Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoman’

Durant Has Earned The Right To Make His Own Free-Agency Decision




VIDEO: Durant burns Nuggets for 36 points in preseason

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The drum beat has already begun for Kevin Durant.

The endless line of questioning, the non-stop speculation and the outright rumors (and lies) about what he’s going to do as a free agent three summers from now is officially a part of our daily NBA conversation. I hate it for Durant and I hate for his Oklahoma City Thunder, whose organic quest for a championship has been one of the better storylines the league has seen in recent seasons.

“Small-market superstars dig in and battle the big-city superstars for supremacy.” It had the makings of great drama from the very start … Durant and Russell Westbrook — and James Harden and even Jeff Green at one time — joining forces in OKC to challenge the establishment.

But like all good things, the reality and the bottom-line nature of the business threatens to derail it completely. ESPN’s Jalen Rose has already fired the first shot, predicting that Rose will bolt for Houston and a seat alongside Harden and Dwight Howard on a championship quest those two stars are just starting.

“I think that after he plays out the couple years on his contract that he goes to Houston to play with Dwight Howard and James Harden,” Rose said in this clip on Grantland.com’s video YouTube channel.

That’s a bold statement indeed, and based on the recent history of stars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Howard, one that should not be dismissed. The reality for all of these stars is that they will be faced with a similar stay-or-go dilemma at some point in their careers. And the entire drama will be played out in public, with a huge assist from social media.

I’m not nearly as convinced as Rose is about Durant bolting. Durant’s response to Rose’s claim in an interview with the Oklahoman‘s Darnell Mayberry should calm any immediate fears:

Q: Did you hear what Jalen Rose said about the Houston thing?
A: Yep.

Do you have any thoughts on that?
Nah, I’m here for the Thunder (laughs). I mean, that’s all I can say. I’m not thinking far down the line at all. It’s about today. Today we got better against the Chicago Bulls. I can’t tell the future. I can’t speak on that. That’s his opinion. I’m just going to keep playing for the Thunder. I love playing here.

People probably will continue to say that for the next three years.
Unfortunately.

How do you deal with that?
I mean, just let them know I’m not thinking that far down the line, I guess. I mean, I love my teammates. I love where I live. I love playing for this organization. So I’m just taking it a day at a time.

But whatever the three-time scoring champ decides to do, whatever choice he makes in free agency in the summer of 2016, he will have earned the right to make a decision of his own. He’s given the Thunder everything a city and its fan base could ever dream of, short of that Larry O’Brien trophy he is still pursuing.

If Durant decides in two years that he’d rather chase it elsewhere, so be it.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti lives with that reality daily. He knows that there are no guarantees in free agency, not even with a transcendent talent like Durant, whose loyalty to the Thunder has never wavered.

The doesn’t meant these next two seasons won’t be an absolute nightmare for Presti and his crew. That speculation that drives the day for so many will be magnified behind the walls of the Thunder’s headquarters. The way LeBron left Cleveland, Carmelo left Denver and Dwight left Orlando has forced every team to take stock of their situations a bit differently.

And unlike a hometown star like Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Durant’s roots in Oklahoma City don’t run deeper than the six seasons he’s spent with the franchise.

The Thunder also have to deal with the reality of their own situation. There have been some dents in the organization’s armor of late. When Westbrook suffered his knee injury during the 2013 playoffs, the entire world (and more importantly, the rest of the league) got a glimpse of just how vulnerable OKC can be when one of their big two is out.

That deep team that had home-court advantage in The Finals against the Heat two years ago is no more. They’re no longer viewed as that precious team on the rise. They are now a part of the very establishment they were challenging just three years ago.

The perception of what this team is and the reality of what this team is presents the dilemma for Durant that is no doubt coming. Fearless predictions or not, Durant will be a free agent in the foreseeable future. He and his representation, as well as the Thunder’s brain trust, need to be prepared to address it.

Whatever the final outcome, it is (and was) Durant’s decision to make. If he’s learned anything from his contemporaries and the way they handled their business, that should be at the forefront of his mind when we actually get closer to July of 2016. He has to own this decision!

