Chemistry Issues Slowing Thunder


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –
If anyone in the Oklahoma City Thunder locker room knows about the strain a blockbuster trade can put on a team it’s Kendrick Perkins.

The Thunder center, whose trade from Boston three season ago signaled the championship rise of his new team and a fall from that perch for his old team, is doing his best to convince anyone willing to listen that James Harden‘s trade to Houston is not what’s ailing the Thunder right now.

“We’re trying to win,” Perkins told reporters after the Thunder lost the Atlanta Hawks Sunday, their second loss in three games. “We’re not really talking about the trade. The trade is done. We’ve got enough talent in here to win games.”

Oh, how quickly we forget, Kendrick (the big fella cried after being traded to Oklahoma City, for those of you who don’t remember).

How about a little refresher course, courtesy of my main man A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com:

“There was a lot of crying, lot of hugging going on,” Perkins said before his former team left to go play the Denver Nuggets. “And a lot of it was me.”

Perkins, who had played for the Celtics for seven years, was dealt to Oklahoma City along with Nate Robinson in exchange for forward Jeff Green.

“I miss them,” Perkins said. “I ain’t gonna lie. I’m gonna miss the hell out of them. It’s going to be hard leaving them behind, leaving this team behind and the fans and this city. But this is a business, and being traded is part of that business.”

His Boston teammates were also upset with the trade.

“It’s not even about a teammate. It felt like you lost a family member today,” Kevin Garnett said after Boston’s 89-75 loss to Denver. “Tough day.”

Even if Harden’s departure isn’t the sole cause of what’s stalling the Thunder right now — and he is the reigning Kia Sixth Man of the Year — it’s clear that there are some chemistry issues that must be resolved. Much like the rival Los Angeles Lakers, whose offseason changes were far more extreme,  the Thunder need time to figure things out before they get back to the business of playing the way we all expect a team built for championships to play.

Removing one key ingredient from a championship puzzle can absolutely devastate chemistry. You remember how long it took the Celtics to get over losing Perkins, don’t you? They swore that it wasn’t a factor and that it wasn’t the cause of their problems in the playoffs that year. But it was hard to mistake what was going on. A player who helped anchor the post for one of the best defensive teams in the league was gone. And there was no way the Celtics could hide it.

The Thunder lost the player who served as their game-changer on a nightly basis. Kevin Martin can put up similar numbers, and has, but the dynamic is different. The player who balanced Kevin Durant‘s yin and Russell Westbrook‘s yang was Harden. Now that he’s lighting up opposing defenses for Houston, alongside Jeremy Lin, it’s inevitable that the Thunder would miss what he brought to the party.

To his credit, Thunder coach Scott Brooks knows that he and his staff have some tweaking to do before they get back to normal (or as close to it as possible). More from Barry Tramel of the Oklahoman:

“We know there’s a lot of work to be done,” Brooks said. “We still have to figure some things out.”

The Harden trade messed with the Thunder’s chemistry, no doubt. Foreman Scotty still is mixing and matching, trying to figure out how to play his revamped second unit.

But maybe the trade messed with the Thunder psyche even more. Despite Perk’s proclamation, maybe the Boomers have been like the rest of us. So focused on how Martin will replace Harden, they’ve forgotten what made them great in the first place.

The Thunder A team was no good Sunday night, even with Durant producing 22 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, albeit with six turnovers. The starters played together for 181/2 minutes and were outscored 41-35. That doesn’t have anything to do with James Harden.

Early returns show that Martin will be fine. Harden’s first two Rocket games channeled Oscar Robertson, with 37 and 45 points and monster assists. But K-Mart now has 62 points in three games, on 53-percent shooting.

If Harden and K-Mart are going to play “Can You Top This?” all season, we’re in for a wild ride. But the Harden/Martin debate was the least of the Thunder’s problems Sunday night.

The Harden/Martin debate is a waste of time. Both players are going to do what they do, no matter what.

As Perkins knows better than most, the real question is what the players left behind will do. Who is going to fill the void? Who is going to step up and step out of the shadows to replace the intangible bond that Harden brought to the Thunder?

Until they have a concrete answer to those questions, the Thunder will continue to drift.

48 Comments

  1. Goodday says:

    Harden left for money!! 80 ml n 50 ml, so much difference! Okc can’t offer him that! Too bad for okc! He’s on fire now at Houston!

