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Monday Morning Mailbag

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 5:57 pm •  Published: March 28, 2011

Same ol’ computer issues from Sunday night.

So let’s get right to it.

Have you talked/discussed with any of the players on what their plans would be in case of a lockout? — Daniel R.

Daniel, Not really. Kevin Durant jokingly told a reporter during All-Star Weekend that he would take up painting. Earlier that morning, he had just painted a home for the first time as part of a community appearance. I’m sure you’ll see several player-related stories as the season comes to a close and the summer/(potential)lockout wears on about where they are and what they’re doing with their spare time.

I would like to ask you 2 questions  about the Thunder players: Why is it that every time a Thunder player at the free throw line finishes his first (shot) Ibaka almost always gets the ball and “Sniffs or Kisses” the ball? Was that a habit by him? Why is it that at the beginning of the game, most of the teams’ players walk to the middle of the long media sport announcers & game officials table & ”Sweep” their shoes on the floor or on a piece of floor mat or something? Game rule? Nothing serious, just wanted to learn and find out why. — David N.

David, Serge recently told me that he does it solely for motivation. It’s a routine he uses to get himself pumped up. As for the players starting the game by coming to the scorer’s table, most wipe off their shoes on a little square sheet of sticky plastic that helps give them grip. It’s just a ritzier way to get traction before the game starts. In open gyms, guys have to spit on the floor and rub it dry with both feet to get that traction. But a lot of players are also applying rosin to their hands or going through their pre-game rituals. Durant, for example, unties and then ties both shoes and says a quick prayer at the scorer’s table before taking the court.

Is there a call-up time when the Tulsa season ends where they can add a few players to the Thunder roster from the successful Tulsa 66er team? There are a few guys that could maybe provide some depth on the bench: Elijah Milsap for one. — Mike F.

Mike, the only “call-up time” is the date the league sets for rosters to be finalized for postseason play. This year, that’s April 14 at 2 p.m. central time. So technically, the Thunder can sign one of its D-League players to a contract any time before then and have them with the team during the playoffs.

This team is set up for Harden to start next year. Could Cook (if re-signed) pick up that bench scoring off his spot-ups, or would we be better served looking for a wing this offseason? — Carey S.

Carey, my money is on Cook stepping into that role next season. It’d be a mistake in my opinion to not start Harden next year. He has earned the starting job with his improvement on both ends of the floor. But to think Cook will make up Harden’s bench scoring would be a mistake. Cook isn’t going to average 10 to 12 points off the bench, especially not as the third shooting guard. But I do think the Thunder would be better off letting him man that spot rather than going out and signing someone else who would probably be more expensive and may not have a clear cut role with ample minutes.

After watching teams all year crowd KD the whole game, much like Artest did during last year’s playoffs (and Wallace did Sunday), is the next logical step in his evolution to develop a Kobe/Jordan/Dirk-type perimeter post game, especially given the huge height advantage he has over nearly everyone he faces?  It just seems like no one would be able to guard him, and it would also open up playmaking opportunities for his teamates. — Peter.

Peter, if you’ve noticed, Durant has been mixing in a few new moves throughout the course of the season. He’s getting better at going down to the left block and putting in turnaround jumpers. And he’s developing a nice little bump-and-shoot move from the free throw line area. It’s all a work in progress, but I think he’s headed in the right direction.

Can you explain to me the need for double covering people? We double cover someone inside then they kick out for wide open 3s. Last time I checked 3 is more than 2. — Matt W.

Right you are, Matt. But a 2-point field goal is a much higher percentage shot than a 3-point field goal. Teams can’t allow players to score on layups all night. Trust me, that looks much worse than a ton of 3-pointers dropping in. The Thunder’s problem this season has been doubling too much. Sometimes, it simply hasn’t been needed. And the team has gotten into trouble in those instances. With Kendrick Perkins now here, we should see fewer double teams. But there still has to be a good balance. And when wing players do double, others have to be able to rotate quickly and close out on open shooters. It’s all about rhythm, timing and communication. When done properly, it’s beautiful basketball.

Do you think Russ is going to get a max deal? And what do you think Harden/Ibaka are looking at as far as extensions down the line? — Daniel.

Daniel, I don’t know if Westbrook is going to get the max. But I’m pretty sure he’s going to want the max. He’s an All-Star now and a top five point guard. His numbers are incredible and his impact and improvement have been undeniable. When you add all that up, it looks like a max player.

Our guys have been playing to their level of competition for most of the season, any idea how to get them out of that mode? And get them to setting the level themselves? Coaching? Raw Meat? What?? — B.C.

Raw meat? What are they a pack of wolves? I disagree that they’ve played to the level of the competition. The Thunder is 26-6 against teams below .500 and, I forget the exact numbers, but it defeated its past six or seven of sub-.500 teams by 20-plus points. But it’s all a part of the NBA season. You can’t win them all. And you’re not going to play great every night. I think the Thunder has been much better this year with not playing down to the level of competition. But the playoffs are now right around the corner and every game will be intense.

Shouldn’t more teams use zone against us? It seems like a rarely used tool. (certainly a rarely used tool by the Thunder). — Nix.

Nix, I was debating whether to write that for today’s paper. Portland threw a little zone at the Thunder in the first half Sunday. And, once again, it completely confused the Thunder. The cat’s out of the bag. The Thunder doesn’t play well against it. And with certain lineups the Thunder uses, a team can go to it at any moment and fluster OKC. That’s one area the Thunder will have to improve on or it could be a problem area in the playoffs.

My mailbag is always open.

-DM-

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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