Q: Talk about the big trade. How you think the new guys will fit in. What will be missed with Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic?
Royce Young: It's going to take a little time to get everything situated. Oklahoma City gains a lot of size -- what it truly needed -- but loses two pretty decent offensive players. Krstic have the Thunder a good pick-and-pop option at the end of the shot clock and Green was a good slasher to the basket and pretty versatile player. They are certainly replaceable and Perkins is an upgrade, but the Thunder gave up some talent.
Q: The Lakers have beaten the Thunder in seven of the last 10 meetings (playoffs included), in large part because OKC really struggles when put in a halfcourt scenario. Why do they tend to sputter in that setting and has there been progress?
RY: A lot of it is because I don't think there's a lot of creativity in getting Durant the ball in positions to score. Durant typically scores three ways: 1) At the line, 2) in transition and 3) coming off a screen and hitting a jumper. The Lakers play terrific halfcourt defense and have devised a great game plan to limit Durant touches in scoring positions. That's why you see Westbrook try and take over each time. Because the offense isn't working as it should, so Westbrook has to just do something.
Q: In this year's game and throughout the course of last season, Ron Artest has been able to have his way with Kevin Durant. Have you noticed in any trends? How Ron defends him? How Kevin reacts? What everyone else is doing around them?
RY: Artest really is one of the very best defenders on Durant and I think it's mainly because there's no dead space between them. Artest never gives Durant an inch to breathe, whether its coming off a pick or just running up the floor after a rebound. It frustrates KD. And when the officiating crew lets the game get physical, it really favors the Lakers. Artest can keep Durant in place by holding him a bit and not letting him run off his normal two or three screens a possession.
Q: A trade like Thursday's clearly reflects the Thunder's desire to be a playoff force. With that in mind, how important do you think this game is for the Thunder?
RY: The shame is, Perkins won't be available because of an MCL sprain he suffered earlier in the week still playing for Boston. But this game means a lot to the Thunder. They haven't lost three straight all season and they come in after two consecutive losses. Plus, beating good, contending teams like the Lakers gives them a boost. And with the changeover in personnel, I kind of think the Thunder needs a little bump. Perkins was acquired for exactly a game like this, so it hurts he won't be there, but the Thunder has enough talent to get it done, plus the game is at home.