Tag - Norris Cole

Player Grades: The bench

The Thunder certainly had a season that they can be proud of after the slap in the face that ruined July 4 for Thunder fans everywhere.

There are several gaps that need to be filled if this team hopes to compete for a title during the Westbrook era, assuming he signs the “super max” deal this July which would be the biggest contract in NBA history. The Thunder made headlines at the trade deadline after acquiring Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson from the Bulls in exchange for Anthony Morrow and Cameron Payne, which was a steal for the organization in terms of what the Thunder were lacking which was a sharp shooter from three to spread the floor and a veteran big man with experience to bring positive energy to the locker room.

Even though the trade was in the Thunder’s favor, they still lack a deep and productive secondary unit to get the weight off Westbrook’s shoulders. Fans who religiously watch Thunder basketball all have that one player that comes to mind that when they are on the court or have the ball in their hands, they make you want to throw the remote at the TV.

Here we rank and grade the Thunder’s bench  players of the 2016-17 season in terms of productivity and minutes played per game.

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The Offseason: Odds to signing back Thunder’s free agents

We are in the middle of a multi-part series of breaking down everything about Oklahoma City Thunder’s off-season situation. You can read the first two installments here and here.

Today, we are checking out each Thunder player that is now a free agent and the odds of Oklahoma City retaining them and signing them back.

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Norris Cole focuses on the important things

Norris Cole is 28 and in his sixth year in the NBA. Cole joined the Oklahoma City Thunder at the beginning of March, and from there on was battling with Semaj Christon for the backup point guard behind Russell Westbrook. Cole recently played in China, but before that, he played for the Miami Heat, winning two NBA championships.

Cole talked about how it can be difficult joining a team in mid-season, like he did with the Thunder.

“It wasn’t difficult playing basketball…but being a point guard on a new team, learning the personnel and the new terminology, that was kinda tough,” Cole said. “I think I handled it in a professional manner.”

Norris also talked about with Westbrook playing so much, there wasn’t much required of him on court playing, as there would be in a different situation. Although, he did mention there are things required from players off the court that people don’t really see on the surface.

“It is just like any other job, we have things as players that we go through that people don’t see,” Cole said about off the court duties. “Now that the season is over, I can look back and reflect and see some things that I can work on personally.”

Cole also talked about his plan in the offseason and what he will do from here. He has been in China the season before this one, and adamantly talked about getting some quality time with his family.

“Right now I am gonna go home and enjoy my family,” Cole said when asked about his offseason plan. “When the time come, me and my agent will talk.”

Cole did have flashes of him showing he can still be at least a backup point guard in this league, but it was probably just a temporary fit with the Thunder.

Cole then ended his exit interview perfectly with, “Thunder up.”

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Who is the worst Thunder player ever?

Oklahoma City just finished up their ninth season. Oklahoma City has seen some fantastic players come through and some truly bad players. However, has been the worst of them all?

To set down a list of worst players of all-time, we have to need criteria:

Anyone can be really bad player in only couple of games. We need to limit it to at least 20 games played.

We’ll choose one person from every season, so that would narrow it down to nine players. If it’s the same player in multiple years, we’ll label them such Player 2010 and Player 2011.

We’ll factor in PER, PPG, FG%, eFG%, TS%, ORTG-DRTG adjustment, and RPM. We’ll give them a number ranking based on the team, and whoever has the HIGHEST average, meaning worst on the team, will be the worst.

Seasons in which a player is traded are ineligible for the list. Such as Kyle Singler’s first year in Oklahoma City in 2014-15, he was bad but since he was traded at the all-star break, he’s out. We’ll make a single exception, if said player appeared in 50 or more games.

Any player who spent time in the D-League that season is not out. Because you can go down and still come back up and perform.

So, without waiting, here are each worst player for each season.

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Russell Westbrook chose to lead his way

Russell Westbrook divided the basketball world with a polarizing answer to a question posed by the Daily Oklahoman’s Berry Trammel after Sunday’s Game 4 loss to the Houston Rockets.

Divided being the keyword. Many applauded Westbrook’s attempt to use the podium as a stage to shield any and all flack his teammates might receive with a question like Trammel asked. Others found the answer, and subsequent commanding of Steven Adams to keep quiet, as another negative example of Westbrook lording over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

At this point it should be obvious. The question was fine. The Westbrook answer was fine. Trammel has a job to do as well as Westbrook.

