Towards an OKC Thunder superteam

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Here in the Sooner State, Oklahomans have been feeling good about Russell Westbrook winning the MVP, while facing up to the fact that the Thunder is never going to be competitive against the Golden State Warriors, thanks to our previous hero, Kevin Durant, bolting for the big lights and championship rings of a superteam.

Then suddenly, against all expectations, one of the biggest NBA talents, four-time All Star Paul George joined the Thunder!

Everybody wanted him.  But Thunder General Manager and deal-making genius Sam Presti engineered a trade with the Indianapol, getting George in exchange for two players.  And in doing so, he saved money, getting under the salary cap and making possible even more acquisitions.

The basketball world is wondering how the Pacers gave him up for so little and why they took Presti’s offer instead of the better ones being made by other teams.

George is signed for another year, but told the Pacers he wouldn’t be resigning because he wants to end up the Los Angeles.  They traded him to get something for him.  Of course, the Thunder are now in the same position.   They will probably only have him for one year.  But this shows Westbrook that the team means to win and can be an incentive for him to sign the 5 year supermax contract.  Or, both players could go to L.A., where both of them are from.

But still, this gives the Thunder at least one year with two great players.

Paul George is said to be on the same level as Kevin Durant.  And he complements Westbrook perfectly.  He also makes up for Thunder weaknesses–namely, perimeter defense and 3-point shooting.

So maybe Oklahoma City will build a superteam.  Then again, by picking up another superstar with two first names, Chris Paul, to join James Harden, Houston may also become a superteam.

But at least Golden State will have some competition next year.

After the jump, some experts assess the trade.

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Thunder’s Russell Westbrook wins MVP

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Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder won this year’s NBA  Most Valuable Player award.

The vote wasn’t even close.  He received 69 of 101 votes, with James Harden coming in second with 22.

My logic prevailed.

Now if Oklahoma City can just keep him.  Lots of other teams are trying to put together a superteam, the only hope to defeat the Golden State Warriors.

On July 1, the Thunder can offer him a newly-possible “super-max” contract that will make him the highest paid player in the NBA.   No other team can pay him more.  But he could turn it down in hopes of winning a championship with some new team.

But no!  That will never happen.  Westbrook, unlike another MVP that I won’t mention, he being dead to me, is loyal to Oklahoma!  I hope. [Read more…]

Kevin Durant got his championship

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Last year the Oklahoma City came this close to beating the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.  Golden State then came this close beating the Cleveland Cavaliers, but failed.

Whereupon, on the 4th of July,  the Thunder’s superstar Kevin Durant signed with Golden State, putting an already super team into the realm of being virtually unbeatable.

So now Golden State has won the national championship.  Of course they did.  And they will probably keep winning them.

Here in Oklahoma, we’re kind of bitter about this.  We loved KD and put him in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, but his jumping ship to our nemesis felt like a betrayal.

That our other superstar, Russell Westbrook, chose to stay with us made us feel better.  His record-setting triple double season making him the top contender for the Most Valuable Player salvaged the season.

As I mentioned earlier, one Oklahoma fan got a petition going to change the name of Durant, Oklahoma (no relation), to Westbrook.

But now the season is over.  KD earned his championship ring by being the MVP of the series.  He has overshadowed the other Warriors, including Steph Curry, with his superpower of being able to sink three point shots from any place on the floor.  Now the Warriors are being called KD’s team.   That should count as some kind of victory for Thunder fans, with our guy taking over the enemy team.  But it doesn’t quite work that way.

So is this superteam good for the NBA?  People are debating that.  But surely coming up with a really good team, ideally one that can hardly be beaten, and that wins championships is the goal of professional sports.  It seems silly to blame a team for being so good.  But having one team that other teams just can’t compete with doesn’t make for interesting games.

But my prediction is that the Warriors will NOT be totally dominant in the years ahead.  Injuries happen.  (KD gets injured quite a bit.)  And free agents happen.  And teams coming out of nowhere to be genuine contenders happen.

