The NBA season ends suddenly, unless you’re in Philadelphia or Milwaukee or some place that never sniffs basketball in May. Ends suddenly, as it did Saturday night for the Thunder, and then within 38 hours you’ve talked to every Thunder player in a series of exit interviews.
The wounds are fresh. The stings still sore. Sometimes, you learn stuff. Here are 10 things I learned about your favorite squad.
1. Thabo Sefolosha’s not coming back.
It’s not official, of course, but hearing Thabo talk, I just don’t see his return. His offensive game disintegrated, and his defense wasn’t stellar in the playoffs. Scotty Brooks twice benched Sefolosha – the final two games of the Memphis series, the final four games of the San Antonio – and basically didn’t use him even off the bench. It’s hard to go from starting to not starting. But going from starting to not playing? That seems a clear message.
Thabo, whose four-year contract expires this summer, said he had “no clue” on whether he’d be back. But the Thunder is competing in high-stakes basketball. It needs a big-time defender on the wing. It’s no high crime if Thabo no longer fits the bill.
2. Russell Westbrook gets it.
Westbrook has the means to be a world-class defender. When he put his mind to it, like the last few games against Tony Parker and Game 6 against Manu Ginobili, Westbrook can put foes on lockdown. And Westbrook admitted that he has to play with defensive zeal every night, every minute.
“I’m definitely going to make more of an effort starting next year to do it throughout the season,” Westbrook said.
3. Reggie Jackson’s signing won’t be as easy as I thought.
The Thunder brass loves Jackson and wants to sign him to an extension this summer. But Jackson likes to 1) start and 2) play point guard, he told us. The first option is dicey and the second is impossible.
“It’s tough,” Jackson said. “I’m really a control freak. I like to be in control. That’s kind of how I am. That’s how point guards tend to be.”
4. Andre Roberson’s shot is under construction.
The rookie from Colorado showed signs of being a defensive whiz and is a rebounding demon. But Roberson couldn’t win a game of H-O-R-S-E even if his opponent was drop-kicking the ball.
The Thunder has changed his shot, ala a golf swing. Roberson had a tendency to let his non-shooting thumb slide into the way. “Can’t change it overnight,” Roberson said. “So just gotta get better in that aspect.”
Become a decent shooter on open jumpers, and Roberson will play a long time in the league.
5. Steven Adams is the funniest person I’ve come across in OKC’s eight NBA seasons.
Adams has natural charm and comedic timing. I’m serious. He could do a stage act. If his game progresses the way it did his rookie season, Adams will be the biggest thing to come out of New Zealand since Edmund Hillary climbed a certain mountain.