, portland, jazz, suns,mempis, they all beter than the overrated thunder

  6. cavaliers_fan says:

    lmao at OJ just because of the decision bron aint a top 3 player anymore ?? haha you got jokes!! lebron is a top 2 player sir kobe being number1 obviously 🙂

    • OJ says:

      The decision is just a small part of it. Real stars bring trophies to the towns and teams. Was bron able to do that, i think we all know the answer to that question. Did kobe ever want to team up with Jordan or any other major superstar to bring a trophy to the LAKERS, i think we know the answer to that question. Yea Yea i know what you Kobe haters will say, but he wanted to leave the LAKERS, blah blah blah! Point is the man did what he had to do to get help. Lequeen tured his back on cleveland and his teammates, sounds like a chump to me. Its ok if you a lebron fan. But it is what is, he will never be as good as Jordan or KOBE period.

      • Law064 says:

        Oj I agree but you forgot his Batman of Miami D Wade. He will not be better than hime either. Plain and simple D. Wade in his rookie year the same year as Melo & Lebron was unnoticed until the playoffs where Wade shined. Wade almost did it all against Boston and Dallas in 06. D. Wade was the man made clutch shots and lead the Heat to win. I think it was bull but he stayed at the ft line penetrating and getting the calls. D. Wade is a true LEADER. Lechoke James the steroid kid is NOT. He’s a choker. You cannot put him on the pedestal with Kobe who have many game winning shots vs Lechoke who had 1 that really mattered. After he hit that desperation 3 he looked shocked like I can’t believe I made it. He’ll never be the closer that Kobe is and I doubt if he ever catch Kobe on the rings.

  7. dan says:

    the thunder will not be a contender unless they get a big man in the middle, they might get to the playoff but nothing more, if they dont get an inside threat, they cant beat the lakers they cant beat the spurs, dallas, suns , jazz, portland even memphis, all these team got better chance than the over rated thunder

  8. lilkedamaster says:

    Durant is doing his job. The rest of the team? Not so much.

  9. last year the thunder where the 8th seed….so why the heck does everyone expect them to be so great i love the thunder and think they are very good but it doesnt mean they are going to win 60 games. they just have to make it to the playoffs and they will be fine. thats when theyll really turn it on and we saw what happened last year they almost took out the lakers…this year theyll be more confident have more experience… not to mention one of the best scorers the league has seen since jordan, KD. i also think its just way to early for the media or anyone to be worried about the thunder. its a long 82 game season…theyll be fine.

  10. Zzanzabar says:

    Both Durant and Westbrook bring tremendous energy to the court and any team that cannot adjust their play style to either match or counter that energy will eventually lose to Durant’s abilities. But other than those attributes, OKC needs at least ONE more solid scorer/defender. Energy can only take you just so far as a team, sooner or later the Thunder must be able to close out opponents. I also believe that too much hype followed their 6 game playoff series with the Lakers and just maybe they have been reading their press clippings.

    As has already been said, teams are no longer overlooking this young team and they are now one of the ‘yardsticks’ teams are using to rate their own development. Beating the Grizzilies means nothing, but now beating the Thunder means that your team has now done something of note.

  11. Heath says:

    Having a top scorer on your team, especially a top scorer that is strictly a top scorer thanks to the charity stripe, does not a championship team make. They’re going to have to make some serious off-season moves if they’re going to be considered anything special compared to the rest of the NW division.

  12. Tasha says:

    I think that everyone is expecting too much from too soon. It is only 6 games into the season and this is till a very young team. I wouldn’t just cast them out yet, because it is still early and there is so much basketball left to play in this young season. Just give them time, because I am certain they will turn it around and will have everyone changing their minds and jumping on thier bandwagon again.

  13. RoLee says:

    Its just the start of the season, just like the Jazz these teams are really good and should start heating it up in the middle of the season!

