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The Oklahoma City Thunder are like... The Roots

With the permission of our esteemed leader, I (the artist formerly known as Byron_Piggie) will take an unconventional and hopefully fresh look at each of the Clippers' opponents, by comparing them to something that has nothing to do with the NBA. I will feature one to two teams per week. This week, the Oklahoma City Thunder are like every 30 to 45 year old hipster's favorite hip-hop band.

Hagen Hopkins

The Oklahoma City Thunder are like.........

The Roots

The Roots.

OKC is like a simplistic version of the Roots. The Roots are essentially a duo masquerading as a band. The Thunder are Durant and Westbrook, with a couple of very good role players, an elite shooter, a thug from New Zealand, and a bunch of guys most people have never heard of. Ibaka would have made a difference in the San Antonio series. Reggie Jackson is a very good player. And they finally have a shooter in Anthony Morrow that they should have gotten five years ago. But essentially, only two players matter — just as in the Roots, only two members matter. Even though they are every hipster's (and suburbanite's) favorite hip-hop band, I still have not found any hipster or suburbanite who could name more than two members of the Roots, past or present. I'm not a hipster. I'm a music connoisseur, so off the top of my head, there's Captain Kirk Douglas, Kamal, Hub, Jeff Lee Johnson, and Malik B.

Durant and Westbrook

Kevin Durant is Questlove. Quiet, immensely skillful and talented. Durant is the "good teammate," who often has to defer to a crazy one, at times for the betterment of the team, at time for the betterment of the team the Thunder are playing. But make no mistake, this is his team, just as the Roots are Quest's band.

Westbrook is Black Thought, crazy talented and gifted, but at times, just plain crazy. Black Thought once brought a loaded gun into an airport and attempted to board a plane with it. Westbrook's ill-advised pull up three pointers early in the shot clock, when you have the reigning MVP and best scorer in the game on your team, is the basketball equivalent of attempting to board a plane with a loaded gun.


Questlove and Black Thought are irreplaceable to the Roots' Fans. But in reality, Black Thought is the replaceable one. The Roots could go on without Black Thought in a Van Halen-post David Lee Roth mode. They won't sound the same, and maybe the band's soul will be missing, but the quality will be there. Beanie Siegel sounds pretty damn good on a Roots' track, so does Phonte, Big Daddy Kane, Kendrick Lamar, Lil' Wayne, essentially most rappers old, young, mainstream or underground.

Black Thought without the Roots is Talib Kweli with more charisma. He can rhyme, but after 30 minutes, it would be an exhausting listen. Put Durant on a team with a good, Jeff Teague-level point guard, and good role players, and you have a contender. Durant's team will at least make a conference semifinal. Put Westbrook on a team with Chandler Parsons and good role players, and you may have a seventh seed in the East and a forty-five game loser in the West. Everyone in the world realizes this, except Westbrook.

With the Roots, Black Thought probably realizes that he needs Questlove more than Questlove needs him, especially now that the Roots found their version of a show business government job with Jimmy Fallon. They could be relevant well into their early 50s (gasp!). His talent and ego will keep pushing for solo projects, but honestly, nothing will ever compare to his work with the Roots.

But early on in his career, Thought probably did not understand this. His attempt at a solo album showed that. He did not realize that the Roots' musicality and melodic-ness complement his sharp and dense rhymes perfectly. If the music becomes more generic/standard hip-hop, he would sound similar to freestyle rappers like Supernatural and Eyedea that hip-hop nerds swear by, but no one with a life has ever listened to. The Roots' musicianship and Questlove's vision allows him to shine; without it, he's a very good rapper, but one who would be impossible to listen to after thirty minutes.

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook has not figured this out. He can say what he wants in interviews and post game press conferences, but he still has not figured this out on the court. Russell will play one and a half games of controlled and collected consistent basketball per playoff series, and for the rest of the series, he will go back to being Westbrook. The ill-advised three pointers worked well when he gets bailed out by Chris Paul or the referees (I love Chris but I yelled at my screen, "Just contest it, don't try to pull that shit you did against Curry in the Golden State game! Don't do it, the league wants Durant to advanceD"), and totally sabotaged his team when the Spurs wisely let Westbrook be Westbrook.

Russell needs another alpha dog-lead scorer to tame his detrimental tendencies or to balance out his games where he goes 7 for 24. Either Westbrook will carry his team to some heroic wins over mediocre and bad teams, and think he can do it himself, or his team will struggle immensely and he will realize how much he misses Durant. As a Clipper fan, I'm hoping for the former, because I loved it every time Westbrook comes down and takes a shot. As every intelligent anti-Thunder fan knows, it is a cause for minor celebration when the best offensive player in the league does not touch the ball on a possession. The best defense on Durant is Westbrook. So, go ahead Russell. I always wanted at least 3 Black Thought solo albums anyway.

