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News » Tough year ahead for OKC?

Tough year ahead for OKC?

Tough year ahead for OKC? Allen Iverson is on the move again, this time going from Motown to Memphis.

The Grizzlies finally signed the 10-time All-Star and four-time scoring champion to a one-year deal last week, ending The Answer's long and humbling off-season.

For Iverson, one of the most dynamic talents and most popular players the game has ever seen, the signing symbolized just how far the 34-year-old has fallen. The Grizzlies - Basketball's version of the Bad News Bears - have won more than 28 games just three times in their 13-year history. They claimed only 24 victories a year ago but were able to ink Iverson to a recession-friendly contract worth just over $3 million after few other franchises showed interest in the talented but troubled guard.

For the Western Conference, though, Iverson's signing serves as the latest move that should keep it perched safely as the league's supreme conference. And that doesn't bode well for the Thunder .

While much of the rest of the West spent this summer splurging on free agents and agreeing to blockbuster trades, Oklahoma City sat back and banked on its returning players coming back better. It's a contrast that could determine where the Thunder falls in the pecking order this season.

We'll soon find out which method proves most beneficial. The revolving-door approach won out in Boston in 2008 and Miami in 2006, as both franchises capitalized on rare trade opportunities for future Hall of Famers before going on to win a championship. But Portland used the hold-what-you've-got philosophy last season and punched its ticket to the postseason, and perennial playoff teams like San Antonio and Utah routinely make only minor changes while banking more on player development.

But on paper, it's always the trades and free-agent signings that look best. And with just two weeks remaining before the start of training camp, league-wide movement has meant there's not a single game on the Thunder's schedule that you can honestly deem a gimme.

The West has become filled with land mines. The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers added more talent and toughness by swapping Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest. The Blazers added much-needed stability at point guard in veteran Andre Miller. The Spurs reloaded with Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and Theo Ratliff. Dallas upgraded with Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden. The Los Angeles Clippers added Blake Griffin. And Memphis, in addition to Iverson, welcomed Zach Randolph and No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet.

Again, it all looks great on paper.

The Thunder can counter with only a handful of promising rookies in James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Byron Mullens, and veterans Etan Thomas and Kevin Ollie.

The contrast looks more challenging for the Thunder when you consider Oklahoma City went 10-13 against the conference's other six non-playoff teams last season.

The Thunder's slow-and-steady approach is getting rave reviews nationally. And long term it's without a doubt the better route. But starting in two weeks, we'll begin to learn what impact it has on 2009-10.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: September 17, 2009


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