Posted October 22, 2013 on AP on Fox
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant isn't about to let last season's playoff disappointment affect his mindset this season. Nor is the Thunder forward adjusting his expectations for a team that is two seasons removed from reaching the NBA Finals. ''We're very confident that we can (win the championship),'' Durant said. ''We're not going to come in and say, `We can't win it all; we don't have enough.' We're a confident group of guys.'' Few would have questioned Durant's expectations a year ago when Oklahoma City - fresh off an appearance in the NBA Finals - was viewed across the league as a team on the rise. Of course, that was two knee surgeries ago for point guard Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City, even with Durant once again leading the way, enters this season with a certain degree of uncertainty - thanks in large part to curiosity about the health of Westbrook. The Thunder, who led the Western Conference with a 60-22 record last season, are expected to be without the All-Star for the first few weeks of the season as he recovers from surgery to remove a loose stich on Oct. 1. Westbrook originally injured his knee during the opening round of last season's playoffs against Houston, a series Oklahoma City eventually won before falling in the second round to Memphis. He underwent successful surgery to repair a torn meniscus and appeared on track for a full recovery before the second surgery - a setback Oklahoma City general manger Sam Presti said was minimized because of Westbrook's positive outlook and already strengthened knee. Oklahoma City is accustomed to overcoming doubt, having finished with the West's best record last year even after the trade that sent James Harden to the Rockets. That was thanks in large part to Durant's 28.1 points last season, as well as Westbrook's 23.2 points and 7.4 assists per game. Westbrook's injury had a crippling effect at times on the Thunder's offense during the playoffs - with Durant's shooting percentage falling from 51 percent during the regular season to 42 percent in the loss to the Grizzlies. This season, Oklahoma City must once again overcome the loss of a key offensive piece, with guard Kevin Martin - a key part of the Harden trade - leaving as a free agent to Minnesota. Five things to watch as Oklahoma City tries to overcome Westbrook's injury and return to the NBA Finals: VETERAN DURANT : Durant, who had his string of three straight scoring titles snapped last season by New York's Carmelo Anthony, turned 25 last month but is already entering his seventh NBA season. The forward focused heavily on efficiency last season, raising his shooting percentage to a career-best 51 percent from the field. Durant said to expect improvement in all categories this season. ''I've been through every situation,'' he said. ''I'm ready to take it head on and embrace everything.'' REPLACING MARTIN: Martin proved to be a valuable sixth man last season following the Harden trade, averaging 14 points in 77 games off the bench. However, much like Durant, Martin's shooting percentage fell in the postseason - from 45 to 38 percent. Oklahoma City is counting on several familiar faces to replace Martin's offense this season, including guards Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb. Jackson, in particular, surged in the playoffs last season, averaging 13.9 points after scoring just 5.3 during the regular season. STAFF CHANGES: Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks enters his sixth season with the Thunder, compiling a 234-147 record during that time. Brooks hired assistant coaches Robert Pack and Mike Terpstra during the offseason after Maurice Cheeks left to become the coach in Detroit. Despite the changes, Brooks expects little to change with how Oklahoma City prepares - especially as it tries to regain its status among the NBA's elite. ''We're not an excuse organization,'' Brooks said. ''We don't make excuses.'' ON THE RISE: Oklahoma City was considered a team on the rise entering last season following its loss to Miami in the NBA Finals. Durant, in particular, isn't ready to let go of that moniker just yet - and he's hardly ready to listen to those who might think the Thunder have plateaued. ''We feel we're in a good position,'' Durant said. ''That's all that really matters. If we come in here thinking we lost momentum or anything like that, that will mess us up. So, we just try to focus on each and every day and we'll be fine.'' FISHER'S RETURN: After joining the Thunder late last season, point guard Derek Fisher decided to stick around, signing a one-year contract. The 39-year-old Fisher, who played in 24 games last season for Oklahoma City, could play a significant role early on this season with Westbrook's absence.

Thunder a popular pick among NBA GMs

Ask any NBA general managers, the Oklahoma City Thunder is a popular pick. The annual polling of the league's general managers was released Tuesday and there were some interesting findings. Here are some of the highlights: The Thunder were picked by 36.7 percent to win the Western Conference. The Spurs came in first at 40 percent. The Thunder were picked by 96.6 percent...

