Tag: Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v Chicago Bulls

Report: Thunder to host Bulls on Christmas Day


Slowly but surely, details of the NBA’s 2015-16 regular-season schedule are emerging. The whole thing is expected to be released officially this week, but four of the five Christmas Day matchups have come out. The Pelicans will play the Heat at noon, and there will be a Finals rematch between the Cavaliers and Warriors as well as a Lakers-Clippers matchup.

Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman adds a fourth game to that list: Bulls vs. Thunder, in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder will be home for Christmas.

For the sixth consecutive season, Oklahoma City will be featured in the league’s biggest holiday showcase when it hosts Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls on Christmas Day, The Oklahoman has learned.

It will be the first time the Thunder has hosted a Christmas game since 2011, when it defeated Orlando inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The Thunder is 4-1 in Christmas games, with wins against Denver in 2010, the Magic in 2011, New York in 2013 and San Antonio in 2014. OKC’s lone Christmas Day loss came at Miami in 2012.

The league has not yet determined the time of the Thunder-Bulls game. An afternoon tip is likely.

If everyone involved is healthy, this should be a good one. We haven’t had a Derrick Rose vs. Russell Westbrook point-guard matchup since December 6, 2010. Jimmy Butler, who made a name for himself this postseason defending LeBron James in the playoffs, will likely be matched up with Kevin Durant. The coaching battle between Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan, two highly successful college coaches with no NBA experience, will be fun to watch as well.

This leaves one Christmas Day matchup yet to be determined. Spurs-Rockets would make the most sense out of the realistic possibilities: plenty of star power (James Harden, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan) and two legitimate title contenders. We’ll find out tomorrow.

Report: Thunder to open 2015-16 season at home against San Antonio on October 28

San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder - Western Conference Finals Game 6

The full schedule for the 2015-16 regular season is expected to be released this week, but bits and pieces of it have been trickling out ahead of the announcement. The Oklahoman‘s Darnell Mayberry is reporting that the Thunder will kick off their season at home against the Spurs in what should be a pretty great matchup:

This will be a phenomenal game, assuming everybody’s healthy. The Spurs made the biggest free-agent acquisition of the summer in LaMarcus Aldridge, and stole David West for the veteran’s minimum. Kevin Durant played just 27 games last season after undergoing foot surgery, and the Thunder expect the 2014 league MVP to be healthy to start the year. There’s a very good chance this matchup could be a preview of the Western Conference Finals, as it has been twice before.

Agent Rich Paul says Tristan Thompson considering taking qualifying offer, leaving Cavaliers next summer

Tristan Thompson

Just hours after an ESPN.com report on the contract impasse between the Cavs and Tristan Thompson, agent Rich Paul has told Sportsnet’s Michael Grange that Thompson is seriously considering taking Cleveland’s qualifying offer, and if he does that, he will not be back next season.

The qualifying offer for Thompson is about $6.8 million. In the short term, it would be a huge break for Cleveland that their already enormous luxury-tax bill won’t also include a max deal for Thompson. Long-term, it casts his future with the team in doubt.

Next summer, the salary cap is expected to jump by as much as $20 million, which will give most of the teams in the league cap space. Inevitably, someone who doesn’t get one of the top-level free agents (such as Kevin Durant) will overpay for a second-tier name, and Thompson is in perfect position to capitalize on the demand that will be created. He’s going to get paid, whether in Cleveland or elsewhere.

If Thompson signs the qualifying offer, the Cavs’ options are limited. They can’t trade him without his consent (the collective bargaining agreement gives players who sign the qualifying offer veto power over trades).

This is a strong leverage play from Paul, going on the record to say that his client will leave the Cavs if he signs the qualifying offer. The Cavs’ options are now two: they can either give Thompson the max deal he wants, or lose him next summer without the option of trading him anywhere he doesn’t want to go. Neither situation is ideal, but Thompson is an important role player for the Cavs. The better option is probably to pay him now.

Kevin Durant was back on court, swatting kids shots, at youth camp

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder

If you’re looking for positives in Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant was back on the court and swatting shots again this week.

Of course, he was blocking the shots of five-year-olds (give or take). Again. It’s his thing (hat tip Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie).

He wasn’t done there.

I pity the future for Durant’s own kids in driveway games.

Durant is expected to be cleared for contact in the next month. While you can bet Scott Brooks takes it easy on him during training camp, Durant should be fully ready to go by the start of the Thunder’s season.

Brandon Bass: Kobe Bryant is “arguably the best player in the game still”

Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers

We know what Kobe Bryant still thinks of his skills. Last year, when ESPN ranked him the 40th best player in the NBA right now, because he was 36 years old and coming off an Achilles injury, he said they were idiots. Then Bryant missed more than half of last season due to injury (and Byron Scott wearing him down with heavy minutes early).

So where does Bryant rank now?

If you ask newest Laker Brandon Bass right at the top. Turns out the New Orleans Times-Picayune did ask Bass that question.

“…we have arguably the best player in the game still,” Bass said. “When he is healthy he is a monster still. If he is healthy he’s right up there with the best players in the league, that’s LeBron or whoever the best players in the league are. When Kobe is healthy, 19 years in the game he is still elite.”

What did you expect him to say?

But is Kobe still elite?

All-time, no doubt Kobe is elite. He will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. He deserves the retired number in the rafters and the statue out in front of Staples — none other than Jerry West called Kobe the greatest Laker. He’s an intense, old-school competitor, a guy with amazing fundamentals and footwork, a high hoops IQ, and back in the day some impressive athleticism. He’s got five rings because few players in league history have gotten as much out of their natural gifts as Kobe. He will be missed when he walks away.

But right now?

To quote Seth and Amy, “Really?”

Last season Kobe wasn’t surrounded by much talent so — as he has done in the past — he took on an incredible load in the offense, putting it on his back. The results were inefficient and physically wore him down (his shooting percentages dropped the deeper into the season he got). Kobe can’t carry that kind the same way as he did a decade ago. He can’t get to the rim the same way (and defenses packed it in on the Lakers) which led to 55 percent of his shots coming from 16 feet or farther out, and those shots were not falling. Kobe shot just 29.3 percent from three last season and had a true shooting percentage of 47.7 percent, well below the league average. Kobe still can pass and play a smart game (if he trusts his teammates), he also still made some plays, and he was certainly above average (which should give Lakers fans hope as Kobe will have better talent around him this season).

But elite? As in LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant kind of elite?

Sorry, but Bass is just spinning what his new team and its fans want to hear. Just like the idea the Lakers can make the playoffs.