Maynor Is Thunder’s Wild Card




HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Eric Maynor was forced to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder’s run through the Western Conference and to The Finals like the rest of us, from the sidelines in street clothes. A knee injury cost the Thunder point guard his chance at making a significant on-court contribution to the cause.

But he’s back now and seemingly better than ever, working as the Thunder’s resident wild card after a summer spent growing what’s already in the fold as opposed to adding new pieces to what Thunder fans hope is a championship-ready roster.

Derek Fisher was used in this same position last season, and proved to be particularly valuable in the postseason. He was only keeping the spot warm for Maynor, who reportedly faces a serious challenge for playing time from Reggie Jackson.

If what Maynor showed last night, however, is any indication, Jackson might spend more time watching Maynor work instead of stepping into his shoes.

Barry Tramel of the Oklahoman was there and loved what he saw from Maynor in the Thunder’s win over the Bobcats :

A cool hand. A settling force. A silky facilitator in a land of Olympians and all-stars.

Maynor had seven assists and just one turnover in 19 minutes against the Bobcats. Ten points on 3-of-5 shooting. Even had five rebounds.

“Really good to see him out there,” Scotty Brooks said. “He’s solid, as we all know. He makes good decisions. He facilitates the offense. He gets everyone involved.

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Will Finances Force Thunder’s Hand With Harden?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This isn’t about scare tactics or some sort of negotiating ploy on the part of the Thunder or anyone else.

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s quandary regarding reigning Kia Sixth Man of the Year James Harden is real. They have to figure out how to keep him in the fold when he’s set to cash in with a new contract while the franchise is already somewhat strapped due to big deals it handed out to its other young stars (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka).

The luxury tax is a very real factor for some teams. If you paid attention during the first five minutes of Junior Achievement in middle school, you’d know that the numbers simply do not add up in favor of the team trying to keep a handful of young stars in their primes with generous contracts. The Thunder — a proud, small-market titan — happen to be one of those teams.

And there is a growing concern in Oklahoma City that Harden could end up being a casualty of the financial dilemma the Thunder will face at the end of the 2012-13 season. Thunder general manager Sam Presti addressed the topic Monday, courtesy of Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman:

So, what about Harden?

“James is somebody we value,” Presti said Monday afternoon. “We think he’s an important part to what we’re trying to do with our team and we’re hopeful that he’ll be with us.”

No doubt about that. Harden is super talented, a rare combination of shooter, slasher and distributor. His offensive skills provide an amazing complement to those of Durant and Westbrook.

“By the same token, we’ve been very upfront and transparent with everybody that we have some inherent challenges that we face as an organization as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement,” the Thunder general manager continued. “I know we’d love to have him here. I think James would like to be here as well. But at the end of the day … you have to find a way to make it work for everybody.”

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An Intriguing Twist For Howard?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This isn’t the first time a wild card team has been injected into the Dwight Howard conversation, and it certainly won’t be the last.

But we challenge you or anyone else to find a more intriguing twist than the Orlando Magic superstar joining the reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder in their quest for a Larry O’Brien trophy.

Sure, it sounds far-fetched, given that the Thunder have never been considered even a remote factor in the Howard discussion and Thunder general manager Sam Presti‘s well-versed championship plan is already in full swing without Howard.

Still, in a summer when basically anything goes when we’re talking theories, can you imagine a more imposing lineup than what the Thunder could throw at teams if Howard was the man in the middle?

John Rhode of the Oklahoman mentioned it in passing in his examination of Presti’s “slow and steady” championship blueprint,  raising some interesting points along the way:

OKC could throw its name into the Howard hopper and offer Kendrick Perkins, James Harden and Eric Maynor in a Howard sign-and-trade with Orlando, but doing so would abandon the Presti Plan and give the perception he had gone about things all wrong.

Then again, it potentially could result in an NBA title or two with a starting lineup of Howard, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka, not to mention a season record for blocked shots and a high-dollar existence above the league’s luxury tax.

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Thunder Need To Be Careful, Patient





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ll keep this warning for the Oklahoma City Thunder brief, since everyone has plenty of other stuff on their plate on Draft day.

Be careful. And be patient.

Don’t be hasty in whatever decisions you make tonight and in the immediate future.

