You know why people like doing mailbags so much these days? Because it’s content without having to really think. The readers come up with the topics and all you have to do is just answer the question. It’s brilliant!
I get a handful of emails each day and I do my best to answer every one of them. Mainly because I still email writers I like with questions and it makes me sad when I don’t get an answer. So I say that in order to say that I apologize to anyone who’s answer I didn’t grab. I received more than I expected and I didn’t think anyone would really be up for a 15,000 word mailbag here. So I’ll file those away for next time.
Anyway, your letters:
Q: Not sure if you can answer this, but I thought I could give it a shot. How do I get my wife to enjoy Thunder games with me? She refuses to watch the games and always tells me she’s not interested when I acquire Thunder tickets. Sigh! Is there any surefire way? I’m trying to ease her into it for next season by talking about it constantly, not sure if it’s working or not. Probably not. Thanks for reading, and more importantly thanks for writing!
DT: This is something I’ve been really lucky that I don’t have to battle. As you all probably know, my wife absolutely LOVES the Thunder and enjoys following the team almost as much as I do. Actually, she may like them more.
The reason why? She loves the players. She doesn’t care so much about basketball per se, but she cares about the team, if that makes sense. So I would pander to that emotion. See if you can get her to connect to KD, Russ and Jeff Green. Have her watch some Broingtons videos. My wife just loves how together they are. The NBA itself isn’t necessarily a ton of fun to someone that doesn’t love basketball. But I’ll go see a movie with Harrison Ford in it even if it’s a chick flick and I know I’ll hate it, just because I’m a fan of his.
I asked Mrs. DT her thoughts on this and here’s what she added: “Well you can start by not talking about it constantly. I’m sure everybody is aware I am married to an NBA writer and basketball is a major topic in our conversations. Talking about it al the time is probably turning her away from the game. I started loving the Thunder because of my love for Oklahoma. The way we acquired the team was less than ideal and I hated hearing people talk about my home state the way they did. I decided I didn’t really care about the Thunder, I cared about making them succeed. If they succeeded, Oklahoma succeeded. The only way I thought I could help was to go to the games and support them.
I actually didn’t care for the players at first (I’m supposed to cheer on a Longhorn? Umm, no.) until Royce started a Twitter account for Daily Thunder. He would tell me about the things KD, Russ, and Uncle Jeff would say to each other and I soon realized it was like listening to Royce’s friends having a conversation. I think that’s one of the reasons he loves them all so much too (no homo). I started reading what they were saying to each other and soon fell in love with the players. Then Broingtons came to us like a gift from God and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Also, tell your wife this: the great part about the NBA is the time. It is almost always over in 2 hours-ish. That is a short amount of time compared to your trips to the mall.”
Q: The Thunder are only two years old in OKC, but I would be interested in your assessment of the LONG TERM viability of the Thunder in OKC. In other words will OKC support this team for many seasons win or lose, is the fan base growing etc. What are the impediments to long term success and stability in OKC?
DT: I used to worry constantly about this. Sure it’s fun now, but what about in five years? What about if the team stinks in 10? What if Kevin Durant leaves us? What if Sam Presti falls into a sinkhole, Scott Brooks decides to become a missionary and Clay Bennett sells the team to a rancher from Weatherford?
But I really don’t fear it anymore. Last season’s playoff run and series with the Lakers sealed this team, this franchise, into Oklahoma City’s heart for a long while. Yes, things could obviously go south. But OKC is a one-sport, one-team city and already, the Thunder have established quite a foothold into the mind of Oklahomans. It helps that this current team is so darn fun to root for, but regardless, I don’t see OKC folks abandoning them any time soon. Oklahoma is an incredible sports state. Passion for teams runs at an amazing high. And combining and harnessing that passion for two universities into one professional team has and will continue to have, great long-term results.
Q: Rich Cho and Royce Young get into a fist fight. Who wins?
DT: Tremendous question that obviously will require an answer with multiple layers. What are the surroundings? Are we fighting in an alley or in a bar? Is this strictly fists only or are we bridging out to include tire irons, metal chairs and possibly the shoes on my feet?
On the surface, I lean towards Cho. He’s smart. He’s crafty. He processes situations far quicker than I and should be able to use that to his advantage. Plus, I’m a huge baby and would probably cry if someone hit me in the face.
Q: Darnell Mayberry had a great piece on who is most likely to fill the Christmas Day games. If it were entirely up to you, (with no regard to which game would get the best ratings or time zone considerations) what five games would you put on Christmas Day?
DT: Marquee nights for next season are released tonight on NBATV. I’m told that the Thunder should be involved in some regard. I don’t know if that means a Christmas Day game, but I think that’s entirely possible. So here are my top five games that I’d love to hear set up:
Game 1: Los Angeles Clippers at Washington Wizards
Of course, this game likely won’t happen. But the hook of the last two No. 1 picks both playing in their rookie season seems like an interesting angle. Plus, by all indications, the Clippers might be a semi-decent team this year. A game of John Wall and Blake Griffin would be good, but having Christmas in Washington DC seems like a fun idea to me.
