Author - Matt Tierney

Here are Three Important Changes to the Thunder’s New Playoff Format

As the NBA continues to push towards a resumption, the new playoff format circulating the internet is gaining steam. Here’s three changes that could potentially sway the Thunder’s playoffs hopes.

1. Miami will be an Excellent 1st Round Series

My personal vendetta against the Utah Jazz makes it difficult to not call for their heads in a playoff series. If COVID-19 never happened, they would likely be our 1st Round opponent.

But honestly, Miami vs. OKC sounds like a fantastic series. Two great coaches with some young stars led by a veteran player. Each game would be nail-biting.

The personal matchups are extremely intriguing. How will Steve guard Bam if he stretches the floor? Who will be the primary defender for Butler? Who on the Miami squad matches up defensively with Gallinari?

Both teams have potential areas to exploit, and it’s up to Coach Spoelstra and Donovan to make alterations, which they will. I would absolutely enjoy that as the first taste of OKC Thunder basketball (which feels like years ago).

2. The Possibility of Westbrook vs. OKC in the NBA Finals

It’s possible, I didn’t say it was likely. But that’s a scenario that could unravel that might break my brain.

If we were to entertain the idea, it’s one I can’t yet grasp. Since the season began I’ve held the notion that I want OKC to win it all, but if we get eliminated and Russ can make it, I’m right there behind him.

BUT if both teams are there, what do you do? Everyone in OKC wants Russ to win a championship because he deserves it, but the cost of a Thunder championship might be too high a price to pay.

3. Bucks or Lakers?

In either scenario, the Thunder would face the top team of the conference. Under normal circumstances we would see the Lakers, but now it would be the Bucks.

I’ve gone back and forth on which is better. Honestly, I don’t think we have the talent to win either 7-game series. But considering matchups and previous head-to-heads this season, the Bucks actually seem a little better for OKC.

The Lakers are obviously going to run the offense through Lebron and AD, and when you have two very large, athletic guys on the floor at once it runs the OKC defense thin. Gallinari is a liability on that end, which means you would be putting Ferguson or Dort on Lebron, which is like putting a scrappy fox up against a brown bear. It would be a good fight but we all know who wins that.

The Bucks, however, have one enormous dude named Giannis and then a bunch of perimeter shooting. Assuming Adams could at least contain Giannis, the guard defense is strong enough to cause some trouble for Middleton, Hill, etc. It’s not a very promising scenario, but compared to an LA matchup I prefer it.

 

Let us know your thoughts on this potential playoff format. The more I think about it, the more I think I would enjoy it.

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Damian Lillard Wants to Play But Also Doesn’t Want to Play

The newest “what can we discuss because there’s no actual basketball” news has entered the social media world, per Yahoo Sports.

“If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team. But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that in there,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday morning via phone.

What is the opposite of competitive? Apathetic? Yeah, that sounds right.

Putting that aside, though, it’s very funny to place this in the context of everything else going on.

Just weeks ago Yahoo and others reported Lillard as one of the members of a now well-known conference call in which the main statement proclaimed around these parts was “we just want to play basketball again”.

Prior to said phone call and global pandemic, Lillard and the Trailblazers recorded a smooth 29-37 record, 3.5 games behind the 8th seed Memphis Grizzlies.

Record scratch – now we go back to today. “I’m not going to participate” says a very much 9th seeded Trailblazer, Damian Lillard.

Quit GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

So if I’m hearing correctly, Damian Lillard can’t wait to play ON THE CONDITION that either the full season play out (which has not been in consideration for some time now) or the playoffs are changed in such a way that Portland sneaks in the back door. A wild list of demands if I don’t say so myself.

You don’t wait to play, Lillard? Well I have great news for you. Chances are you won’t have to play OR sit on the bench, because the entire Portland team will still be back home abiding by social distancing rules as they watch the NBA playoffs in Disney World.

