OKC Thunder In the news: Team failures overview and what’s next

Russell Westbrook OKC Thunder (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook OKC Thunder (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder are now 0 for 4. Today’s news roundup will take a balanced look at the team’s failures, and what needs to be done before Sunday’s match against the Phoenix Suns.

Yes, the OKC Thunder have had a rough first four games.

Reminder: In 2017-2018, the team started the season with 8 wins out of 20 (a .400 win percentage) games through November, which I shall dub the Learning to gel period. They followed that up with 14 wins out of 20 games (.700) in the BARDI era – Before Andre Roberson‘s devastating injury. They finished out the second half of the season with a .619 win percentage, and clinched the four seed in the loaded Western Conference.

We are in Learning to gel, people! So let’s investigate the gel; today we’ve got:

All-Stars Westbrook & George get C Pluses

Thunderous Intentions All-Star Tamberlyn Richardson evaluated the key figures in OKC Thunder’s game against Boston, each accompanied with their deserved grades based on performance. Each mark comes with great details on the big picture, showing the failures that can be overturned. Take a look at the Russell Westbrook bit, where he earns a C+:

"Maybe this score seems unfair given Westbrook was two assists shy of a triple-double (13 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists). But, those 13 points came on 5-20 from the field with seven of those 20 attempts coming late in the game.Prior to the Celtics going on a 16-1 run in the final 4:20 of game the lineup of Westbrook, Abrines, Diallo, Patterson and Adams were rolling. Russ assisted on both Abrines 3-pointers which gave OKC a seven point lead with 4:57 remaining. Abrines missed a shot 1:20 seconds later and didn’t get another shot until there was 10.5 seconds remaining."

From this, we see that the bench is deeper this year and the younger guys are more experienced, and we should expect to see Russ showing more trust in his teammates as the season progresses. The full article is a must-read to really understand this team and the obstacles they currently need to overcome.

“Gimmie the panic button baby”

Episode 2 of the OKC Thunder-centric Where The Buffalo Ball podcast has come out, which I highly recommend a listen for anyone who watches the Thunder play. Ben and Trevor, the podcast hosts, essentially say what needs to be said about OKC:

"It’s frustrating to watch because they have the talent to be a…not just a good team they have the talent to be a great team.So if Roberson’s out for the season, what happens?[Sigh] They’re gonna struggle to make the playoffs. They’ll make it I think, but they’ll squeak in."

It’s OK (ha) if we “squeak in”, we just gotta do better in the playoffs, LeBron-in-Cleveland style. As long as great OKC Thunder fans are along for the ride! The guys at Where The Buffalo Ball continue to cover a huge range of OKC Thunder topics each episode, so be sure to tune in to the conversation to get the full True Fan Experience™, through OKC Thunder’s inevitable highs and lows.

In Russ We Trust

Paul George‘s decision to sign with OKC was shocking, but in my humble opinion much more so for non-OKC Thunder fans than those who have watched Westbrook season-after-season, game-after-game.

“The Decision, Paul George edition” has been widely covered, but the latest article from Royce Young of ESPN highlights how key Russ has been to that decision, from so many standpoints. Yes, the friendship. Yes, Russ is seriously athletic. But of course, there’s always more when it comes to the Brodie:

"…He is determined that it be different with George….For Westbrook, who put himself out there for George, his reputation is hanging in the balance: George couldn’t be another star player in his prime leaving because he can’t play with Westbrook…"

And Paul George sees something more:

"But [George] also sees the good that comes from Westbrook’s abrasive behavior.“You’ve got guys in the league that have that — I would say ‘a–hole’ in them that people think Russ has,” George says. “And that’s fine. That’s fine to be an a–hole. You should be an a–hole at some point. The difference is, you’ve got guys that are a–holes that don’t care to be your teammate…He’s a different type of teammate.”"

A lot of the media surrounding Westbrook does not show him in this light, and its refreshing to get these details from a fellow All-Star who helps capture the other side of our enigmatic star.

Rookie Diallo Gets a Nod

Speaking of refreshing and players in OKC, this commentary from Fox Sports Oklahoma analyst Antonio Daniels captures how Hamidou Diallo adds some much-needed optimism in the Thunder narrative despite the team’s overall lows:

"I like Diallo. I really like Diallo…the fearlessness that he plays with…like sometimes the best thing is just to be young and to not care, to not care about consequences. You know what man? I’mma go out there, and I’mma play hard."

This is a stark contrast to what we saw in Terrance Ferguson’s first year, and similarly Domantas Sabonis before that. Diallo just injects energy in his play, something we got from former Thunder Corey Brewer, who started in Andre Roberson’s absence last season. Will this signal a lineup change? That ball is in Coach Billy Donovan‘s court, which brings us to our final piece of news.

Billy D Says Some More Generic Stuff

The OKC Thunder officially released a practice report yesterday, which gave us soundbites into Coach Donovan’s strategy as the team continues to flaunt a zero win percentage.

Though the OKC Thunder has become notoriously bad in three point efficiency, floor spacing and ball movement, Billy D did not address these aspects much in this report (okay, he touched on spacing for a millisecond, I’ll give him that, as well as reacting to opponent scoring).

OKC Thunder digital reporter Nick Gallo recaps what OKC must do going into Sunday’s game for the rest of us, who want to see some improvement in shooting:

"Some three-point makes by Alex Abrines, Patrick Patterson and Jerami Grant could be a precursor of things to come. The core, big-picture principles of the defense, it seems, have been mostly ironed out, with the way the Thunder stifled the Boston Celtics in the first half on Thursday.The crucial area for the Thunder heading into Sunday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns comes down to two of the most basic, fundamental aspects of the game – free throw shooting and fouling."

Petition for all OKC players to wear shoes inscribed with “Move It!” I can see it now, the new PG3s. Inspiring and practical.

Next. Thunder trade: 5 targets who solve OKC’s shooting woes. dark

Welp, that’s a lot of OKC Thunder making the news, I know. Make sure to review these five critical pieces to get up to speed on this under-performing, but always unpredictable team. Enjoy the game tomorrow, Thunder Up!