Tag: Steve Novak

Atlanta Hawks v Oklahoma City Thunder

Thunder, trying to hold playoff spot, lose starter Andre Roberson 2-3 weeks


The Thunder have lost Kevin Durant. They lost Serge Ibaka. They lost Nick Collison.

And they’re still likely to make the playoffs.

But, up 2.5 games on the Suns and threw games on the Pelicans, Oklahoma City is facing yet another injury-related challenge.

This time, starting shooting guard Andre Roberson is out.

Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:

Kyle Singler will start when the Thunder host the Lakers tonight, and that’s not necessarily a setback for the starting lineup. Singler spaces the floor and handles the ball better than Roberson, though Roberson defends better. It’s a tradeoff in style more than ability.

But if Singler is no longer coming of the bench, Oklahoma City’s bench is weakened. Either Scott Brooks shortens the rotation or gives more chances to Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones and/or Steve Novak.

Either way, the pressure remains on Russell Westbrook to carry a huge load. He’s done well so far, but if the Thunder keep losing rotation players, eventually they’ll ask more of their starting point guard than he can deliver.

The door is still open, even just a crack, for Phoenix and New Orleans.

Report: Serge Ibaka undergoing knee surgery

Los Angeles Clippers v Oklahoma City Thunder

Until Friday, Serge Ibaka had been the only Thunder player to play every game this season.

But he has missed the last two games with soreness in his knee.

Now, it seems Ibaka will join Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as key Oklahoma City players to see extended absences.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka will undergo a knee procedure to address some persistent soreness, sources told ESPN.com.

It is not clear how long Ibaka will be sidelined following the surgery.

He will see a specialist for further evaluation, with the expectation for him to have a clean-out procedure in order to be ready for the postseason.

The Thunder will be either the most dangerous No. 8 seed of all time or the best team to miss the playoffs. This surgery increases the chances of both.

Oklahoma City is eighth in the Western Conference, just one game ahead of the Pelicans and three games ahead of the Suns.

The Thunder have a deep group of bigs – Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Nick Collison, Mitch McGary and Steve Novak – but none of them provide what Ibaka does, especially defensively. Ibaka – who’s averaging 14.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game – is not a star like Durant and Westbrook, but he’s unquestionably Oklahoma City’s third-best player.

With Durant still out, even more falls on Westbrook now.

Kevin Durant out at least a week after undergoing procedure in injured foot

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant has battled foot troubles all season, since missing the first 17 games of the season after suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot during training camp. When he’s played, he’s played at his usual MVP level, but he’s missed 11 additional games with injuries since returning, and now, he’s run into another setback:

So, this isn’t ideal at all for the Thunder. The bottom of the Western Conference playoff race may just come down to who’s the healthiest, and between Durant’s continued issues and the Pelicans’ Sunday announcement that Anthony Davis will miss a couple of weeks, the most important players are dropping all over the place.

The Thunder currently hold a game-and-a-half lead over the Suns for eighth place in the Western Conference, and while the Suns are fully healthy (knock on wood), they’re currently integrating several new players into their rotation and getting used to life post-Goran Dragic. In the best-case scenario, Durant misses only a week, which includes games against the Nuggets tonight, Pacers Tuesday, and a road back-to-back on Thursday and Friday against the Suns and Blazers. The latter two games are going to be killer, especially the Suns game. Phoenix will be motivated to beat them and potentially overtake them in the playoff race.

The Thunder made moves at the deadline to upgrade their bench, bringing in Enes Kanter, Steve Novak, Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin. They have more depth now than they did a week ago, but the reigning MVP is a huge hole to fill. The bottom line has always been the same: if Durant is healthy, the Thunder are a title contender. If he’s not, they might miss the playoffs. Hopefully he’s not out too much longer. It’s starting to get concerning.

