Darnell Mayberry: Thunder look hungry, willing to sacrifice for another run at the Finals

The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry took questions on the Oklahoma City Thunder today in his Power Lunch Chat. Join our Power Lunch Chat's Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Sports. Here's a recap of today's Q&A.
Oklahoman Modified: December 18, 2012 at 3:19 pm •  Published: December 18, 2012
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The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry took questions on the Oklahoma City Thunder today in his Power Lunch Chat. Join our Power Lunch Chat's Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Sports. Here's a recap of today's Q&A:

ON THE THUNDER'S 2012-2013 SEASON IN GENERAL:

What’s the feel of this team for you so far in the season, and do you like their chances of making a special run like last year?

I think this team is growing up and maturing. It's an important step and one we all knew the players needed to take after the Finals. They now look hungry and willing to sacrifice in the needed ways to make another run. So I don't see why they won't.

What record, over the next 20 games, would make you think, "The Thunder has benefited by playing an easy schedule primarily at home — they still have lots of work to do."

10-10. Because this clearly is not a .500 team. This next stretch is so brutal that 14-6 would even be acceptable.

How many road wins over next two months?

Next two months? Not sure. I know 15 of the next 22 are on the road. Of those 15, I expect the Thunder to get at least 10 wins.

 

ON RUSSELL WESTBROOK:

What was your assessment of Russell Westbrook’s defense on Tony Parker for most of the evening? And did you agree with Brooks starting him on Parker?

I didn't think it was very good. Westbrook was active, but that often can be misleading. Just because he's jumping up into his man and flying around doesn't mean it's good defense. He got beat on multiple occasions and gambled on others, which put pressure on the rest of his teammates. But Westbrook had several other steals and deflections that helped turn the tide and give the Thunder the edge. So all in all, I'd say he was slightly above average. I didn't mind Brooks starting the game with Westbrook on Parker. Brooks lately has been saying Westbrook is playing like an All-NBA Defensive Team defender. If that's the case, then Westbrook should be able to consistently guard his position.

Is Westbrook capable of being seriously injured? That fall last night looked pretty bad.

Wolverine doesn't get hurt.

When will Westbrook start shooting better?

I wouldn't worry about it. The Thunder has played 24 games. He's had some good shooting nights. So we know it's in him. But for now I think the main thing is he's playing under control more than he ever has and not turning matchups into personal battles. That's a huge step in his maturity and something I think is more significant than his shooting percentages.

 

ON KEVIN DURANT:

Do you think KD will continue to defer this much in the Playoffs?

If the team is winning, yes. His mentality isn't try to win by scoring 30 every night. His mentality seems to be what is the best way for me to help my team win. If that means scoring 20, Durant is fine with that. But it's important to note that in a tight game, Durant wants the ball. He'll still make the right play when it's there. But that deferring stuff goes out of the window for the most part.

 

ON SERGE IBAKA:

Screen and roll with Ibaka was probably the most fun thing to watch last night. Agree?

Nowhere near the most fun ... that was Ibaka roaring to the crowd.

If the fight broke out Serge Ibaka vs. Stephen Jackson on Pay-Per-View, who would you take?

Ibaka's got the reach and weight advantage.

Serge doesn't seem bothered by these "tough guys" in the league like Artest, Jackson, Z Bo, etc. I don't think he is looking for a fight, but he is also not intimidated by them and thinks nothing of rough box out or screen that other players who are intimidated by them wouldn't dare do.

I think you're right. I've compared Ibaka to the guy playing pickup who everyone hates only because he's playing harder than you. He sets hard screens that you think are over the top. He boxes out beyond the board. And he runs you until your worn out. None of it's dirty or illegal. It's just frustrating.

Come on Darnell, you know life in Congo beats the "hard knock" life of Queens or any hood in American any day. Definitely take Serge over the wannabe NBA thugs.

With all due respect, that's a pretty silly stereotype. Few of us know what Ibaka's life was really like in Congo. There are stories of hardships, including a story written by me. But that doesn't mean Ibaka was subject to constant violence and threatening people that he had to defend himself against. Growing up in Africa doesn't automatically make you tough.


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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