So that’s my consolation. [Read more…]

The founding document of professional sports

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On February 2, 1876, the constitution of the National Baseball League was signed.

Before that, playing a sport professionally meant that the players split the money that the fans paid to watch the game.  Amateur sports was considered far more honorable.

The document establishing the National League not only was foundational for baseball.  It was foundational for all professional sports to come.   Among other things, it established that teams would be owned and that the owners would pay athletes to play for them.

This founding document has been put up for sale.  (The auction referred to in the story after the jump has been postponed, due to a dispute over who currently owns it.) [Read more…]

Russell Westbrook for MVP

512px-Russell_WestbrookThe Oklahoma City Thunder marketing office called our church a couple of months ago, saying they were offering special deals for church groups.  So we got some folks together and got tickets to last Tuesday’s game.  They were playing the Milwaukee Bucks, the only other NBA team that I’ve seen in person.  The Thunder game began with a local pastor giving a Christian invocation–how common is that in professional sports?  (tell me if you know)–and after lots of opening razzle dazzle, the game settled in.  The Thunder won 110 to 79.  A good time was had by all.

We got to witness Thunder star Russell Westbrook tie the record for triple doubles (double figures in points scored, rebounds, and assists [passing the ball that leads to a basket]).  We can tell our grandchildren that we were there when Westbrook ties Oscar Robertson’s record of 41 triple doubles set back in 1962.  Actually, it will be easy for me to tell my grandchildren, since a number of them were with us and witnessed it too.  The next game Westbrook didn’t make a triple double, but he made enough rebounds so that his average performance for the year was a triple double.  And Sunday, Westbrook set the record after leading his team to a comeback win over Denver, which was leading 10 points in the last two minutes.  Westbrook scored 50 points.

The entire state of Oklahoma is Thunder crazy.  Kevin Durant was everyone’s hero until he signed with the hated Golden State Warriors.  But Westbrook stayed with the team!  One fan started a petition to change the name of Durant, Oklahoma, a small town that had that name long before the Thunder was even thought of.  The petitioners wanted to change the name of Durant to Westbrook, which is actually a good name for a town.  So, of course, all Oklahomans think Westbrook should win the league’s MVP award.

But how could he not win it?  Not only has he made history with his triple doubles.  He leads the league in points scored!  And yet some pundits and fans are championing former-Thunder James Harden of the Houston Rockets.  After the jump, I will make the case why Westbrook is the NBA’s most valuable player. [Read more…]

Super Bowl post-mortem

13976579960_02e0de6bdb_zWhat a great Super Bowl.  New England was down by 25 points late in the third quarter, but came back to force the first overtime in Super Bowl history, whereupon Tom Brady marched his team down the field for a winning touchdown.  This was the biggest comeback ever in the championship series.  Although I was pulling for Atlanta–which played superbly for most of the game–that was a fun game to watch.  If I were more invested in a team (if the Packers were playing and lost in a similar way), I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much, but unlike many Super Bowl games, this one was a thriller.

The commercials were not all that annoying this year.  My favorites:  The animated yearbook pictures of famous people, though I don’t recall what product they were advertising, which sort of defeats the purpose.  The Melissa McCarthy environmentalist Kia ad was hilarious. But, though I may have missed some, I didn’t see any that were overtly sexual, distasteful, or sensationalistic, as has become common in Super Bowl ads.  There were a few that featured immigrants, a fraught topic at the moment, but none of them seemed overly political or in the Hollywood protest mode.

Even the frequently outrageous Lady Gaga in her halftime show didn’t protest Donald Trump or scandalize the nation, from what I could tell.  She even worked in some patriotic numbers, along with her visual spectacle as filmed by drones.

We even threw a little party, which added to the experience.  So this was for me a rarely satisfying Super Bowl.

What do you have to say about it?

 

Illustration by Jack Kurzenknabe, www.photosketching.com, Public Domain.