Tag Archives: Oklahoma City Thunder

Thunder youth movement

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. With yesterday’s Serge Ibaka contract extension, the Oklahoma City Thunder youth movement continues.

By Josh Kramer

Most of the attention regarding the Western Conference this off-season has been focused on the newly revamped Los Angeles Lakers.  Rightfully so.  In adding two-time MVP Steve Nash and the best center in the NBA, it appears Kobe has the pieces in place to nab #6.  But who won the Western Conference championship last year though?  Who went to the Western Conference finals the year before? Oh yeah, that team out of Oklahoma City.  With yesterday’s four-year contract extension of 22-year-old swat team captain Serge Ibaka, the youth movement continues on in OKC.

In this day and age defined by free agency, blockbuster deals, and unhappy players, core groups rarely stay together for an extended period of time.  Oklahoma City is looking to defy the odds and build a dynasty out of a group of guys that they drafted, molded, and groomed. Continue reading

Thunder Class

Photo courtesy of caller.com. Kevin Durant (pictured left) and LeBron James (pictured right) shared a heartfelt moment following the final buzzer of Game 5 on Thursday night.

By Josh Kramer

Winning with dignity is sometimes a difficult chore.  But losing with class is far more difficult.  When ones gives 110%, putting their whole heart and soul into accomplishing a goal and then comes up short, facing the music can be tough.  OKC faced the music with flying colors.  Patience is a virtue.  You can count on OKC making more finals appearances over the next five years with this young and talented group.  That is not the topic at hand today though.

Kevin Durant led by example demonstrating class throughout the course of this very difficult five-game series.  At the end of Game 2, he was clearly fouled when attempting a game-tying shot.  Durant did not flinch when dealing with post game questions.  Durant simply said, “I missed the shot, man.”  On Thursday evening, Mike Miller provided the icing on LeBron’s triple-double cake finally helping the King claim his ring.

Towards the end of the game, Scott Brooks made a very heartfelt speech to his team.  Brooks said, “We’re going to treat them like they’re the champions. After the game we are going to walk and shake their hands and acknowledge all of them. They beat us fair and square. However hard that hurts, they still beat us fair and square.”

Brooks’ team fully complied with his message and a very heartfelt embrace between James and Durant was seen by millions of people across the country. Continue reading

A Ringless King No More: LeBron James is a Champion

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. The King (pictured above) finally has his ring.

By Wesley Kaminsky

You didn’t want to admit it, but you knew LeBron James would be holding up the Larry O’Brien trophy one day. In fact, you had to know it was coming pretty soon.

It took him nine seasons, two NBA finals losses, two eastern conference finals losses, and three MVP’s, but James has finally reached his goal. A long, overdue goal. A weight off the chest of the guy who guaranteed he would bring multiple titles to Miami.

We all know the story of LeBron, and why there is now this cult as to why it is appropriate to root for him to fail. Believe me, I’m one of those guys. I could write all day about how I feel about the infamous “Decision,” in which LeBron became the most hated athlete in pro sports. I’m not getting into that today.

It’s time to appreciate his greatness. Did I just say that out loud?

After falling just short of winning a championship his first year in Miami, all the pressure was on James in the upcoming season. The Heat had just fallen to the Mavericks, dropping three straight games after leading 2-1, and the blame was all on LeBron. Rightfully so. It was LeBron who shied away from the spotlight in the fourth quarter of many of the games. It was LeBron who didn’t look like he wanted to be there. His poor finals performance fueled his haters and it validated all the criticism that he had been receiving throughout his career. Stuff like, “LeBron doesn’t have that killer attitude.”

Blah, blah, blah.

What you didn’t realize was that it fueled LeBron, and a monster was created. Continue reading

Weekly Nickel 6-18-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Wimbledon is just a week away. Will Roger Federer (pictured above) capture his 7th title at the All England Club this year?

