A great batch of questions in this week’s mailbag.
Thanks to those who asked questions. If you’d like to, feel free to join the discussion next week.
Let’s get right to it.
I’ve asked elsewhere, but no one has had an answer. The last couple of games Perkins is showing up on the bench of away games, but when it’s here at home he’s not anywhere to be seen. There’s gotta be a reason, but for the life of me can’t figure out why, almost like he is disrespecting the fans. Not sure how Nate is doing, but if he’s in town, he should be there too. He adds a lot of life to the bench. Others show up in suits, why not them? Thanks! – Barb C.
There are a few things in play here. Mostly, though, when they haven’t been on the bench, Perkins and Robinson have been in the back getting treatment on their respective injuries. Sitting on the bench during a game is not the best position for Robinson’s knee. Also, I was told that when Perkins first got to town he didn’t have suitable attire as set by the NBA to be on the bench. I wouldn’t consider it a big deal. You had no reason to notice yesterday, but Semih Erden did the exact same thing in Cleveland. He’s injured right now, and as I was walking out just before tip-off I saw him go into the weight room to get some rehab in. I didn’t see Antawn Jamison on the bench either. It’s fairly common throughout the league.
Hello Darnell. I am trying to understand how clinching a playoff spot works. I was looking over the Eastern Conference and I noticed that both Boston and Miami have clinched a playoff spot however Chicago the number 2 team had not. What determines how and when a team clinches? – Thanks Tiffany T.
It’s all a numbers game. A team clinches when none of the bottom seven teams in the conference can catch it even if it loses the remaining games on its schedule. That’s probably what you noticed a few days ago with Chicago versus Miami and Boston. Chicago might have had a better record than Miami, but the Bulls probably had played fewer games at that point and still had the possibility, however unlikely, of losing out and falling out of the postseason if another one of the bottom seven teams hypothetically won out. Until those scenarios no longer exist, teams don’t officially clinch.
Hi Darnell. I love your coverage of the team and the notes on Thunder Rumblings. But, I never ever see any quotes by Russell. Does he not speak to the media? I would think after Saturday night joining that select group of players he would have some words to say. Thanks for any insight, keep up the great work. – William B.
Russell isn’t the best interview. He doesn’t particularly care to talk to the media. He does it begrudgingly mostly. His answers are generally short and not so sweet. Sports journalists try to not print such responses from players and coaches, no matter who they are or what lever they are at. Also, Westbrook is typically the first player out of the locker room after games. And a good amount of the time it’s an either-or equation between talking to Kevin Durant or Westbrook. They almost always finish getting dressed and head for the exit at the same time. All that is why Westbrook is not quoted as much as some others. But it’s not something that is a problem or a knock on Westbrook’s personality. It’s just something you run into. My guess is every team has someone or something similar.
Hey Darnell. What do you think of B.J. Mullens? How is he progressing? I never get to see him play. I’m just curious. – Tyrone S.
You and me both, buddy. No one gets to see Mullens. That’s because he never gets to play. Since he’s played so little this year (and I hardly ever see anything of substance in practice), the only thing I can really judge his development on is the growth he showed last summer and the mostly successful spot minutes he’s seen this season. He’s had a few encouraging stretches this year. But the one that stands out to me the most was all the way back in November (they’ve been few and far between) at Indiana. His post defense on Roy Hibbert actually changed the face of that game. Performances like those suggest Mullens is coming along, but it’s clear he’s still got a long way to go.
I’m so glad someone else has noticed Westbrook’s selfish play. At times it borders on ridiculous. Can this be fixed and can Durant and Westbrook co-exist? Personally, I don’t think they can. – Trevor R.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say Russ and KD can’t co-exist. KD has actually surprised me with how patient he’s been with Westbrook’s penchant to be a ball hog at times. It’s as if Durant wants to be such a good teammate that it’s preventing him from rocking the boat. And so Westbrook keeps doing what he’s doing. But I’ve always said reeling in Westbrook can be detrimental to what makes him successful. He has to be aggressive to be effective. But there is no doubt he can learn to be better at picking his spots. That part can be fixed.
When will the Thunder re-sign Westbrook & Harden? – Chris C.
Westbrook can enter discussions this summer with the Thunder. Harden can start negotiations on a new deal next summer. I don’t expect to not get done.
Hey, just wanted to ask a question. How do I get in touch with Sam Presti? He owes me some tickets! Haha. I went to the ATL/OKC game last Friday and randomly, sitting at the top of my seating section about an hour before tipoff was Sam Presti talking on the phone. I waited a few minutes for him to get off his call and went up and introduced myself. We talked for about 10 minutes and at the end of the conversation I mentioned that the Thunder were 2-0 when I saw them play live in ATL. He then responded by saying that if they won that night he’d buy my tickets next year! They won, now I want my tickets! Just kidding. But seriously, he was a great guy. After “getting to know him” for 10 minutes I definitely like the fact that he runs my favorite NBA organization. He’s a smart, down to earth, nice guy. I think he was shocked to be recognized in ATL too. Anyways, just wanted to share that. – Daniel R.
Don’t give up so easily. Fight for your tickets, man. Flood somebody’s email at Thunder headquarters. Get what’s yours! Seriously, Presti has done a great job in the shaping of this roster and in creating a certain culture for this team. I remember sitting at a bar in OKC talking to a few holdover Hornets fans when the Thunder first got to town. They were telling me how impressed they were with former Hornets GM Jeff Bower and were sad to see him go. I told them then that they’d be 10 times more impressed with Presti. Knowing what I know now, I sold him short.
What do you think the chances are that the NBA has a lockout? – Farley.
I don’t know. Say 63.6 percent. It doesn’t sound like the two sides are finding all that much common ground. I think we will see a lockout. But I don’t think it will extend into the regular season. The optimist in me believes they’ll iron out a deal in time to have a full season.
James Harden is really thriving in the role of the third scorer. Have you seen a difference in his body language and demeanor since Green was traded? – Nax.
Not really. He seems to be the same now in terms of body language and demeanor as he was before Green left. On the court, though, it’s been a 180. He’s playing with a ton of confidence now that he’s gotten the green light that he was never really given in the past. It’s made a huge difference in his production.
What is the Thunder’s biggest strength at this point going forward in their style of play? – Kev.
Defense leading to offense. The Thunder has been scoring a ton of points off turnovers lately, and the team’s transition game is next to unstoppable with the horses it can trot out. When the Thunder turns stops into scores, the offensive production is incredibly strong and efficient. It also covers up a good amount of the weaknesses or flaws this team has. With Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed both in the mix for the final 15 or so games, I’d expect that area to get even better.
If the NFL has a lock out, what player would you like to see join the Thunder’s roster? – Kev.
Great question. I’m staying away from any of those guys who never played basketball but swear they could have played in the NBA. Chances are they couldn’t. So I’m going to go with a guy who has proven he had skills. Julius Peppers. He was recruited by Mike Krzyzewski at Duke before walking on at UNC. I’d sign him and stick him at power forward in a heartbeat. This team always misses out on the best undersized 4s. DeJuan Blair. Carl Landry. Paul Millsap. Glen Davis. I want an undersized 4. Give me my undersized 4! Peppers is tough as nails. He’d be an animal on the glass and would set some mean picks for KD and Westbrook. Now imagine a frontcourt of Perkins and Peppers.