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Hamidou Diallo Discusses Ramadan During Quarantine

For devout Muslims like Hamidou Diallo, Ramadan is a time of fasting and prayer.

Ramadan has a rich and historical background among the Muslim community. It’s a celebration of sacrifice, family, and spirituality.

But for the young OKC Thunder player finishing his second season in the NBA, this year’s Ramadan was met with additional, unforeseen sacrifices.

Diallo opened up about the additional sacrifices during this year’s Ramadan in the most recent Players’ Tribune article. For many OKC Thunder fans, it’s a fantastic insight into the young, athletic wing off the court.

It’s All About Family

Hamidou loves his family – you can almost hear the pain through his words as he describes video calling his family while he cannot visit due to quarantine.

The family is so important to Diallo and many other Muslims during this time.

“Mosques are closed, everyone is sheltering in place, and things are just a lot more solitary. It’s much harder to connect with others of the same faith.”

That said, the food described in the article sounds so GOOD. Peanut butter soup? I mean, come on. I would definitely go for seconds.

“You guys know about jollof rice? It’s a mixture of rice and vegetables with stew meat that’s seasoned up and dry-aged to just the right taste. And my family makes the best jollof rice on the planet.”

Yes, Diallo, I would love to come have some jollof rice with your family some day, thank you for the invitation!

The Long Days

“So this year, these days, they are just so loooooong. I’m telling you … it’s like they last forever.”

The Player’s Tribune

I’ve always wondered how Muslim athletes who celebrate Ramadan manage their workouts and diet. If I fasted all day I would be starving, and my exercise involves a long walk down the neighborhood.

For a professional athlete like Diallo, that has to be the most excruciating 10-11 hours of the day. And it doesn’t help these long days when there’s a global pandemic and everything is closed.

Quite possibly the most relatable part was the Diallo brothers literally pointing out cool trees on the road. I’m pretty sure I’ve done that by myself. A lot.

Self-Sacrifice

Despite the difficulties, it’s important to recognize this entire process is a choice. There are plenty of Muslims who may not always practice Ramadan to the fullest (Hamidou even mentioned his slip-ups in the past), but those who make the choice undertake a tremendous an honorable journey.

In closing, I believe this quote from the young prospect best describes his personality conveyed in the article.

“I absolutely love being a Muslim. I love everything about it.

Especially Ramadan.

And even though this year’s version has definitely been different from those in the past, it’s still been wonderful. And, more specifically, it’s really taught me to never take anything for granted.”

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New developments to ramp-up NBA season

New developments could lead to basketball before we know it

Two developments by The Athletic and ESPN suggest progress towards NBA resumption is improving rapidly. This comes just days after the Thunder allowed voluntary practices at the facility.

Where Dreams Come True

“Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort is the clear frontrunner to become the NBA’s playing site to resume the 2019-20 season amid the coronavirus pandemic, sources told The Athletic.

The NBA is in serious discussions with Disney about the property, which has gained clear momentum over cities such as Las Vegas, sources said. It remains unclear when the games would begin, but multiple sources say the prospect of players fully training in mid-June and playing by mid-July has been the most popular and possible scenario discussed. NBA commissioner Adam Silver told the Board of Governors on May 12 that he aims to decide on the season in two-to-four weeks, and that he wants to wait as long as he can to make final decisions.”

The story reported in The Athletic suggests developments towards resuming the NBA season are closer than even a few days ago. With Disney World almost definitely the site for the NBA playoffs (and regular season if that becomes into play), the picture of a world with basketball becomes much more clear.
Based on Silver’s timeline, we will hear his decision on the season by early- to mid-June, meaning the season could resume as early as July.

Time to Head Home

“NBA teams are expecting the league office will issue guidelines around June 1 that will allow franchises to start recalling players who’ve left their markets as a first step toward a formal ramp-up for the season’s resumption, sources tell ESPN.

Teams expect a similar timeline on the league allowing them to expand group workouts that are already underway with in-market players, sources said.