By Josh Kramer

Great golf, basketball, and baseball defined yesterday’s Father’s Day.  I hope you all enjoyed.  Last week started out with a bang when Rafael Nadal captured his record 7th French Open title and the week continued to pick up steam.  Last week was great, but this week will be fun its own right.  Here are the events to keep an eye on.

5.  The Dale Earnhardt Jr. winless streak finally ends after 143 races. Next stop Sonoma.  The NASCAR Sprint for the Cup continues next Sunday at Infineon Raceway as Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Biffle, Hamlin, and Johnson all fight for that number one spot.  There is still plenty of season left, but the competition continues to heat up.

4.  Tommy Haas may be old, but he isn’t dead yet.  Yesterday, at the ripe age of 34, he knocked off Roger Federer in the finals of the Gerry Weber Open.  The most prestigious tournament of them all is just a week away.  Will Novak Djokovic defend his title at the All England Club?  Or could Roger Federer capture his 7th championship at Wimbledon and his 17th Grand Slam title?  Can Andy Murray finally breakthrough at a major in front of his crazed-fan base?  A tune-up is occurring in Eastbourne.  Get ready for the best tournament in all of tennis.  It is just around the corner. Continue reading

Food for Thought 6-12-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. It is finally time for LeBron James (pictured above) to win his first ring.

By Josh Kramer

Mark it down.  The third time will be the charm for the King.  Call this the championship of threes.  It is LeBron’s third appearance in the NBA Finals.  James is coming off of his third MVP award.  While Kevin Durant is coming off his third consecutive scoring title.  Each team is led by an outstanding “Big Three.” Plus the pressure seems to be three times what it was in the conference finals on the King.  As much as I and the rest of the world hate to admit it, it is time for LeBron to acquire a ring.  Oklahoma City is a great team.  They have proved that since December.  The Thunder are young, exciting, and have outstanding overall team chemistry.  But Miami won’t be denied this time.  Besides, if OKC somehow pulls off the impossible, there may be a nuclear like explosion in South Beach.

On paper, this matchup is about as even as it gets.  That is why I have been calling it a dream matchup for months now. Both teams finished second in their respective conference.  The Heat won 46 games and had an average scoring margin of six points per game.  OKC won 47 games and won by an average of 6.1 points per game.  Both teams are led by an outstanding “Big Three.”  And they split in their regular season battles.  It is safe to say that on paper, not too much is revealed.

One key in OKC’s favor is the fact that they have home-court advantage.  The Heat were nearly unbeatable at home this year, but showed their fair share of flaws when traveling.  Next, the last time an MVP faced off with an NBA scoring champion in the finals was 1997.  The scoring champ (Jordan) led his team to a victory over the MVP (Malone).  But Miami also played in the NBA finals last year, while OKC did not.  In addition, the Heat did better than the Thunder overall this year when their “Big Three” were healthy.  OKC’s “Big Three” is not quite at the level of Miami’s outstanding trifecta, though they are very close.   The agony of last year’s defeat will be a major driving force for the Heat.  Expectations in Miami are so high, that if the Heat lose, it will be as if they had a worse year than the Charlotte Bobcats did.  If the Thunder are to lose, there will be disappointment, but also a ton of pride in a very successful season.  Losing is not an option for Miami.

Finally, Durant is playing great, but nobody is even on the same stratosphere as LeBron James right now.  The guy is playing like a hybrid of Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, and Magic Johnson.  As his teammates said after Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron has that look in his eyes.  He won’t be denied.  He can’t be denied.  It is time for the King to finally take his seat on the throne. Continue reading

Weekly Nickel 6-11-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Will Rafael Nadal (pictured above) make history today and break Bjorn Borg’s record with a 7th French Open Championship?

By Josh Kramer

Thank you, may I have another?  So I’ll Have another was unable to compete in the Belmont Saturday.  As usual, the race did not disappoint nor did the entire week in sports.  The playoffs are all about the finals now as there are only two teams remaining in both the NBA and NHL playoffs.  Plus the French Open is not quite done yet.  Last week was great, but this one will be good in its own right.  Here are the events to keep an eye on.

