By: Walter Agnitsch
We see towards the end of the regular season playoff bound teams sign one more player to their roster to help give them one final push, one extra body, to help put them over the top and win an NBA championship. This year we saw Anderson Varejão sign with the Warriors, and Joe Johnson sign with the Miami Heat. The Thunder usually follow suit and sign someone that usually slips into the rotation. Derek Fisher was a player the Thunder signed a few years ago towards the end of the season. It really worked out well, Fisher brought a defensive intensity, championship focus, and was able to run point guard which allowed Westbrook to play shooting guard in late game offensive sets. Another player the Thunder signed late one season was Caron Butler. Fans went crazy for Caron especially when he dialed from long distance and actually put his pretend phone to his ear. Caron proved to be a great offensive weapon for the Thunder during that postseason run especially when Russ got hurt.
So who did the Thunder sign this year before the big playoff push? Nazr Mohammed, wait are you talking about that guy who used to play for the Thunder? Didn’t he retire? The answer to both of those questions is yes. Why in the heck would the Thunder waste a roster spot on an old guy who retired? Well the real reason they hired him is to be more of a player-coach then an actual player, and up to this point, it has worked. After they signed Nazr they went on an eight-game winning streak. It would have kept going to if the Thunder hadn’t been stuck in third place in the standings and had nothing to play for. The passing of Ingrid Williams was tragic and everyone completely understands why Monty left to go take care of his family. Monty is a great leader and with him gone someone needed to step up and have that voice and I believe Nazr has taken that upon himself to do. Now remember Nazr does have a ring with the Spurs as their starting center, so he knows what it takes to be on top. Russell Westbrook said it best “Obviously playing in the league for a long time, he knows how to play the game the right way, He knows what’s right and what’s wrong. He definitely can keep everybody accountable and try to find ways to help us win more games.” I couldn’t have said it better myself accountable, Nazr is holding this team accountable because he knows how to win.
The next person I feel who is not getting enough credit is Mo Cheeks. Mo is now the head assistant coach for the Thunder and was also an assistant under Scott Brooks before Mo left to take the head coaching job in Detroit. Mo is an NBA champion and was the all-time leader in steals when he retired. The man’s IQ about the game of basketball is through the stratosphere. Towards the end of the game 5 last night you saw Mo, who never shows emotion and hardly ever gets off the bench go applaud Kevin and Russell for their intensity and never quitting in that game. Mo has helped bridge the gap between the NCAA and the NBA for Billy Donovan. He has personally taken Russell under his wing ever since Russ got drafted and turned him from this raw athletic machine to the best point guard in the NBA. “Mo taught me a lot of different things as a player and a young man in the NBA,” Westbrook said. Kevin and Russ have so much respect for this man and it is clearly paying off as they have become two out of three best players in the world with Mo’s help.