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OKC Blunder?

By Tyler Bradshaw

One of the most frustrating things in life is when everything is in place for something great to happen, and it all goes to hell. I remember playing Star Wars Battlefront with a friend of mine growing up and thinking we had the battle won. All of a sudden, the enemy gets a reinforced garrison of troops and we would just look at each other knowing everything was about to fall apart. Yes. Now you know I am a major nerd. More so then I would like to admit. I guess we all have our flaws and it is best to take pride in them. The great part of the plan going to hell, however, is the fact you have a chance to do the spectacular or at the very least salvage something out of it. We’re only ten games into the season and although the Oklahoma City Thunder fans shouldn’t panic, OKC plan is in danger of going off the rails.

I refuse to go into panic mode on any team underperforming this early into the season, but it doesn’t mean it’s too soon to ask some tough questions.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been a dysfunctional mess. Aside from beating a few bad teams, they have one nice win against the Bucks. Other than that, it’s been ugly losses like the games against the Blazers and Jazz, plus the recent embarrassment versus Sacramento.

The Thunder have never been a well-oiled, smoothly running machine on the basketball floor. This has much to do with the man who runs the show in OKC, Russell Westbrook. Perhaps the most fascinating player in the league and the commander of the offense, it’s up to him to make this science experiment work. Nothing Russ has said leads me to believe he won’t make it work, but his play on the court in some of these bad losses says otherwise. In the Kings game, we saw Westbrook at perhaps his worst. Dribbling into double teams, refusing to move the ball, and allowing his quick temper to undermine him throughout the game. Yes, I know the team is more than one man. However, if what Melo said is true and these guys came here to play with Russ and believe in him, then it’s up to Russ to make it work.

OKC and their dysfunction is nothing new to talk about. Sure, they won a lot of games when Kevin Durant was there, but it was never a seamless stream of ball movement and smooth offense. The narrative goes like this: OKC had their two superstars, and while it wasn’t the smoothest fit, it was enough to win plenty of games. Then Durant left for Golden State and immediately dropped right into their offense without skipping a beat. Now I am watching OKC play, and part of me wonders if Russell Westbrook is capable of leading a team with multiple superstars to reach their full potential.

Serious questions about Westbrook will keep much of the attention off Billy Donovan. Once again, we have a man saying everything you want to hear, but we are seeing little of it transitioning onto the court. Things like player movement and ball movement have been virtually nonexistent for the Thunder. They are dead last in passes per game and seem to be playing more “your turn, my turn” basketball than ever before. Donovan has yet to be questioned in his young coaching career. He inherited a team with two Hall of Famers who had been successful years before he got there. He got a pass when Durant left and he was learning on the fly, but now in year three he no longer gets a pass. While saying the right things is nice, if you don’t transition that to the court, they are merely empty words.

Let’s face it. Billy Donovan just may not be a good NBA coach. The season is young, and it’s too early to say this definitively, but it isn’t too early to ask the question.

Through questionable rotations and not being able to get through to his players, OKC fans should be concerned.

The Oklahoma City Thunder will probably be a great team by the end of the year. They have a superstar Point Guard. An All-Star wing in Paul George. And two excellent players in Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams. In all likelihood, this will be a contender in the West come April. However, right now they look like my friend and me when we knew we were about to get crushed in Battlefront. A team lost, confused and frustrated, but refusing to admit it. It is too soon to throw out the plan and declare it a failure, but it isn’t too early to wonder what happens next for this team if it doesn’t work out. What happens to this franchise if their greatest offseason ever turns into a downpour of disappointment.

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