The Other Side: Oklahoma City Thunder
For one of the few times this season, the Washington Wizards can look on the schedule and scratch off a winnable basketball game. Of course, The Team Formerly Known As The Seattle SuperSonics can also do the same about facing the 4-23 Wizards. It may seem like a meaningless game between two irrelevant team, but the Wizards and the Oklahoma City Thunder (the squad David Stern helped Clay Bennett hijack from lovely Seattle) will actually have something to play for - possibly the most ping pong balls at the NBA draft lottery (It's never too early). Where do you want to play, Blake Griffin?
The Wizards can blame their struggles on the absence of Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood. The Thunder? It has had to go all season without Mouhamed Sene. Not exactly a draw. The Thunder's problems stem from being one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
Both teams are on their second coaches, with Scott Brooks replacing P.J. Carlesimo after the Thunder started the season 1-12. Brooks has been slightly better at 2-15, following a heartbreaking 90-88 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.
The Thunder (3-27) has the NBA's worst record (and nickname, and uniforms) and could possibly go down as the worst team in NBA history. That hasn't kept the locals from being optimistic about the team. The current pace would have them finishing with eight wins - one fewer than the 1972-73 Phildelphia 76ers. Still, the Thunder draws big crowds, remain incredibly competitive and some local rapper was proud enough to create this awesomely humorous rap about the greatness of Oklahoma City and its new NBA team. He calls the Thunder "hotter than Brooke Hogan!" Ohhhh-kay.
Here's what else you need to know about the Not Super Thunder:
1. Kevin Durant Is Much Better
The 2008 Rookie of the Year has a pretty cool Nike commercial getting consistent airplay, which is good for him. Otherwise, Durant would have no exposure whatsoever, playing on an awful team in one of the NBA's smallest markets. Durant currently ranks second in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage, seventh in scoring average and eighth in minutes played.
Durant, the D.C. native, has improved considerably since Scott Brooks replaced P.J. Carlemismo and moved him over to small forward. He's averaging 25.1 points, shooting a slightly better percentage from the field and beyond the three-point line, and - most importantly - hitting the glass more.
Durant is averaging 6.4 rebounds under Brooks, after grabbing just 4.1 per game this season under Carlesimo. He's also had three games with at least 10 rebounds. Durant had just one - one - in the first 93 games of his career. That is incredible who you consider the guy is only ... 6-feet-9!?!
Here's the commercial if you haven't seen it yet:
2. Russell Westbrook - The Next Agent Zero?
While the Wizards decide whether to play Gilbert Arenas this season, but there is another combo guard who was lightly heralded in high school, wears the same jersey number and generating considerable buzz. Westbrook, a former standout from UCLA, is helping to form a promising future trio with Durant and former Georgetown star Jeff Green. He's averaging 13.4 points, 4.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals and recently was inserted into the starting lineup. He scored a career-high 30 points in a loss to Miami on Dec. 6.
Westbrook owns the unique distinction of being the last player selected by the SuperSonics and the first rookie to start for the Thunder. He's also in a competition with fellow rookies Joel Alexander of Milwaukee and Portland's Rudy Fernandez to see who will be the final competitor to join Dwight Howard, Nate Robinson and Rudy Gay for the 2009 Slam Dunk Contest.
3. Help Is On The Way (Possibly)
With the aforementioned injury to Sene sending the season spiraling and the little getting little to no production from the oft-injured Robert Swift and ineffective Johan Petro, the Thunder had to go all the way to Russia to find a center (By the way, why would anybody draft three lousy centers in consecutive drafts?).
The Thunder signed former New Jersey Nets center Nenad Krstic to a three- year, $15.8 million offer sheet on Monday. Krstic, a 7-foot Serbian taken 24th in the 2002 draft, averaged 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in four seasons with the Nets, but he hasn't fully recovered from a knee injury suffered in December 2006 and had a minimal affect on his team in Russia.
The Nets have until Dec. 30 to match the offer sheet, with them focused on saving cap space in 2010, Krstic is most likely Oklahoma City Thunder bound. I hear it's hotter than Brooke Hogan.
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