  14. Charles says:

    Mr Sensible, the series against the Lakers last year exposed the match up problems that LA has with Oklahoma City. Without Ron Artest doing an incredible job on Kevin Durant, the series would have in fact, title to the Thunder. Durant isn’t part of the problems with the team and his basketball IQ is high, along with Jeff Green’s. On the flip side, Russell Westbrook probably has the lowest basketball IQ in the NBA and that’s not good when he’s your starting point guard. If you watch the team play, it’s not very difficult to see that their half court offense is an absolute mess. Rondo and Westbrook are polar opposites. One makes it very easy for his teammates to flourish; one makes it very difficult for them. Because Durant is able to create for himself, it helps hide the fact that the team gets very few open looks out of their half court sets.

    • Charles says:

      correction: tilted toward the Thunder

    • OJ says:

      @CHARLES Without Ron Artest doing a incredible job on Kevin Durant the series would have in fact, titled to thunder? Well woulda coulda shoulda, but didnt. Thunder lost and the LAKERS moved on to their back to back titles. But i will admit, the thunder are a up and coming team. They will be better sometime after the all star break. And most people on this site will be changing their minds about the thunder.

  15. Bunbury says:

    Durantula is overrated right now! He is good. He is great. He is definetely a top ten player. But not the 3rd best (behind LB & KB) as so many have claimed. By the way, JR Smith does not have the potential to be a superstar. I’ve heard that so many times, it’s ridiculous!

    • OJ says:

      @Bunbury How can you say KD is overrated, but your saying he is good, he is great, he is definetely a a top ten player. If he is all of those things he cant be overrated. As far as LB being in the top three. That is just simply no longer the case after the decision. I would put KD over LBJ.

      • LakersWillWin says:

        I wouldn’t put KD over LeBron just yet.

        Don’t forget about Fiba ball. I think everyone has short attention spans, they seem to have all forgotten what KD did for us this summer…

      • Law064 says:

        I agree OJ I have Kobe Wade Then Lechoke or KD. Lebron is NOT better than Kobe or Wade. Lebron is like Melo or with better D. He’s the same type of player that Joe Johnson is. A choke in crunch time

    • nada says:

      @bunbury. KD is not overrated! without him carrying USA team during the summer, they would not get the trophy.

  16. Mr Sensible aka the new zzanzabar says:

    OKC needs to start to Panic… Their team flew under the radar last year, and to be honest…Everybody made too much of a big deal about OKC losing in 6 to the Lakers. They played inspired Basketball, and put together a few marvelous games at home to beat Lakers…but when Lakers put the clamps down, the Thunder were sent home. Pheonix also took Lakers to 6…but I guess that doesnt matter because OKC is young right?? Kevin is a really good player…but he is not great. He will be when its over, but for now…his Basketball iQ is not as high as his scoring abilities…Russell Westbrook is really good, but until he becomes a shooting threat, teams will be able to sag off, and help out on Kevin, and with very limited scoring threats, the Thunder could be in for a long season.

    • daez says:

      They did hype the OKC Thunder, but the hype was somewhat believable. Sure, they took the Lakers to 6 games, but this a 8th seed team that no one thought would even make the playoffs. Thunder may have a long season, but it will get them to the playoffs where they could turn some heads again. 6 games, let it go. They still have 76 games to show us up

  17. Law064 says:

    @Duvantuna we are not talking about KG vs KD. Durant is faster and more of a small forward. This is a team game not 1 on 1. KD is very expolosive and can shoot very good nobody here has said he couldn’t shoot or score at will. The topic is the Thunder as a whole not KD in some 1 on 1 game vs a aging KG. I would hope KD can penetrate and create shots for his team he has that ability. KG in his prime demanded double teams in the post he wasn’t pushing the ball up the court. How can you even put these 2 in the same category?

  18. Mark Hienz says:

    ^@TheDuvantuna: I think you are making that sound like a sexual statement.

  19. The Duvantuna says:

    I think Kevin has the capability to beat Kevin Garnett in a one on one. In a three guys on three guys, Kevin Garnett would be at a disadvantage as Kevin Durant can penetrate deep into the hole. The positions he can get into are numerous, and he can fire at all angles on his opponent’s face. He he is able to turn the tempo up and achieve optimum stimuli, too. He is one of the best handlers with balls in the leauge at the moment. He has a special touch which can put it in the hole.

