The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry took questions from readers in his OKC Thunder live chat today. Here's a recap of the Q&A:
Down the road, if a 2-guard never pans out, or if the Thunder can't retain one, do you see Reggie Jackson or Eric Maynor starting, moving Westbrook to the 2-guard?
Down the line ... Jackson will be the backup point guard. Maynor's days in OKC are numbered.
Who on the roster now will play a larger role down the stretch & in the playoffs that isn't getting big minutes now?
Perry Jones has to be the leading candidate. Although Reggie Jackson, in my opinion, has the most potential of that group to have an impact. Look at what Eric Bledsoe is doing for the Clippers. I see Reggie Jackson as capable of having a similar all-around impact on a smaller scale. Unfortunately, the coaching staff apparently doesn't agree.
Do you think the Thunder are ready in this stage of the season for the red hot Clippers, or are they still searching and getting up to steam?
I think the Thunder comes out and plays with purpose tonight. OKC generally gets up for good teams. They know this is a big game and I suspect they'll play accordingly.
Do you think the James Harden trade could possibly affect KD's decision to resign in OKC when his contract is up? Or is that too far down the road? Sorry to bring up the trade again.
It's quite all right. I doubt the trade has any bearing on KD's feelings toward the franchise or the city. What I do question is how the agent, Rob Pelinka, might steer Durant. Many of Pelinka's clients have moved on to other markets. Eric Gordon, James Harden, O.J. Mayo. Andre Iguodala and Carlos Boozer among others. It seems his players have no loyalty to their original teams. But my question is it the players or the agent?
How has Brooks' adjustment to putting Durant in with the 2nd team helped the Thunder overall?
In general, it's boosted the second unit by giving the B Team the help of the league's best scorer. Specifically, it's taken pressure off Kevin Martin and allowed him to be more of a scoring threat. More specifically, it's allowed the Thunder to play far fewer minutes without either Durant or Westbrook on the floor. All of those things have had positive impacts thus far.
The Thunder is yet to have a quality win. After the blow out by Memphis, should fans be concerned if tonight's game is another one-sided loss?
After game No. 12? After a major shakeup? Hardly.
Do you think the starting five is the same at end of year as it is now barring injury? Do you think the recent tweaks in the rotations are sufficient or is more of a shake up necessary. I felt the changes were nice, but maybe not quite what they could be.
Going off Brooks' track record, yes, it'll remain the same. But I do love the new substitution pattern.
How do the individual matchups look for the game tonight?
I'd give Chris Paul the edge over Westbrook. Willie Green and Thabo Sefolosha should cancel each other out. Caron Butler is questionable, but Kevin Durant wins any matchup at small forward tonight. Ibaka and Blake Griffin should be a great battle. And Perk will have his hands full with DeAndre Jordan. As for the benches, it's not even close. The Clippers win in a landslide. Somebody is going to have to contend with Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe is too athletic for Maynor to keep up with, and the only person that can stop Crawford is Crawford. If I'm Brooks, I'd start Sefolosha on Paul and put Westbrook on Green. Then I'd sub Sefolosha out earlier and bring him back to try to limit Crawford.
What are your keys to the game tonight?
Defense. Defense. Defense. To beat the Clippers, you have to stop them in the pick-and-roll, limit their transition points and keep them off the free throw line. If the Thunder can do two of those things well, OKC will win.
I know how competitive the Thunder is offensively, but how would you compare the Thunder to the rest of the league defensively? They seem to be struggling with their big men.
I haven't studied every other team defensively. But there aren't not many tandems I'd rather than Perk and Ibaka up front if we're talking about defense.
Do you think there is a legitimate shot at getting Marcus Smart? How high is he projected?
I honestly don't know anything about him yet. I know NBADraft.net recently said the Thunder would target him, and that site has him projected to go sixth. Draftexpress.com, meanwhile, doesn't even have Smart in its projected first round. But I'm not buying the Thunder going after another wing with a selection that high. Perkins will be coming off the books soon, Collison is getting up there in age and Thabeet and Orton are projects. I can't imagine the Thunder not going big with a top 10 or potentially top five pick.
What are the Clippers' keys to the game?
Same thing every team focuses on with the Thunder. Make OKC score in the half-court, try to take the ball out of Westbrook's hands and try to force KD to work for whatever he gets.
Who is the x-factor for the Thunder tonight?
I'll go with Thabo Sefolosha. He could help contain Chris Paul (if Brooks starts him on Paul), and he could help keep Crawford in check. If he gets a shot at both and successfully defends both, he'll be the player of the game if the Thunder wins.
What is the likelihood Reggie Jackson starts getting more second unit minutes? Maybe it's knee recovery, maybe it's no James Harden, but he doesn't look like his old self.
