Friday, May 31, 2013

Sooners Need Unconventional Traditionalism

You can't question the success of Bob Stoops and the University of Oklahoma football team, but you can question the recent direction of the program.  The Sooners are no longer perennial championship contenders.  Despite notching double digit win totals and a Big XII championship, OU has been unable to run the ball or defend consistently the last four seasons.  Defense and ball control are the first two ingredients to championship football. The trend of mediocrity can be blamed on recruiting, defense, Landry Jones or Josh Heupel, but the main culprit is the offensive philosophy.

The Sooners were ahead of the no-huddle, hurry-up, spread offense trend.  With Sam Bradford and Kevin Wilson, OU's no-huddle became the most prolific offense in college football history.  They were often unstoppable and scored touchdowns at a record breaking rate.  No one worried as the defense dwindled.  That was just collateral damage.

That was also the past.  The unbelievable players from 2008 are gone along with Wilson.  Also missing is offensive balance, defensive pressure, and any novelty advantage once possessed by the Sooners.  Almost every team in the Big XII runs no-huddle killing their own defense along with the opponents.  It's either a quick score or quick punt which negates ball control and forces the defense into more possessions.  Also since Wilson's departure, the Sooners have failed to maintain a run/pass balance despite great talent and depth at the running back position.

Stoops should stay ahead of the trend once again, and scrap the no-huddle.  Keep a package for late half situations and change of pace, but otherwise, huddle up, run the football, and control the clock.

When Oklahoma State catches up, it's time to rethink your brand of football.  The current Big XII resembles the WAC with most games producing basketball type scores.  It's embarrassing for the Sooners to be associated with that.  OU has traditionally been a great defensive program, but last year's Sooners gave up over 41 points in three of their last four games.  Against OSU and West Virginia (who also use no-huddle) OU's defense was on the field 100 snaps.  Why not shorten the game?  You can't expect the defense to perform in the fourth quarter after playing so many snaps.  Stoops also can't expect to recruit top defensive talent with the current system.  The talent drop off is already alarming.  Where are the playmakers?  Probably in the SEC where they're not on the field 100 plays a game.

Unconventional traditionalism is what the Sooners need to evolve.  Stoops has shown that he actively looks for trends and is willing to try unconventional offenses.  His first season as a head coach he hired Mike Leach to run his unconventional spread offense.  A return to a traditional huddle up approach would be unconventional in the current Big XII.  Kansas State played ground control football while the rest of the conference aired it out and they're reigning conference champs.

With the departure of Landry Jones the Sooners offense is ripe to convert to a run focused system.  Blake Bell has already proven himself a capable ball carrier and there is a stable full of underused running backs.  Plus, the best player on the team is fullback Trey Millard.  The Sooners would dominate time of possession and keep the potent Big XII offenses on the sidelines.

I will be eternally grateful to Bob Stoops for what he has done for OU football.  He restored pride to a demoralized fan base.  He woke the giant and I believe he earned the right to coach the Sooners as long as he wants, but he is under pressure.  In over twelve years as head coach Stoops never fired a coach.  He has since fired four in 18 months.  There has been a muted tensity surrounding the program the last few years.  Several players grew disgruntled and transferred while others inexplicably left for the draft despite terrible draft stock. 

The best way to cure the Sooners is to win.  If defense wins championships (as the saying goes) the Sooners should scrap the no-huddle and control the clock.  Unconventional traditionalism.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

They Made a Huge Mistake: Arrested Development Season 4

Annyong! ("Hello!")

An Arrested Development post is long overdue ("I don't want to blame it all on 9/11, but it certainly didn't help").  My love for the show cannot be overstated ("He's very good").  My blogger profile pic is from the show ("and after he gave you animation rights to his banana grabber character").  I have lobbied for friends and family to try the show out and have several devout converts under my belt ("Caged Wisdom changed my life").  My wife and I have used the show as a friendship compatibility test ("Maybe you're not smart either! I didn't know until they told me").  I have watched the first three seasons over and over to the point that I can quote nearly every episode word for word ("it's going to be a long time before Sgt. Wendell Baker calls someone Private Homo again").  The laughs have never stopped ("They're laughing with me, Michael.").  I doubt they ever will ("At you").  But I could never figure out what to write about ("Franklin said some things Whitey wasn't ready to hear").