It is interesting to point out the Thunder point guard’s mindset in choosing the path he set upon when he cut off Adams. Westbrook has seen this movie before.

For eight seasons, Westbrook was the dynamic number two man on a Finals caliber roster. While few questioned his talent, many questioned the chemistry between he and Kevin Durant.

“Are they actually friends?”

“Can they co-exist on the court together?”

“Who’s team is this and who will take the last shot?”

These questions are all legitimate. There were numerous examples over the eight year run where Durant and Westbrook’s on-court play did not work well. The “Batman & Robin” concept reigned supreme over the basketball world of talkshows and daily radio.

While a question may come with honest intentions and seek to find an answer that many would like to know, answers, soundbites and quotes have a history of destroying teams.

Did those questions during the Durant/Westbrook years push the former Thunder superstar to the West Coast? Certainly not. But it did create a dark cloud that seemed to follow the team during every disappointing loss.

Perhaps Westbrook remembered the atmosphere a legitimate, but somewhat loaded question could create. Especially in a time where the Thunder have let two playoff wins slip through their fingers.

It is no secret why Oklahoma City is worse without their MVP candidate on the floor. Norris Cole or Semaj Christon are perhaps the worst options at the backup point guard position amongst teams in the postseason. The rest of the Thunder’s bench has talent but is marred by inexperience or bad match ups.

Let us not forget Houston possesses a historic NBA offense to go along with some excellent role players off the bench that the Thunder simply can’t matchup against without Westbrook.

Even Trammel admitted in the Daily Oklahoman’s Thunder podcast “Thunder Buddies” that he knew the answer, he simply wanted Adams to give his unique brand of insight. While that is fair and perfectly reasonable, Westbrook saw it as a potential landmine. Something that could have produced a headline quote and lead to a toxic environment in the future.

Both men did their jobs well.

Westbrook is the leader of a team with a plethora of young talent, one-way players and not-ready-for-primetime stars. He is the unquestioned leader, alpha-dog and also happens to be one of the five best players in the world. With this large of a drop-off comes a responsibility to back your teammates.

This was a game that the Thunder controlled and dominated. Abysmal foul shooting by Andre Roberson — after playing perhaps the best defense seen by an individual player ever in the Chesapeake Arena — led to the collapse. Poor defense by Adams led to 34 year old Nene having a career day from the floor. Not to mention the well-documented +/- with Westbrook on and off the floor.

It is apparent why Oklahoma City lost this game. It had little to do with their leader and more to do with his teammate’s shortcomings compared to their more talented Rocket counterparts.

Do you think the Thunder’s leader wanted to address that and indirectly bury his teammates on a national stage? Westbrook has requested for people not to refer to the rest of the Thunder as a “supporting cast,” but rather his teammates. This was another extension of that request.

Whether it will have the effect that Westbrook wants still remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, the teammates love playing with their MVP. Sunday may have been another example of that love.

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Next question: Thunder fall back 3-1 with loss

When the Houston Rockets went to the hack-a-Dre in the fourth quarter, the entire complextion of the game changed. It was enough for Houston to take the lead and hold on as the Rockets won 113-109.

Houston takes a commanding 3-1 lead with Game 5 on Tuesday night.

Late in the fourth, the Rockets decided to intentionally foul Andre Roberson. It was momentum changing. Roberson made only one free throw but while the score deficit didn’t change, the Thunder were really never able to get the stops they wanted and Houston held on.

“I kind of like it right now,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s not good for basketball, but it’s a rule and we’re going to take advantage of it.”

Houston had the momentum and the lead, something Oklahoma City could never regain the advantage, leading to the demise of this game. It started a 3-point advantage and ended there when Roberson checked out with 3:02 remaining.

“This is a great opportunity for him to learn and grow through some of that,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said.

Roberson finished 2-of-12 from the free throw line. He was 5-of-9 from the field, finishing with 13 points.

All of the ending negated a beautiful first half the Thunder played. They fired back and were defensively suffocating. They blocked 14 shots in the first half, five from Roberson in the first half.

Oklahoma City built a 14-point lead early in the third quarter. Houston responded with a 10-0 run before the Thunder finally hit a shot. They had missed 10 in a row during the sequence. Russell Westbrook was 0-of-6 in the third quarter, helping contribute to the scoreless stretch.