Game 2: Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls
Two old dogs in the East, but in two entirely different phases. The Bulls are building and could be a contender. The Celtics are still a legit contender but are fading quickly. These two put together maybe the most memorable opening round playoff series ever two years ago and a remix of Derrick Rose versus Rajon Rondo just seems like a good time.
Game 3: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder
Common thinking has the Thunder playing the Lakers. But I want a do-over of the unforgettable game that happened in Utah late last year or as I vividly remember it, The Tony Brothers Game. Russell Westbrook against Deron Williams may be the most entertaining head-to-head point guard matchup out there, plus KD just needs a spot in primetime on Christmas Day. It’ll likely be an important game of Northwest Division contenders and OKC will bring out a raucous crowd for the spotlight.
Game 4: Miami Heat at Cleveland Cavaliers
Game 5: Los Angeles Lakers at Portland Trailblazers
I love watching the Lakers play in the Rose Garden. First off, they always struggle. Secondly, the Blazers have a great crowd, but they bring out the best when the Lakers are in town. And third, this should be a really, really good game.
Q: How different do you think this Thunder roster would look if the Blazers took Durant No. 1? Does Presti take Oden? Is Uncle Jeff at SF? Does he take Evans over Harden? And does KD paired with Roy give Portland a title?
DT: No doubt Presti takes Oden. I’m on record to my friends circa 2007 that I preferred Durant over Oden. But I wasn’t in disagreement that Oden was the consensus top pick. So if by chance Oden fell to two, Presti grabs him and everyone celebrates. However, I’m not so sure Presti makes the deal to deconstruct the roster and add Uncle Jeff. Part of me thinks Presti might’ve inserted Oden at center (a position that Sonics team desperately needed help at), hangs on to Ray Allen, lets Rashard Lewis walk and tries to compete. Durant was drafted as a franchise centerpiece. Nobody ever saw Oden as that. They saw him as a starting center on a championship team.
Westbrook is still picked because the only other player that makes sense there is Brook Lopez and that need is filled. Harden is taken as Ray Allen’s successor. And in Portland, Roy and Durant battle an alpha dog issue and Roy is traded to New Orleans for Chris Paul.
That was not fun. Let’s never do that again.
Q: Jeff Green is respected by analysts and commentators for his versatility and ability to be a ‘stretch 4.’ Why do stretch 4s get so much clout from NBA-people? Don’t they have as many disadvantages as advantages? When Green is standing around the 3 point line, yes he gives Kevin and Russell more lane to work with, but he is also totally out of offensive rebounding position, and gives up size/defensive rebounding on the other end. Guys like Antawn Jamison, Charlie Villanueva, and Rashard Lewis. I just think the stretch 4 is given way too much credit, and not as fail-proof as analysts make it seem.
DT: Analysts and coaches love versatility. They love to say it. They love to think about it. They love to build rosters around it. Even if a guy isn’t at all versatile, most coaches will describe a guy as such.
It’s obviously not a bad thing. There are good stretch 4s. Lamar Odom was a big contributor on a title team as one. But you’re right, they’re probably given too much credit. I don’t think being undersized at a position where size and power are valued is necessarily a good thing. But around the right big man, it can work really well. Rashard Lewis is absolutely not a real power forward but next to Dwight Howard, it works and works well.
The NBA isn’t about positionality near as much as it was in the past. Routine Thunder lineups get shuffled in where you’ll see KD at the 5, Ibaka at the 4 and Green at the 3. As long as a guy is productive and fills the role he’s expected, it doesn’t matter if he’s a stretch or a traditional player in that role. But is it a good thing to be considered a stretch 4? Only if you play well as that, is what I say.
Q: I have a quick free agent question. I’m sure you’ll point to chemistry issues and player development as reasons why it wouldn’t work, but how would you feel about signing Shaq to a one year deal (assuming he’d accept)? As I see it, the Lakers are the only real matchup nightmare for the Thunder in West and Shaq dominated Bynum both times they played last year. The Thunder could free up a spot on the roster by stashing DJ White or Mullens with the 66ers for another year (or alternating them). It would also give Serge and Cole another year of development until they can handle the Lakers front court on their own, while giving the Thunder the chance to take on the big boys this year. What do you think?
DT: I don’t think it’s a bad idea AT ALL. Clark Matthews wrote something about exactly that a few months ago. But Shaq would have to take the veteran minimum, which he wouldn’t want to do because he knows OKC could offer more. So there would be a stalemate there.
The question is, would Shaq accept a role? Would he be willing to play 15 minutes, rebound and monitor the paint? I doubt it. He still thinks he can be a key part in a rotation and OKC is concerned more about developing its young talent than bringing in a guy that MIGHT help them now. The best practice for Ibaka and Aldrich are real minutes. Presti is willing to go through growing pains with those guys as long as they get the chance to improve. And Shaq might hinder that.
Again, it’s not a bad idea in any way. Just one I wouldn’t do.
