As I wake up this morning, brew my coffee, put the proper amount of cream and sugar into the mug, and take my first sip I am hit by something. Not just a caffeine rush strong enough to allow me to sit down at my laptop and get this preview out for another 1 p.m. game, but the realization that this is the rare game in professional sports that someone has to win, and both teams want to lose.
You can call it tanking, you can call it rebuilding, replenishing, retooling, roster exploring, you can label it whatever makes you comfortable, but the bottom line is the Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to lose. Every move they have made in constructing this roster since the end of the Disney World Bubble has made the team worse for the year 2020-21, and now, they are resting players to ensure they have the best chance to lose to a horrendous Rockets team rather than win.
The sad thing for the Thunder is, they still might win this game. Even as they sit Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with a random one-off shoulder injury, George Hill is still sidelined with a Thumb injury that will be back to normal on the 26th, Darius Bazley has yet to touch the hardwood in the second half of the season due to a shoulder injury suffered in practice, Josh Hall is still out with a knee injury, Al Horford is resting on the front end of a back to back after two straight days off for the team, even though Mike Muscala is available the sharpshooter has only seen roughly 14 minutes in the second half of the season after having a phenomenal first half of the year, and even Kenrich Williams has seen his minutes decrease in the second half.
The Thunder will have 11 players available in this game.
It is clear, the Thunder are purposefully putting a worse product on the floor. This is what the organization has wanted to do all along, and now, the plan is kicked into hyperdrive. The Rockets, do not want to win either. They will be without Kevin Porter Jr, David Nwaba, Dante Exum, and Eric Gordon in this game. On the heels of a 19 game losing streak.
However, pregame, Rockets rookie head coach Stephen Silas told the media that Kevin Porter Jr. was upgraded to questionable from his previous OUT listing.
For Thunder fans, it might be scary, but you want the Rockets to continue to lose, not this game but in general. Even if the Houston Rockets finished with the worst record in the NBA, they still only have a coin flip chance at keeping their top-four protected pick after the lottery.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are tanking for the greater good. To pair Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with. another young star, one of the five or six franchise-changing players in this draft, the Thunder are doing their best to land a Cade Cunningham type player. The only bad outcome is finishing in the middle, and the Thunder are trying their best to avoid that.
Mark Daigneault told those of us in the media that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s shoulder injury is “not a long-term thing” and that it is just “caution and maintenance.” However, when asked if the all-star caliber guard will play tomorrow against Minnesota, Mark Daigneault would not comment on that.
Mark Daigneault confirmed the starting lineup will be Theo Maledon, Lu Dort, Aleksej Pokusevski, Isaiah Roby, and Moses Brown. Also confirmed the team will get a look at Svi Mykhailiuk today, as expected with how shorthanded OKC is.
Mark Daigneault also pointed out that the Houston Rockets are a hungry team, and are now healthy with Christian Wood, John Wall, and Victor Oladipo back in the starting lineup. He preached the “0-0 mindset.” hammering home that the 19-game losing streak does not matter when the game starts.
If the Oklahoma City Thunder win this game, they will take the season series, 2-1.
For Locked on Thunder listeners, The Thunder are four-point underdogs in this game against the Houston Rockets, give me OKC +4.5 in this game, and Ty Jerome to lead the team in three pointers made winning the Moneyball award of the day.