Five Thoughts 1-28-18 (Thunder 122, 76ers 112)

1. Thanks to the generosity of a family member, my son and I were “upgraded” to a Suite for the game tonight. We luck into this once or twice per year through family or work connections. My seats are in Loud City, Sec 312 to be exact. I like my spot. We have a corner view and it’s the second row so sightlines are good enough. I’m up against a wall and I always take that seat– never have to get up for anyone else and don’t have to worry about bumping knees. When I take one of my kids they take up such little space that the normally cramped seats aren’t so bad. I have now had the pleasure of sitting just about everywhere in the arena at least once. The only thing I haven’t experienced is true “court side.” I have been second row behind the Thunder bench, but never had my feet on the actual floor (that’s my definition of true “court side”). I am not tight with the Love family or Clay Bennett so there is a chance this might never happen. But I’ve been just about everywhere else– even experienced one game from the Sky Box way at the very top– that was cool, but also very weird. You are there, but you feel like you aren’t. It is as if you are watching the game from somewhere that isn’t part of the rest of the arena. I will maintain the VERY best seats in the house are anything on the club level between the free throw lines. Those are perfect. If money didn’t matter, that would be my first choice for tickets bar none. I would take those over anything on the lower level. I hate the sections in the lower level behind the basket. I’d much rather be baseline in Loud City. And while the second row tickets behind the bench were fun and gave us a great new experience for one game, I wouldn’t want to be there every night- they are TOO low and depth perception gets murky. Hard to see things develop. Anything midway up or higher in the 100 sections along the baseline are pretty awesome. But nothing can beat the Suite Life. My six year old son is a fan to be sure. He remembered from last year that at halftime they bring by the dessert cart and you get your choice of whatever you want. These are desserts on steroids too. Everything is massive. This definitely ratcheted up the frequency of this “is it halftime yet?” question this evening. When it finally rolled around he went with the world’s largest Rice Krispie Treat and he based on the fact that there was nothing left at the end, I’d say he made a wise choice. Being able to get up and stretch at any time and grab a water, beer, soda, snack whenever you want while watching a NBA game from a choice location is hard to beat. I’m not like the rapper that makes it big and forgets where he came from though. Nothing but love Loud City; I’ll see you next game.

2. The Andre injury probably “helped” the Thunder tonight on an emotional level. It zapped them during the Detroit game in the immediate aftermath and Michael Cage said the plane ride home was pretty somber. Luckily they had a big enough lead to where it didn’t cost them. But given a day to process it, knowing Andre is gone likely increased the focus and intensity for this game. Had it been business as usual this is a game that could have snuck up on them. But they played with a ton of aggression and energy in what turned into a very physical game that had little flow due to the all of the whistles. It also helps that Russ carried his beef with Embiid from the game in Philly over to this one. We know it doesn’t take much for Russ to get motivated or outright angry at his opponents. Having Embiid wave bye-bye to Adams last game clearly got under Russ’s skin. After Embiid dunked over Russ early in the game, Russ appeared to almost go into a frenzy. For awhile there he was a little out of control, trying to drop the hammer on every possession. He was a maniac. Once Russ got his own throw-down on the books he seemed to calm down a little bit and just dominate the game by being the best player on the floor. I think this uber-aggression is sometimes hard for his teammates to match. Adams knows how to do it. Andre knew how to do it. And now it looks like PG and Melo are catching up. It’s sort of like, “we better hop on this train or we are gonna get left behind.” So now those two are responding to Russ being Russ and finding the perfect spots to compliment. Not everyone can go 125 MPH like Russ. But you better go 100 MPH. If you try to coast at 65 MPH everyone is going to look bad. Thunder seem to have found the proper cruising speed.

3. George looks like a guy who has found his spot. Whether that is a spot that lasts beyond this year I don’t know. But I’m not too worried about that right now. All I know is that he is absolutely crushing people on both ends right now. His defensive contributions go without saying. He is as good as it gets as far as a superstar player goes. Offensively he now appears to know exactly where to be and what he wants to do. It seems to be a good mix of spot up shooting usually off of passes/drives created by Russ and creating his own offense off the dribble. He looks comfortable. He looks smooth. His recent comments also suggest a guy that has settled in. Having Russ vocally stand up for him being snubbed from the All-Star game seemed to resonate with him. Of course he wound up making it anyway after the injury to Cousins, but that was probably a smart move by Russ. Chemistry has developed and they look much more like a team. Melo has actually always looked pretty settled to me. Russ was next. Now PG13 has arrived. And it all looks pretty damn good.

4. The similarities between Adams and Andre are striking. There are plenty of players in the NBA that are better than Andre all around. But he has a singular unique skill that is almost impossible to match– he can guard elite players at an elite level. He can guard small guys and big guys. If you have the right team around him that can cover his obvious weaknesses, Andre becomes nearly an irreplaceable piece. Thunder are about to find out for sure. Adams has also entered an area where he is doing things that no one in the league really does. It doesn’t mean he is an equal player to Cousins or Davis or KAT or Aldridge. If you are starting a franchise, you would almost certainly take any of those guys over Adams. However, what Adams does on the offensive glass and the “nag” factor are just off the charts. He had TEN offensive rebounds today. TEN! He leads the league in this category. In addition to the rebounds that show up on the stat sheet, he is also “nagging” his way to additional possessions. On the very first shot of the night this evening, we missed– Adams fought for the rebound. He didn’t get it, but Saric was called for a foul trying to battle with him. Thunder ball. We miss again, this time Adams tips the ball and it brushes a Philly player before going out of bounds. Thunder ball. Two extra possessions less than one minute into the game. Adams isn’t necessarily an amazing defensive player one on one and he is zero threat to ever score outside of 5 feet. But he is such a monster in the paint and on the glass that he is borderline taking over games. Having Russ and Adams both attacking the paint (especially late in games) are downright criminal.

5. After thinking more about losing Andre I still feel pretty much the same way– that we can’t “replace” him and his absence is likely going to ultimately cost us. However, I’m not throwing in the towel and my opinion could change if Presti is able to work something out. I absolutely think we need to bring in SOMEONOE else. The focus shouldn’t be trying to replace what Andre does. As I said previously, that is nearly impossible to find. Instead, Presti should be looking to add another good wing player, period. Their skill set is less important to me than their dependability. Right now, we just never know what we are going to get from everyone off the bench not named Felton. We really need another guy we can count on. There are plenty of guys out there that can help. Whether or not we have the assets needed to acquire them is another story, but there are some players that only make sense for a handful of teams; which means their current team doesn’t have much leverage. Very hopeful that over the next 10 days Presti is able to figure something out. The upcoming week is tough. It’s a busy 15 day stretch prior to the break. It starts with an odd two game road trip. The fly from OKC to D.C. to Denver and back to OKC Friday for a game against Pelicans (and then another one less than 24 hours later against the Lakers). I expect the winning streak to end this week- likely either Tuesday against the Wiz or Thursday in Denver. I’ll only be disappointed if they lose both of those. They’ve built up some equity now and this streak is bound to end eventually. Just need to make sure when they lose that they bounce back quickly.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.

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Chuck Chaney

Founder & Editor-in-Chief.
Member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.