Westbrook has added clutch to his resume this season

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — For the majority of his career, Russell Westbrook was not seen as a closer. Whenever that term would pop up around NBA circles, it was always assigned to his former Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Durant.
But with Durant gone, it has allowed and forced Westbrook to become the closer the Thunder need.
Westbrook showed off his closing skills Sunday when he posted a personal-best 21 fourth-quarter points in a win over New Orleans.
Even though Westbrook’s teammates have seen this type of clutch performances from him before, it still leaves them in awe.
“It is amazing. What he does, he doesn’t take the day off,” Thunder center Enes Kanter said. “He goes hard every night. He is just having fun. That is the most important thing. Like I said before, he helps everyone else around him, and he is doing all these triple-doubles on a winning team. That is the most important thing..
Westbrook will try to continue his late-game success when the Thunder host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday in a game that is pivotal for playoff position.
Westbrook is second in the NBA this season in points scored in clutch time, which consists of the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime when neither team is ahead by more than five points. His 175 points is seven behind Boston’s Isaiah Thomas.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan said Westbrook’s ability to close out games should not be a surprise to anyone who has watched him.
“Last year, the thing I appreciated and respected out of him, is coming in these close games, 82 games with playoff games, and at least a couple handful coming down to the last minute and 10 seconds, never once did he say to me, ‘Give me the ball. I want it.’ Never,” Donovan said. “He always does what’s best for the team and I think he knows with the way our team was structured this was going to be an important part. I think he has prepared himself for this more than anything else. It’s a real testament to him as it relates to his work ethic, his focus, wanting to win and then doing whatever is asked of him to help the team win. You know that to me as a coach, I have a great admiration for that.”
The biggest closing act for Westbrook would be to help the Thunder (34-25) catch the Utah Jazz (37-22) in the final quarter of the season. Heading into Tuesday night’s matchup at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Utah holds a three-game lead over Oklahoma City in the Northwest Division.
However, the Jazz haven’t made it easy to be caught. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have amassed a 17-11 road record on the season.
“I think we’ve been focused on the road,” Utah forward Derrick Favors told the Salt Lake Tribune. “We’ve played some good teams and have had some important games on the road. We’ve stuck to the game plan and not worried about the crowd noise and things we can’t control. We’ve come out and we’ve been ready to play. And the coaches have done a good job of preparing us.”
The Jazz will not know which lineup they will see until shortly before game time. Thunder guard Victory Oladipo practiced Monday after missing the past two games due to back spasms. Donovan said he will know more about Oladipo’s status after Tuesday’s shootaround.
Utah and Oklahoma City have faced off twice this season and have split the two games. The latter was a 97-95 loss for the Jazz, who played without Rodney Hood. He will be in uniform this time around.
Both earlier games were played in Utah and took place before the trade that brought Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
“It’s tough for other teams,” Westbrook said. “I think we’re playing to our potential on both sides of the ball.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Westbrook explodes in 4th to take down Pelicans

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook has the ability to hurt opposing teams in a variety of ways. But regardless of which way the Oklahoma City point guard chooses to rip apart clubs, the foundation is his aggressive nature.

