NBA Regular Season 2013-2014, Game 1:
Oklahoma City Thunder (0-0) @ Utah Jazz (0-0)
Behind Enemy Lines (MyLo) / Welcome to Loud City (SB Nation Blog) / Thunder vs Jazz coverage
Talking Thunder with WTLC blogger J.A. Sherman (@WTLC):
It's not everyday we get to talk to the main man of another blog, but we got a chance today, and the questions we posed one another show that our teams are going in different directions. This was fun, and I hope you enjoy it!
1) Russell Westbrook is out, and you've probably guessed what this question is going to be about . . . so . . . for formalities sake, is this something to worry about, so early in the season?
Westbrook's return and the state of his condition is going to dominate OKC for the next 3 months. One week we are surprised to hear that he's having his knee scoped to reduce swelling, which should delay things until the end of the year, and a few weeks later we're hearing that he's weeks ahead of schedule and mid-November is the goal. I try to take the conservative approach and assume that he's gone until 2014 and then analyze how the team will do that way.
In the mean time, OKC has a worthy backup filling in his place by the name of Reggie Jackson. Jackson's game may look a bit different than Westbrook's because he's a bit more methodical and selective, but for both men they seek to either finish at the rim or pull up for free throw line jumpers. Jackson is a bit more exploitable at this point because he's only been a starter for 9 games, so he's only had a small sampling of what other teams can do against him. Utah may have a chance to exploit this.
2) Steven Adams is an awesome guy that many Jazz fans were interested in. He was fun to talk to at the NBA Draft Combine and at the NBA draft. The question I have not figured out yet is his upside, is he the taller version of Nick Collison, or potentially much better?
Nick Collison is a great model for all young players, big men or otherwise. This is so because Collison understands his place as a role player and that he must always be doing a core of certain things well like screening and rebounding if he wants to see time on the court. Adams needs to take the same approach - just focus on things like setting good screens for Durant, rebound the ball, and work along side one of the best shot blockers in the game.
Collison is also a cerebral player who understands how to think through the game, and by every look I've seen, Adams is the same way. This will help him get better as the year goes on as he is able to learn from his mistakes and adapt. I have no idea either what Adams' upside is, but given what we've seen so far, it could be considerable. Plus, he has an awesome accent and a great sense of humor.
3) Kendrick Perkins or Jeff Green . . . at the time trading a lotto pick in his rookie contract for the starting center from a defensive minded club that just won the NBA title seemed like such a steal. Have you re-evaluated this trade since that time? What did you find, and would you do it again?
I personally have not looked back on it, and very few Thunder fans who have charted the course of the team have either. The reason why is because in that final season for Green in OKC, it was very apparent that the system they were pursuing was not going to work. When I think back to that 2010-11 team, they were very good offensively but they had no defensive backbone and had to struggle to beat lesser teams. Part of the reason why I think is because it was redundant to have Green and Durant on the court with Green playing at the PF spot, which he is not suited for.
When the trade happened, it wasn't just about getting a good positional player in Perkins, it was also about opening up opportunities for both James Harden and Serge Ibaka. Ibaka moved into the starting PF spot and Harden became the de facto leader of the 2nd unit. Everything suddenly made sense, and the team took off, flying all the way to the WCF.
To wonder if the trade had never happened, I don't just think about not having to deal with Perkins' breaking down body or his upholstered contract, but also that Harden never would have evolved into arguably the best 2-guard in the league and Ibaka might still be a bench player instead of one of the top 3 defenders. Perkins can be tough to stomach at times, but he was a necessary part of the team's identity and I'd never undo the positive evolution the team experienced.
Thanks again to J.A. Sherman for sitting down with our blog, and be sure to check out BLOG. Expect my answers to his awesome questions to be found there : ) [EDIT: HERE ARE MY ANSWERS!]