5.  Rain, rain, go away.  Or keep the French Open going another day.  Maria Sharapova became the tenth woman to complete the career Grand Slam on Saturday.  Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are all looking to further stamp their imprint on history as the fourth set of the Men’s final continues this morning.  I would highly recommend waking up and checking this out now on NBC. Continue reading

Food for Thought 6-5-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. The two best bench players in the NBA put on quite a show last night. James Harden (left) hit the big shot in the end though to help the Thunder go up 3 to 2 in the Western Conference Finals

By Josh Kramer

We could quite possibly be watching history in the making in regards to NBA Playoff basketball.  94% of teams that have gone up 2 to 0 in best-of-seven NBA series have gone on to take the series.  Only 14 teams in NBA history have ever climbed out of a 2 to 0 hole to win a best-of-seven game series.  Both conference finals series began with the higher seed taking a 2 to 0 lead.  Things appeared to be over.  Then both lower seeded teams miraculously defended their home floors (and OKC won one on the road last night).

Can Boston and/or Oklahoma City pull off the unthinkable?  Oklahoma City can.  Yes, I am going to keep doubting San Antonio.  I wouldn’t count on it from Boston.  The Thunder have been the team to watch out West all year.  Despite a very slow start in the conference finals, their bigs (Ibaka namely) awoke in Game 4 and James Harden hit the shot of the year in Game 5.  Remember, Westbrook and Harden combined for a mere 18 points on Saturday.  OKC still won.  Last night, the OKC bigs, Ibaka and Perkins combined for just 13 points.  OKC still won.  The Thunder will knock off the Spurs and become team number 15 to climb out of a 2 to 0 hole. Continue reading

Weekly Nickel 6-4-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Curtis Granderson (left) and Derek Jeter (right) are two of the main reasons why the New York Yankees are right in the thick of things in the AL East as usual.

By Josh Kramer

Can you say playoffs?  The past month and a half has been defined by playoff action.  Last week though, Grand Slam tennis in Paris was added to the slate.  Not to mention Tiger Woods tied Jack Nicklaus with PGA victory number 73.  I thoroughly enjoyed last week, but this week will be even better as we delve deeper into the playoffs and action at Roland Garros.  Here are the events to keep an eye on.

5.  A 20-minute long red flag at Dover on Sunday.  12 cars were involved in the massive collision that occurred on the exit of Turn 2.  Hopefully next Sunday will be a little less eventful at Pocono Raceway as Jimmie Johnson looks to jump Greg Biffle atop the Sprint Cup Series.

4.  It took 8,020 and games and 134 pitches from Johan Santana.  But the Mets finally have a no-hitter.  Both Roy Oswalt and Dustin Pedroia are making two very different types of comebacks.  And after a stellar career in which he posted a career .309 batting average, Magglio Ordonez is officially hanging up the spikes.  Also what is the deal in the East?  All teams are within striking distance in both the AL and NL East, with no team trailing first place by more than 3.5 games.  The matchup of the week will take place in the Bronx.

Tampa Bay Rays vs New York Yankees:  Every team in the AL East is very much in contention at the moment.  Amazingly, all five teams have a positive run differential.  The AL Central currently only has one team with a positive run differential (Cleveland).  But let’s be entirely honest.  Does anyone truly think the Orioles or Blue Jays will be in contention come October?  The AL East has been a three-team race for years now and will continue to stay that way into the foreseeable future.  The Yankees and Rays happen to be two of those three teams in contention each and every year.

