Analyst Mike Fratello will be part of TNT's announce crew for the Memphis Grizzlies-Thunder telecast at 7 p.m. Thursday. He will be joined by play-by-announcer Marv Albert, analyst Steve Kerr and reporter Craig Sager. Nicknamed “The Czar,” Fratello, 65, a former coach of the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Grizzlies, discussed the teams.
The first time Memphis played here, it handled the Thunder pretty easily. Do you expect more of the same Thursday night?
“Memphis has been kind of a strange team this year from the standpoint that they have gone through great stretches and on the other hand they have had some disappointing losses. If you catch them on their A-game night, they are tough to handle. They are a tough group. But by moving a couple of their people, for whatever reason, they have lost a little bit of their depth. The key is they still are good enough, strong enough, powerful enough to beat anybody in the league. Going into Oklahoma City, I'm sure the Thunder will remember. They don't forget easily and I'm sure Scotty (Brooks) will remind them, and with the crowd in that building and the atmosphere that is created there, it's a tough place to win.”
How has the Thunder responded following the James Harden trade?
“I think they came out of that Harden situation in terrific shape as far as what they got back, what the person has come in and what he has been able to do for them. There are not many times you can lose a guy of Harden's magnitude and what he does — he winds up being an All-Star player there — and get a guy back that can get you 12, to 18, 20 points a night depending on how many minutes he plays like (Kevin) Martin. They were very, very fortunate.”
Will the Thunder's turnover troubles hurt them down the stretch?
“The Thunder turnover number may be a little deceiving because they play fast, they take more shots and they have a couple of drivers/slashers. By wanting to push it that way, you're going to have more turnovers than a team that puts it in one guy's hand and they don't really advance the ball, using up 24 seconds on the clock.”
Some people have Kevin Durant ahead of LeBron James in the MVP race at the halfway point. How do you rate it?
“Those two guys have been simply sensational. You can't take anything away from LeBron and what he has done for Miami this year. Oklahoma City has a couple of more wins than Miami does right now, but you're probably going to have to go down to the end of the season and see, God forbid, if anybody is going to get injured, and at the end, you're probably going to wind up saying, ‘It's this guy vs. that guy.' But how can you pick them today? They've both played spectacular basketball.”