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News » Thunder serves notice its no longer a joke


Thunder serves notice its no longer a joke


Thunder serves notice its no longer a joke
AFTER THE FIRST two months of the season, it appeared that the Oklahoma City Thunder was in danger of setting a new standard for regular season futility.

Now it's possible, perhaps even likely, that the Thunder will have fewer ping-pong balls than a half-dozen other teams when the NBA draft lottery takes place after the season.

After the Thunder won just three of its first 32 games, Oklahoma City's young lineup has started to jell. Going into Friday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center, the Thunder had won six of 11 including two wins over the Warriors and one each over Utah and Detroit.

At 9-34 going into Friday, the Thunder still had the worst winning percentage in the NBA, although the record for fewest wins in an 82-game season set by Philadelphia in 1972-73 with nine is safe for at least one more season.

With some luck, the Thunder could climb as high as 10th in the top-heavy Western Conference standings. With 39 games to go, Oklahoma City was just 5 1/2 games back of 10th-place Minnesota.

"We're going to keep pushing," said forward Jeff Green after hitting the game-winning shot for the Thunder in its 122-121 win over Golden State on Wednesday.

"We know what everybody is saying about us, and we know what type of team we are. We're not the team that our record shows. We're a much better team, and I think things are starting to turn around for us and we're going to get better."

With the Thunder's opening night roster including eight players 22 years old or younger, most everyone knew Oklahoma City would take its lumps. It did, and P.J. Carlesimo was jettisoned on Nov. 22 after just 13 games as coach.

Interim coach Scott Brooks replaced Carlesimo, and the losses continued to pile up. But he kept playing the young guys, and, at least statistically, improvements were being made.

Oklahoma City's shooting percentage, rebounding and assists per game have improved with each month. Players such as Green and fellow rookie Russell Westbrook, who took over as the starting point guard, began to take some of the offensive burden off forward Kevin Durant. Also, veterans such as Nick Collison and Earl Watson got healthy and started contributing.

And last week, it was reported that the team is leaning toward taking the interim tag off of Brooks' title.

"We are pleased with the job that Scott has done," general manager Sam Presti told the Oklahoman.

"He has shown a great commitment to the Thunder and has brought energy to the task at hand. Scott and I are constantly communicating, and we're both really focused on our players and the continued growth of the team. As we have discussed, we will evaluate the next steps for the Thunder at the end of the season."

LOOKING AHEAD?: An espn.com report earlier this month rated Saint Mary's College sophomore Patty Mills as the ninth-best point guard in this year's NBA draft. Mills has not indicated whether he will make himself eligible.

The report indicated that Mills would be a bubble first-round pick and would need to improve his shooting percentage and cut down on his turnovers to improve his stock. After Thursday's 65-42 win by the Gaels over San Diego, Mills was averaging 18.7 points per game with a .424 shooting percentage in 19 games. He's also averaged four assists and 3.2 turnovers per game.

Spain's Ricky Rubio was rated the top point guard.

OFF GLASS: To meet the NBA's minimum requirement of having 13 signed players on its roster, Phoenix signed free agent center Courtney Sims to a 10-day contract last week. The Warriors' 2008 second-round draft pick Richard Hendrix was mentioned by the Arizona Republic as a possible candidate for the 13th spot. Hendrix, who has averaged 13 points and 10.8 rebounds in his first 10 games with the Dakota Wizards of the NBA Development League, was released by the Warriors in December.

Contact Curtis Pashelka at cpashelka@bayareanewsgroup.com


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 26, 2009

 

 
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