The Oklahoman's John Rohde took questions from readers in today's Oklahoma City Thunder and NBA Power Lunch Chat. You can join our Power Lunch Chats Monday-Friday on NewsOK.com/Sports. Here's a recap of today's Q&A:
Is Westbrook a first-team All-NBA point guard?
National media are leaning more and more in that direction. To me, Chris Paul is the best out there, but Westbrook lives on the same block. So do Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker and Damian Lillard. Presumably Derrick Rose still does. Let's face it, there's a bunch of great point guards out there. But if Westbrook keeps improving annually the way he has, it's only a matter of time before he is the clear No. 1.
Is the Thunder considered a strong road team this season?
Yes, although it has struggled against average Eastern teams for some reason. Only San Antonio has won more road games than OKC the last four seasons and the same holds true so far this season in the West.
Who would you say is KD’s best friend on the team? Russell?
KD has no enemies. Every time you ask about a current or former teammate, he acts as though that was his best friend — and with KD, heck, it might be true. There has been a steady weeding out of roster players the past few seasons. Process of elimination, it could very well end up being Russ, and wouldn't that come as a shock to national media.
Two years ago when the national media was making a big storm over the perceived rift between KD and Russ, was there ever any actual rift or hard feelings between the two from your vantage point ring close to the team? Or was that bad national journalism?
See previous answer. Yes, there were occasional flare-ups on the court, but that happens with every team. Actually, you know which team argues most on the court — Miami. KD and Russ were never as bad as national media made it out to be. EVER.
I'm not on the 'Fire Brooks' bandwagon, but at what point does he realize the Thunder has to have a zone defense? We've seen it confuse the team countless times. We have also seen the Mavs beat the Heat in the finals with a solid one.
First of all, OKC isn't Dallas. Never has been. Zones depend on personnel. Second, Miami isn't what it was two years ago. Its players actually get along now. Who's to say the Heat wouldn't chew up whatever zone OKC might throw out there? Third, zones are lazy. Brooks doesn't want lazy. He wants chaos. He wants pace. He wants a track meet. He wants transition. He's got arguably the most athletic team in the league. A zone would not be taking full advantage of that. Occasional variations of a zone would be handy, especially in foul trouble, and Brooks probably has that tucked away somewhere. But sticking solely with a zone would not make full use of his personnel. That's just my opinion.
When will we see more Ronnie Brewer?
I'm afraid the only time you'll see Brewer is foul trouble (early against Boston), or if somebody gets hurt. He's a victim of the numbers game. I thought he might be used more in certain defensive situations, but that hasn't happened yet. It could happen in the playoffs when you play the same team night after night, however.
Did the last game between the Celtics and Thunder, with that extra passing to the bigs, like Collison, Perkins and Ibaka, make it easier for Durant to score with his jumpers and drives?
Truthfully, the Celtics haven't been nearly as tough underneath since they traded away Perk. Get the ball inside, make Boston react, then hit the open guy. Boston used to clog the middle as well as anybody. I remember not long ago the Celtics would just chew up the Thunder inside the paint. No more. Outscored Boston 32-28 in the paint yesterday.
Are you able to communicate with Brooks and his coaches, specially the big player coach on how to utilize their big players in games?
We're free to ask all the questions we want. The problem is getting an answer. I like to tell people covering the Thunder is like riding the bus in Bull Durham when Kevin Costner is sharing how to answer any question that's ever asked: "The good Lord willing ..." "We just want to take it one game at a time ..."; "Blah, blah, blah." Collison and Perk provide the most direct answers. Brooks excels at not saying anything to tip his hand, which is by design. Assistant coaches are off limits.
Did you see the interview of Perkins and him telling that Durant came to him just to talk about basketball? What was that about, if you would analyze it?
How to be a leader would be No. 1, I'd think. Durant, as we all know, is wise beyond his years. He's 24 going on 34. He studies the game, knows the game, knows its history. It's amazing how mature KD is, even in how he answers questions. He shoulders the blame, even when it's not his fault. He shares the glory. And this might surprise you about Perk, the dude knows basketball far more than you could ever imagine, particularly the man he's defending and his tendencies. Perk might be all drawl, but he has a tremendous basketball IQ.
Who among these players has a chance to make a big impact for the Thunder: Lamb, Perry Jones, Thabeet, Orton or Liggins?
In order: Thabeet; Lamb; Liggins; Jones; Orton.
If there were two things you would like to see from the Thunder do, what are they?
1. Better ball movement; 2. Smarter decisions.
Do you think it is the Thunder's year now?
I think it could have been had James Harden played out his option this season. Then again, maybe not.
Among the Thunder, who would you chose to be the starting five?
The same five they've got, although I might try starting Collison against certain opponents and bring Perk off the bench.
Do you have something you would like to change in Durant's game that can be considered his weakness?
Physical strength, particularly with his hands. He frequently loses possessions getting the ball slapped away.
If you had to chose between Westbrook and Brook Lopez, who would you have chosen?
Knowing what I know now? Westbrook. However, there are far more quality point guards out there than there are centers. If you get a quality point guard, Lopez and Durant would be pretty salty.
Do you think all of the Thunder players will be in OKC next year?
Every single one of them? No. Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Collison, Thabo, Jackson, Lamb, Thabeet? Yes. Perk? Probably. Martin? Hopefully.
Does Scott Brooks really think defense is the priority with this team like he always says or is that just coach-speak? If so, why is Fisher playing over Brewer when Brewer is a proven Thabo-like defender and a much better athlete for rebounding and everything else basketball related but shooting?
Brooks prioritizes defense because he knows the offense will be there with either Durant or Westbrook or Martin or Thabo or Ibaka or all the above. Fish brings more from the 3-point line because that's the primary offensive option for whoever is at that position — notice how many 3s Thabo gets.
When does a coach deserve to be fired, if he has not moved to a championship, even if he has reached the Finals; like George Karl, Stan Van Gundy?
I think a lot depends on the coach's relationship with the front office or the star player. At the very least, that's the tiebreaker. Now if the team has talent and a ridiculous payroll, yet is underachieving (Lakers, Nets, et. al), then there might not be anything to save his job.
At 7'0", do you think Johan Petro could be a player the Thunder could use?
I never thought Johan Petro should be used at any height.
Your overall grade for Martin, home and away? The Thunder’s success in the Playoffs is contingent on him coming out of his road slump. Do you agree?
Martin is huge for the Thunder. If he's on, the Thunder can become overwhelming. Martin at home: A-. Martin on the road: C+. Martin in the locker room: A+. Has shown no ego for a guy who was his team's go-to guy for seven straight seasons.
If there was any from the Thunder that needs to be played, who?
1. Brewer; 2. Lamb; 3. Thabeet. But where do you find the minutes?