  2. Latigo Rapper says:

    I think OKC will be fine in the regular season. They have enough pieces to compile wins which will be good enough to take them to the playoffs. But unless Westbrook adjusts his game and start really distributing the ball, then the other West Powers like the Spurs, Lakers and maybe even the Clippers may knock them out.

  3. R says:

    It’s unfortunate for Oklahoma that they lost such a game changer offensively. I’m sure the team will find their way with K mart. it’s not as if Either team ripped off, both are productive players. Houston are very lucky to have such young talent throughout. Oklahoma will get back up eventually.

  4. James Lee says:

    Sam Presti should have choose Harden over Westbrook to team with Durant. Harden can co-exist with other players (see what he did in Houston), but Westbrook is…. still Westbrook. I don’t see much improvement in Westbrook this season so far… when I see the last few OKC games, I could only imagine if Harden is working with Durant in those crunch time… Westbrook just jacking up crazy shots and wasted all those opportunities. Sad to see.

    Harden is worth every penny. I guess everyone realize that now.

  5. Jakejake218 says:

    I think the main reason is that the front court just isn’t playing to their potential. Perkins is not worth what he is being paid and Serge just needs to focus on his power game and dunk the ball rather than on a finesse game and shooting 16 footers. The front court defence has also been very poor. Al Horford owned them in that last game.

  6. harden best scorer O_o says:

    easy trade westbrook for lin or westbrook depend if rose pay more bad than last years westbrook for rose and too westbrook durant for lebron wade jajaaj kidding

  7. Andy says:

    Should’ve traded Westbrook and kept Harden. Furthermore the line-up should of been Harden, Westbrook, Durant, Ibaka, Perkins. with thabo off the bench, They would’ve won the championship last year and many to come; buuut…

  8. DIX says:

    R. WESTBROOK DOES NOT FIT IN THE POINT GUARD POSITION
    R. WESTBROOK IS THE ONE WHO’S BEEN TRADED TO ROCKETS NOT JAMES HARDEN.

  9. BoyfromOz says:

    They lost their 2nd game and now its the end of the world? Get a grip Sekou, why write chemistry issues about OKC when the ones in LA are clearly worse.

  10. Sentral says:

    OKC should have amnestied Perkins and traded Westbrook for a true PG. They would have money available to give Harden a max contract and win a championship.

  11. Vince Nguyen says:

    I think the question for the Thunder is whether or not Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka can lead them to a championship. Sam Presti chose those three guys for the future.

  12. JoeCho2012 says:

    Karma is a bitch Clay Bennett

  13. Kat says:

    The main thing for me with Kevin Martin is…I WANT HIM TO STAY HEALTHY…he’s been working on his defense last season and off season. The more he works with OKC trainers/coaching staff he’ll get better…but the main thing is most definitely his HEALTH. A Healthy Kevin Martin is really good for a team as opposed to a injured Kevin Martin. I mean if he does get injured and comes back..he’ll still score points, but still…it’s better when he’s 100% healthy. =)

  14. kevin nicholls INDIANAPOLIS says:

    The Thunder stil have Durant, and Westbrook, and Martin off the bench will be good its just going to take time to figure out the new players but if Durant is playing they will have a chance to win every game.

  15. Bambino says:

    there still is a TON of games left in the season, even when the All-Star Break comes how can we judge a teams season, for all we know a 10-20 game win streak could see a random team fly up into the playoffs.

    I dont see why everyone is so amazed at what harden is doing right now, Amare Stoudemire was playing outstanding before melo was there, dwayne wade was carrying the team before the big 3 were created, players just need to be in the right situation for them to stand out.

    Its dissapointing to see KD have that many turnovers so early, but then again, we don’t know, he could go with 0 TURNOVERS for the whole season, or he could average 10 PPG up to the all-star break; then average 50 PPG after the All Star Break, sit tight, sit back people the nba season is a rollercoaster, just make sure you’re ready to ride it.

    • don’t get it IF you think Kd will be an all-star after averaging 10ppg.. then dream on

    • yeah Lakers have worse Chemistry because of the addition of (HOWARD,DUHON,CLARK,NASH, JAMISON,MEEKS,SACRE AND DJO) and play 4 games in 1 week, but still manage to win a game how about the OKC? the Okc only added (MARTIN,ORTON,THABETTH, LAMB,JONES) and most of them dosen’t even made an impact to the team and the Okc already loss 1-2? hahahahaha so i can say the Lakers has Higher Chemistry………PS:Nash is Injured

  16. MJ from OKC says:

    They are playing like its the beginning of the season. And the writer is right, what is up with our starters? KD has 12 turnovers in 2 games that is way too high for his position and Westbrook is playing like a moron.