As is typically the case in New York, the Bronx Bombers have been dropping bombs all year long, leading the American League in home runs.  Tampa Bay on the other hand has won in a much different fashion, relying heavily on their very talented pitching staff.  David Price and Jeremy Hellickson have both been stifling the opposition since the beginning of April.  For the Yankees, the Captain (Derek Jeter), who actually just celebrated the ten-year anniversary of becoming the Yankees captain yesterday, has turned into a modern-day version of Ponce de Leon, discovering the baseball fountain of youth.  Also, Curtis Granderson’s insane power has been another key to New York’s success.  The Rays swept the Yankees to open the season back in early April.  New York returned the favor by taking two of three at the beginning of May.  Look for Tampa to turn the tables yet again taking two of three, with Hellickson and Price starting two of the games. Continue reading

The importance of Chris Bosh

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. At times, Chris Bosh (pictured above) gets lost in the shuffle on Miami’s loaded roster. People are beginning to realize his importance as Miami struggles to survive in the East without the third member of their “Big Three.”

By Andrew Wittry

From the start of the NBA season, the Miami Heat have been the Eastern Conference favorites.  After Chris Bosh’s abdominal strain sidelined him in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals things began to change. Then falling behind 2-1 in the series, the Heat were thrown into a must-win scenario in Game 4. It was the first time all season that Erik Spoelstra’s squad had been in danger of being eliminated by a non-elite team (any team outside of the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs). Their one-game deficit also marked the widespread realization of how important Chris Bosh is to the Heat.  Bosh often gets discounted when it comes to Miami’s “Big Three.” Wade is the long-time hero of Miami who brought a championship to South Beach. LeBron is the four-time MVP who puts the Heat on his back night in and night out. And what is Chris Bosh? In reality, he is an All-Star level talent who has 20 ppg and 10 rpg potential; however, the former Georgia Tech forward is the third scoring option in Miami and does not get the credit he deserves for the role he plays alongside D-Wade and LeBron.

It was not until Chris Bosh had to miss the rest of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals that fans began to understand just how integral he was to the Heat’s success. Without Bosh, the Heat have the dynamic tandem of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, aging forwards, and inconsistent shooters. With Bosh on the floor, defenses have to pay attention to both Miami’s guards and forwards. However, if Joel Anthony is involved in a pick-and-roll offense, defenders can concentrate on James and Wade since Anthony is not a major scoring threat. Even if the Heat are Dwyane Wade’s team, Chris Bosh is a more important player. Without Wade this year in the regular season, Miami went 7-1.  Without Bosh, they were 4-5. Continue reading

Food for Thought 5-29-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Manu Ginobli (pictured above) stole the show in Game 1. Will OKC slow down the streaking Spurs tonight?

By Josh Kramer

Continue to doubt the Spurs.  I know that I have.  19 victories in a row is no fluke.  Not to mention that nine of them have occurred during playoff basketball.  Through three quarters on Sunday night, it looked as if the Thunder were on their way to making a major statement, and negating San Antonio’s home-court advantage.  Instead, San Antonio came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth court, denying OKC a major opportunity.  Sunday was as prime example of why no game is every over until the final horn sounds.  Now history is against the Thunder who lost in the conference finals last year as well.

First of all, winners of Game 1 in the conference finals have gone on to win the series 80% of the time.  Secondly, San Antonio became the fourth team in NBA history to start the playoffs with nine straight victories.  All of the previous three advanced to the NBA finals with two taking home the championship.  Thirdly, the Thunder outplayed the Spurs for well over three/fourths of the game and still lost.  Scott Brooks has to be scratching his head still as to what happened late Sunday night.

Manu Ginobli was the difference maker as he has been for the better part of a decade now.  How many players can come off the bench and influence a playoff basketball game the way he can?  Not many, though James Harden, OKC’s bench star, can really play.  Also, OKC has to find a way to get some point production out of their bigs.  The Spurs cleaned up in the paint, outscoring the Thunder 50 to 26.

Despite all of my rambling, I still like the Thunder to take this series in the end.  There is something about this young and exciting group out of OKC that has really caught my eye.  The “Big Three” of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden will not be denied two years in a row.  They are far too good and determined to let that happen.  Look for an inspired effort tonight from Russell Westbrook after a less than stellar Game 1 performance.  The majority of the country wants a Thunder versus Heat finals matchup.  With a victory tonight, the Thunder will really increase the likelihood of this dream matchup coming to fruition. Continue reading