After the Thunder let an 11-point lead evaporate in the first quarter with Westbrook on the bench, things got even worst with their leader on the bench in the second half. Westbrook subbed out with 2:28 left in the third quarter with his team up 75-68, but by the time he returned with 9:42 in the fourth, the Rockets were up 82-79.

Westbrook took some wild threes in the fourth. One went down from 35 feet and cut the Rockets lead down to one. Oklahoma City pressed, and almost forced a turnover, despite a horrible push off by Harden. The Rockets were able to inbound the ball, get the ball down to Nene for the foul and plus-one.

Nene finished 12-of-12 from the floor for 28 points off the bench.

This loss rides slowly on Oklahoma City. For the third straight game, Oklahoma City led by 14 or more. Oklahoma City has to find a way to close these games and defend their leads.

Westbrook had a triple-double in the first half with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. He finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists. Westbrook was 5-of-17 in the second half from the floor.

Steven Adams added 18 points and seven rebounds.

Oklahoma City and Houston will take on Game 5 in Houston at the Toyota Center 7 p.m. and on TNT.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Bench Production: F

Oklahoma City’s bench only scored 22 points and were abysmal from the floor. 10-of-23 and five turnovers. Norris Cole was a series worst -18 in only nine minutes. There wasn’t a single bench player in the positive today. Nene outscored the entire bency by himself.

Thunder bigs must dominate: D

Nene ate and he ate. He ate until he was full then he ate some more. Adams had his best playoff game of the season and it was for naught as Nene dominated. Kanter was invsible and Taj Gibson was in foul trouble. Poor performance in a game Oklahoma City needed so bad.

Finish: F

Oklahoma City didn’t finish again. They saw the Rockets close the first quarter strong. They closed the fourth just like they did all of the others. Oklahoma City is the reason why they lost this game. Houston did enough but the Thunder had a chance to win this game and absolutely blew it.

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5 Thoughts: Let’s talk about Taj Mahal

The Oklahoma City Thunder struck back with vengeance after their 115-113 to pull within 2-1 in the first round against the Houston Rockets. While we wait for Game 4, here are my five thoughts on Game 3’s win:

TAJ GIBSON THRIVED

Taj Gibson barely played it seemed in Game 2 after a solid start from the former Bull. However, Billy Donovan adjusted and played Gibson a lot more, 29 minutes to be exact, and it paid off. He was 10-of-13 for 20 points and he pulled down two rebounds. His ability to post up in the third quarter brought Nene back in and forced a sharp shooter like Ryan Anderson out of the game. Gibson was a ball of energy and honestly appeared to be playing pissed off. His playoff savvy leadership showed as he was a catalyst for the first quarter run. Donovan then used Gibson at the five, forcing the Rockets to go super small and the Thunder feasted on their soft defense in this moment.

BILLY D MAKING MOVES AND NOT OVERREACTING

The cat-and-mouse game between Donovan and D’Antoni continues to go back-and-forth. Donovan also shortened his rotation, some what. Instead of playing 12-13 players as did in Game 2, it was down to 10 players. Instead of Christon, who is by far and away the better defender over Norris Cole, was inactive. Kyle Singler, who’s an offensive black hole but can play some quality defense, was also inactive. This opened the door for Doug McDermott and Alex Abrines to shine. They were nice from deep tonight as they combined for 4-of-9 from three-point line and Oklahoma City hit nine threes. It started with the offensive adjustment, instead of trying to defend…

QUALITY DEFENSE BY THE THUNDER

That said, Oklahoma City essentially shut the Rockets out from three. Houston was only 10-of-35 from deep. James Harden was no different, he was only 4-of-12. Oklahoma City closed out on shooters. They did not allow many wide open threes. Another thing to be watching for the Rockets is the distance within their threes. Most of their threes tonight, came near the line, but throughout the regular seaosn, their attempts came 2-3 feet BEHIND the arc. So, missing long or short. Over adjusting throughout the game. When the Thunder are almost equal in makes, they should really run away with this one but…

BAD OFFICIATING

The officiating was horribly inconsistent. I officiate at the high school level, so it’s hard for me to berate and not understand why something was called or understand their angles are better than ours. That said, the NBA needs to address the three-point fouling issue. Harden has something working for him and it’s eerily similiar to what Kevin Durant had with his rip move. The NBA ruled it a non-shooting foul and that’s probably what they need to do with Harden’s throwing up a three anytime there’s remote contact. I’m not necessarily disagreeing that he’s fouled. I don’t feel he’s in the shooting motion.

