Spurs (0-0, 0-0 road) vs. Thunder (0-0, 0-0 home)
Stream: Click here
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 7:00 CT
After an injury-derailed season a year ago, and an extended offseason filled with noise about free agency rumors, Kanter’s contract and a new coaching staff it now all gives way to one of sports’ great exclamation points: A healthy Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.
One year ago today, the Thunder took the floor in Portland with just nine available players. Tonight Billy Donovan unleashes the deepest and most talented roster Oklahoma City has ever had against a reloaded Spurs team on opening night. Buckle up, basketball is back.
3 Big Things
The starters seem set: Russ-Roberson-KD-Ibaka-Adams. But what happens after that will show Billy Donovan’s first cards. I think a big question is, who plays more Waiters or Morrow? Obviously this could be a matchup-based decision so it could vary. But has Morrow shown Donovan enough on defense to let him explore minutes with Durant and Westbrook late in a game?
How much small ball will be played? There are a few very intriguing and downright nasty combinations to be played with this group fully healthy. Most small ball lineups will include Russ, KD (at the 4), and Ibaka (at the 5), but which two players join them? In a sea of good options, the best IMO is Morrow and Singler, but Waiters, Roberson, Augustin and even Thunder Dad – Steve Novak will see time here.
Then there’s Enes Kanter. The second unit looks set to run through a Waiters-Kanter P&R with shooters spacing the floor. Kanter averaged 19-11 in 26 games with the Thunder last year, and not one of those was played with Durant. Look for some spot minutes where Kanter plays with both Russ and Kevin.
Which brings us to the lineup that was most devastating in the preseason, especially in their last game against Utah: Westbrook-Morrow-Durant-Ibaka-Kanter. This lineup presents endless offensive options. Lots of shooting, enough ball handling, good passing and high IQ. We’ll see how much time this lineup gets and if they can get the necessary stops on the defensive end against San Antonio.
2. Lamarcus Aldridge
How did the Spurs improve this offseason? They landed the biggest fish on the market, Lamarcus Aldridge. Aldridge is a player Thunder players and fans know quite well from his time with division rival Portland, and this time there’s no Perk to throw at him (kinda, sorta, not all the way kidding). The Spurs have never run things through just one player, and it’s interesting to note that LA has long been a player that eats up the shot clock from the post. So how will they integrate such a potent 1-on-1 scorer into a pace and space offense?
Ibaka has struggled historically against Aldridge and could potentially start on Duncan with Adams on Aldridge, but hey… I reserve my right to be wrong.
3. Kevin Durant
This guy. THIS GUY.
Yesterday ESPN wrapped up its annual #NBARANK which slotted Anthony Davis, you know the guy who made Mo Speights look like a First-Team All Defensive player last night, ahead of Kevin Durant. Nae, former league MVP Kevin Durant.
Durant played 27 games last year after 3 different operations to fix a Jones’ Fracture in his right foot. All summer long questions have swirled, and articles written, about what kind of player he’ll be once he returns. Tonight Durant gets to start answering and my guess is.. he has a lot to say.
In the words of Frank Underwood, “For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain there can be no mercy. There is but one rule, Hunt or be hunted... Welcome back.”
COTN: For any newcomers, welcome. To you, vets, welcome back. This is where the comment of the night (COTN) will be posted from the previous game’s primer. Remember, keep it classy. Happy commenting.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Hunt.