By Mark Rodgers
Bummer. No more NBA in OKC for six months. And what a previous six months’ journey it has been. While we were lost in the glory of the early college football season, KD’s foot fractured, Reggie Jackson fractured the team’s chemistry and a once promising bench produced less offense than a third rate sumo match. It pains to even recall the past season. Ive been spoiled damn it! I want basketball in June. And here’s how to get it.
Defense – OKC will play better defense. Andre Roberson can rebound. He can also stay in front of players on the perimeter. Roberson’s late season absence and the lack of Serge Ibaka’s tremendous rim protection killed the Thunder in the spring. But, returning firepower is not enough. Sam Presti’s trade deadline magic re-made Big Blue into an offensive force. In the process, he sacrificed much semblance of defense. Former Thunder assistant Ron Adams teamed up with Steve Kerr this season in Golden State and transformed the Warriors from scoreboard show stoppers into title contenders. OKC won’t get Adams back, but they need someone like him. And they need it desperately. No matter how much it’s talked about by coaching and management, the Thunder don’t have the proper defensive mind set. Good news is the Thunder do have a very young and very athletic team. They also have players that gamble far too often, daydreamers when not guarding the ball and a “Ned in the First reader” approach to critical pick and roll defense. Someone help Scott Brooks and Sam Presti please. Offense is the more difficult part of the basketball. And the Thunder have top notch offensive assassins that don’t buy into defensive fundamentals. It has to change.
Makers and Missers – Identifying the players who should be taking shots is a critical element of basketball. Russell Westbrook? Shoot all you want….Well, maybe that needs a closer look. Westbrook can’t be guarded. His dribble penetration results in layups, free throws and open teammates. His three-point shot? Mostly bricks. Durant definitely falls into the shoot all you want category. His offensive game has no weakness. The Thunder must transform back into a team where Westbrook facilitates and doesn’t look for volume shooting. Find Durant. Use Enes Kanter to begin the game with a low post presence. Ball goes in. Defense collapses. Ball goes out to open shooters. Everyone wins. Ibaka rebounds. Roberson passes and defends. It’s gold, Jerry! Gold. Now to the missers. The worst thing an effective offense can have is a ball stopper. Reggie Jackson was a ball stopper. He dribbled and dribbled ignored teammates as if they were ghosts. At least Jackson sometimes dribbled toward the rim where good things happened. Exit Reggie Jackson, enter Dion Waiters and multiply the ball stopping. Sam Presti loves Waiters fourth overall potential. That love affair seems to mask what critics see as a guy who has fallen in love with one of the most difficult and imprudent shots known to man-kind, the fall-away jumper. Unlike Jackson, good things don’t happen when Waiters goes to the rim, if he remains to come off the bench, watch the production fall once again from that unit. Trade anyone?
That’s all for now. Next time I’ll look at who is under utilized and over utilized on the OKC roster.