    Fortunately there’s 79 more games in the season. After 20 games well see the numbers, I hope Martin stays good, KD and RW will get their stuff together and if not the Thunder management will trade Russ.

    There is so much talk locally they can act like they aren’t sweating the Harden trade but they are.

  17. Maverick says:

    Durrant needs to get more hungry for the ball. He has Jordan like talents but doesn’t have the same hunger. He needs to tell Westbrook when hes wants the ball and stop Westbrook messing games up for them.

  18. ant banks says:

    they could have kept all 3, when they resigned ibaka thats when it was clear harden was gonna walk, as good as ibaka is harden was way more important to the team. harden allowed westbrook to move to the 2 spot an let james handle the ball and facilitate. they shoulda gave harden 4 and 60 mil and low balled ibaka…ibaka isnt a franchise changer…teams arent gonna line up to throw 10-15 million at a defender who doesnt score well or do much else…even coulda traded ibaka cook perry jones to atl for josh smith….or perkins, ibaka and cook for j.smith and atls pick which they coulda got a cheap decent young center (fab melo, bernard james, festus ezeli) lol they had options but hardens good in houston now…dont b surprised if the rockets trade cole aldrich, marcus morris,patrick patterson, and a pick or two for josh smith then harden just might meet okc in the playoffs….tht would be epic…

    • dattebayo says:

      Stop wasting your time thinking of convoluted ways that the Rockets might make the playoffs. they won’t. And have you even watched Ibaka play on offense? He had a game in the Western Conference Finals where he went 11-11 from the floor making 8 midrange jump shots. He plays with 3 explosive scorers, how can you expect him to be a scorer or develop into one? Ibaka is still only 23 and he is a franchise changer and no gm in the league would have tried to sign Harden first.

    • UmmMmMMmm…….. Ever heard about the guys like Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman??… you see those Guys i’ve mentioned dosent scored well but interms of defence they are the best. both of them are has very important roll in their championship without their D.. Bulls,Detroit won’t won the championship……………….. PS:COAH ALWAYS SAY GOOD D. WINS GAME

  19. struggle says:

    the thurder made a bad trade they should of got rid of westBRICK an kept harden they could of prolly got rondo for him they need a true point gaurd

  20. John Doe says:

    Wait and see – it’s really crazy how many of those “the season just started and this team is in trouble” post show up here lately. It seems there is nothing else to write about. Maybe you should play with your kids instead…

  21. George says:

    For me it seems like the person who has been affected the most about this trade is Scotty Brooks: i really appreciate his coaching, but the way he substituted in this game was just awful. If your “pointguard” is just taking shots without any ball-movement it’s time to sit him down. You preach defense but instead of putting thabo in for westbrook and go to the hot hand of martin you end up with westbrook taking ill-advised shots! i really doubt the basketball-IQ of westbrook, but it goes unnoticed because he just covers a lot of it with his (undoubted) talent.
    as scotty brooks, you have to make your facilitator understand that there are four other guys on the court!

  22. Miami-FAN says:

    LOL! Some people are good when it comes to talk. Jones, how can you even compare Harden to Westbrook? I mean Westbrook is without doubt the second most important player in OKC. Harden is good, he is realy good but he ain’t a Westbrook. Look, the season has just begun and we all know that it’s a long season where many things happen. I believe OKC need time, time build up the chemestry again, Martin ain’t Harden but martin is martin and OKC till is OKC they have the team and they have all the pieces to be champs. 3 games are played, 79 left, OKC have 2 loses SO WHAT!? We all know playoff is a whole other story and I am conviced they will make the playoff on the top 3 spots of the western conf. Then there can everything happen.

    • Me says:

      Honetsly, Westbrook is real good but he AIN’T better than Harden. Westbrook is more athletic yes, but athleticisim ain’t everything. And that is what the Celtics are beginning to see with Jeff Green. Plus, if I recall Westbrook gets most of his points from the field, hardly ever scores outside the perimeter or even outside the paint. Harden score everywhere. Harden is a better all-rounder hands up. I think people exaggerate the starting position. I mean just because Chalmers starts for the Heat doesn’t mean his great (he’s OK not wack but he’s an average PG compared to msot in the league).

      • thomas says:

        people who say james harden is better then westbrook crazy.Harden is good but i mean westbrook is amazing.James harden is only good of the pick roll plus he had two big big games this season the doesnt mean he better the one of the best scores in the leauge.Westbrook can create of the pick roll, get his shot of the dribble and isnt scared to take it defenders inside,The thunder are in no trouble this early in this season when they have player like durant, westbrook and ibalka holding down the fort with his inside devensive awarness.