No episodic comedy has been ripped off more than Arrested Development ("I'm an ideas man, Michael. I think I proved that with **ck Mountain").  They mastered flashbacks, cutaways, and the mockumentary style of filming (are you forgetting I was a professional twice over: an analyst and a therapist, the world's first 'analrapist'").  The show became a cult hit after it's quick cancellation in 2006 ("Say goodbye to these, because it's the last time").  DVD and Netflix revived the failed TV show increasing the popularity exponentially ("Did you enjoy your lunch, mother?  You certainly drank it fast enough").  It became obvious the show was too good to not be resurrected ("I will become my dead father's body as I am lowered into his grave.  Dad's dead?").  The writing ("He said some wonderful things), the direction ("and you tell me you have some P.E. teacher directing, well, that just makes me want to puke all over your head, sir"), the cast ("her?"), and the light-hearted approach to comedy was simply some of the best in television history ("You're doing time Dad.  I'm doing the time...of my life").  So when Netflix announced it would bring season 4 to viewers over Memorial Day weekend, I was beyond excited ("I haven't had sex in a month.  You know you've been in here for two months").

I had a two day menu planned including cocktails ("10 cents gets you nuts") in anticipation for what felt like opening day after a seven year strike ("from whence you came").   In fact, I had planned on doing a short commentary on the show and focusing the Arrested Development post on my show inspired food ("there's always money in the banana stand").  But something very different happened ("It's never the one's you hope").  The changes and tone of the show were so distracting that my two day dinner party dissolved in disappointment ("I'm a failure.  I can't even fake the death of a stripper").

Spirits were high and flowing early Sunday afternoon as Firecracker and I began episode 1 ("it turned into one of the Bluth family's better parties").  We started the day with Gene Parmesan popovers filled with eggs, bacon, cheese and green onion ("it's just some idiot with balloons.  Is it?"), and paired it with a drink called Lucille's breakfast ("Get me a vodka rocks.  It's breakfast, Mom.  And a piece of toast) stolen from this guy, which is basically a vodka (Cloudmir) martini rimmed with toast crumbs.

I wasn't sure how to react after viewing the first episode ("you're gonna get some hop-ons").  After seven years I didn't want to see stunt actors in the opening scene, especially Seth Rogen's awful interpretation of George ("you got to play me like a man and not some mincing little Polly").  I was also confused how the show would change after devolving Michael ("the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together").  The lunatic antics of the rest of the family work because we had Michael as a backbone, the rest of the cast was free to be hilarious idiots ("I'm looking for something that says Dad likes leather").  Speaking of the cast, the ensemble format was abandoned in favor of character driven episodes ("C'mon!"), a direct contradiction of the style of show Arrested Development was ("No. Glasses on, hair back up.  Let's just get that hair right back up").  It was also clear the directing and editing were quite different ("and I apologize for that. I thought it was a pool toy").  The original program was confined to 20-22 minutes on Fox, the Netflix platform allowed for longer episodes resulting in longer scenes ("and scene").  Gone are the lightning quick edits which kept the laughs coming each scene ("Oh my God, we're having a the burning, it burns me, evacuate all the school children, ahhhhhh, amaaaaz, this isn't a fever,  zing graaace, can't even see where the knob is").

We withheld judgment ("My name is Judge") understanding the show would inevitably be different, and watched episode two.  After the second episode it was already time for a break ("spring break, woo!").  I knew the show would be different, I knew there were impossible standards to live up to, but I never thought I'd ever watch an episode of Arrested Development without laughing ("it's like she gets off being withholding").

After our break, we returned with a renewed optimism ("Even if it means me taking a chubby, I will suck it up") as we sat down to a lunch of mayoneggs and the Ike and Tina tuna plate ("I don't understand the question, and I won't respond to it").  We washed it down with a drink called I'm afraid I just blue myself which was vodka, lemonade, and blue curacao ("No. It just looks like he's dead.  He's covered in blue paint or something").  The further we got into the season, the worse I felt ("Hey, who wants to go to the hospital?").

The new season had a much darker feel than the original series ("always keep from crying, even though your heart is dying").  The subject matter included hitting rock bottom, drug addiction, adultery, divorce, a month long roofie cycle, and prostitution ("Not tricks, Michael, illusions.  A trick is something a whore does for money").  Seasons 1-3 might have been able to make some of that funny, but the bombardment of dark humor really became a bummer in season 4 ("Ignore it! That's something the body does when you shake it").  Equally as distracting was Portia de Rossi's face which was nearly unrecognizable from obvious plastic surgery ("and I think I maced a crane").