We’re sending this warning to Thunder fans really, because the sting of defeat in The Finals lingers. It’s an impossible taste to get out of your mouth. We know because we’ve seen it before. We’ve watched teams overreact and make rash decisions and pay for them later, as Thunder general manager Sam Presti and his staff are surely aware of.

We’ve seen all of these reports about the Thunder’s infatuation with Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal, some generated anonymously but most of them fueled by Beal’s own words:

This year, on the eve of what was shaping up to be the least suspenseful first round in the franchise’s Oklahoma City era, a report surfaced that said the Thunder has sought to trade into the top three.

The supposed target: Florida guard Bradley Beal.

It’s the second report in the past two weeks that has connected the Thunder with trying to move into the top three. Typically, where there is smoke around this time of the year there is, well, more smoke. But the Thunder can’t seem to shake this cloud of speculation.

And this time, the player provided a firsthand account of Presti’s plans.

“He told me he was going to decide what they’re going to do and considered getting up there,” Beal told ESPN.com on Wednesday, relaying a conversation he had with Presti during an interview at the draft combine in Chicago.

In response to these reports (which are cute but have no legs, according to the folks we’ve spoken to regarding the Thunder), we’ll take this time to remind everyone of the Orlando Magic’s actions in the wake of their unsuccessful trip to The Finals in 2009.

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Hang Time Podcast (Episode 83) With Darnell Mayberry And John Schuhmann

HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – LeBron James and the Miami Heat versus Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in The Finals is a matchup made in basketball heaven.

Too bad neither one of these superstars is interested in that narrative, because as far as drama goes, we could ask for much more in a postseason no one was sure would happen in November.

Whether they like it or not, the three-time MVP and the three-time scoring champ will be center stage for the next four to seven games. And they are front and center on Episode 83 of the Hang Time Podcast, as well, as we preview The Finals with Oklahoman Thunder beat writer Darnell Mayberry and NBA.com’s numbers guru John Schuhmann.

That’s not all we’ve got going on, though. In addition to examining the The Finals, we also spent a little time reflecting on the Dream Team and the impact they have on the global game born out of their Olympic experience 20 years ago. (Our very own Lang Whitaker, whose oral history of the Dream Team is in the July edition of GQ Magazine, spent months digging into the details about the greatest team ever assembled.)

Check out Episode 83 of the Hang Time Podcast with special guests, Darnell Mayberry and John Schuhmann. And don’t forget to tune into NBA TV’s “The Dream Team,” presented by Right Guard, Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine and Sekou Smith of NBA.com, as well as our superproducer Micah Hart of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog and the best engineer in the business, Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.


World Peace Crushes On OKC?





HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – Judging by his words alone, you’d think Lakers forward Metta World Peace was from Norman instead of Queensbridge.

A day after his Lakers were trounced by the Oklahoma City Thunder, World Peace was in the mood to praise all things Oklahoma City and just about anything else associated with Oklahoma. That includes Thunder coach Scott Brooks, Kevin Durant, Durant’s teammates and the wonderful people at Chesapeake Energy Arena who booed him constantly Monday night in Game 1 and will do so again tonight (9:30 ET, TNT) in Game 2.

(That booing is more intense for him courtesy of the elbow to the head of Thunder reserve and KIA Sixth Man of the Year Award winner James Harden.)

World Peace saved some of his most interesting, and perhaps bizarre, praise for a specific segment of the crowd. The things that come out that man’s mouth sometimes are, in a word, priceless.

Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman captured many of the highlights with this video — you have to watch it for yourself so you know it’s true.

His explanation for making his first two shots in Game 1?

“I didn’t realize Oklahoma had so many, like, fine women,” he said. “I felt really comfortable. I hit my first two shots, it was mainly because of how beautiful the women were. Great fans, because they support their team. They took in a team that needed shelter . So no matter what, you can always say great things about these fans. You can always say great things.”

And ladies, just in case you needed a reminder, World Peace wants you to know something else.

“You don’t need make up to be beautiful,” he said, expanding on his admiration for the fine women of Oklahoma. “That’s the American way of telling a woman she’s beautiful. She can be beautiful without make up. And that’s what I’ve seen in Oklahoma City.”

