The Other Side: Oklahoma City Thunder


I'll be home for Christmas, sort of. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)


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.

By Michael Lee |  December 27, 2008; 10:43 AM ET
Previous: Cavaliers 93, Wizards 89 | Next: Wizards and Thunder, Butler out (ankle)

Comments

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Earth to Wiz management:

The losing streak is irrelevant. Play:

Crit, Young, Mac, Dray and the Human Hanger for 30-35 minutes

Posted by: Izman | December 27, 2008 10:59 AM

By the way, speaking of not being able to develop young talent... Does anybody remember back when the Charlotte Hornets was a young NBA franchise and I think it was Dave Cowens who was the Coach? Cowens was a coach that did not want to waste time developing rookies and he made it known. So the Charlotte organization either had the number one pick, or picked Kolby Bryant with their 1st round pick, but in any event Kolby ended up as a Laker. Don't even remember what Charlotte got for Kolby in the deal.

Dave Cowens if I have the name right did not last long as an NBA coach.

Point being, coaches who refuse, don't know how, or will not play and develop or take a chance on young talent do not deserve to coach in this league. There is no reason not to develop and play your young prospects, especially given the current predicament of the Wizards.

Ernie Grunfield, you should know not to continue this insanity with Tapscott.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 27, 2008 3:56 AM

Ernie, I know you do not want to make NBA history for firing two coaches so close together in a NBA season, but clearly Tapscott is blowing it big.

We need some type of major change now. Not being able to develop your young talent to the benefit of your organization hencforth will be called 'the Dave Cowens syndrome'.

LarryInClintonMD

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 27, 2008 11:40 AM

Do we need some bill from Obama to allow these young guys on the Gizards to get some playing time? Really!! What is the deal? Can common sense take over? I mean come on we're freakin' 4-23!! Play the youngsters! Take the plastic off of the couch! Take the bubble wrap off!! What's up!!! What a bunch of rocket scientists we have over on Fun St. at Gallery Place!!

Posted by: hamptonpirates89 | December 27, 2008 12:54 PM

Everything points to a win against the OKC Thunder. Then the Clipards will be telling everyone that they are back on track, you should go out and buy your tickets to the playoffs! Send ABE your money for the tickets, he will put it in his bank account and collect the interest while you wait and see who they play. Don’t worry he won’t spend it on a free agent.

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | December 27, 2008 2:43 PM

I think that Tapscott was playing the veterans to get them ready for OC because it'll be our only win in a long time. :-(

Posted by: charley42 | December 27, 2008 4:49 PM

Note to Bulletsfan78; Enjoy reading your post on this blog; yes I am tough on "DRAY" and i will continue to be until I see some real upside, I'm here in the ATl. transplanted from DC(born&raised)as most of you know I thought EJ was an excellent coach for this team but when they hired EG as the GM i knew EJ's days were numbered EG never had Jordan's back not for one minute and did everything to undermine EJ's authority.As far as Blatche is concerned what was the first thing we fans heard about Andray; that he was shot hanging out, probably somewhere on the wrong side of town and of course it was late at night,after that what was the next news flash? solicitation of an undercover prostitute WTF? how stupid was that like i said in an earlier post he was either to stupid or too cheap to call an escort service and according to his teamates he lacks the work ethic to be succesfull in this league and he hangs out at "da club" night in night out and yes i have that on good authority, look fellas i been a fan of this team since the day's of the "Pearl" and Wes and "E" maybe i'm too old school but Blatche has the potential to be a excellent player in this league but all i see is a lazy knucklehead who is short on the fundamental's of the game but long on the party at da club!!

Posted by: dargregmag | December 27, 2008 6:16 PM

"Everything points to a win against the OKC Thunder. Then the Clipards will be telling everyone that they are back on track, you should go out and buy your tickets to the playoffs! Send ABE your money for the tickets, he will put it in his bank account and collect the interest while you wait and see who they play. Don’t worry he won’t spend it on a free agent.

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | December 27, 2008 2:43 PM"

---
What the f are you talking about? Should the Wizards have signed Elton Brand last offseason? Seriously, what are you talking about? Are you aware of the salary cap? MOst teams in the NBA have payrolls between $65M and $75M. The Wizards are at $70M. The Knicks have unlimited funds and the Mavericks have Mark Cuban, who is like a big kid. The only teams in markets the size of Washington that spend more than a couple million more than the Wizards is Cleveland, which has to do everything it can to win while Queen James is still a Cav. (Hoopsyhype has Portland way up there, too, but that's because they have them on the hook for Steve Francis's contract, which doesn't seem right to me.)

Anyway, the point of all this is, you're wrong and you're stupid and you're a loudmouth and you blame the owner because you can't wrap your head around the idea that the Wizards are doing awfully because their best player and their defensive anchor went down and the other players lost some of the fire in their bellies because of it.

Let's not forget these are human beings we're talking about here. Unlike you, who are probably just a dog sniffing around a keyboard and accidentally typing.

Posted by: IrenePollin | December 27, 2008 6:21 PM

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