By the time we were frying up cornballs and drinking Gob's Tea for Dong ("I need something to give my dingle less tingle. Me quick want slow, wait that's Indian"), I realized the magic was gone ("The Gothic Asshole?").  I tried to tell myself that once I watched every episode the jokes would become clear and therefore funnier the second time around ("well, did it work for them? No. It never does. I mean, these people somehow delude themselves into thinking it might, but...but, it might work for us").  I even tried to marvel at the inside-inside-inside joke that season 4 was an allusion to the actual life of the show ("did someone say wonder?").

In the end, we only had a banger in the mouth ("oh, I forgot, in the states you call it a sausage in the mouth.  We just call it a sausage") and Buster's juicebox to cheer me up ("We have unlimited juice? This party is going to be off the hook").  We didn't even have the stomach for hot ham water, especially after seeing new character DeBrie smear margarine all over her face ("is she funny or something?"), or maybe it was because we had a Skip's Scramble for breakfast ("don't order the Skip's Scramble").

I hate being so critical of something I have loved for so long ("she thinks I'm too critical. That's another fault of hers"), but I just couldn't find the funny ("if I can't find a horny immigrant by then, I don't deserve to stay here").  My despondent mood wasn't fixed by watching live TV since there are half a dozen apocalyptic movie trailers currently running ("I just want my kids back").

The Bluth weekend I waited seven years for was a doleful mess and I had to go back and watch some old episodes to wash out the taste of season 4 ("take the Seaward back. I'll leave when I'm good and ready").  Rewatching the original series reminded me that the show did typically tackle cynical subjects, but did so with a much lighter touch ("No touching!").  It is because of this that season 4 will never be included with the first three ("I'm a monster!"). It will live on it's own as a dark and zany experiment gone wrong ("I know you're the big marriage expert. Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot, your wife is dead...I'm sorry.  That was 100 percent inappropriate, and I do apologize profusely").

I still have Bluth bananas in my freezer ("Gimme a Gob").  I'm not sure if I should just throw them out in disgust or eat them and feel fortunate that they gave it a try ("you didn't eat that did you? It died right in the middle of a show").  One thing I do know, the rumored movie is in serious peril thanks to the backlash the series is sure to receive ("it doesn't retain the complex eroticism of the French original").  If they do try beyond season 4, I hope they learned a lesson ("and that's why you always leave a note").  Until then, we'll always have the original series ("That's like comparing apples, and some fruit nobody's ever heard of").

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Garcia Beats Himself In Tiger Feud

Q: How do you become the loser of a lose-lose situation?

A: Say something racist to a reporter.

Ball in water, meet foot in mouth.

He'll make you beat yourself on the course.  Sergio Garcia knows this well.  He intimidates.  And he intimidates Garcia.  Even during Tiger Woods' down period, he was far superior to Garcia.  Woods is often able to watch his opponents beat themselves while he stays the course.

That's on the golf course.  Off of the course, Woods historically struggles.  He is still the most popular golfer.  No question. But, he's also the least popular golfer with the amount of people that actively root against him.  I'm talking to you, Mom and Grandma Rose.

So it amuses me that Garcia beat himself in a mini-feud with Woods.  The whole thing was a bore, and it looked like there were no winners to be had.  Bombs like this passed through the media from Garcia, "He's not the nicest guy on tour."  Damn. Consider yourself served, Tiger.

Tiger picked himself off the mat and returned fire by calling Garcia a "complainer."  Ouch.  It just got real.

Turns out, it did, sort of, just get real.  Garcia found a way to lose a battle with no winners by making a fried chicken reference towards Woods to a reporter who asked Garcia if he would have Woods over for dinner.

Nice one, Sergio.

Woods was already the target of the same ignorant remark by Fuzzy Zoeller, and Zoeller was from the old guard where it's expected to some degree.

Today is different, and almost all of that can be attributed to Woods.  The old days of exclusion are melting away in a sport where tradition means everything.  Woods did that.  No.  He's not likable as a human.  Neither was Michael Jordan behind the curtain.  But Woods is unquestionably one of the top players to ever play the sport, and he is a minority.  He is Jordan meets Jackie Robinson.  You can't take that away from Woods.  No matter what he did, or how you feel about him, he is a pioneer.

