Thunder learn one more painful lesson, talk about taking one more step

32 Comments

To a man, as they hugged the Larry O’Brien trophy, Miami Heat players said the sting of losing in the finals last year drove them to their win this year. They felt the pain, absorbed the lessons and got better.

As the clock was winding down and the party was winding up inside AmericanAirlines Arena Thursday night, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden stood together, huddled at the end of the bench talking. Saying exactly what Heat players said a year ago.

“We hugged each other and told each other to embrace this feeling and remember this feeling,” Westbrook said. “We’ve got to be the guys that just got to get better, man, before we can find a way to get back here.”

And everyone — including LeBron James, who said as much after the game — expect the Thunder will be back on this stage. And they will be better.

We’ve seen it before. For the past three years the Thunder have been eliminated by the eventual champion — first the Lakers, last year the Mavericks and this year the Heat. The previous two years the Thunder used those lessons to come back a smarter, more ready NBA team.

To a man after they were eliminated from the finals in Game 5 — a 121-106 Heat win — the Thunder players talked about what it will take to get back to here and be better next year.

“There’s things that wen have to work on,” coach Scott Brooks said. “I’ve never used age as an excuse. But we got some incredible experience these last three years of being the playoffs and it kind of – it has helped us get to this point and to compete at this level.”

The next step is on the defensive end for this team — they were a solid defensive team (OKC was ninth in the league in points allowed per possession) but the Heat won this series because they could find a level of defense the Thunder could not.

“But just one thing, (the Heat) played extremely physical basketball,” Brooks said. “They are a very athletic team and they use it every possession, and that’s something we will talk about. You have it, you better use it.”

There is also the focus that is needed.

“I think now we know that every possession in the finals matters. It counts,” James Harden said. “There were several possessions that we just gave away (in Game 5). I think that third quarter, we brought the lead out to five quick (it was 7), and then they hit two threes in a row. Every possession matters in the finals. We just gave too many away.”

They gave away a few all series. And that stung the Thunder. A lot. Thunder players all talked about being a family and you could see the tears and feel the emotion as they left the floor. You could see it as Kevin Durant talked to his mom. The key — the thing the Thunder’s three leaders were already talking about — was to use that as fuel.

“You just have a lot of regrets but the only thing you can do is get back to work,” Kendrick Perkins said. “And each individual has to think about it when you’re lifting weights, as you run suicides, just think about this feeling, think about this moment and how close we came. We just fell short.”

You get the sense this team will be back. And once again they will have learned a lesson. They will be better. And that could be scary good.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wear same outfit to Game 4 (photo)

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Leave a comment

I can’t verify Raptors forwards Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wearing the same outfit to last night’s Game 4 against the Bucks is the happenstance Patterson presents it as. But there’s a saying in journalism: It’s too good to check out.

Whatever led to this, Toronto ought to keep doing it. The Raptors smashed Milwaukee.

Patterson:

Isaiah Thomas’ sons giggle about Fred Hoiberg’s carrying complaint (video)

Leave a comment

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg diverted attention to Isaiah Thomascarrying – perhaps the lamest attempt ever of a coach angling for calls through the media, made worse by it following one of the best of all time.

Thomas’ sons saw how silly it was, laughing as the Celtics guard responded.

“It’s not that funny,” Thomas said, sparking even more laughter.

Patrick Beverley: ‘If the NBA won’t protect the players… I have to protect myself’

2 Comments

The NBA fined Patrick Beverley $25,000 for confronting a fan after the Rockets’ Game 3 loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Friday.

But he’s not going down quietly.

Beverley on the run-ins, which began when he fell into the crowd in the second quarter after being fouled, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“I’m OK with the hazing,” Beverley said. “I’m OK with the boos. I’m OK with other fans rooting for their team. But I’m not OK with the blatant disrespect while I’m lying on the ground and a fan yelling out to me, ‘F you Patrick Beverley, ‘F you Patrick Beverley, ‘F you Patrick Beverley,’ waving a clapper in my face. I’m not comfortable with that.

“If the NBA won’t protect the players, I feel as a man, as a grown man who has children, who has morals, to stand up for the right thing. I have to protect myself.”

“When I mean protect myself, I don’t mean go out there and start a fight with a person. I walked up to the guy, ‘At the end of the day brother, this is a game.’ No curse words. No pointing fingers. No this. No that. I just let him know that just don’t do nothing like that.”

“To put this in all perspective, this isn’t the first incident I had with OKC,” Beverley said. “I had a ballboy tell me he was going to kill me. What type of league, what is this? I had to have a police officer out in front of my house, I can’t be on the same floor as my teammates. My first year in NBA basketball I have a person saying on Twitter he was going to kill me. So, what to do?”

Beverley said by addressing the situation on Friday as he did he felt he brought more attention to it, increasing security awareness.

The ball-boy incident occurred in 2013, when Beverley injured Russell Westbrook‘s knee while going for a steal as Westbrook called timeout. Westbrook missed the rest of the playoffs, and Thunder fans have resented Beverley since.

It’s not the most pleasant aspect of sports, but I don’t have a huge problem with fans in their seats heckling players on the court. But there should be a different standard when a player falls into the crowd. A fan yelling and clapping in Beverley’s face while he’s on the ground is not OK.

Of course, this is only Beverley’s side of the story. The fan – Stuart Scaramucci, son of Thunder minority owner Jay Scaramucci – gave his account of the postgame encounter to Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

“[Beverley] goes around the refs, around the dancers and walks right up and gets right in my face and starts putting his hand right in my sternum and saying, ‘Don’t you ever do it again. Don’t ever [expletive] do that. You can’t do that to me. I’m a player. You can’t do that. You can’t do that,’” Scaramucci told the Transcript late Friday night. “…My wife [Megan], at that point in time, was standing there with [a noisemaker the Thunder hand out to fans]. She holds it out, and she says, ‘You can’t be here. You need to be in the back.’

“Patrick turns to her and he just throws his hand up and brings it down. I’m not sure if he’s trying to slap the [noisemaker] or whatnot, but he slaps her right on her arm, and at that point, I flip and start screaming, ‘Patrick slapped my wife. Patrick slapped my wife. Patrick slapped my wife.’”

Again, this is only one side of the story. Beverley might tell a different one, but at least he’s getting his wish. We’re paying more attention to fan behavior and security.

Report: Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo staying in NBA draft

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
Leave a comment

When De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk declared for the NBA draft, they jumped in with both feet, hiring agents.

A third Kentucky freshman, Bam Adebayo, took a more cautious approach – until now.

Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports:

Adebayo is a borderline first-round pick.

He’s a ferocious dunker. All his best skills – motor, explosiveness, physicality – come together to produce slams.

But Adebayo is an underwhelming shot-blocker and rebounder, and those same tools should translate. That speaks’ to his focus.

He has a center’s game. But at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-1.5 wingspan, does he have a center’s size? Adebayo can’t step away from the basket or handle the ball, so if he can’t bang with NBA centers, he’s in trouble.