OKC’s Hasheem Thabeet Suspended One Game For Headbutting Pelicans’ Greg Stiemsma

The NBA announced Monday that Thunder center, Hasheem Thabeet, has been suspended one regular season game without pay for headbutting Pelicans’ Greg Stiemsma during the second quarter of Oklahoma City’s preseason game against New Orleans Thursday. Oklahoma City Thunder center Hasheem Thabeet has been suspended one game without pay for head butting New Orleans Pelicans center...

Russell Westbrook Participates Partially In Thunder Practice

Russell Westbrook was a partial participator in the Oklahoma City Thunder's practice session on Monday, marking a full complement of players on the roster for at least a portion of it. “There were bits and pieces where Russell participated in practice, so that was good,” coach Scott Brooks said. “It was good to get everybody out there, working together.” Westbrook,...

Thunder's Thabeet suspended one game for head-butting Stiemsma

Steven Adams is officially the Thunder's backup center. At least for the season opener. The league announced Monday that Hasheem Thabeet has been suspended one game without pay for head-butting the Pelicans' Greg Stiemsma last week. On the play Thabeet got tangled with Stiemsma with Thabeet eventually lowering his head right at the Pelicans' center. On the play no...

Russell Westbrook participates in parts of the Thunder's Monday practice

For the first time since training camp started the Thunder had its full complement of players for at least a portion of Monday’s practice. Kendrick Perkins returning from a dislocated left ring finger was back and is expected to play Tuesday against Phoenix. But the headliner was All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook who participated in on-court drills with the team for the first...

Reggie Jackson Says Russell Westbrook “Looked Like The Old Russell” In Practice

There was a surprise at Thunder practice today. Russell Westbrook participated in some non-full contact drills. This comes as a surprise because Westbrook had knee surgery at the beginning of the month and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks of the regular season. Based on teammate Reggie Jackson’s word, Westbrook showed flashes of his old explosive self. […]

STYLE: NBA Serge Ibaka’s Givenchy Star Wool Sweater

NBA athletes love Givenchy! they might as well start giving future NBA Draftees a team cap, and a Givenchy shirt on Draft Night. NBA superstar Kevin Durant posted a recent photo with his teammate Serge Ibaka sitting next to his new stuffed friend. Serge was all smiles as he was photographed wearing a $724 Givenchy Star Wool Sweater. This latest piece by Givenchy for the fall season...

Kevin Durant Responds To Jalen Rose’s Prediction That He’ll Join Rockets In 2016

During his preview of the Rockets’ season on the Grantland YouTube channel Wednesday, ESPN analyst, Jalen Rose, said that he thinks Kevin Durant will join the Houston Rockets in 2016.  Durant was asked about his thoughts on the prediction following OKC’s preseason loss to the Bulls, telling the media that he’s here for the Thunder and he’s not thinking that far down the...

Derek Rose hits Reggie Jackson with nifty crossover

Derek Rose still has his crossover in his bag of tricks. Rose, who is knee surgery that cost him all of last season, destroyed the Oklahoma City Thunders’ Reggie Jackson with the double cross. Via @cjzero  


KEVIN DURANT prides himself on his OKC Thunder being superior road dawgs away from Chesapeake Energy Arena. Having racked up 26 road victories last season (second best in the NBA), that is the kind of self satisfaction thinking that went into designing Durant’s Nike KD VI Away shoe. Take a listen: Video courtesy: Nike “If you look good, you play good… If you play good...

Serge Ibaka shows his offensive skills in OKC Thunder loss

A Tuesday night preseason game against the Phoenix Suns without both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant meant only one thing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was Serge Ibaka's time to shine. The fifth-year forward had a rare chance to be the focal point of the offense an opportunity to flaunt his development by firing up as many shots as his chiseled shoulders could squeeze...

Ranking the Northwest Division Let’s move away from the Eastern Conference, and rank the divisions in the Western Conference; starting with the Northwest Division.  This division is about the “Haves” and “Have Not’s”.  The Oklahoma City Thunder have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbook, and the other teams don’t.  That doesn’t mean things won’t be interesting...
NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.