The NBA is discussing a step-by-step plan for a resumption of the 2019-20 season that includes an initial two-week recall of players into team marketplaces for a period of quarantine, one to two weeks of individual workouts at team facilities and a two- to three-week formal training camp, sources told ESPN.”

A small yet important step. Bringing players back to their physical market will make team practicing resumptions more streamlined. Simply removing one barrier will do wonders.

More news from Woj and others will surely emerge in the next few days and I, for one, cannot be more excited.

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Thunder Reopen Facilities to Voluntary Workouts

“The Thunder Ion is re-opening today for voluntary workouts following the specific requirements and best practices the NBA and health authorities have established.”

Per Royce Young, the Thunder re-opened their facilities this morning to voluntary workouts. It remains to be seen who will participate, but we will update that page as we receive new information.

This was not entirely surprising news, as Oklahoma City was one of the first cities in the country to remove the shelter-at-home policies. Although the decision was met with mixed responses, this gave the Thunder organization the opportunity to re-open. Per the announcement from Adam Silver last week, organizations can re-open if their market eases quarantine policies in the area.

Players in the Thunder organization, including Chris Paul just yesterday, have emphasized their desire to resume basketball. However, they were careful to add that they want proper safety precautions in place beforehand. It’s now the responsibility of the Thunder organization to successfully execute these guidelines.

More updates will surely unfold in the coming days.

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Chris Paul Discusses NBA Reopening, New Documentary “Blackballed” on The Jump

“We wanna play bad”

It’s no secret that an ultimate competitor like Chris Paul doesn’t enjoy waiting around while organizations determine the proper safety precautions. He jumped on The Jump with Rachel Nichols to discuss what the players are feeling and what we need to do in order to resume the NBA.

“Lotta hard decisions, but with the team around us ultimately we’ll get to where we want to.”

 

It’s no secret that Chris Paul doesn’t have the answers – nobody does – but the drive to play basketball again is what motivates the league to find them.

“I don’t have all the answers, but I know people are working tirelessly to figure it out … man we wanna play, we wanna play bad too. … But we want it to be as safe as possible.”

On the topic of watching sports, CP3 revealed that he is desperate to find anything on TV.

“The other day I watched a corn hull championship”

 

The New Docuseries, “Blackballed”

Chris also discussed the new documentary “Blackballed”, the story of Donald Sterling’s controversy and how Chris Paul led the Clippers towards a potential boycott.

“[The consequences] were bigger than that. It was more about life, race relations, and how you respond.”

Paul continued, saying “I think about [my son] back in 2014 and how he was too young to remember, now he’s old enough to see for himself what happened.”

 

Like the rest of us, CP3 wants things to return to normal but also understands that we face an unprecedented pandemic. The process will feel excruciatingly long. It will suck. But we’ll get there eventually.

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Thunder Weekly Review

Chris Paul Zoom conference, another controversial quote from Kendrick Perkins, and more!

How did you get through another week of quarantine? I continued to pretend sports exist by watching the NFL draft, playing more NBA 2K, and imagining what the Thunder would be doing in the playoffs right now. Probably owning the Jazz. I bet Gobert would be crying in the locker room.

But that’s not the reality we live in, so here’s the actual news for the OKC Thunder.

1. ICYMI: Thunder Family Feud featuring Down to Dunk

Our friends over at Down to Dunk came on the podcast for another Family Feud! Enjoy the full game on our YouTube page!

 

2. Chris Paul loves his Zoom calls with teammates

Chris Paul joined a Zoom media conference call this week to field questions. It was an interesting idea from the Thunder PR, and one I’m concerned might be foreshadowing to future interactions from the media. But that’s a topic for another day.

The conference was extremely positive from all accounts. Per Thunder Digest alumnus Brady Trantham on The Franchise, Chris Paul said this has been “one of the funnest years I’ve had” and went on to say how much he enjoys the Zoom calls with his fellow teammates.