This was on display Friday when he scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Thunder to a 118-110 victory over the slumping New Orleans Pelicans at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The 21 points is the most Westbrook has ever scored in the fourth during his career.
“I think throughout the game, I try to find ways to pick my spots,” Westbrook said. “Tonight was the fourth quarter. Some nights it may be early, some nights it may be late. I just play. The game will tell you what to do. If something is working, I keep doing it.”
Westbrook ended the night with 41 points on 14-of-29 shooting from the field. He also posted 11 rebounds, 11 assists and nine turnovers to notch his 29th triple-double of the season. It was also his seventh career 40-point triple double, which tied Wilt Chamberlain for second most in NBA history.
“I just stay in attack mode,” Westbrook said. “I did a terrible job of taking care of the basketball. But I stayed in attack mode and tried to help us win.”
Enes Kanter came off the bench to score 20 points and grab nine boards. Steven Adams and Alex Abrines each scored 13 points for the Thunder (34-25).
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans (23-37) with 38 points and seven rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins added 31 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out. E’Twaun Moore was the only other player to hit double figures (10). It was the third straight loss for the Pelicans since acquiring Cousins in a trade last week.
“I thought we played well,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “I thought we did a good job. We started the game the right way. At the end of the day, Russ made all the plays down the stretch. You have to give them credit.”
With the Thunder leading 94-93, Westbrook hit back-to-back 3-pointers before Kanter added two free throws.
That forced Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry to bring Cousins off the bench with five fouls and he promptly was fouled and hit two free throws.
Westbrook came right back down and nailed another 3-pointer. Davis scored four straight points, Moore drilled a corner 3-pointer and the Pelicans were back to within three points with 3:50 left.
A Westbrook jumper pushed the Thunder lead to 107-102. But Cousins responded with four consecutive free throws to cut the lead to one.
Westbrook ended Cousins’ night when Jrue Holiday let him drive straight down the middle of the lane for a tomahawk dunk on Cousins, who picked up his sixth foul on the play. The three-point play gave Oklahoma City a 110-106 advantage.
“Obviously it changed the game from the standpoint of we were able to throw the ball inside and he was playing well,” Gentry said. “It took all of that away. Like I said, Russ made all the plays at the end of the game.”
With 1:41 left, the Pelicans had the ball and trailed by four. But Holiday missed a 3-point attempt and that set up two free throws on the other end for Westbrook. He hit two more on Oklahoma City’s next possession and that was enough to close out New Orleans.
The Thunder won the rebound battle 53-26 and owned the points in the paint 56-40.
The night started very spotty for Cousins as he and Adams picked up double technical fouls 32 seconds into the game on what appeared to be light jostling for position. One minute later, Cousins was hit with his second foul and had to sit on the bench the rest of the quarter.
“I have to fight through the adversity and ignore the negativity and just do what’s best for the team,” Cousins said.
Despite that, Davis was able to have his way with the Thunder defense. Whether it was Adams, Kanter or Taj Gibson, no defender had an answer for him as he posted 24 points in the opening 12 minutes.
“He had two fouls at the 10:30 mark,” Davis said of Cousins. “It’s tough when he goes out. I tried to make shots and get other guys involved.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Newcomers adapt quickly, prepare for second game with Thunder

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — It was a quick turnaround for Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.

After being traded, the former Chicago Bulls players had been in Oklahoma City less than 24 hours before they found themselves taking passes from Russell Westbrook and converting them into buckets.
Neither had time to fully take in how much their lives had changed or what was in store for them and their new team. But that didn’t seem to affect their game.
In Oklahoma City’s victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, Gibson and McDermott combined for 20 points and eight rebounds. They made an instant impression on their new coach.
“I thought those guys did really well. You know, again, like we talked about before the game, no shootaround, 15 minutes on the court walking through a few things, asking a lot of questions in timeouts, and what I really tried to do for those guys was in timeouts, here’s two or three things we’re going to do for a little while and then diagram some stuff to try to have them run,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
“But I think Taj got the ball in some good post areas on the floor. He really finished and did a couple nice moves inside. I thought Doug had some opportunities, which was encouraging to see. So for those guys to come in off of a plane at 11 o’clock at night and come on the floor and get the minutes they got, I thought they both did a terrific job.”
Gibson and McDermott got their first full practice in with the Thunder on Saturday afternoon. While they will still be in unfamiliar territory, each should be a little more comfortable with each passing practice and game.
Gibson says much of that is due to the atmosphere the players have created around the team.
“I’ve never been in a hallway where guys are doing so many handshakes and jumping around, bouncing. Knowing rap rhymes. It was all new for me,” Gibson said. “Just being around the guys, everybody is so easygoing, everybody is so welcoming. Already joking with me like I’ve been here for years. Guys are real funny here. They joke a lot. It’s just funny to see a lot of 7-footers joking the way they do.”
That includes Steven Adams, who was once voted one of the league’s dirtiest players.
“When I look at Steven, I am like, he is a giant, he has this full sleeve (tattoo),” Gibson said. “But when he smiles and he laughs at you, you just notice a big gold tooth in his mouth. It’s something new to me, but it’s a good thing. I like guys like that.”
Oklahoma City will be back in action Sunday night when it hosts New Orleans at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Pelicans didn’t have the same success as the Thunder in their first game after making the biggest trade of the season. Bringing in center DeMarcus Cousins didn’t stop them from losing by 30 at home to Houston.
New Orleans was back on the court Saturday night when it traveled to Dallas looking for a different result. However, the Pelicans lost their second straight game despite a monster night from Anthony Davis.
But with only three Pelicans scoring in double figures, they weren’t able to capitalize on Davis’ 39 points and 14 rebounds.
The lack of depth is a result of the trade that brought Cousins to New Orleans and the Pelicans haven’t found a way to make up for those lost bodies. That is not a good position to be in against a deeper Thunder squad.
“They make the game so easy, man. McDermott is doing an unbelievable job,” Thunder center Enes Kanter said. “Doug is doing an unbelievable job just driving to the basket and shooting the ball.
“Then obviously Taj, he’s just doing an unbelievable job of posting up, rebounding, defending the ball. It’s going to help us a lot.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Musical introduces Motown to a new generation


By Michael Kinney

As the daughter of a musician, Amber Johnson grew up in a house full of music. Whether it was country or old-school R&B, the Norman native was raised with melodies and songs.

