The Oklahoma Thunder have one of the most enjoyable rosters to watch in the entire NBA. From the high-scoring Kevin Durant to the defensive talents of Serge Ibaka, they bring something to almost every facet of the game.
I would argue it largely starts with Durant. Sure, he scores a lot. Arguably he even could be considered someone who shoots a lot. It just does not SEEM like he shoots a lot during the course of the game. He lets the game come to him and it does not feel like he is forcing shot after shot.
For that one must look no further than high-scoring guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Any time the ball is in their hand the right place to look is at them because they are more likely to take the shot (or, in Westbrook's case, make the turnover) than pass. Yet by the end of the game they both have more than respectable assist totals, thus demonstrating the depth of their talent.
Serge Ibaka is one of the most entertaining defenders in the game. His defense does not consist largely of clutching and grabbing as some noted defenders seem to do. Instead he uses quickness, agility, and some spectacular timing to tip balls, deflect passes, alter shots, and wipe away other shots with some pretty stellar blocks. I am surprised that, considering his first name, the more spectacular blocks have not started earning the name "Serge Protectors".
Less flashy but still a very solid defender, Thabo Sedolosha is a rarity among Thunder players who play significant minutes. He played in another uniform to start his career.
Well, okay, so Durant and "glue-guy" Nick Collison wore Supersonics gear for a couple years...point taken.
The other big-minute guy for the Thunder who played a significant part of his career elsewhere is Kendrick Perkins, the perpetually scowling defense-minded tough guy who was brought in to bring the trophy to Oklahoma City.
He is also the guy who almost single-handedly renders the otherwise entertaining Thunder unwatchable.
Let us start with the good. Very few people question his abilities as a defender and rebounder. His rebounding numbers are not eye-popping, but that is partially because the other Thunder players are all decent to good at board work for their position.
Now lets look at the bad. Unfortunately, that happens to be pretty much everything else. For some inexplicable reason the Thunder have been trying to establish him on the low block this season. There have been stretches in several games where they needed a bucket and eschewed the obvious ideas of Westbrook or Harden doing their drive and kick, putting Durant in a pick and roll or other actual attempts to score and instead pounded the ball inside to Perkins.
In completely unrelated news, the points per possession in those times drop precipitously compared to times the ball leaves the hands of Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, or even Collins in an attempt to add points to their total.
Worse yet is his perpetual tantrum throwing. He routinely mauls the opposition in ways that shame mother bears separated from their cubs and, when whistle, proceeds to launch his "icy glare" at the official with the temerity to notice the obvious.
When he makes one of his futile post-up attempts and launches the ball in the approximate direction of Mecca, only to find his prayer rejected, another glare to the official for failing to see the obvious foul committed against him.
If the opposition forgets they are on the other team and grabs a rebound, here it comes; the famed icy glare.
Except it does not exactly look icy, like a glare, or intimidating.
It more closely resembles the petulant child who believes they should have anything they want denied the unattainable. I half expect to see him jumping up and down flailing his arms, tears streaming from his face, screaming, "I want it, I want it, I want it!" until, red-faced, he passes out from holding his breath in the vain hope he will get what he wants.
There have been players in the NBA who could give an intimidating glare. Charles Barkley comes to mind. Of course, Sir Charles could back it up. Who can forget him going after Shaquille O'Neal after that noted intimidator took a punch at him?
Perkins is not one of those guys. His constant whining undercuts any intimidation factor he may have once had with his petulant pout.
I am reminded of some wrestler I once heard referenced in one of the all-time great quotes in broadcasting. I was at a friends house when some wrestling show came on. At one point one of the 'roid-monsters threw the other to the mat and proceeded to drop and do some little girl push-ups. You know the ones I mean; drop about 3" per push-up and do 4 or 5 real fast.
Anyway, this ridiculous scene turned into the instant awesome-sauce of doom when the broadcaster's over-wrought voice informed us, "There he goes with those intimidating push-ups".
I still laugh at that line today. Those push-ups were many things; sad examples of a proper exercise, pointless, time-wasters. But intimidating? Yeah, like a fluffy bunny is intimidating.
I put the Perkins Pout right down there with those intimidating push-ups. If there is a player in the NBA who is intimidated by that look he should not be in the league. And the league I am talking about is the pre-pubescent 4' and under pee-wee nerf-hoop league.
There are a lot of things to love about the Thunder. This would be a great year to see a 7 game Finals between them and the Heat. There would be some epic and awesome basketball played. I just hope while enjoying that I do not have to watch a pouting child be praised for his "icy glare" even one more time.