Five Things We Learned in NBA Thursday: Oklahoma City may be best in West now

Russell Westbrook

If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while wondering why you get the munchies while high

1) Oklahoma City should now be the favorite to win the West. The lowest seed to win the NBA title was the Houston Rockets as the six seed (the only eight seed to make the NBA Finals was the 1999 Knicks). The Thunder may rewrite that history. Oklahoma City was a potential contender before Thursday — healthy again this was the same team that made the conference finals last season and, once Serge Ibaka returned, gave San Antonio all it could handle. But they won the trade deadline Thursday adding Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin, and Steve Novak. They now have a bench they can trust in the playoffs, something they have lacked since James Harden left. If you had any question how good the Thunder are you could see it Thursday night as they jumped on a good Dallas team early and never let up. The one concern with OKC is health — Kevin Durant’s surgically-repaired foot was clearly bothering him Thursday night. The West remains loaded and to count out Golden State, Memphis, San Antonio, or a few other teams is a mistake. But right now, I’d bet on OKC.

2) Tim Duncan can still dunk. Watch out Zach LaVine, the Big Fundamental is coming for you. First he did this on DeAndre Jordan (more on him later):

Then later in the game Duncan (who had 30 points on 12-of-14 shooting) did this:

3) Sam Hinkie likes to blow things up. I’ve been in the corner of the Sixers’ GM through all of this rebuild that has become the poster child for tanking — for the Sixers to become elite the core needs to be built through the draft. I’ve said we need to wait until 2018 to truly judge this plan. And I still believe those things — but I don’t get today’s moves. These Sixers were starting to develop an identity. They were playing good defense, and while the offense lacked shooting you could envision them becoming dangerous with Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and some more picks coming over the next couple years. So Hinkie blew it up. I could live with trading Michael Carter-Williams for the Lakers first round pick that belonged to the Suns (top five protected this year, top three next year; the Lakers stink that should be a very high pick). But I don’t get trading K.J. McDaniels just because they have to pay him some this summer — now the Sixers are going to pay JaVale McGee instead, because they took him on to get a pick. At some point all the assets need to become players and you started to see that in Philly, but the team was blown up again. It’s time to build something. But I’ll reserve total judgement for a few more years.

4) Portland quietly had a big day Thursday. With the frenzy of trades at the deadline there was a lot of buzz about how the Thunder got better, how the Sixers got worse, and what the Suns were doing (Brett Pollakoff of PBT liked their moves, I’m not a fan). Lost in all that — Portland had a fantastic trade deadline. They are a team with questions at the three and questions about depth, they went out and added Arron Afflalo from the Nuggets. This is a fantastic fit, a sixth man who can knock down the three, is a solid defender and can create his own shot on the wing playing the two or three. Portland’s starting five — Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez — outscores opponents by 9.6 points per 100 possessions, but when the team goes to the bench things go sideways. Afflalo helps change that. Portland just got a lot better.

5) Blake who? DeAndre Jordan finding offensive game at right time. That’s three wins in a row for the Clippers without Blake Griffin, this time Jordan put up 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting plus he had 18 rebounds. He was a force inside from the very start and was the focal point all night because Gregg Popovich went to the “hack-the-DJ” strategy. It worked in the first half when Jordan was 4-of-14 from the line, then in the second half he was 6-of-14 but the Clippers did not surrender their lead. With the Dallas loss to OKC, the Clippers are now the five seed in the West, and while things will change before the end of the season so far they are not slipping down the ladder without Griffin. And DJ is the main reason.

Plus, he did this.

Raptors, comfortable and confident, taking advantage of roster cohesion

Toronto Raptors Media Day

BOSTON – Patrick Patterson – sent to Toronto in last year’s midseason Rudy Gay trade – joined a team searching for an identity. The Raptors had missed the playoffs five straight seasons and were on track to make it a sixth. At that point, just two players had been on the roster longer than a season and a quarter.

There wasn’t necessarily tension, but as Patterson tells it, all these new teammates needed a feeling-out period before becoming comfortable with each other.

As the Raptors won on the court – they went 41-22 after the midseason shakeup and won the Atlantic Division – they became closer off it.

This year, with nearly every key player back, Patterson said locker-room banter comes more naturally. Everyone knows where the lines are, which jokes are in bounds and which aren’t. Players kid each about everyday situations, how people act…

“The shape of someone’s head,” Patterson said.

Wait. Whose head?

“Can’t get into all that,” Patterson said.