ANDRE ROBERSON IS GOING TO GET PAID

Sure, Harden has scored a ton of points in this series. It seems most of that has come at the free throw line. 49 of his 116 points have come at the free throw line. However, Roberson is making him work for every single bucket. While Harden is shooting 47 percent for the series, Harden must go home, drink a cold beer and just can’t wait until the series is over because Roberson probably goes to the bathroom when he goes. He probably gets popcorn when Harden does. Oklahoma City is will have to spend a lot of money to keep Dre this summer but elite defenders are hard to come by when you’re trying to compete for championship. If he continues to turn Playoff Dre into a regular season thing, you HAVE to pay him.

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Oladipo sinks T-Wolves

Victor Oladipo nailed down a 21-foot jumper with 6.7 seconds remaining as the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 100-98 on Tuesday evening.

Oklahoma City decided to sit Russell Westbrook, Taj Gibson, Andre Roberson, and Doug McDermott but it didn’t matter as the Thunder lead for a majority of the game.

The Thunder improved to 47-34 on the year.

Minnesota took a 10-9 lead with 7:46 left in the first quarter and the lights turned on for the Thunder. Oklahoma City would rattle off nine straight before Minnesota would finally score. Then, they followed it up with another nine points. When the run finally came to an end, it had reached 37-6 and the Thunder had a 38-16 lead in the second quarter.

Kyle Singler starting in the place of the resting players had nine points in the opening quarter. He was a strong catalyst to why Oklahoma City was able to work out to such a big lead so quickly. He finished with 11 points, second highest of his Thunder career.

It didn’t last long as Minnesota cut it to 56-43 at the break and by 4:19 mark of the third quarter, they had tied up the Thunder at 62-all. Oklahoma City and the T-Wolves would trade buckets before Omari Casspi nailed a corner three, giving Minnesota their largest lead 70-67 with 1:06 left in the third quarter.

While the T-Wolves led after three, Oklahoma City’s no quit attitude fueled them to the end. Jerami Grant hit a three giving Oklahoma City an 82-81 lead with 7:12 left in regulation. Oladipo hit the putback layup, giving Oklahoma City their biggest lead since the early third quarter.

With 43 seconds left, Ricky Rubio fouled Norris Cole, who split the charity opportunities, giving Oklahoma City a tie at 98-all with 43.4 seconds remaining. Karl-Anthony Towns missed a quick jumper with 27 seconds remaining. That gave way to Oladipo to do his thing.

The Thunder held a quality defensive stand, forcing the Minnesota into a bad shot at the buzzer.

Oladipo finished with 20 points 8-of-16 shooting, nine rebounds, and six assists. His eight turnovers were the second highest of his career.

Six different Thunder players scored in double figures. Domas Sabonis scored 19, Kanter with 12, Cole 10, and Adams with 10 points and eight rebounds.

Oklahoma City wraps up their regular season on Wednesday, April 12 against the Denver Nuggets. It’s expected to see Oscar Robertson and Adam Silver in the building to celebrate Russell Westbrook’s historic season. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Be Aggressive: A+

The Thunder were aggressive from the opening tip. Oklahoma City did their best and attacked all game long and it was that’s why they did their best, coming out with the victory tonight. Oklahoma City really benefited from the youth the Thunder had tonight.

Force Turnovers: D

They only forced 11 turnovers and turned that into 17 points off turnovers. However, when Minnesota turned it over, the Thunder really made them pay. A quality defensive outing by the Thunder tonight.

Fast break: D

The Thunder only had eight fast break points tonight. It’s a stark contrast to what they can normally do with Russell Westbrook in the lineup. However, you really have to applaud the fact Oklahoma City kept the T-Wolves to only seven fast break points.

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OKC fall late to Portland

Mar 2, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Taj Gibson (22) scramble for a ball on the floor during the second half of the game at Moda Center. The Blazers won 114-109. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

45 points from Russell Westbrook wasn’t enough as the Thunder couldn’t hold on in the fourth quarter. The Trail Blazers outscored the Thunder 33-24 in the fourth en route to a 114-109 win over Oklahoma City.

The Thunder fell to 35-26 on the season and are seventh in the Western Conference.

A 16-0 fourth quarter run saw the Portland Trail Blazers turn a 101-96 Thunder lead into a 110-101 Thunder deficit. It eventually became the point where Oklahoma City could not overcome.