Least Favorite Player

Ibaka practices his groin strikes in actual NBA games. Westbrook is the antithesis of a pass-first/make my teammates better and happy point guard.  But I will go with Steven Adams. This is really difficult because with the exception of Elle MacPherson over Rachel Hunter, I always prefer New Zealanders over Australians (and other commonwealth nationals).

There's a fine line between gamesmanship and getting someone seriously hurt. At the present time, I can't decide what side of that line Adams fall on. I was rooting for Zach Randolph to knock the crap out of him. Zach claimed that Adams has caused seven players to be suspended. The actual number of players suspended due to an altercation with Adams is actually five. The list included mild mannered Jordan Hamilton, somewhat peaceful Vince Carter, and three guys that you can see getting into with Adams – Larry Sanders, Nate Robinson, and Z-Bo.

Steven Adams Interview

While Ibaka saves his martial artist ambitions for the Clippers, Adams will target anyone to get an edge, even if that edge is not that important to the big picture. The Z-Bo altercation essentially won them the series against Memphis, but what was the point of an extra elbow or shove to Vince Carter or Nate Robinson? Adams is going to cause a serious injury to a key player this season AND he will piss another power forward/center off so badly that Adams will get what he deserve.

NBA Curiosity

Jeremy Lamb. There are a lot of players who "look" like NBA players, but this guy actually has the skills to be a very good NBA player. He has a good looking outside shot. He has a decent handle. He has length, decent lateral quickness, and move effortlessly (almost too effortless at times). Lamb shot near league average from 3 point range. He averaged a respectable 20 minutes a game and 8.5 points a game.

However, he was often pulled in the fourth quarter in favor of a 40 year old, and played about 10 minutes a game in the playoffs, including a 6 minute appearance in Game 6 against San Antonio, and DNPs in games 3 through 6 against the Clippers. Inconsistent minutes and not having the coaches' confidence can kill a player's game, especially if his game is based on shooting or scoring. I always thought Lamb would at least be a rotation player in the league at worst. And at best, he could be a good scoring option off the bench for a contender — but at times he looked like he didn't even belong on the court against elite teams.

I was hoping that with the injuries to Durant, Morrow, and Reggie Jackson, Lamb would get the minutes to finally determined where his NBA career will lead. But he tweaked his back, so there is no telling when we can tell where his career is headed. But assuming he comes back before Durant, Scott Brooks will finally be forced to play him, since Derek Fisher is finished chasing rings.

Favorite Obscure Player

Kevin Ollie. He played for 12 teams in 12 seasons, which makes it damn hard to read his statistics on any website. Ollie was the perfect third point guard, he was adequate enough to move up to backup point guard if there was an injury, but you would never want him to ever start a game for your team. He couldn't shoot past ten feet. He only attempted 29 three point field goals in his career. He wasn't overwhelmingly athletic, but he tried on defense, had a great handle, and rarely turned the ball over. After his first two years in the NBA, he always had a better than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, with many seasons around 3-to-1. Ollie won't win too many games for you, but having him on the court won't hurt your team too much either.

Kevin Ollie

I admired him for his humility and how he found his niche in the league despite having rather average game. Of course, he became a national championship head coach at UCONN, but the best part about Kevin Ollie is that in the era of the goatee, he has continually opted to go with a mustache that was something out of the mid to late 1980s Oran "Juice" Jones/Alexander O'Neal era in the late 1990s and the new millennium.

Thunder Watchability Essay

Like our great head coach and President of Basketball Operations, I have a shooting fetish. Anthony Morrow is probably the second best shooter in the league, next to Kyle Korver. Outside of his injury-plagued 17 game stint in Dallas in 2012-2013, the worst Morrow has shot from 3 point range has been 37.1 percent, in 2011-2012 with the Nets. He has shot over 42 percent from three point range in four out of his six years in the NBA. He is one of the most consistent shooters in the league and has one of the prettiest shooting motions in the game.

Of course, he is injured, so there isn't any "positive" reason to watch the Thunder. Their offense is uninventive. They don't have any uniquely creative basketball players or great passers. They have some good defensive players, but not any must-watch defensive psychos with attitude like Tony Allen. There is some semi-sadistic reasons though: to see if Steven Adams will get the crap knocked out of him by another power forward or center and to see if Russell Westbrook's solo album will work or crash worse than Robin Thicke's Paula.

Historical Insignificance

The Thunder has pissed off the city of  Seattle in ways so unimaginable, even Eddie Vedder is pissed off.

Paul Tee's Prognosis: Negative

The Thunder struggle without Durant, and slip to the 4-6 seed area, face an incredibly tough first-round playoff match-up, and their season ends. Kevin Durant listlessly goes out and get his numbers in 2015-2016, and signs with the Wizards in the offseason. Without Durant, OKC misses the playoffs for five straight years.

Whoa, that's looking way ahead. In the immediate future, I hope Westbrook averages 30 points a game on 32 shots in Durant's absence (and the absences of Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb). The Thunder hover around .500, and they win a few close games against good teams so Westbrook believes that this is his team now. When Durant comes back, OKC struggles with chemistry and falls out of home court advantage in the playoff seeding race.