Seriously, you cannot make this stuff up.

Making Sense Of The World Peace Mess





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The NBA’s deans of discipline handed down a most appropriate fine for Metta World Peace‘s elbow to James Harden‘s head that caused a concussion and 48 hours of on unnecessary pain and suffering for the game of basketball.

Lakers fans might not feel that way, but if they remove those purple-and-gold-colored glasses for just a minute, they’ll realize that justice was served in this instance.

Unlike some hardliners, we saw no reason for World Peace to suffer through a 10-game suspension or the lifetime ban some were calling for (yes, we’ve read all of your comments and emails on the subject). That would have been excessive, even for a player with as checkered a past as World Peace.

It’s clear the league took into account all of the good deeds he’s done and the way, up until Sunday at least, he’s conducted himself within the lines the past few seasons. NBA Commissioner David Stern could have dropped the hammer on World Peace this time and met with little resistance in the court of public opinion outside of Lakerland.

Unlike World Peace, someone took the time to consider all of the options instead of just reacting in the heat of the moment. Instead of listening to the tide of discontent surrounding this latest act and using his extensive history of running afoul of the league’s code of conduct for all players, someone at the league office decided not to make an example of World Peace when they so easily could have.

Seven games might seem harsh to some, but in this day and age of bounties in the NFL and the like, seven games seems more than appropriate. And the Lakers’ acceptance of the penalty (and their continued support of World Peace) would indicate that they recognize as much and ready to try to move on from this incident.

And to his credit, World Peace did the classy thing and apologized to the Thunder and their fans for what happened on his website. Despite suggestions to the contrary, he is fully aware of what went down and seems genuinely contrite for allowing his emotions to get the best of him yet again. We’re not here to condemn the man for that. In fact, we applaud him for recognizing that and handling himself the right way now.

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Hang Time Podcast With Darnell Mayberry, Greg Anthony and Kevin Arnovitz

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We should apologize in advance for overloading your basketball senses with one of the most jam-packed Hang Time Podcasts of the season.

We tackle everything from Russell Westbrook‘s surge to the Thunder’s chances to win it all to the chances of Anthony Davis being an immediate factor in the NBA to what’s in store for Vinny Del Negro and the Los Angeles Clippers to why in the world one of our favorite analysts was rocking that “Elevator Ernie” Halloween costume on Fan Night last night on NBA TV.

You get all that and more on a loaded Hang Time Podcast featuring Oklahoman Thunder beat writer Darnell Mayberry, NBA TV and CBS analyst Greg Anthony (that’s him wearing the “Elevator Ernie” outfit below, courtesy of a bet he lost to Chris Webber) and ESPN.com’s Kevin Arnovitz.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine and Sekou Smith of NBA.com, as well as our superproducer Micah Hart of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.


What’s Next For Fisher?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For months, Derek Fisher‘s face and voice were all over the place.

The lockout, and whatever good or bad came of it, seemed to have Fisher’s fingerprints all over it. No one looked more measured or steadfast during the lockout and no one more relieved when it was finally over.

But now, just days after his stunning trade from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Houston Rockets and the news that the Rockets would buy out the remainder of his contract, Fisher is in limbo.

Fisher has been silent since the trade, the only statement from his camp coming from his spokesman Jamie Wior:

“After much discussion and expressing their desire to welcome Derek to their team this season as well as the 2012-2013 season, the Houston Rockets and Derek have negotiated a buyout.

“Derek’s desire to win a sixth championship is what drives him and will continue to drive him as he moves forward.  We thank the Rockets front office for their interest, time and their absolute professionalism.

“There will be no further comment this time.”

It’s understandable. Fisher probably needs a little time to process it all before deciding on his next move. He’s been through an exhausting nine months, dating to the Lakers’ playoff sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks last spring.

One thing that the new collective bargaining agreement makes clear, though, is that Fisher will not be re-signing with the Lakers. He can’t do that before July 1.

So chasing that sixth championship will have to be done elsewhere, with another contender. And two of the most obvious places where a veteran point guard with Fisher’s clutch-shooting ability might come in handy are the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat.

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