NBA

Thunder News Roundup: Josh Huestis’ Last Stand, Kanter Wonders if Westbrook Will Talk to Him, and more!

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Josh Huestis, right, blocks a shot by New Orleans Pelicans forward Jalen Jones (12) during the fourth quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. Oklahoma City won 102-91. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Thunder News Roundup: Josh Huestis’ Last Stand, Kanter Wonders if Westbrook Will Talk to Him, and more!

Hail and well met, my friends!

The Thunder gave their best Sooners impression against the Melbourne united, but were ultimately able to to scrape past the upstart Aussies, winning by a slim 86-85 margin.

So what happened?

Disappointing outing from Big Three

Although preseason games are often not an accurate barometer of regular season success (or lack thereof), it’s still concerning to see such a lackluster performance from a team that, talent-wise, should have blown the opposition off of the floor.

Although this is concerning, there’s an easy explanation: the Thunder’s best players simply shot poorly. When Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony miss 32 shots, it’s going to be a bad time. (Russ, PG, and Melo shot a combined 14-of-46 in the exhibition game.)

It also probably didn’t help that Westbrook said that he wasn’t “expecting s–t” from the international competition.

Ultimately, the Thunder needed a little more effort from their impact players than they — or anybody, for that matter — expected on Sunday.

For now, chalk it up to jitters and the time it takes to truly jell as a unit. Unfortunately, with the shortened preseason, the Thunder have less time to figure it out.

Josh Huestis Saves the Day

Our own Jon Hamm put it best: “When I see Josh Huestis, I see a player who should be getting minutes somewhere.”

The pick was slightly controversial at when it happened, but the one-time longshot project has turned into a full-fledged NBA role player. Funny how the Thunder keep managing to do this.

He truly was the hero against Melbourne, securing a pair of emphatic blocks to put them away in the closing seconds of the game.

Huestis ended up with four rejections on the game.

“Josh has got a lot of length. Defensively, he continues to get better,” Donovan said. “I think he has always been a guy with great defensive potential and ability. As he has developed, he has been able to guard multiple positions.”

Sam Presti and the Thunder love versatile forwards with long arms who can defend multiple positions. I’m hoping Huestis can find enough playing time to prove that he truly belongs. Otherwise, we may be looking at yet another promising player who got away.

Rookie Terrance Ferguson Already Proving Himself

Speaking of projects — that’s the word I and many others used to describe the bouncy rook who most recently played in Adelaide, Australia.

Terrance Ferguson has found himself playing minutes that he wouldn’t if teammate Alex Abrines weren’t still being held out with a knee injury. (Abrines is a game-time call for Tuesday’s match against Denver.)

Billy Donovan (and even Scott Brooks before him) has not been shy to trust rookies with major rotation minutes. Domantas Sabonis had a regular spot in the starting rotation from day one of last season until seasoned vet Taj Gibson took his spot.

Ferguson fits the Thunder mold, too: a hard worker by his teammates’ accounts, a long wingspan, and a skill ceiling to match his raw and yet-unrefined athleticism.

It’s tough to watch plays like this and not get excited for not just the future, but for this very season:

If Ferguson develops a knockdown outside shot, the sky is the limit for him — and that’s hardly an exaggeration for somebody with Ferguson’s physical toolset.

Enes Kanter Wonders if Russ Will Talk to Him in OKC Return

Let’s face it: Russell Westbrook is from the same basketball philosophy that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were borne out of: when you’re on the court, the only friends you have are your teammates. Everyone else is an enemy.

It’s resulted in some on-court tension with a certain ex-teammate that boiled over and threatened to get ugly. There’s still little love lost in that department.

But unlike that certain person, Enes Kanter left with zero acrimony, which makes it more than a little sad that he has to wonder if Westbrook will speak to him on his return, or whether or not Thunder fans will boo him.

While I can’t definitively say that Russ will speak to him (although I’d venture to guess he’ll receive Kanter graciously), and I can promise Enes that Thunder fans will give him the warm welcome he deserves.

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