That’s OK. These Raptors are candid enough about the significance of returning nearly their entire roster.

“Nothing has changed,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “Our schemes are the same. Our philosophy is the same. Our personnel is the same.”

And their success is the same.

The Raptors, 4-1, sit atop the Eastern Conference, tied with the Bulls and Wizards.

Toronto assuredly won’t keep winning at this clip, but with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas starting again – and Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, Tyler Hansbrough, Chuck Hayes and Landry Fields back in reserve – the Raptors have an early season chemistry few teams can match.

John Salmons, Steve Novak and Nando De Colo are the only Raptors to appear in last year’s playoffs who aren’t back this year, and they ranked eighth, 12th and 13th on the team in postseason playing time. In all, Toronto returns 94 percent of its playoff minutes – second only to the NBA-champion Spurs, whose only departure (Damion James) never never saw the court in the postseason.


Of course, the Raptors’ goal is not only to get a head start on clicking during the regular season. They want to go deeper in the playoffs than last season, when they fell in the first round.

Again, their familiarity should help.

In the previous five years, four teams returned five players who started at least 60 games from a team that lost in the first round. All four – the 2011-12 Spurs, 2011-12 76ers, 2010-11 Thunder and 2009-10 Spurs – advanced in the playoffs.

Obviously, there’s a selection bias. Only teams that believe in their starters bring them all back. But that’s the point. Toronto has a good general manager in Masai Ujiri, and he chose to keep this team intact.

Maybe Lowry deserves the most credit. A free agent this summer, he received interest from the Heat and Rockets before re-signing with the Raptors. But after taking care of his team’s top player, Ujiri re-signed Patterson and Vasquez on player-friendly contracts in order to keep the core together.

Ujiri also added outside help by trading for Lou Williams in June. Shortly, after the deal, Williams was contacted about offseason training, a call he figured was coming from the coaching staff.

Instead, it was Toronto’s players reaching out.

Soon, Williams joined a group that included Lowry, DeRozan, Hansbrough, Johnson and Ross in Las Vegas.

“Everybody was just hanging out there, kicking it, getting ready for the season,” Williams said. “So, it really surprised me, the closeness of this group.”

That closeness is paying immediate dividends, though it also comes with pitfalls.

No stat is more telling of the Raptors’ cohesion than their-league best turnover percentage. They cough up the ball on just 9.5 percent of their possessions, a mark TWICE as good as five other teams. Even if that turnover percentage regresses to the mean as the season progresses, Toronto has shown impressive early ball control after ranking 10th in the category last season.


But there’s a downside. Confident in what they can accomplish, the Raptors have dug themselves some early holes. In their last three games, the Raptors have fallen behind the Heat by 10, Thunder by 9 and Celtics by 16 in the first quarter. Still, Toronto rallied to two of those three.

“A lot of our toughness is self-inflicted,” Casey said.

In the end, their familiarity and the confidence it generates have helped more than its harmed.

That was literally true last night in Boston. With the score tied in the final minute against the Celtics, Lowry stole the ball and raced up court. With only a brief glance in his direction, Lowry passed back to DeRozan, who completed an incredible dunk.


“That’s our thing,” DeRozan said. “Whenever we’re on a fastbreak, he knows I’m trailing.”

“I know DeMar is always going to trail me,” Lowry said. “So, I just was hoping he was hurrying up.”

Lowry downplayed of his team’s continuity, saying it’s a new team each season, but his partner on that pivotal play went the other direction.

“It’s everything,” DeRozan said, “because sometimes, that chemistry can beat out a more talented team.”

Barring injury, a lineup change or trade, Toronto will have the same starters in consecutive seasons for just the second time in franchise history.* Everyone expects this is the group Ujiri and Casey will roll with.

Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani led Toronto in starts in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

The Raptors’ chemistry has led to early success, but the real test comes later. For now, a strong start is enough to make them believe.

“Last year, we had some changes during the season, so we tried to put all the pieces together. Now, we have all the pieces together, and we had some players experience – a lot of guys without it – playoff experience,” Valanciunas said. “So, no we can go. We’re ready.”