Q: As pumped as I am about the possibilities of this upcoming season I have a bit of dread about it. I just know that this season won’t be as fun as last. Sure everything is looking good right now but I’m worried about the crushing fall. At this point OKC is being projected as a top-four team in the West, Durant is being talked about having “locked up” the MVP, and we’re the toast of the league. Plus to a lot of fans upset with the Lebronicle Durant and Presti are the Luke Skywalker/Han Solo to Lebron and Riley’s Darth Vader/Emperor we’ll get more media play and more television exposure. I’m not dreading the team crashing and burning (although that’s possible). I’m also not dreading injuries (please anyone but Durant!). I just know that things aren’t going to be the same. If this year OKC won 50 games and lost in a great series in the opening round it would feel like a failure, not the pleasurable experience it was last year. I know that this sounds like a whiny complaint but I get the feeling that in 5-10 years when I think of the Oklahoma City Thunder it is going to be the 2009-2010 version that comes to mind.
DT: I wrote about this exact same sentiment back in December of last year. The reality is, last season was just special. It probably won’t ever be topped, save for a championship season. The reason is because it was so unexpected and so emotional. You always see stories of teams going from worst to first or making big leaps. But it never seems like it’s your team. Last year, it was. Nothing will likely live up to 2009-10. We watched Kevin Durant mature into an NBA superstar. We watched Russell Westbrook start to make a leap. We watched a fanbase come into its own and gain the respect of everyone.
Expectations have certainly been raised and even if the team wins 55 games and plays in the Western Conference Finals, I don’t know if it’ll be as fun as last year. The 2009-10 campaign is something I think we’ll all talk about for a good long while. It was just so fun.
Q: Since our Big 3 is not Miami’s, who do you foresee us getting to compete for a championship?
DT: If you’re inferring that it requires an equal Big 3 to Miami’s to compete for a title, I think you’re wrong. The Lakers have a Big 2, with a bunch of nice players around them. And they’re probably better than Miami. The Magic are arguably a better team built to win than the Heat right now and that’s really a Big 1 with a bunch of nice pieces.
The Thunder honestly doesn’t need anything extra at this point. Nothing indicates that a piece is missing. Remember, this was the youngest team in the league last year. Wait a year or two, then you might be able to accurately answer this question. As of right now, the answer is nobody.
Q: Kevin Durant will clearly be under the microscope, of the NBA and also the entire sports nation, soon. He’s only 21 and still has the wirey frame of a teenager. If he does indeed fill out his body and put on some muscle rather quickly, will he be critisized for PED’s/Steroids? Tayshaun Prince was always wirey and perhaps Durant will always be as well. However, if his body does continue to develop and grow, I hope he isn’t overly accused for such steroid possibilities.
DT: Um, I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about that. Heck, Rashard Lewis was busted for PED’s and he doesn’t exactly look like The Incredble Hulk.
Q: If Royal Ivey hadn’t known Kevin Durant as a fellow UT alum, does he have a job right now?
DT: I’m hoping yes. Ivey is a nice veteran upgrade as a third point guard and practice player from Kyle Weaver. Ivey is an improvement in that regard. I don’t like the idea of players having influence over front offices (didn’t work out in Cleveland) and KD doesn’t seem like the type of player that would push for that stuff. I’m assuming it’s merely coincidental. Q: Is Presti going to switch gear at some point and go for a second mega-super star or does he stay on the youth building course?
— Hugsis DT: Doubt it. He signed his mega-superstar this offseason. Everyone has heard it a million times, but Presti is working under a plan that builds a roster that evolves and progresses together. Bringing in an outside max player would upset the chemistry already set in place, plus isn’t what Presti is working for. The Spurs never made a huge free agency splash. They drafted their players, retained them and built around them with complementary pieces. I think that’s the Presti plan.Everyone liked the idea of Chris Bosh or Carlos Boozer and while yes, that would’ve been nice, it just wasn’t realistic. Not because players don’t want to come to OKC, but because OKC isn’t interested at this point. Maybe once we get some answers about where Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka or Cole Aldrich fit things will be adjusted, but as the plan stands now, it’s build from within and then keep them here.Q: Do you think having multiple Thunder players on team USA could lead to more big players coming to OKC, similar to Miami?
DT: It’s possible. The cool thing is that because three Thunder players are there, other players are likely going to see the family spirit and togetherness through KD, Jeff and Russ. Maybe it makes them envious of that. Maybe someone like Brook Lopez says, “I want to be a part of THAT.” Maybe someone like Tyson Chandler would be willing to take less money to be involved.
It’s definitely not a bad thing that three Thunder guys are there. I don’t think any back room handshakes will be made like they reportedly were in Beijing with Wade, Bosh and LeBron, but I could see the Thunder guys influencing some of the other players a bit. I mean, if I’m 22 years old and playing in the NBA, if location doesn’t matter to me, where else would I rather be than in OKC?
Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. When I get enough for another go ’round, we’ll do this again.