I'm assuming you're referring to Eric Maynor not looking like himself. If so, I would agree. In fact, I was about to write about this very topic in Monday's paper, but then we had some things come up — mainly Durant's first triple-double. It's a topic that I'll likely dive into early next week. But Brooks told me the other day that he's sticking with Maynor for now.
Where is the best seat in the Peake?
That's extremely subjective. I'm sure if you asked 10 people, you'd get 10 different answers. I think middle of the 200 section is pretty cool. You're high enough to see plays develop, but still close to the action. But honestly, there aren’t very many bad seats inside The Peake. Very good sight lines in that building.
Nicest player in the NBA?
To be fair, I can only go on my day-to-day experiences. Tyson Chandler stood out when I covered him.
Biggest jerk you’ve come across in the NBA?
J.R. Smith didn't like me much.
Do you think this team can get it done with K-Mart coming off the bench?
I do. But I'm also starting to think the Thunder needs to get him some kind of help.
Better game tonight: CP3 or Westbrook?
I just happened to have this info standing by. ... In 13 head-to-head games, Chris Paul owns a 9-4 record against Russell Westbrook. Paul has averaged 19.8 points, 10 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 3.4 steals on 53.6% shooting. Westbrook has averaged 17.8 points, 6.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals on 39.8% shooting. So that suggests, Paul will have the better game. I can't begin to make a prediction, though. I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the show.
Do you see the Thunder resigning K-Mart in the offseason if the money is right?
ONLY if the money is right ... and in this case, right might be well below his market value. It also depends who else is out there. I know the Thunder wants to develop Lamb, but Martin could still be a viable option while that development is in progress. But Martin might also have to accept fewer years on his deal in addition to less money.
Is there any reason to have Perk back next year?
Other than the Thunder needing him to potentially get past the Lakers, Memphis, Clippers or Spurs, nah, I can't think of any reason.
Passing ... can we expect to see this define the Thunder this year or is it just a small sample of the beginning of the season? Personally I think it makes them very dangerous when they swing the ball and move the D, eventually they get a better shot.
I agree. But it's only been 11 games. We'll see if it holds up. They look like they're making more of a concerted effort to maintain the ball movement. But 31 assists is not going to be a normal occurrence for this club.
How do we feel about Thabeet? I'm not impressed.
I'm more impressed by the game. He's had success in small doses. But that's really all the Thunder is looking for from him.
What level of performance are you expecting from Russell Westbrook tonight?
All I can say is as Thunder fans, the best you all can hope for is Westbrook keeping the personal battle to a minimum and staying within the team concept. If he doesn't, and he tries to make it personal like he did in New Orleans, Paul can show everyone that he's not Greivis Vasquez.
Will you have a Perk/Z-Bo altercation with opposing media?
I don't want to meet anybody by the bus. No thank you.
Can you see the Thunder winning it all this year?
I have yet to see anything remotely close to defense capable of stopping Miami. As for the offense, I'm not sure it is any better equipped to score against the Heat. So as of right now, I'm not optimistic.
Over/under on how many half court shots Maynor makes this season?
Since he's already got one … I'll set it at three.
What matchup are you looking forward to most this season?
Thunder-Clippers is up there. Thunder-Heat obviously is another good one.
Which L.A. team gives the Thunder the most trouble?
Clippers, and I don't think it's close.
Harden's return to the Thunderdome as a Rocket, thoughts?
If he didn't realize what he had before, he sure will on that night.
Is Harden getting a tribute video when he returns?
Which Thunder player is the most frustrating to watch for you?
Will you be listening to KD's mixtape?
Is K-Mart snotty at times answering questions, or is it just me?
The Thunder has worked him over. When he got here, he was candid and comfortable. Now, everything is team this, team that. We call it "Sam-itizing" players. That's what the team's PR staff does. I'm convinced every one is taught the company line and once here they dare not cross it. The team is still working on Perk. :)
Any pregame rituals fans aren't aware of?
That's a good question since there are so many new faces. I'd have to check and get back to you on that.
Will we see games like last year where Durant and/or Westbrook go for 40+? Or has the offense changed that much from last year?
I don't think it's changed. I think it's inevitable that we see a handful of those. Those cats are just that talented.
Do you think KD will average 30 or more points this year?
I doubt it. He doesn't look interested in scoring a ton.
What would be your second squad line up?
Maynor, Martin, Durant, Collison, Thabeet ... which is what it's been the last two games. I like what I've seen so far out of that group.
If the Thunder don’t make it, how epic would Grizzlies-Clippers, Lakers-Grizzlies, then Heat-Grizzlies be?
