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News » 2010-11 could be Thunder's year


2010-11 could be Thunder's year


2010-11 could be Thunder's year
The Thunder will be a long shot to reach the playoffs next season. But 2010-11 looks very realistic.

As you watch the playoffs, soak in commentators talking about players who will be, or could be, free agents and are (fill in the blank) years old.

History shows a few new teams join the postseason party nearly every season, while others fall to the wayside.

Sacramento qualified for the playoffs eight consecutive years. The Kings were the No. 1 seed in 2001-02. But Sacramento has now missed the playoffs three consecutive years with little hope of making it anytime soon.

Portland reached the playoffs 21 consecutive years, but tore it down to the foundation after a quot;Jail Blazersquot; scandal enraged fans in Oregon. This year, the Trail Blazers ended a five-year playoff drought and should be in the playoffs for years to come.

Other teams have moved up or down the past decade.

Minnesota had a nice run with Kevin Garnett. The Timberwolves reached the playoffs eight consecutive years. They were the No. 1 seed in 2003-04 and reached the Western finals. A few years later, Minnesota was rebuilding.

Memphis made the playoffs three consecutive years. Even the L.A. Clippers have made it twice the past 15 seasons.

But if the Thunder makes the playoffs, someone has to drop out. But who?

San Antonio is the only Western Conference team to reach the playoffs all 10 times the past decade. But if you've watched the Spurs without Manu Ginobili, and an aging Tim Duncan, San Antonio's playoff streak might only have a year or two left.

Dallas is another aging team. Jason Kidd is a free agent. But owner Mark Cuban will refuse to rebuild. Cuban will spend money to try to keep the Mavericks competitive.

Phoenix could be just the opposite. The Suns might tear it apart this summer. There are rumors the Suns could trade both Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal. Even Steve Nash might bolt next season. There's a chance Phoenix falls to a bottom dweller.

What happens if New Orleans owner George Shinn tries to slash his payroll and trades either Tyson Chandler and/or Peja Stojakovic?

In Houston, Yao Ming will keep the Rockets competitive, but Tracy McGrady's salary is a burden. Ron Artest is a free agent.

Oklahoma City isn't the only young team on the rise. Memphis and Minnesota are in that club as well. Still, most experts like Oklahoma City to get there quicker and stay longer because of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook and general manager Sam Presti's salary cap space.

In recent years, it's usually taken 45 or 46 wins to make the playoffs in the West. Many disagree, but I believe that number will fall. Don't be surprised if 41-41 makes the playoffs in 2010-11.

Yes, Phoenix missed the playoffs this season with a record that would have been the No. 5 seed in the East. But the East won the inter-conference series for the first time in a decade. The pendulum finally is swinging the other direction.

This summer will be interesting. How teams manipulate their rosters will be critical in future playoff races.

Meanwhile, Presti is building a team with loads of potential which is why it won't be shocking to see the Ford Center hosting playoff games in two years.

INSIDE SCOOP

LeBron's defense gets better

LeBron James struggled defensively early in his career, but the fact he finished second behind Dwight Howard for Defensive Player of the Year is a key reason he will be the runaway winner for league MVP.

→Wizards star Gilbert Arenas, who signed a six-year, $111 million contract but was injured most of the season, is invigorated by the hiring of coach Flip Saunders. Arenas pointed to the improvement Chauncey Billups and Stephon Marbury made under Saunders.

→The Magic will not have a draft pick this season. Orlando dealt its first-round pick to Memphis to acquire Rafer Alston. Their conditional second-round pick was protected if they finished among the top five teams in the league.

→Milwaukee officials say they will be quot;very creativequot; with their roster. If another team makes a huge qualifying offer for restricted free agents Charlie Villanueva or Ramon Sessions, the Bucks aren't expected to match.

→Orlando's Courtney Lee (24 points in Game 2 against Philadelphia) became the first rookie to lead his team in scoring in a playoff game since the Lakers' Magic Johnson scored 42 in a NBA-title clinching win over the Sixers nearly 30 years ago.

→Charlotte coach Larry Brown said he wants center Emkea Okafor to be more passionate about Basketball. Brown said Okafor quot;is a great personquot; but warned careers come and go quickly.

BAD OMEN

No cinch for a ring

LeBron James will earn his MVP award, but recent history suggests it will be much more difficult to win his first NBA ring.

Over the past decade, only twice has the league MVP won the NBA championship - Tim Duncan and the Spurs (2002-03) and Shaquille O'Neal and the Lakers (1999-00).

The league MVP has reached the NBA Finals only once the past five years. Kobe Bryant's Lakers did it last season, but lost to the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Year: MVP NBA champion 2007-08: Kobe Bryant Celtics 2006-07: Dirk Nowitzki Spurs 2005-06: Steve Nash Heat 2004-05: Steve Nash Spurs 2003-04: Kevin Garnett Pistons 2002-03: Tim Duncan Spurs 2001-02: Tim Duncan Lakers 2000-01: Allen Iverson Lakers 1999-00: Shaquille O'Neal Lakers 1998-99: Karl Malone Spurs

WORD ASSOCIATION

'Tim Donaghy'

Thunder players and other NBA players and coaches address an NBA topic. This week's subject - Tim Donaghy, the referee who was involved in gambling activities surrounding some games he officiated. Donaghy is serving 15 months in prison and will be released a few days before Christmas.

Kobe Bryant: scandal

→Desmond Mason: former ref (laughing)

→Chucky Atkins: a travesty

→Scott Brooks: bad, bad decisions

Jeff Green: jail time

→Derek Fisher: unfortunate

Jason Kidd: a terrible shame

→Nick Collison: actually a good ref

→Danny Granger: poison

→Earl Watson: words can't define

→Nenad Krstic: illegal activities

→Kirk Hinrich: a bad, bad deal

→Carlos Boozer: wonder which games (he fixed)

→Mark Cuban: Who? (sarcastically)

→Byron Scott: Shamed all refs

→Grant Long: a very bad situation

David West: really messed up


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 29, 2009

 

 
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