As soon as Garcia went racist, he lost.  Beat himself.  I doubt Garcia is a bigot. More of a pampered idiot would be my guess. But, who the hell knows?  All we know is he went there with a mic in his face.  Now, he's a racist for life.  Some things cannot be unsaid.  The proof will be when sponsors start dropping him.

Woods truly doesn't like Garcia.  I doubt he was seriously hurt by the comment, but he certainly didn't try to bail out Garcia.  Nor should he.  His response to Garcia,

"The comments made weren't silly.  It was wrong, hurtful, and clearly inappropriate.  I'm confident that there was real regret that the comment was made. "

It was a stupid feud that was hardly worth mentioning before Garcia crossed the line.  Now it will cost him millions of dollars and his reputation.  Garcia will also likely struggle on the course because of the backlash.  A vacation is probably in order.

If this feud were a golf tournament it would the same Player's Championship that started the feud.  Tiger holds on to win as Sergio puts his foot in his mouth ball in the water.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

LeBron's Legacy Tested Again

Anything short of a NBA championship is a failure for LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Every year Miami's Big 3 are together they are expected to win.  There are no moral victories and no slack from fans or critics.  Even when James got his first ring last year, some found ways to diminish the accomplishment.  "It was a strike shortened season (66 regular season games instead of 82)," was a personal favorite.

James answered every question raised of his game during the Heat's run to the title.  He was clutch.  He put his team on his back.  Not only did he beat the Pacers without the injured Chris Bosh, we forget that Dwyane Wade was on the verge of imploding.

Wade was playing terrible and visibly frustrated.  It was clear his knee was bothering him and at one point had a sideline altercation with head coach Eric Spoelstra.  He left the team between games 3 and 4 to get his head straightened out.  The Heat were in trouble.

Down 2-1 to the Pacers and playing in Indiana, James played one of the best games in playoff history.  Trailing by 10 in the 3rd quarter James continued to look for Wade to get him some easy buckets and break him out of his funk.  It worked.

Wade scored 22 in the 2nd half as he and James scored 38 consecutive points for the Heat.  James finished with 40 points, 18 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals while icing the game with clutch free throws.  It was the turning point for James.

But that's in the past.  One championship would never do for James and the Heat.  It's a new challenge and new series against the Indiana Pacers. Throughout the regular season the Pacers were considered the best threat to beat the Heat in the Eastern Conference.  They are above average at every position and especially strong in the post.  They were the top rated defensive team this season and excellent rebounders.  Rising star Paul George is one of the very few players that matches up with James defensively.

Size differences between the two teams highlights two very different styles.  The Heat play without a big man opting to spread the floor with Bosh at center.  This strategy pulls the opposing center away
from the basket and opens up the driving lanes for James and Wade.  The Bosh/Roy Hibbert matchup will be pivotal.  The best chance the Pacers have to win is to dominate rebounding.

The Pacers are capable of winning the series.  It will be up to James to keep them from doing that.  Even with Wade ailing again, there are no excuses.  Last year began what needs to be three straight titles if James wants to fulfill his Chosen One moniker.  No other player on the Heat lives with that scrutiny, though James put that on himself (literally).

But, why wouldn't he?  We want our superstars to strive to be the best, and supreme confidence is what makes transcendent players.  He has the skills to realistically get there someday. But today, he needs to win.

So we can throw away game plans, matchups, and supporting cast.  This series comes down to LeBron's legacy.  Will he, or won't he? The greatest of all time would win this series even with an injured Wade and no inside presence.  Even if it takes 40 points, 18 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals.

James has cruised through the first two rounds...That's not going to work against the Pacers.  I wouldn't be shocked to see a seven game series.  There will be moments where the Heat are backed into a corner.  There will be questions from critics after a bad game.  In the end, James and the Heat should march on, leaving an intense rivalry in their wake.

I believe, like Michael Jordan, we are watching someone truly special and destined for greatness.  Time will tell, and it's time to prove it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spurs Finally Stars

You've heard this before.

"Greg Popovich is the best coach in the NBA."

"The Spurs are the best organization in basketball."

"The Spurs do it the right way."

The message is the same no matter what the superlative...The Spurs are consistency at its boring best.  No flash, no ego, just execution.

They won four quiet NBA championships in eight years, the last coming in 2007.  Everyone knows they're good, but outside of San Antonio, no one really cares.  We want drama and athleticism from our champions...not fundamentals and sportsmanship.

