NBA game analyst Jeff Van Gundy, a former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach, said he loves to call Oklahoma City Thunder games. He will get his chance at 2:30 p.m. Sunday when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Thunder during ABC's first Sunday doubleheader of the season. He will broadcast the game with Mike Breen and reporter Lisa Salters, who also will call the San Antonio at Dallas game at 7 p.m. Friday on ESPN. ABC's first game at noon Sunday will be Miami at Boston (Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown and reporter Doris Burke).
Van Gundy discussed the NBA in a phone conversation this week:
Are you surprised at the Thunder's fast start?
I'm not surprised that they are playing well. Going through the (James) Harden trade they adapted and adjusted quicker than I suspected. Kevin Martin has played well. He seamlessly seemed to fit in. To me, I just think they are the best team in the NBA this year. They have a tough road in the West obviously. The East is a little easier to navigate, but I expect Oklahoma City to get back to the Finals. ... They are so well coached and their two best players are incredible workers and competitors who just love to play. I just don't see them slipping. If Oklahoma City doesn't win it all, it's been because they've been beaten. They are not going to beat themselves. I just think they have the right attitude.
Kevin Durant appears to be meaner this season, getting tossed from a game. Will that make him a better player?
He doesn't need to be mean. His personality is just fine to win it all and to be the very best player in the NBA. He has the right demeanor. He is a humble guy. He's a team-oriented guy. He's a man who understands incremental improvements, day to day, game to game, season to season. He understands all that. He has got every intangible that you would want your best player to have in order to lead your franchise. The guy is terrific. Then you add on to that Russell Westbrook, who seemingly has all those great traits as well. You've got to give Scott Brooks credit for harnessing those talents and Sam Presti and Troy Weaver credit for identifying those talents. It's really fun to watch them play basketball.
Are you surprised the Lakers are struggling?
A lot of people were picking them over Oklahoma City (in the preseason), I never saw that because I thought they had holes of depth, of shooting, of the ability to have enough guys to fit in to roles and help others to play better, but I certainly thought they would be a top four team in the West. It hasn't worked that way. Some of it is injury and they've had a lot of injuries and most of it is they haven't controlled what they can control, which is your attitude, your effort, your passion and your unselfishness. You're sacrificing what you want for the good of the team.
Does Brooklyn Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, a former Thunder coach, deserve the job full-time?
I think he has handled a tough situation (as an interim coach) incredibly well. Because of the (Latrell) Sprewell incident, when P.J.'s name is brought up, that's where a lot of people go. I go to a guy who has been a very good basketball coach for a very long time. And certainly, if they keep playing like this, he's going to have that job and rightfully so.