Archive for the ‘Oklahoma City Thunder’ Category

I might just be tuning out an earlier trade, but from my recollection, the James Harden blockbuster is the biggest, most impactful trade I’ve ever seen so close to the start of a regular season, especially involving a legitimate title contender just days away from beginning defence of their Conference crown, but I digress.

Given that this is RaptorBlog and that us Torontonians are known for assuming we’re the centre of the universe, it’s always nice when there’s an easy way to make something about us.

In case you haven’t already realized, one of the draft picks Houston sent to Oklahoma City is actually Toronto’s draft pick, as in the uniquely protected pick the Raptors forfeited to acquire Kyle Lowry.

As a refresher, here’s how that “double protection” boils down, first for the Rockets Thunder:

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Kyle Lowry blowing by Steve Nash is something we hope to see at the ACC on January 20

In one of the more anticipated days of the summer for basketball junkies, the NBA announced its’ 2012-2013 schedule on Thursday, and as usual, there are some games that obviously stand out from the rest.

While I doubt the Raptors are featured in many, if any, of those games for the casual NBA fan, we’re here to cater to Raptors fans. And with that, here are the games we think you should circle on the calendar:

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Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Ben Uzoh, DeMar DeRozan, Alan Anderson, Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray
Oklahoma City: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins

Injury report

Toronto: Jose Calderon and Gary Forbes will be game-time decisions. Jerryd Bayless is out for the season.

Oklahoma City: Eric Maynor is out for the season.

A three-game losing streak by the Thunder has allowed the Spurs to tie them for first place in the Western Conference. How jacked up do you think Durant, Westbrook and co. will be to break out of this slump tonight?

I’m theoretically on-call to write the “six thoughts” recap of this game, but if it’s the steamrolling I expect it will be, I might not bother. Let’s see if anything interesting happens. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the regular season wrapping up so that I can focus on basketball that matters instead of witnessing the death throes of another doomed Raptors season.

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I’m a big fan of Joakim Noah’s fingerguns, but Russell Westbrook took it to another level with his “BOOM!” exclamation here. Maybe we’ll get to see this again tonight.

To a lot of people, today is simply December 23, the eve of Christmas Eve. But to Raptors fans, who may be in a foul mood as they await a season we all hope flies by and takes us straight to the 2012 Draft, they may be more inclined to celebrate Festivus this year.

So before I go on, I invite you all to bust out the aluminum pole, air your grievances (Raptors fans have 16 years worth of them) and pick a Raptor you’d like to test in the annual “Feats of Strength.”

First, some interesting news and notes from the land of the Dinosaurs.

- At 23, Kevin Durant is one of the best basketball players alive today (some would say the best) and looks like he should be on his way to a Hall of Fame career. So imagine the surprise to Canadian basketball fans then, when it was tweeted that Durant’s favourite NBA team is our very own Toronto Raptors. Personally, I’d like a little clarification on the matter. Were they his favourite team growing up because maybe he was a big Vince Carter fan? Was he a Jurassic Park fan and a dinosaur junkie? Is he a sports masochist? Or, was he actually saying that outside of the Thunder, he likes the Raptors the best right now, as a compliment to some of Toronto’s youngsters? I’m going to bet it was one of the former choices, rather than the latter. None the less, it looks like the first Festivus Miracle of the year has occurred.

- If you missed anything from RaptorBlog yesterday, I argued that Amir Johnson should be in the mix to start at centre and a Grantland article revealed that P.J. Carlesimo doesn’t think much of Andrea Bargnani’s rebounding ability, while Jay Triano ensured Bargnani knew nothing about this.

- This is a few days late, but in case you haven’t noticed, Dwane Casey wrote the foreword for this season’s edition of Basketball Prospectus. It is both interesting and encouraging to read about how much Casey values analytics and advanced statistics’ place in understanding the game. As you read in his foreword, Casey claims that the Raptors “have in place an analytical system that is second to none.” It’s also interesting, and confusing, to hear Casey speak about how the Raptors “guy” for advanced metrics and statistics is in Japan. Huh?

Since we at RaptorBlog understand and share your passion for advanced stats as basketball fanatics, we are going to have a new member of the team this season. Blake Kennedy will have stats-related posts throughout the season for RaptorBlog, to keep us sports nerds happy.

- As the Christmas weekend and therefore the 2011-2012 NBA season is practically upon us, a lot of sports sites and blogs are revealing their predictions for the season. I noticed a couple of things in ESPN’s predictions yesterday. First and foremost, Henry Abbott, renowned NBA writer for True Hoop, predicts that Dwane Casey will win NBA Coach of the Year. I don’t want to put words in Mr. Abbott’s mouth, but I’m assuming that if he’s picking Casey to take home Coach of the Year, he must also be predicting the Raptors to massively over-achieve, and possibly make the playoffs? Also of note, CBA know-it-all Larry Coon (he literally knows everything about anything when it comes to NBA CBA and salary cap rules) picked DeMar DeRozan to take home the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.

- Lastly, stay tuned to RaptorBlog throughout the next couple of days, as I will be unveiling my predictions for the Raptors’ season, as well as my final thoughts on the Raps’ rotation heading into the regular season, some time today or tomorrow. To ensure you don’t miss a beat, ‘like’ our RaptorBlog facebook page.

The Thunder have won six straight games going into tonight, including the last three games with Kendrick Perkins as their starting center. They allowed fewer than 90 points in all three of those games, so it looks like their defense has been given that extra boost the Thunder needed to be taken seriously in the playoffs.

Not that the Raptors fare well against most teams, but the Thunder usually provide a particularly tough matchup because of their deadly combination of skill, speed and youth. When they last met on December 3 in Toronto, the Raptors won by 12 because Kevin Durant wasn’t playing. This game has “blowout” written all over it.

Injury report

Toronto: A rare clean slate for the Raptors, aside from Linas Kleiza.

Oklahoma City: Kevin Durant is probable for tonight with a bruised left shoulder.

Five questions

1. Do you think the acquisitions of Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed make the Thunder legitimate championship contenders?

2. Would you trade DeMar DeRozan for James Harden?

3. Which Raptors would you like to see get more playing time as the season winds down?

4. Were Andrea Bargnani’s 18 free throw attempts on Friday a fluke or was that part of a new trend? He’s gone to the line 47 times in his last five games.

5. If you could bring back either Leandro Barbosa or Reggie Evans next season — but not both of them — which one would you choose?

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Oklahoma City: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins

It’s 30 minutes to gametime as I type this and I’m not feeling particularly inspired, so you get “Thunderstruck” for your pregame song today. But there’s a twist! It’s this dude, Igor Presnyakov, playing the song on acoustic guitar.