That's the blessing or curse of being the Spurs.  They are free to win, unencumbered by the daily scrutiny and scathing criticism that other champions face.  Even Tony Parker getting blasted in the eye by rapper shrapnel somehow flew under the radar.

So why do the Spurs suddenly seem star-studded in the Western Conference finals?

It's probably because they're playing the Memphis Grizzlies, a team without a true star.  They are tough, talented, well coached and play great defense, but lack a superstar.

In a lot of ways, the Memphis Grizzlies are the San Antonio Spurs.  They don't have a star near the proportions of Tim Duncan, Parker, or Manu Ginobili, but they like it that way.  Just like the Spurs, they focus on team, not individual greatness.

And like the Spurs, no one gets too excited to watch them play.

We will see some stars in this series.  There will be plenty of Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade on commercial breaks.  But on the floor, just a couple of teams playing the type of basketball that would make a Catholic League coach happy.  Fundamental basketball devoid of egos, chest-thumping, and unfortunately, intrigue.

In a league where even a 3 pointer is reason for a celebratory dance move, Memphis and San Antonio barely move the needle.  It's the basketball equivalent of green beans.  We know we should love to consume them because they're good for us, they just doesn't taste good enough to crave.

The Spurs should win this series.  Memphis no longer has the element of surprise as they did two years ago when they knocked the top seeded Spurs out of the playoffs.  Like the Spurs, the Grizzlies have flown under the radar and played free from scrutiny.  That's about to change.  The stakes are higher and the expectations are Finals or bust.  The difference is that San Antonio is used to those expectations, while Memphis has never faced the hot glow of the spotlight.

NBA conspiracy theorists must be scratching their heads over this series.  How did the NBA let two boring, small market teams into a conference finals series?  But, like most of the world, they probably aren't paying attention.

For those who don't care for star-studded casts in professional sports, let me ask you this...Are you more likely to watch the Finals if it is Lebron James, Wade, and Chris Bosh against Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli? Or, would you prefer Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley against Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and Lance Stephenson?

I know which I choose.  While both series will be hard fought, the teams with stars (that's you San Antonio) should advance, setting up a thrilling Finals.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

No Harden, No Westbrook, No Title

The OKC Thunder only lasted 5 games against the Memphis Grizzlies.  The depleted Thunder played hard, never quit, but were outgunned by a healthy Grizzlies squad.  Every game in the series was close and if Russell Westbrook was healthy the Thunder would likely be marching on to the Western Conference Finals.  But he wasn't, and worse yet, his absence illuminated the fact that no superstar wins alone in today's NBA.  Durant, known for his clutchness and amazing player efficiency rating late in games, came up short four straight times against the Grizzlies without Westbrook.  Once upon a time the sky was the limit for the Thunder.  Today it looks like the window has narrowed.

Things didn't go as planned this season for the Thunder.  The one time favorite to challenge the Miami Heat for an NBA championship began the season with a stunning trade of James Harden.  OKC's Big 3 would have to be a duo altering their future forever.

The Thunder remained confident despite the loss of Harden.  After all, they still had the second best player in the game in Durant, and another top 5 player by his side in Westbrook.   The role players were in place, and the number 1 seed was locked up with relative ease over the regular season.

The basketball gods had a sense of humor for the Thunder's first round playoff series pairing them against Harden and the Houston Rockets.  The laughing stopped when Patrick Beverley collided with Westbrook's knee on an unnecessary play from the overzealous rookie.  A torn meniscus was Westbrook's diagnosis a day after the Thunder took a 2-0 series lead.  He was done for the season.

No more Westbrook.  No Harden.  But they still had Durant.  The best of the three.  The leader.  The most clutch player in the NBA.  The most well liked player in the NBA.  Infallible.  Unguardable.  A once in a generation player who always comes up big in the biggest moments.

The Thunder responded by taking game 3 from the Rockets.  It wasn't smooth, but it wasn't supposed to be the first night without Westbrook.  They got the win and Durant played great as both a scorer and distributor.

But then a loss.

And then another.

The Rockets took the Thunder to game 6 who were now 1-2 without Westbrook.  No longer were Thunder fans confident they would compete for the championship.  It was obvious that every game and every series would be a grind.

But they still had Durant.  There was no telling how big Durant could play when backed against the wall and forced to volume shoot.  If there's ever been any criticism of Durant it's that he is too unselfish.  He defers too much to Westbrook.  Fans and critics alike wanted to see what he could do "on his own."

