By: Walter Agnitsch
The OKC Thunder are off to an undefeated start winning their first three games. They will face their first real challenge Wednesday night against the L.A. Clippers. The Clippers have won their first three games as well behind a big three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. That is one of the best trios in the NBA when healthy. Not to mention a great bench with Paul Pierce who will not be playing against the Thunder due to an ankle injury and Jamal Crawford. Will the Thunder be able to give their full attention to the Clippers? Or will they be looking ahead to Thursday night when they face the Golden State Warriors?
Russell Westbrook has been on a mission from the opening tip. To explain perfectly how he is playing in one quote would be.
Yes, I just used a Rocky four quote to compare Russell Westbrook to Ivan Drago, but he is playing out of this world basketball without the steroids. If Oladipo hits that layup in the season opener against the 76ers Russell has a triple double in all three of his games. Against the Suns, Russ had 51 points to go with his triple double the last person to do that was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975. Players who have not been able to accomplish this are Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and so many more. A lot of credit belongs to the newest member of the 100-million-dollar club Steven Adams. The pick and roll between the two have become almost unstoppable with Westbrook either getting a dunk or an ally-op to Steven. When the defense crowds the paint, he is kicking it out for wide open threes and Oladipo is just now starting to find his offensive rhythm having back to back 20 point games. Thunder fans should be excited for Wednesday night especially with all the success Russ has had against Chris Paul the last few years.
The other news of the week is the Thunder coming to terms with Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams on contract extensions. Both received four-year deals, Steven 100 million, and Oladipo 84 million. Both came in under max contracts which is important because it allows the Thunder more money in the offseason. When the Thunder gave Serge Ibaka his contract extension many thought it was too much. This year Serge is making over 12 million which is nothing compared to the deals players are receiving now. With the cap only projected to keep going up and up these deals will start feeling more like Ibaka’s deal. The Thunder also traded a protected first round pick and Ersan Ilyasova to the 76ers for Jerami Grant the second year man out of Syracuse. The important thing from this trade is the fact we got another player from Syracuse to replace Dr. Dion. No that’s not it, it is the fact that we got a seven-million-dollar trade exception we received from it. Sam Presti is a mastermind with these trade exceptions with the latest one bringing in Enes Kanter. Jerami is an athletic stretch four who makes his living on defense, the question is still out whether he will even fill Ersan’s spot on the roster or will it go to Josh Huestis.
The last question of the week left to answer is what’s Russ going to do to Kevin Durant Thursday night when they take on the Warriors? This week it seems that Kevin has been trying to do damage control with Anthony Slater by saying he wish he had handled things with Russ better. Whether Russ chooses to believe that or not this game has a lot on the line for this young Thunder ball club. This will help us see if the Thunder can compete with the elite teams in the NBA. Look for a lot of opportunities for Steven and Enes to get involved. The Spurs were able to dominate in the low post against the Warriors, look for the Thunder to try and copy that. You will see Roberson on Durant in the beginning but don’t be surprised if you see Russ switch to him in certain defensive sets. KD has had trouble from time to time when point guards play him. Such as, Chris Paul and Mike Conley. Lastly, whether Russ admits or not this game has a lot of emotions in it, don’t be shocked if Russ tries’s to go into hero ball mode to prove a point to KD. This game will defiantly be hard to watch because Durant will be playing for the opposing team but it will be a step in the right direction to move on without him and to show the team they can win without him.