Friday, July 17, 2009

Talking Off-Season With Royce of Daily Thunder

We've been interviewing team bloggers latley. Now we're talking to Royce of Daily Thunder. It's a great site about a really good up and coming team.

1. The Thunder played in both the Vegas and Orlando summer leagues. Who impressed you? Obviously Russell Westbrook looked tremendous, but anyone else?

In Orlando, Serge Ibaka was an absolute stud. He averaged 13 and four on almost 70 percent shooting and looked NBA ready, but his production has tailed off in Vegas. I think Shaun Livingston has looked almost completely healthy the last few weeks. He's moving extremely well side-to-side and looks like he has a lot of his quickness back. James Harden has lived up to expectation and at times both Kyle Weaver and D.J. White have looked really solid.

2. I have also liked what I have seen from James Harden thus far. The only thing that looks really bad from him is his tendency to only go left. Have you seen that and how much of an issue could it be for him in his rookie season?

You're absolutely right. He does tend to go left, but he's a really good ball-handler. I think him going left is just a tendency because he prefers to finish with his left hand rather than his right because 1) He's left handed and 2) because finished with his left on the left side allows him to use his body to shield shot blockers. Harden gets into the lane at will and while he appears to prefer going left, I don't think it'll affect him this season. He's got too good of an overall handle and is too smart of a player.

3. The Thunder still have a good amount of cap space at their disposal. Do you think they will use it and if so who or what should they target?

I don't think OKC will do anything significant this offseason. Marcin Gortat was the main target but he wanted too much. I don't think Sam Presti has any problem squatting on the cap space. He's got expiring contracts (Damien Wilkins, Chucky Atkins, Earl Watson) and based on his free agent history, he prefers to trade rather than sign (just one summer signing ever - C.J. Miles last year). So I think he could use the cap space to bring on some players for the long term at the trade deadline and also to have in his pocket when he needs to re-sign Kevin Durant and Jeff Green in 2012.

4. I heard through Kevin Durant's Twitter account that he gained some weight this off-season. Of course that's a good thing, but how much weight do you think he needs to gain to be the best player he can be? Any insight as to how he trains and if he's gained anymore weight?

He needs 10-15 pounds of lean muscle. And that's all he's really aiming for. He doesn't need to bulk up, but he needs enough muscle so that he doesn't get bumped off the ball easily, so that he can get position to post and also to defend bigger, stronger players.

5. I have always liked the way Jeff Green plays. He's a scrappy guy who can do a little bit of everything. What his biggest weakness? How can he improve at it?

Post defense and offense. Last year he needed to develop an outside game and a 3-point shot. So what did he do? He worked all offseason on it and he was one of the top 3-point shooters in the league. But now with him moving to power forward, he's going to need to work on developing the skills to defend guys like Tim Duncan and Amare Stoudemire. And with him being on the block, he needs to work on a more back-to-the-basket post up game.

6. How would you rate the job coach Scott Brooks has done thus far? What adjustments, if any would you like to see made to his system?

I really like what Coach Scotty has done. He immediately injected life and enthusiasm into the team and moved Kevin Durant to small forward. He's done a great job developing chemistry with the players and there's a real family feel to the team. I honestly don't know what I'd change about the way Brooks does things. The team played infinitely better under him, but with the team being so young it's hard to say what he should do better.

7. I feel like Thunder GM Sam Presti will win executive of the year once the Thunder have their big breakthrough year. How many years away is that big improvement (I mean a much better record)?

I think OKC is on pace for a steady improvement next year and then a major breakthrough in 2010-11. Next season I see the team winning somewhere between 30-35 games with the potential to get to 40 if Russell Westbrook takes a giant leap in his point guard development.

8. Do you know of any nickname for Russell Westbrook? He really needs one. What would be your nickname for him?

The only one I know of is "Jet Zero" and that was given to him by one of the readers of my site. I don't know what I'd nickname him honestly. My wife said we should call him "Up" because of his obvious leaping ability but also because that was the kid's name in the movie Up.

9. If you had to rate the Thunder in terms of great young cores around the league, where would they rank?

I don't see how you could put them anywhere below No. 1. Four top five picks, nobody in the starting lineup over the age of 26 and the average age on the team is under 24 years old. Of course if they don't win then it doesn't matter if they're all 10 years old or 100 years old, but as far as young talent acquired, nobody's in front of OKC.

10. Plug your site. Why should all Thunder fans read Daily Thunder everyday?

Oh, I don't know. I don't like bragging about anything I do, so I guess the main reason to is if you're ridiculously obsessed about the team and want to feel better about it by seeing others equally as obsessed as you, come on down.

11. Give your expectations for the Thunder next season.

Like I said, I'd expect a good jump in wins. Somewhere like 30-35. The team was 20-30 since New Year's Eve last year, so average that out for a full year and that's around 33 wins for the season. So if the team stays right where it's at, that's where they should end up. But if some players make a little bit of a leap and some of the young guys exceed expectations, this team could get to 40.

Remember to check out Daily Thunder!