Oklahoma City newcomer Taj Gibson added 15 points, including a high-arching buzzer-beater from 61 feet away to put the Thunder up 60-57 at halftime.

Enes Kanter had 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Steven Adams struggled with a cool -23 in the game. He scored only 2 points and was 1-of-3 from the floor.

Alex Abrines’ 3-pointer put the Thunder in front 97-89 with 7:48 left for their biggest lead of the game. But Al-Farouq Aminu made a layup that tied it at 101 with 3:43 left. He missed the free throw, but Jusuf Nurkic got the tip-in to give Portland the lead.

Lillard’s 3-pointer extended the lead to 106-101 before Westbrook’s driving layup and free throw pulled Oklahoma City to 110-106.

Abrines’ 3-pointer with 17.7 seconds left narrowed it to 110-109. Lillard was fouled twice in the final seconds and made all four free throws before Westbrook and Doug McDermott both missed 3-pointers at the end.

Westbrook hit all 15 of his free throws. He had eight rebounds and four assists.

The Thunder were coming off a 109-106 victory over Utah. Westbrook had 43 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in that game for his fourth straight triple-double and 30th of the season. The Thunder opened the game against the Jazz with 12 straight threes.

The Thunder were without Victor Oladipo for a fourth straight game because of back spasms. Abrines started in his place. Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said he did not think the spasms were the sign of a more serious issue.

The game marked the Thunder debut of guard Norris Cole, signed on Wednesday to help fill the void after the team traded backup point guard Cameron Payne to the Chicago Bulls. Cole won NBA titles with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013, but most recently played with the Shandong Golden Stars of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Gibson and McDermott, acquired in the trade with the Bulls, were playing in their fourth game with the Thunder.

Portland took a 20-8 lead on Lillard’s layup and Nurkic’s short jumper. Oklahoma City went on a 16-6 spurt to close to 26-24 at the end of the opening quarter.

Cole hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter, his first field goal with the team, and the Thunder went up 27-26. But the Blazers reclaimed the lead and went ahead 52-45 on Aminu’s 3-pointer.

CJ McCollum’s hit a three to give Portland a 57-48 lead. However, Westbrook made consecutive 3-pointers and three straight free throws to tie it before Gibson’s stunning shot from beyond halfcourt.

The Thunder led 85-81 heading into the final period.

Oklahoma City heads to Phoenix tonight to complete the back-to-back. Game time is set to tip-off at 8 p.m.

Keys to the Game

Play Smart: C

Oklahoma City struggled at points throughout the game but really overcome in the early parts of the game. Oklahoma City fought back but couldn’t close. The Thunder can and should do better going forward.

End Strong: F

It’s weird to talk bad about this category. Oklahoma City has done a great job all year of taking care in the final minutes of games. They were tied for the least losses in the fourth when leading. That changed tonight. Call it a blip on the radar. It’ll change back to normal when Oklahoma City gets Victor Oladipo back.

Capitalize on Blazer mistakes: C

Oklahoma City found themselves down early down 20-8. However, they clawed back and even took an 8-point lead. However, they couldn’t really make the Blazers pay when they needed and that was their down fall tonight.

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Thunder sign Norris Cole for remainder of the season

Feb 21, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Norris Cole (30) drives the ball defended by Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) during the first quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder have signed free agent point guard Norris Cole for the remainder of the season as they make their push to the playoffs.

Cole last played for the New Orleans Pelicans last season, averaging 10.6 points per game on 40 percent shooting from the floor. He appeared in 45 games, starting 23 of them.

When the Pelicans did not re-sign Cole, he put his sights on China. He played for Shandong in the Chinese Basketball Association. Cole averaged 19.1 points per game in nine games for Shandong. He shot only 41 percent and 28.9 percent from three. Cole only played for Shandong for three months and hasn’t played organized basketball since the beginning of December.

For his career, Cole is averaging 7.1 points per game on 32.6 percent from three and 40.9 percent from the floor. He’s a defensive minded player who was a catalyst off the bench for the Miami Heat during their Championship runs. Cole won two NBA championships with LeBron and Co. while in Miami.

Cole spent for years at Cleveland State before being drafted by the Bulls with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2011 draft. His rights were traded on Draft night to Minnesota for Nikola Mirotic, who in turned flipped those to Miami for Bojan Bogdanovic.

The price of Cole’s contract is unknown but the flamboyant personality of Cole and his hard nosed defense could be a god send to a second unit that can struggle at the point guard position.

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