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Oklahoma City Thunder: Fans’ passion reaches irrationality

by Berry Tramel Published: June 20, 2012

A common debate in Oklahoma is the extent to which the Thunder has motivated the fans. Are they as passionate as Sooner football fans?

The answer is no, not yet anyway, but they are getting there. Boy, are they getting there. Including the lost-their-mind, fire-the-coach-after-a-loss crowd.

I got this email Wednesday morning from a guy named Bob. The last name is omitted to protect the demented. Here you go:

“You media are ‘homers;’ REASONS for losses:

Durant at 6’9″ is lazy on defense. Had 2 RB (rebounds) while playing 46 minutes; Terrible hustle on his part. An all-star 6’9″player shud get at least 8-12 RB a game – He couldn’t even stop Chalmers on defense; Too much double teaming & leaving ‘your’ man open ; (eg; chalmers, battier & even cole ; This porus defense has cost thunder 3 games ;) Man to man defense means just that ; ‘stick with your man.’ If you can’t stop him than go sit on the bench.

Up 17 pts THAN BROOKS starts subbing – You have 4 players 23 years old that never tire ; LEAVE THEM IN & CONTINUE PLAYING TILL YOUR UP 25. Collison was fantastic in 1st half & Brooks takes him out; why ?? In my opinion – Presti hire Jerry Slone & let Brooks go; Been out-coached thus far in the series; His substitutions are killing the thunder.

Nxt year shud get a center that can score & rebound plus a point guard that distributes the ball – ( thunder has no 1/2 court offense )

Move Westbrook to shooting guard, where he belongs; his average 5.5 assists during season doesn’t cut it for what a PG requires.

They will never win a championship with Perkins at center & Westbrook at PG.

Wouldn’t hurt to get Durant on wght lifting nxt yr – too weak in traffic which is why he leads in top 50 players with WORST TO/Assist ratio for the season. His shot is 15-17 ‘ jumpers – why they don’t exploit this is questionable – 28′ jumpers doesn’t cut it.

This team shud have won the series but with the way they blow leads (thru-out season) I predicted heat in 6 games earlier – maybe wrong tho ; could be in 5 games.

Thought for the day? Nash is a free agent ; get him nxt year & win it all – everybody else in the league is getting old – Nash has a few years left – He probably could average 12-14 assists per game, which is what is needed on this team . Jitterbuging Westbrook could than fight Durant for shots while at shooting guard.

Go thunder & make me wrong”

I’ve got to tell you. I might have done OU fans a disservice. Not sure I’ve ever heard any Sooner call for the dismantling of a team to this degree. Scrap Bob Stoops and bench Landry Jones? That doesn’t reach the level of dogging Kevin Durant, Scotty Brooks, Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins.

I thought it would be good for us all to consider each of the points, though. Maybe Bob isn’t crazy.

Durant is lazy on defense.

The truth about Durant is that his greatest strength on offense is his liability on defense. He’s so much taller than most everyone else on the perimeter, it’s a huge advantage. But it’s a huge disadvantage when asked to guard someone like Mario Chalmers, who is 7-8 inches shorter.

Durant’s rebounding in Games 3 and 4 has not been good, but his overall rebounding this season and these playoffs has been outstanding. He leads the Thunder, a team with Serge Ibaka and Perkins, in rebounding.
As for too much double-teaming, no, Bob, man-to-man defense does not mean never leaving your man. Man-to-man defense means helping out ALL THE TIME on players like LeBron and Dwyane Wade, then recovering back to Chalmers or whoever, or even rotating while someone else takes your man. Man-to-man defense is not an island situation. That’s elementary basketball.

OK, on Brooks’ substitutions, you want him to leave the starting lineup in, but then you rip him for taking Collison out, and Collison was in the game BECAUSE BROOKS SUBSTITUTED.

NBA teams sub. They have to. You can’t win with five guys. You’ve got to rest certain players and use other players.

Now, I’m not crazy about Brooks’ reliance on the small lineup to such an extent in this series. I think Derek Fisher is playing too much, and generally Thabo Sefolosha has to play more, because when LeBron and Wade are on the court, Thabo’s defense is too valuable to sit.

But Brooks has piloted this young team to the NBA Finals, ahead of its time.

Reminds me of a point I made a year or so ago. Sam Presti has a plan. He implements the plan. The plan works well. Then the plan works sensationally. Now the plan seems to be set up for the Thunder to enjoy annual success. So some people’s idea is to SCRAP THE PLAN?

The Thunder needs a center who can score and rebound.

Yes, absolutely. Sign me up. In fact, Presti ought to go down to the center store and pick up a model. Except guess what? They don’t come off the assembly line.

The Heat doesn’t have one. The Bulls don’t have one. The Celtics have one, converted power forward Kevin Garnett; he was drafted in 1996. The Spurs have one, converted power forward Tim Duncan; he was drafted in 1998. The Lakers and Magic have one.

To ask the Thunder to go get a center who can score and rebound is like asking Oklahoma City to get a beach so free agents will flock to Bricktown.

Get a point guard who distributes the ball, like Steve Nash, since the Thunder has no half-court offense. Move Westbrook to shooting guard, because his 5.5 assists per game don’t cut it.

Westbrook in the Finals is averaging 6.8 assists per game. He’s averaging 5.8 assists per game in the playoffs, with 2.3 turnovers per game.

So let me get this straight. A guy who just scored 43 points on 20-of-32 shooting, a guy who attacks the basket as well as anyone in the league – as well as LeBron, Kobe, anyone – you want to move to shooting guard, where the ball will not be in his hands.

Westbrook is dynamite with the ball in his hands. Move him off the ball, and you’re guaranteed to have a lesser point guard and a lesser Westbrook. That’s the move of losers. The Knickerbockers would do something like that.

Durant needs to lift weights and quit shooting so many 28-footers.

If I was Presti, I would make it a firing offense for anyone in my organization to try to change Durant, in any way. At the age of 23, he’s an NBA superstar who has rivaled LeBron as the game’s best player.

In Game 4, Durant took nine mid-range jumpers, five 3-pointers and five shots at or near the basket. Seems like pretty good distribution to me. The Thunder needed Durant to make another 3-pointer – he was one of five – but he’s shooting 36.5 percent on 3-pointers in the playoffs, so he’s been solid there. Everyone with an idea for Kevin Durant, move to the back of the line. Including lifting weights.

Look, the Thunder hasn’t made the plays down the stretch of three straight games, and that’s why Miami leads 3-1. To scrap the plan, to blow up a team that outperformed its curve by historic margins, is a sign of madness.

So let’s have fun watching and analyzing this series and ride it to the end. But let’s not lose our mind. Let’s remember that the Thunder present is fabulous, and the future is even brighter.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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