Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 11/8/12
OKLAHOMA CITY - Somewhere lost along the way of the James Harden talk and the chemistry and temperature of the Thunder, there are some real issues that need to be addressed. Like when is this team going to start holding onto the ball? But maybe it doesn't even matter. Twenty turnovers against Atlanta, 17 against Toronto and a ridiculous average of more than 17 per game so far through four games this season. A season ago, Oklahoma City was last in the league in turnovers, last in the league in assists and made it all the way to the NBA Finals. So why would anything change this year? After all, it's essentially the same group who made it through Dallas, Los Angeles and San Antonio in the playoffs, minus Harden, of course. The Thunder rank 24th in the league in turnovers, up from last year's 16.3 per game, and 26th in the league in opponent's turnovers, benefitting from just 13.3 per game. "Definitely, we have to stop turning the ball over," coach Scott Brooks said. "It's tough to win in this league when you give ... That's too many. We have to do a better job of valuing the basketball." The Thunder have not valued the basketball this season and, aside from San Antonio in the opener, haven't played a really good team yet either. Meanwhile, the ball movement was great against Toronto in a Tuesday win, but the Thunder are ranked No. 14 in the league in assists. I'm happy to suggest the reason for the turnovers and the lack of assists are due to Harden being gone, working up a new rotation and just the newness of the season. All of those arguments have merit, but the fact is, this is what Oklahoma City is. In the long run, the Thunder are good enough to get away with it. "We have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball," coach Scott Brooks said after Sunday's loss to Atlanta. "Twenty turnovers on our home floor is unacceptable." Makes sense, but is it really? Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and a complement of others make up for a lot of other shortcomings. What's not acceptable if you're the Orlando Magic, is easier to overlook if you're Oklahoma City. Right now, folks will give the Thunder some leeway from the extensive miscues as it was the defense, not really the turnovers which cost them in the home loss to Atlanta. No team has ever won an NBA championship after being ranked last in the league in turnovers. It's hard enough to get over the loss of James Harden, securing a rotation and staying motivated, you'd think this team would do a better job of controlling something as simple as turnovers. Who's Hot: Kevin Martin has been sensational so far this season. He's averaging 19.3 points per game and is shooting 51 percent from the field. He's a career 44 percent shooter, but what makes his production so impressive is Martin is coming off the bench for the Thunder. He's shooting 62 percent on 3-pointers and has made 22-of-23 free throws. Who's Not: Eric Maynor can be a great piece for the Thunder, but he hasn't looked comfortable yet. Remember, Maynor was really good two seasons ago as the back-up to Russell Westbrook. He missed almost all of last year with a knee injury. This season, Maynor is shooting 35 percent. He was three-for-nine against Toronto and turned it over three times. He's the best bet to spell Westbrook, but the Thunder could go with other options, including Kevin Martin or even Durant, who has spent some time bringing the ball up the court. Three Thoughts 1) When it comes to the Thunder, Kevin Durant comes to mind first, pretty much all the time. Durant has not played poorly so far this season, but he has played differently. He's averaging 20 points per game, but seems to be more interested in distributing the ball than scoring. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but if the Thunder are going to win at a high level, the scoring from Durant needs to pick up. Others need to be distributing to him, not the other way around. Durant has improved his rebounding, going from eight per game last year to 12 this year, and he's gone from 3.5 assists a year ago to 5.8 this year. Hard to complain about the increased production, but he's going to have to start looking for his shot more. 2) New season, same results for Russell Westbrook. He's good and then he's bad, but that's what you get with Westbrook. He was bad in the season-opener against San Antonio, but bounced back with a great game against Portland. Then against Atlanta, Westbrook was 5-of-18 shooting. The great thing about Westbrook is he doesn't seem affected by his bad games and shows an ability to bounce back, going for 19 points the next game out against Toronto, turning it over just once in 28 minutes. Westbrook takes a lot of criticism when the Thunder loses. He gets a lot of credit when the Thunder win, too. However, he is constantly pitted against Durant in a lot of scenarios on whether he should shoot less, pass more and differ to Durant. That's a lot of baggage to deal with, and this season is nothing new. It's already started. 3) Motivation? So far the Thunder haven't really shown much. They look good enough to be the kind of team to make a return trip to The Finals and then bad enough to not even show up against Atlanta. This season, there's more games, more time and less stress put into the early games of the season. Maybe that's the reason we haven't seen Durant have a highlight reel kind of game and have seen a lot of tinkering from Brooks. It's hard to get up for every game when you know you're good enough to make The Finals. The Thunder have already been burned by that Quotes of the Week Coach Scott Brooks on starting 1-2: "If we were a college team, the University of Thunder, and we went to the Maui Classic, I would be very concerned. But it's not. There are a lot of basketball games to be played." Coach Scott Brooks on James Harden and the chemistry with this year's Thunder team: "When you talk about chemistry with our group, you haven't been around our group. James was a good player, but it wasn't "Dr. James." He wasn't helping the group stick together. All the guys do. Good teams sacrifice. That's what we've done. Our chemistry has never been (something), I'm really worried about." Kevin Durant on his playing time and sitting out Tuesday's blowout win over Toronto: "I'm selfish. I want to play every minute, but it's good to get everyone in there." News and Notes Hasheem Thabeet had the best game of his short career with the Thunder on Tuesday against Toronto. He was perfect from the field, scored 10 points, blocked a pair of shots and had a steal in 23 minutes. He's averaging almost 15 minutes per game as the back-up center to Kendrick Perkins and is scoring the same amount as Perkins 3.8 per game. Maybe Thabo Sefolosha is starting to get warmed up. He had his best game of the season offensively after being largely absent the first three games. Sefolosha made three-of-five 3-pointers and finished with 11 points and five rebounds and just one turnover in the win against Toronto. Heading into the game, Sefolosha was just 5-of-13 combined in three games. He didn't attempt a 3-pointer in the games against Portland and Atlanta. Guard Russell Westbrook wore a black, padded sleeve over his left shoulder against Toronto on Tuesday. He injured his shoulder against Atlanta the previous Sunday. He is not expected to miss any time. Former Thunder star James Harden told Yahoo! Sports Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti gave him only an hour to decide whether to accept a four-year, 54 million offer from the Thunder. "After everything we established everything we had done you give me an hour," Harden said. "That was one of the biggest decisions of my life. I wanted to go home and pray about it. It hurt me." Harden said he had just an hour, however, he went on to say he wasn't going to be the star in Oklahoma City. If that's the case and how he feels, it wouldn't have really mattered if he had an hour or a year to decide. "It's a different opportunity here for me," Harden said of Houston. The Thunder will debut their alternate uniforms Friday at home against Detroit. The plan is to wear the alternate look again at home on New Year's Eve against the Suns and then 10 times on the road. What's Next? Friday, vs. Detroit; Sunday, vs. Cleveland; Monday, at Detroit; Wednesday, vs. Memphis. After a stretch of games against some of the less-notable teams in the league, Wednesday's game against Memphis should be interesting. The Grizzlies have always given the Thunder all sorts of issues and Tony Allen has been sensational as a defender on Durant. Tower of Power? The Thunder made the title game a season ago and so far, it looks like they are just kind of going through the motions now. Certainly, this team is good enough to get back to the championship, but they don't seem to be playing with any urgency now. Then again, maybe they don't need to, either. Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter @Theandrewgilman
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