And it appears like SGA’s Tik Tok’s can corroborate these reports

3. Kendrick Perkins comments on 2016 Playoffs

Kendrick Perkins said something controversial regarding the NBA? Well, color me flabbergasted.

In a recent report from The Athletic, Perkins insinuates that his presence on the 2016 OKC Thunder team would have propelled them into the NBA Finals.

Sure, Perkins is a great locker room guy from what his teammates say. I’ll give him that. But does he have the power to control Kevin Durant’s shot during clutch moments? No? Well, then that claim is likely inaccurate.

The Thunder had every opportunity to win that series on the court. Another sideline motivator wouldn’t change much. What they needed was to make one or two more shots in the right moments and they were on their way to their second Finals appearance.

You can hear more about this news on our most recent podcast out on iTunes

 

4. Thunder transform old shirts into masks

You just gotta love this organization, right? I’m not sure if other teams already did this, but from my account this is the first time I’ve seen something along these lines. I love the idea, and I love the sentiment.

While OKC continues to battle a terrible disease, it’s important to recognize the good that comes of this when it appears. Kudos to whomever proposed this idea to the Thunder management.

 

5. The One-Year Anniversary of the Dame Shot

You might be sitting there asking, “Why on Earth would you put this under THUNDER news?” Well, the answer is simple: without this shot, we would not be entering one the most promising rebuilds in NBA history

Take a moment to recognize what Sam Presti did after this shot.

Paul George, a disgruntled star, was shipped to Los Angeles for a record-setting amount of draft picks PLUS a phenomenal sophomore Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a sharpshooter in Danilo Gallinari. Gallinari will have tremendous value in the offseason, and Shai has become the cornerstone of our future.

Russell Westbrook, now facing an unprecented time, agreed to be traded to the Houston Rockets, in which we received their best player behind James Harden, Chris Paul, and two more 1st round picks. Paul, in turn, produced a spectacular season both on and off the court, skyrocketing his trade value for this offseason or next.

We have not reached the end point of this rebuild, which means there will be even more assets than the ones we have already grabbed from the Clippers and Rockets. Damian Lillard is responsible for that.

 

What was your highlight this week? Be sure to let us know. We’ll be back for another Thunder Weekly Review, but for now enjoy our recent Thunder Family Feud on YouTube!

We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Friday Fiction: Shai and the Turtleneck

I want it to be very, very clear that this is an experimental idea during this weird period where most sports content has vanished. We have to replace that content with something, and I’m gonna try this. Sue me.

 

SHAI AND THE TURTLENECK

BEGIN SCRIPT

[shai and muscala in locker room]

mike: what are you wearing

shai: this is my favorite turtle neck

[the turtleneck is soft and much cooler than mike’s turtle neck. mike’s friends like it]

mike: hm i see

[shai is in parking garage. it is poorly lit and very spooky]

shai: i feel fine

[a wild bandit of ninjas fall from the ceiling. they have nun-chunks and look very spooky]

shai: (shook voice) who are you

ninja: we are the teenage mutant ninja turtlenecks

shai: *gasp*

[shai is spooked]

ninja: give us the turtleneck

shai: but this was a gift from my great grandpapa

[shai gives them the turtleneck. the ninjas depart in a brisk and spooky fashion]

shai: (looks to sky) i am sorry pops

[next day shai comes with ragged clothes. he is sad]

mike: what happened

shai: i was shook and spooked

[the ninjas fall from the ceiling. they are carrying a large pile of turtlenecks]

shai: you again

ninja: you’re turtleneck is hidden in this large pile

shai: your

ninja: what

shai: you neither shook nor spook me anymore

ninja: (laughs menacingly) if you do not find it we take your grandpapa

shai: not my papi-pops

[mike also puts on a ninja mask. He is one of them! shai cannot believe it]

shai: I cannot believe it

mike: you do not deserve the turtleneck

shai: i was once one of your kind (flashback) as a child i trained in the ways of the turtleneck

