Thursday, January 22, 2015

Clouds Are Darkening

As a complete and total amateur writer, it has become increasingly, even glaringly, clear over the past week how hard it can be to write about sports.  From the "Good Execution" interview, to the previous blog entry by some guy about sounding the red alert...I've concluded that sports writing must not be for the faint of heart.  Like Russell's comments after the Golden State game, to Berry Tramel's, and most of the media's response to the Westbrook grizzly grumpiness, the dirty laundry must be put into the wash weekly, and declared done and over.  

Because, in sports, and I'm stealing this haphazard quote... "Sports remains the final frontier of true reality television".  After kickoff, tipoff, drop of the puck, or first pitch, you have no idea what's going to happen.  We can speculate, which we fact, resulting in millions of dollars spent and made each week on our hunger for speculation and by those that have a knack, or talent for predicting what may or may not happen in a particular game.  

So with my best thick-skinned "fake it till you make it" smiling face, I'm here to follow up my last blog entry, where the house was burning down, and I sorta felt like I wanted to see Sam Presti mowing my yard while I sipped on a beer telling him how to run his organization.  I don't think I was necessarily wrong, but will definitely admit to becoming increasingly worried that we had put too much flour into the cake, or forgot the eggs, or the sugar...which they say would be a scone, but why in the world would anyone have a scone when you could have cake?  Yeah, me neither...

In the past week...while you were sleeping, working and doing various and sundry's what happened:

The Springtime Storms are brewing.

- KD and RW became the only two players in the NBA this season to go back to back games with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists.  Russell did it last week, and Kevin has done it this week.  

- That's not this year, that's this season.  

- This is why they are called the dynamic duo.  There are only two players to accomplish that feat in the NBA this year, and they happen to play beside each other.  Bam.

This part may be harder to explain, so grab some coffee, or beer, or a lot of beer...even maybe a whiskey.

The role players are doing exactly what they are supposed to do.

To make this simpler (for me, and less work for me mind you) I'm just going to use the total +/- stat for each game...which represents the net scoring affect in the game while that player was on court.  This is not a tell all stat, but can show the general impact a particular player had on the game.

- Dion Waiters:  GS (+18), OR(+20), MI(-9), Was(-9)

- Reggie Jackson:  GS (+12), OR(+17), MI(+20), Was(+2)

- Anthony Morrow GS (+5), OR(+19), MI(-1), Was(+5)

- Kendrick Perkins GS (+2), OR(+23), MI(+8), Was(+8)

Cutting to the chase...

Where Dion Waiters dropped off, Reggie Jackson picked up.  Waiters has shown his potential impact, and the honeymoon period starts to we see where he can grow into the organization and lineup.  In particular, the rumors of his dead or non-existent defense appear to be just that...he's provided strong D thus far. 

Reggie Jackson, rumored to have packed his bags several times and shipped his XBox to various locations doing exactly what we've seen him do in previous years.  When we've needed him the most, he has come through.  I have noticed in the media, as well as personally, that the past few games, he appears to be back in sync, which we all welcome.

Anthony Morrow remains my favorite pickup from the off season.  Waiters keeps trying to woo me, but watching Morrow on the court, I get the same feel as Derek Fisher and Caron Butler...I'm not an All-Star, but I bust my ass, and I'll find a way in each and every game to help my team.  I really like his consistency at not hurting the Thunder.  I'm also very glad he hasn't flashed into the limelight this season, but rather slowly built credibility hitting the shots we all wanted Daequan Cook, Kevin Martin, and Thabo to hit over the past few years...we know as the 3rd-4th option they're gonna rain some awful 3-balls.  Morrow, however, appears to be keeping consistent with his stats from last year, and slowly arriving at knowing when its his time to come up big...whether its a cutting catch and score 2, or taking the 3 off the pass.  

I put Kendrick Perkins in here just to show his output doesn't indicate his impact on the game.  Reduced minutes, and a different role, but Big Dog comes in and has a positive impact on the game.  What's been missing the past couple of years are the flash games...look at Orlando.  Yes, we blew them out, but in the process, not the trash minutes, Perk kept the scoring machine going by dropping in 10...which kept all the other scoring elements in motion.  They double/tripled in desparation and Perk makes a nifty move one on one, or grabs a quick open dunk and the defense remains disoriented for another few series.  Perk's in a contract year and it shows...he's worth keeping around.  The Miami game was close, so the +/- stats of everyone were pretty low.  Perk stood out at +8, because he knows Miami, and how to play D.

The chemistry I was so concerned about, appears to be coming together.  I was very impressed with two things I saw last night:  

1. Ball movement within an offense at various times.

2. This one got me...  it looks like the old stand-around pick and let KD or Russ do their thing...but in reality it's a motion oriented offense where KD picks for Russ coming up from the baseline.  Leaves the free-ing pick for KD open on wing, KD gets a clean pick on Russ's guy, then pops or rolls.  This gave both KD and Russ several options for attacking the resulting open space  (as opposed to forcing something)...and they drove...they each other...and to the wings and inside big men.  When I saw this in the 4th quarter, my first thought in OT was "We gotta be tired and on fumes", but then quickly changed to, "They aren't going to be able to stop that...I'm not sure anyone will be able to stop that".

That's new.  

That's offense.

And it appears to be getting on a roll.

They could catch an early exit in Atlanta, and detour straight back to Struggles-ville, but it appears that the defensive forces are stiffening, transition buckets are coming and offensive sets are creating motion and opportunity.  Assists are up, Turnovers will always be up (but they are down just a tad)...and the Thunder look ready to roll.


  1. Nicely written I like it.. but one piece of criticism.. you missed a perfect opportunity to say "eat". When you called Perk "the big dog" I had a moment of joy when I was expecting to eat after calling him the big dog.. my momentum drained, but I quickly recovered to finish the post and enjoy it!

    1. Perfect feedback! Didn't occur to me, how'd I miss that!?