I don't really want to see Heat-Grizzlies. If it's not the Thunder, my first choice would be Heat-Lakers.
Did this commercial take a lot of practice or is it video magic?
That's the NBA's new "BIG" commercial, featuring Russell Westbrook. I'm going to say video magic. Oddly enough, it looks like it was set in the Thunder's old practice facility. I'm not saying it was. But it surely looks like that building.
Can Ibaka become an elite scorer down low?
Elite? That's a stretch right now. But I think he can be effective, if not reliable in time.
This offseason, why didn't the Thunder target minimum salary vets to help stabilize its second unit instead of relying on Thabeet, Maynor, and a bunch of unproven rookies/second year players?
This team still wants to build a "sustainable" roster. That means players that can grow together. This season, it might not look the greatest. But imagine Lamb, PJ3, RJ and Thabeet next to Ibaka, Westbrook and Durant three years from now. Pretty scary, huh? Also, vets have to be willing to take the minimum to play here. This might be news to some, but it's much more appealing for most to sign for the minimum in New York, L.A. or Miami than it is to sign up for that in OKC.
See any fights popping off tonight?
I hope not.
You've mentioned before that you feel a move is coming. Where do you think Presti is looking to make an improvement?
I don't necessarily think one is coming. I just think the assets that Presti has at his disposal are too numerous to not explore something. And with the second unit playing so erratically, my guess is that will be the targeted area of improvement.
Do you think it's possible or smart to try to deal Perk and Lamb for Gortat?
I don't think it's possible or smart. Phoenix doesn't want Perk's deal, and the Thunder wouldn't be much better with Gortat, even offensively. Gortat is best in the pick-and-roll. Westbrook is not a very good pick-and-roll point guard. So that wouldn't make sense to get him in my opinion.
Do you own anything similar to what Westbrook owns for his post game shirt selection?
I once had a Hawaiian shirt in college. That's as close as I came to owning anything remotely close to some of the garb Westbrook rolls out.
Do you see the Thunder making a trade right before the deadline? And if so, for who?
The short answer is yes. But I'd have to research it to come up with a list of possible names.
Do you foresee any more big trades for the Thunder by the end of the season?
No. Nothing big.
Do you think Memphis is playing over its head right now?
Not at all. They've added depth and 3-point shooting to complement their core. That is a very good, very dangerous team.
The Thunder is so close to winning a championship. Does it have the right combination of personnel to get it done this year? What does the team lack?
The starting lineup still has its flaws. Bench scoring is now an issue. And while generic, I question whether this team has enough maturity. I'm extremely concerned about Westbrook's decision-making.
Will Perk likely be in the lineup next year?
As of now, my guess is yes.
Do you see the Thunder utilizing the picks it received from the Rockets as trade-bait? Or do you think they will actually use them?
I can't see them trading the Toronto pick. But the Mavs pick probably will be packaged.
Is there a reason it seems this team isn't as fun to watch? Was The Beard our fun factor?
I'm going to say they've played so poorly for the most part that it's taken some of the fun out of it.
Any possible way the Thunder could get Varejao from Cleveland? I love that dude’s game. High energy, high IQ, and just seems to be around the ball a lot.
I think that ship has sailed.
Coming off a big contract, it seems Martin is in the stage of his career where he'd be the kind of guy to sacrifice pay for championships. Do you think Martin would stay for a 3-year, 18 million deal, and do you think the Thunder would offer that?
That would be an extremely reasonable deal for the Thunder, but perhaps more of a pay cut than Martin might be willing to accept. Keep in mind, he's already sacrificing this year by coming off the bench.
Have you eaten at KD's restaurant?
Not open yet.
Do you think fans lose track of how impressive it is for a team to be this young and this good?
All the time.
Will we see more triple-doubles from KD this year? If so, how many are you thinking?
Every time I see Liggins in the game, he makes something happen.
Welcome to the club, my friend.
Is it possible that Martin is a better fit than Harden?
In some ways he is. In some ways he isn't.
Can you talk on how underrated Thabo is? LOVE his game, but goes so unnotice.
I think the vast majority of observers know full well how valuable Thabo is, especially against elite wing players. It's the nights where the opponent doesn't have an elite wing player that I think fans want Brooks to sit him down. Can't necessarily make an argument against that desire.
As a very young team, the Thunder is filled with nothing but potential. Which of its young stars do you think has the most untapped potential and which do you think will actually show the most improvement by the end of the season?
Westbrook most untapped. If he ever learns how to slow down and consistently make the right play instead of solely relying on scoring, he would be the best point guard in the league and maybe the third best player overall.
Why does Hollinger hate on the Thunder so much? It would be hilarious if he would ridicule Perk in person since he is such a Perk critic.
I think he's just providing info.