  20. Charles says:

    Actually, there are a plethora of items for the Thunder to be concerned with: 1. They have serious trouble maintaining defensive intensity, something that they sustained throughout last season, even when they struggled offensively. 2. Westbrook is causing them to get the least out of their half court offense. He dribbles too much, doesn’t move the ball, unless he feels it might lead him to an assist, which is why his questionable stats are much worse than they appear. Turning the ball over 8 times and missing 10 shots is unheard of for a point guard playing with the top scorer in the league. 3. Green is more effective at small forward and seems to be the only member of the Thunder that is effective in a half court set. 4. They need to upgrade the shooting guard position or allow Durant to spend some time there, until they figure out how to get some production at the 2. 5. A low post scoring threat would remove some of the apparent panic they show in their half court set. I’ve never seen an NBA team dribble into trouble more often than the 2010 version of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    • nada says:

      I think Westbrook is trying to improve his score by overdoing his capability. His shooting and turnover are just too high! The center is helpless opposing team with better center. KD is the only one who can score and many time seems like he hesitate to shoot the ball. Without adjustment this team will have a long season.

  21. Chris says:

    To Be Honest The Thunder Is Just Having A Slow Start The Heat Started Off Slow Now The Big Three Blowing Teams Out The Thunder Can Beat My Lakers Remeber This The Nba Anything Can Happen.

    • Law064 says:

      The Heat have blown out New Jersey, they blew out Orlando because Howard’s foul trouble and terrible shooting. They Lost to the Hornets & Boston. I want to see them against the Jazz today. will Bosh show up? Will Lebron the Choker be a factor his leg is injured somewhat. They still haven’t showed the league they are the team to beat. They are the team to watch I have to say but can they beat playoff caliber teams on a regular basis? Can the win the division? ATL has a better team than them

      • OJ says:

        My point exactly!! The heat are beating up on mediocore teams, if not just plain sorry teams!! They cant beat boston in the playoffs, they wont beat orlando in the playoffs. Very true statement, they have not proven they are the team to beat, but only the team to watch. No gold ball for the heat this year.

      • daez says:

        No one was expecting a gold ball for the Heat anyway. They WILL make the playoffs, but it ends their. They lost to Boston in their very first game, that doesn’t count for much at all. They beat the Magic. Howard can’t shoot and got into foul trouble. Every team wants Howard in foul trouble, so the Heat played well against them. They can beat ATL, just shut down Joe Johnson and keep Horford out of the paint and you have them win.

  22. Law064 says:

    I think it was hyped but they have the potential to do good this season, I say it’s way to early to judge. The Hornets are still undefeated who would’ve thought? LA is having a good start as well but nobody’s talking about them it’s all about Miami. The Media always jump to the dumbest conclusions and most of the time they are wrong. Robert I agree wait til the start talking about how wrong they were about Miami, they just gave them the Eastern conf. and a trip to the finals without proving anything. I can’t wait to see all the Media losers jump shifts when it all crumbles.

    • daez says:

      You’re right on pretty much everything. Hornets have started great, A LOT better than everyone would’ve expected. But I’d like to see whether or not they could keep the intensity all season long… Very doubtful. And remember, it is a LONG season. Things change, people get injured, teams start to break out mid-season. The Heat still have things to work on. Chemisrty, sorting out their offensive sets and most importantly (in my opinion) working harder on defense. As the season progresses, they will improve on all these aspects and with the talent they have, they will only get better. They will make the playoffs, no doubt. But I don’t think, this year atleast, they will make it out of the second round.

  23. fallendevil says:

    the OKC will find out their roles in their team, OKC is not only running because of KD, their team is built for all of them to led their team…

  24. federico says:

    i agree with robert zenon, the media has not enough material so they rush to make stories out of nowhere. and i ‘ve seen sekou smith do this a lot of times.

  25. robert zenon says:

    The media of today is just to quick to throw someone in elite catagory and just as quick to throw them under the bus. I wonder when they will be ready to start really letting the Heat have it, LOL

    • daez says:

      They were too quick to over rate the Heat, but they are an elite team. Top 3 in east by far, though I’d say 3rd behind Magic and Celtics, and just ahead of the Hawks. Hate all you want