    • @Thomas……..man the only reason i think. that YOU!! think westbrook is better than Harden. is because his ppg. is higher than Harden, but if you let harden be the second or first scoring option he is clearly better than Westbrook. did you even watch Harden playing with the rockets? let me guess “NO” …… Harden is now the Leader of the very young rockets I guess and he is clearly better than westbrook………so please shut your mouth

  23. Bones says:

    Russel Westbrook doesnt fit the PG Position, He is a ball hog

  24. NHbleedsGREEN says:

    Harden wasnt gonna stay for lack of $ so trading westbrook wasnt an option. He has to be a better decision maker on the court though. You do have the best scorer in the world on your team bro!!

  25. tom says:

    Harden was traded for contractual reasons just thought everyone should know..

  26. Kingk says:

    The thunder proved that their front office made a mistake

  27. amitpal says:

    I dont think right now is chemistry issue. Martin has done a great job fitting right in with the thunder. Where I see a problem is one russel westbrook playing out of control and jacking up shots but two the trade has really bothered kevin durant and russell emotion wise. I looked at kevin during the gane against spurs and he seemed out of it. He was so lazy that last play it was almost like he just didnt care yet. It was like rajon rondo when kendrick perkins left. James was like best friend with everyone so. It really hurts them. Emotion ally.

  28. Jones says:

    The Thunder should have kept James Harden and traded Russell Westbrook. Harden is a better playmaker and shooter. They could have gotten a good shooter for Westbrook and moved Harden to a playmaker – a Point-2Guard type position. This would have been better for Durant.

    • Rocket33 says:

      Westbrook for Rondo was another option they could have gone with. Too late now…

      • thelosttoe says:

        That trade would have NEVER happened, Westrbrook is miles and miles behind Rajon Rondo. Rondo is the future of the Boston Celtics and trading him for Russel Westbrook would have been a huge downgrade…. Westbrook can’t even begin to sniff Rajons talents at distrubuting the rock. Westbrook isn’t a PG he’s a converted SG, has been and always will be. The Thunder will get it together, yeah it’ll take time but it’ll happen and then we should get to see who’s truly the best in the west come late May when the matchup looks to be Thunder-Lakers.

      • thelosttoe says:

        That trade would have NEVER happened, Rajon is the future of the Boston Celtics and trading for Westbrook would have been a huge downgrade, Westbrook can’t even begin to sniff the talent level that Rajon has when it comes to dishing the rock, which is what a PG is SUPPOSED to do. The Thunder will get it together it’ll just take a little time, I hate how everyone wants to judge teams 4 games into the season! Uhhhhm hello still 78 games to go! We’ll see who’s truly the best in the West come late May when the mathup looks to be Thunder-Lakers.

      • struggle says:

        thats what i said that would of made both teams better

      • Me says:

        HAHAHA you’re smoking some new ish right?! lmao @ westbrook for Rondo, yes that’sll work cos Danny Ainge is an amateur

      • Kamote says:

        Not gonna happen… its like trading Kidd for Marbury. Though Marbury can score almost at will, he can’t bring the best out of his team mates. Westbrook has better talent, but Rondo makes his team better.

    • dfd says:

      Agreed so much

      • celtic533 says:

        Danny Ainge was actually considering trading rondo for westbrook and rondo fo chris paul.Danny is an idiot.he shows no loyalty to his players that lve the franchise so much and give all their effort which is why ray allen left.cuz ainge was using allen as trade bait.a lot of key pieces have left the celtics by free agency as well.becuz danny ainge dosnt show loyalty to them and match theitr contratcs.Tony allen, James Posey left and danny ainge traded an eddie house in his 3 point shooting prime to the knicks for that wasted hooligan nate robinson.

  29. TTKIN says:

    I guess they could always have their PG play PG…oh wait, their PG is westbrook, and he doesnt play PG, he plays SG…whether they want him to or not.

  30. You never had let go Harden

    • White Mamba says:

      I’m a Rockets fan… I would not be worried if that trade didn’t happen. Kevin Martin do blend well with Jeremy Lin based on the last games. The problem with Harden was he keeps on shooting even he is in a slump while Jeremy Lin was hot in the last 2 mins versus Trailblazers. Jeremy Lamb is also a potential based on the Summer League ranking, he was #2 after Lillard and is a great spot up shooter.