This man needs no introduction. He's a blog slut. A veteran SLAM blogger, and occasional writer (see, an introduction!): B.Long! *play nice now kiddo*
You down with OKC? Yeah, You know me!
Goodbye, Nirvana. Hello, Toby Keith. With their team being taken away like a bullet from Kurt Cobain it would be unjust not to pay tribute to the city of Seattle and all the TRUE Sonic fans there. You know who you are. To all the people bitching about them leaving but hadn't bought tickets since the Glove was alleying Reignman's oop, It' s like I tell my friends about Dubya. If you didn't vote you don't get to bitch. From a fan's p.o.v. it's hard not to want to junk punch Clay Bennett but from a businessman's p.o.v. the move makes a lot of sense. Its a community who's avg. income is steadily rising and with the Hornets spending time there the market has already been tested. It's still terribly saddening to think that possibly the greatest defensive point guard of all time will never see his jersey raised into the stands in front of the home crowd not to mention Shawn never really getting his proper send off either. Damn shame. But I digress, this is the beginning of a new era.
The Thunder leave behind the birthplace of starbucks and a city with a higher suicide rate than a radical Muslim extremist group and arrive in a rapidly changing area where the amount of luxury spec homes being built is only rivaled by the number of meth addicts scurrying around local truck stops. It's a strange mixture of trailer parks and gated communities. Of uppity GQ readers and Guns and Ammo good ol' boys. They arrive in a city that is looking for a team that they can form their own identity with. Judging by their ticket sells so far, this is maybe exactly what OKC has been looking for.
Now lets get down to basketball. At head coach we have every players best friend, P.J. Carlesimo. P.J. possibly gets a worse rap than deserved due to that whole 'player choking the shit out of him' thing and had to have picked up some idea of how to build a winning team during his time assisting Pops with the Spurs. We'll give him a mulligan for last years record because of the immense distractions due to the relocation buisness. It would have been hard for last years team to have performed better anyways considering their youth and inexperience in an absolutely brutal Western Conference. But be assured though that in an extremely competitive environment like Oklahoma(Just look at the pressure put on their college programs) that if Coach Carlesimo doesn't show improvement over the next couple of seasons and get this team at least competing for a playoff spot by year three he'll be driven out of town with shotguns and torches.
Playing the superstar in-the-making role we have none other than Kevin Durant, making his unexpected return to Big Twelve country. K.D. had a solid rookie season last year. He struggled a little during the first half but really seemed to find his groove during the last part of the season averaging 23 points from March until the end of the year. Although I'm sure P.J. would've liked Kevin to add a few more pounds to his Kiera Knightley-like frame although he does look slightly bigger this season and every little bit will help him carry the burden of double teams almost nightly. Expect a early twenties Tracy McGrady-like season from KD this year.
On a surprise draft move, The Thunder selected Russell Westbrook with their first pick. While Russell is extremely athletic and has tons of upside he comes out of UCLA very raw and maybe not quite as NBA ready as some of the other guards that he was drafted ahead of. The good news for him is that this team does plenty of veterans who will surely be able to help speed up the maturation process in Earl Watson and Damien Wilkins as well as new additions Joe Smith, and Desmond Mason.
Earl, also a product of UCLA, will more than likely start over Russell initially and provide a knowledgeable brain for him to pick through out the season. Joe Smith is another seen-it-all who will play a good 25 min. a night of decent defense, rebounding, and a mid range jumper every now and then. Desmond Mason will look to establish himself again after coming back from injuries and coaches deciding that providing one nasty dunk a week doesn't warrant starters minutes. Damien Wilkins will also compete for mins. with his erratic play. For a guy with his skill set you'd expect him to have avg. more than 11 points a game last year.
The wild cards on this team will be Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, and Robert Swift. Jeff Green flew way under the radar last season. While KD was getting all the attention, Jeff was putting together a more than decent rookie campaign with averages of 10.5 pts. and 4.7 rebs. in less than 30 mins. a night. If the last game of the season when he dropped 27 and 10 on the Warriors is any indication he looks like he's ready to have an even bigger impact this season. Robert Swift was drafted 12th overall in 2004 and looked like he was on the verge of becoming a factor on this team last year before his season was ended yet again with another injury. With P.J. already questioning Robert's toughness in training camp this year it's already looking like Robert has a long way to go on his mission to prove that all ginger kids aren't fragile creatures who should stay away from contact sports. Chris Wilcox is probably the wildest wild card of all. After avg. career highs 14 and 7 last year if he can somehow stretch those numbers to 18 and 10 he could possible get that huge contract he so desperately covets next summer. Lets just hope its not all just the 'Eric Dampier' effect, for OKC's sake.Any contributions from Nick (I was only good at Kansas) Collison, rookie D.J. White, or the endless herd of project centers that Seattle has acquired over the last few years will be gravy. The good news for this team is that they're definitely more experienced and more talented than they were last year. The bad news is that they didn't move far enough east to change conferences. My fearless prediction for this team would put their record at 27-55, a slight improvement over last years 22-60 record. My predictions for this franchise's future in OKC is much more optimistic. K.D.'s combination of uncanny natural scoring ability on the court and that 'aw shucks' humbleness off it will be sure to keep butts in the seats and sell plenty of those hideous Thunder jerseys for years to come. R.I.P. Slick Watts. Time to let the Thunder roll.