[it is raining and shai is fighting ninjas. the ninjas are getting owned]

shai: my grandpops was the leader of the teenage mutant ninja turtlenecks. but he was betrayed

mike: it was i

shai: (once more shooked and spooked) no!

mike: you cannot defeat us

shai: (closes eyes) i still can feel the power of the turtleneck in me

[the ninjas withdraw their pastel-colored nun-chucks. they were gifts for Easter]

shai: (looks towards the sky, a bright blue aura appears around him) grandpi-pops, i call on your power

[the grandpoptart appears to shai. it is Chris Paul]

gramps: my son, the power was in you all along

[chris paul ascends into the clouds above. the sound of beautiful music fills the air. the faint scent of Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau de Toilette is in the air. shai opens his eyes]

shai: you were right all along pops. the power is in me

[the pile of turtlenecks begin to tremble. the ninjas are spooked and shooked]

mike: (very concerned) i do not understand

[shai’s beautiful turtleneck rises from the pile and lands on him. he looks cooler than ever before]

shai: you do not understand the full ways of the turtleneck, mike

mike: it cannot be

[the ninjas disappear in a blinding light. mike lays on the ground, his mask gone]

mike: where am I shai

shai (in his beautiful turtleneck): you are home. the ninjas cannot hurt you now

mike: all these years i was taken for a fool. the true ways of the turtleneck are pure and meant for good

shai: now you understand, friend

[shai and mike walk to parking garage, no longer spooky]

THE END

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HORSE Recap: Please Please Get Some Better Cameras

Android Video Feed, AirPod audio, and Cameramen Directly Above an Earthquake. What more do you need?!?

We’ve had ourselves quite a year so far. No sports. No outdoor activities. People are running around in giant hamster balls with six feet of space between themselves. Groups of nine are shunning their tenth friend to stay above the law.

Social distancing Tiger King meme: The best Tiger King coronavirus ...

It’s chaos.

But one day we saw a glimmer of hope. Basketball would be played. That is, a basketball would go through a hoop in some shape or form.

Unfortunately, that came in the form of HORSE. Quite possibly the worst form of televised basketball. I couldn’t think of anything less exciting and more dull to replace it. Maybe a free throw competition.

But it was, in a very loose definition, basketball. And we tuned in to watch because binging The Office that 14th time around just didn’t hit the same. And because we got to see the real Chris Paul. Not the 2K version or old footage – the ACTUAL Point God.

So we turned on our televisions. And, well….

I’m sorry, are these android cameras on speaker phone??? What on this good green earth is this video and audio quality?

[An aside: Paul Pierce doesn’t have a full width court? The dude is like one of the greatest Celtics of all-time. And he missed a left-handed layup. Like completely missed. Bizarre.]

 

There are literally NO SPORTS. Which means every camera, microphone, tripod, and audio equipment at ESPN is completely unused. How do you not spare a few for the one basketball event we’ve had since last month?

If you just watch these feeds, the frame rate mirrors those early 1930’s clips where there’s only music and all the dialogue comes up as text against a black screen every few seconds. The audio is very clearly AirPod quality. And my goodness, I swear whoever’s holding the cameras on some these feeds was directly above the San Andreas fault line.

My friends, it is time to take a stance against this nonsense. We must rise together to shun ESPN into maybe using one single camera that can display more than 80 pixels at any given moment. Dust off the old Bob Barker-style microphones. Get a tripod. Upgrade to an iPhone 4 at least. Do whatever is necessary to make things manageable to watch.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

 

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Episode 226: MITCHELL vs. SHAI

Right now, in a vacuum, who would you take – Donovan Mitchell or SGA? We had ourselves quite an argument. Plus we discussed CP3’s HORSE competition next week and ranked our top 5 Thunder players (sorta)

 

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