The Thunder won game 6 and took the series from the Rockets.  It proved to be short lived relief as they prepared for the Memphis Grizzlies.  The Thunder barely squeaked out a 7 game series two years ago against a short-handed Grizzlies.  Now the tables were turned.

Game 1 was clunky for Durant's supporting cast.  The team started slow and trailed the entire game.  It wasn't until Durant hit clutch buckets in the final few minutes of the game including the game winner with 11.1 seconds left that the Thunder took control.  His line was even more video game than normal: 35 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal.  Superman had done it again.  Swooped in and the saved the day.

Durant's clutchness was the running narrative Monday and Tuesday in the sport's world.  We marveled at Durant's player efficiency rating in the last 2 minutes of playoff games.  Absurd.  No one in the league was even close.  His "clutch gene" is why so many preferred his game to Lebron James.  His greatest strength was perhaps Lebron's biggest weakness.

Four games later the Thunder season was over. 

Confidence was high entering game 2.  The Thunder played poorly as a team and still came away with the win in game 1.  Surely they would improve collectively.  Durant single-handedly kept the Thunder in game 2 but fell short missing his last three shots. A colossal effort with a near triple-double and 36 points was wasted.  With those numbers Durant was hardly to blame for missing shots late.  Even the most clutch performer in the NBA can't be perfect.

Unfortunately for the Thunder, Durant's late game misses, not his makes, became the story of the series.  Game 3 saw Durant miss a jumper to tie with 1 minute left and later he missed 2 free throws.  The 90 percent free throw shooter clearly was struggling.  Two straight games of failing in the clutch.

Game 4 saw the Thunder jump out to a 17 point lead only to have the Grizzlies come back to force overtime and eventually win.  Durant went 2-13 in the final period and overtime including a missed layup.  In fairness, he did make a layup to force overtime, but it was his 4th quarter cold spell that put the Thunder behind.

After game 4 the Thunder were resigned to their fate.  That awful feeling in sports where the fire in your stomach is replaced with numbness.  You could see it on Durant's face when he missed a shot.  He missed Westbrook's scoring and ball handling, but more apparent was how he missed his energy.  Fatigue and the pressure of carrying the entire load had taken its toll.  Durant finished the game with 7 turnovers and shot 5-21 including a missed a wide open jumper that would have tied the game with 4 seconds left.

You can't blame the guy for losing the series. He had virtually no help.  The Thunder wouldn't have been able to compete without Durant, but he missed several opportunities he normally takes advantage of.  The same opportunities that built his reputation.

The Thunder will face real off season adversity for the first time.  The role players underperformed, head coach Scott Brooks was out-coached by Lionel Hollins, Westbrook will be rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, and Durant had his confidence shaken.  Whether admitted or not, OKC believed as long as Durant was on the floor they would win.  They couldn't.  A championship no longer feels like a matter of time.

That's just the way it works when you're an NBA superstar.  Expectations are set for you not by you.  Michael Jordan had to get better teammates, better coaches, and suffer through 7 years of playoff heartbreaks.  LeBron had to change teams and see his name and reputation stepped on by nearly everyone with a microphone or keyboard before getting his ring.  Perhaps this will be Durant's process.  One bad series will not define Durant, but there is no denying he fell short of his own expectations.

Perhaps the one who deserves the most blame is someone within the Thunder organization who is used to praise.  Sam Presti might not have had final say when trading Harden, but the Thunder will never be as good as they once could have.  If nothing else, they could have waited a year to deal him.  His trade value was certain to remain very high.  Was it solely a financial decision, or did they just not realize how good Harden actually was?  Whatever the reason, Presti believed they could win without him.

There also should be questions about Presti's due diligence involving trades. Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Martin both made sense for the roster but saw their production falter as Thunder players.  Perkins might be the worst athlete to start for an NBA team.  He adds nothing offensively, cannot spread the floor to open the lanes for OKC slashers, and has a  2" vertical.  Martin had the opportunity to pick up the slack for Westbrook (a job that would have fallen to Harden) but was inconsistent at best.

There's plenty of blame to go around.  Brooks is not innocent, the bench, Ibaka, Martin, injuries...Ultimately, the guy that deserves the greatest share of credit will receive the bulk of the blame for this collapse.  A difficult truth, but that's life as an NBA superstar.

Can Durant get the job done with Westbrook?  Probably so.  They are both still very young and will continue to grow together, but the optimism that once surrounded this franchise has been replaced with a healthy dose of doubt. 


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