Meet Ron Adams, the brains behind the Thunder

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The Oklahoma City Thunder are about as “it” as it gets. Kevin Durant is the season’s hot new trend, and his style boasts only the latest in aesthetic and material innovation. They’re young, they’re hip, they’re cool, and they’re underground enough to play in a place like OKC while still hitting the mainstream airwaves hard.

And it’s all thanks to Ron Adams. From Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus:

Defense has been a mantra for the Thunder since Sam Presti’s arrival
as GM prior to the 2007-08 season. In remarking Oklahoma City’s
roster–only Nick Collison
remains from when he took over–Presti has emphasized youth and
defensive ability, and the coaching staff has been on board. But things
really seemed to click midway through last season with the arrival of a
pair of imports from Chicago–assistant coach Ron Adams and perimeter
stopper Thabo Sefolosha.

Adams, like Tom Thibodeau in Boston, has been given significant
responsibility for implementing the Thunder’s defense. While the team
saw improvement in the second half of last season after Adams joined
the coaching staff on Dec. 31, he’s had a better chance to implement
his philosophy with a full training camp this year. The key isn’t
anything exotic Oklahoma City does. In fact, it’s the opposite, an
approach reminiscent of Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers or USC’s
Student Body Right: Do one thing well.

“We don’t really change what we do,” explained Collison. “I’ve been
on a lot of teams where game to game we try to change how we’re going
to guard the pick-and-roll, whether we’re going to rotate to a certain
guy. We do the same thing, but we really work at it. I think a lot of
teams try to win with Xs and Os instead getting good at what they do.
We do fundamentals all the time – closeouts, for example. It’s almost
like basketball camp. I think with a young team that’s a good way to
go. We’ve been real solid.”

Kevin Durant isn’t simply one of the most exciting players in the NBA — he’s one of the best. But without defense, the Thunder are a sub-par team at best. Without the impressive win-loss record in a very difficult Western Conference, Durant is merely a more efficient Monta Ellis, putting up impressive numbers on an unimpressive team. Instead, the Thunder are 5th in the West, the Durantula is a legit MVP candidate (even if LeBron is the MVP candidate). It’s what Ron Adams and Scotty Brooks have done with OKC’s defense that’s the real story here, not Durant’s inevitable climb to stardom. That was a given. But a young team playing great defense is anything but. Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green may provide the ticket draw, but it’s the defensive schemes and instruction of Adams, Brooks, and the Thunder coaching staff that makes OKC relevant. 

John Wall has a strong arm, can throw a tight spiral (VIDEO)

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If the Redskins need a quarterback should Kirk Cousins go down — he has played a full 16-game schedule the past two years, which is pretty remarkable — maybe rather than Colt McCoy Washington should look at the guy who makes the Wizards’ go.

John Wall showed on Friday he has a strong arm, can throw a tight spiral, and hit his man.

I love that Wall starts calling out Tom Brady after one good pass.

Michael Beasley had his truck stolen out of his driveway

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Michael Beasley will be getting buckets, shooting long twos, and playing inconsistent defense for the New York Knicks next season (the analysis is just based on recent history).

But first, he’d like to find his truck. Which was stolen.

Well, I did see a Dodge Ram 1500 on the road today, but since I’m on the West Coast and I have no idea what color/year Beasley’s truck is, I’m going to assume the guy I saw didn’t perpetrate the heist.

Still, that sucks for Beasley, even if he can easily afford to replace it.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.