4 min read

DT Mailbag: 90 seconds or less

What do you think of this new 90-second rule? — Craig J.

I can understand why the league installed it. Some of the pregame antics of players were getting kind of out of control. At the same time, it does seem kind of cranky of the league to try and put a kibosh on the fun. Players have routines, they have their handshakes and they have their prayers to say. It’s all about getting ready to play.

As others have written, if you really want to speed up the game, there are better ways to do it. Things within the structure of the game. Saving five or 10 seconds a night on pregame routines just feels a little silly.

Quick random tangent about pregame and game production in general though: I had a conversation at dinner with writer from New York recently and he was asking me about what a Thunder game is like, in terms of what special thing is there about it that’s unlike any other team in the league. And honestly, the only good thing I could come up with was the players and their own personal routines.

Because the Thunder don’t really own their game atmosphere. I mean that by, other than “Oklahoma City Thunder” being everywhere and the players and stuff, there’s nothing at a Thunder game that really defines it as a Thunder game. Which is a shame, considering how dedicated and passionate this fan base is. Like when you go to a Boston Red Sox game, you know you’re there. You sing Sweet Caroline, you sing Dirty Water, you do the chants and all the like.

One small idea: Have a standard pre tip-off song. A song that becomes something that says, “You are now about to watch a Thunder game.” Not something like “Thunderstruck” or cliche like that. Something like “Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd or “Baba O’Riley” by The Who. The Thunder need to take ownership of their game experience and make it unique to Oklahoma City. Make it feel distinctly different that you’re at a Thunder game. It’s not like college I realize. There aren’t fight songs and chants built in over a hundred years of tradition. But there’s no reason not to get started now with some of that stuff. The fanbase is prime for it.

Should we all expect maybe some different approach to the type of defense played? I was thinking of a 2-3 zone with Russ and Harden at the top with KD and PJIII on the bottom wings with Serge roaming in the middle. I know PJIII probably won’t play that much but I put him in there over Nick because of his athleticism. I like this lineup because everyone is long and athletic which could really disrupt passing lanes and then once they secure the rebound fly down the court on the fast break. Thoughts? — Zach L.

There was quite a lot of chatter about the Thunder using a zone post-Finals and the consensus from the team is that it’s not something you can just throw out there. It has to be installed. It has to be something the players have bought in to and are comfortable in using.

But I for one, am all for having the weapon of a zone in your back pocket. Why not have it? You might not ever really use it, but if there comes a time it’s worth trying, you’ve got it and your players won’t react negatively towards it.

It’s something worth asking Scott Brooks about for sure, but based off of four preseason games, the Thunder haven’t used any. Maybe they’re keeping it top secret or maybe they aren’t working on one right now. It seems to me that Brooks prefers to try and use his matchups rather than a gimmick like a zone.

The reason you go to a zone is to try and stop a team from easily penetrating the paint and force them to play along the perimeter. Like you said, the Thunder have a bunch of interesting combinations they could throw out to use for a zone.

But if it’s not well rehearsed, it’s going to fail.

Read your mailbag response to the Kickstarter solution to the luxury tax problem. The smarter way to keep Harden around is to subsidize his salary, not the luxury tax. The goal is to keep Harden with the Thunder, and the problem doesn’t lie with a max salary, but the luxury tax penalty another max contract would incur. The total outlay to pay the luxury tax would be much more than the difference between a cap-beating contract and a max contract. How to best fix it? Start a Kickstarter for a speculative OKC civic ad campaign starring one James Harden. If he signs a contract for less than the max, he makes up the difference in an endorsement for the city. OKC wins. The Thunder win, and the Beard wins. Same result for about 60 cents on the dollar to the luxury tax payment. — Scott R.

OK then, sounds good. Let’s get on it everybody.

During the 2011-12 regular season, the Thunder had the worst turnover rate in the NBA. In the playoffs they had the 2nd best turnover rate. Which is more indicative of what we’ll see this season? — Dustin T.

Scott Brooks had an interesting point the other day about turnovers. He said there are two types: selfish and unselfish turnovers. And he felt like the Thunder were mostly plagued by unselfish turnovers last season. Trying to hard to make the extra pass, trying to force something to a teammate, trying to do too much.

Unselfish turnovers are far easier to get under control than selfish, because for the most part, you’re making the right play. You’re just not executing it. I think inherently, the Thunder are going to be a high turnover team. They have too many playmakers, too many ball-handlers. Their highest usage guys turn the ball over (Durant and Westbrook), so it’s natural that the team is going to pile them up at times.

I do think the playoffs seem to be the path the team is headed on because they didn’t change their style of play in the postseason. They just did it better. They slowed down, made good reads, good decisions and executed. And they saw the results of what happened when they did. There will be ugly games of course, but I’d expect the Thunder to be in the lower half of turnovers this season. It’s one of the areas they improved upon throughout all of last season and that should carry over.

Have a question or thought for the DT Mailbag? Send it to dailythunder@gmail.com.