Despite that, after graduating from Norman High School in 1998 and attending the University of Oklahoma, Johnson found herself developing an interest in working behind the scenes of musicals instead of singing onstage.

The Motown sound made an impact on Johnson growing up. Founded in Detroit in 1958, it was described as “the soundtrack of a generation.” Johnson can attest to that, as everyone from The Temptations to The Supremes has reserved a place in her memories.

As an adult, Johnson finds herself working on Motown’s reincarnation as an assistant stage manager for Broadway’s Motown the Musical.

For me, Motown has such a great history and growing up in a household where music was very important, to be part of something that is continuing the legacy of Motown music, bringing people together with the music is important and a great thing to be part of,” Johnson said.

Motown the Musical opens March 7 at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker Ave., and runs through March 12.

It’s based on founder Berry Gordy’s autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown and the story of how Gordy transformed a small label to the biggest hitmaking machine of the 1960s. The label featured Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, The Isley Brothers, Diana Ross, Boyz II Men, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson.

David Kaverman, who portrays Robinson, said the production hits all the right notes.

For me, it has really been life-changing. It came at the right time to spread this message of love and family and unity among people and the importance of music,” he said. “We just had a brunch at Mr. Gordy’s house. It was just really humbling and eye-opening to see the kind of history he’s had through the pictures on his wall and everything. Now, we’re part of that Motown family and all these great legends, iconic people, movement makers, inspirers. So for me, it’s one of the high points of my life so far.”

Motown soul

The current Motown the Musical tour is the second one since the show opened on Broadway in 2013. But this is Kaverman’s first run as a castmember.

He originally auditioned as an ensemble player. After several callbacks, he faced the chance of a lifetime.

They kept calling me back for more things, different things. I ended up in the final round auditioning for Smokey,” Kaverman said. “We had our opening in LA, and Smokey Robinson came and saw the show and I got to meet him. … He gave me some really nice words and was really supportive of the work I’m doing trying to capture him on stage.”

In researching his character, Kaverman said he learned about the importance of Motown and that Robinson was more than a performer.

Smokey was really kind of the heart and soul of Motown,” Kaverman said. “He was a prolific songwriter. Wrote a lot of music for Motown, for other groups, which I really didn’t know before. He was also a leader. He rose to be vice president of the company, so he understood the business side as well as the creative side. In the show, we have a couple of tense scenes in which Smokey is taking charge.”

Along with Kaverman, Motown the Musical stars Chester Gregory as Gordy, Allison Semmes as Ross and Jarran Muse as Gaye. CJ Wright and Raymond Davis Jr. portray Jackson and Wonder as young boys.

While the behind-the-scenes stories on the uphill battles Motown endured shape the show, the music gives it its soul. Motown the Musical features more than 40 hit songs, including “My Girl,” “What’s Going On,” “Dancing in the Street,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Kaverman described a part in the show in which Diana Ross asks everyone in the auditorium to hold hands as they all sing together. He said he feels the energy coming from the room. He wants as many people as possible to feel that same energy.

I would say come to the show because the music is fantastic,” Kaverman said. “And there are such good stories. There is something there to latch onto that is real. It’s touching and inspiring. I think people go to theaters to have a good time, but also to feel things. But I think people will be surprised with how much heart this show has.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Photo 6.jpg


New Thunder fit perfectly in first game

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — Alex Abrines knew there was a chance he’d get his first start of the season for Oklahoma City. With Victor Oladipo ailing, Abrines was the next man up.
However, what the rookie didn’t expect was to post a career-high 19 points to help the Thunder beat the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Abrines knew how important it was for him to see his first couple of shots go through the rim.
“I was feeling pretty good,” Abrines said. “For the shooters, to hit their first shot it gets more easy as you get confidence. So it was important to hit the first two.”
Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook collected his 28th triple-double of the season. He scored 17 points on 4-of-17 shooting from the field to go with 17 assists and 18 rebounds.
Andre Roberson matched Abrines with 19 points as they combined to hit eight of the team’s 10 3-pointers. Steven Adams collected 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder (33-25).
D’Angelo Russell paced the Lakers (19-41) with 29 points on 12-of-26 shooting from the floor. Jordan Clarkson came off the bench to score 14 points and Julius Randle added 13.
Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ new president of basketball operations, was in the building to watch the team for the first time since taking over. For the players, that means they are playing not only for the present but also for the future.
“It’s good. It like you’re starting over and trying to impress,” Russell said. “It’s like coming to a new team. Trying to impress the GM (general manager) and the guys in the front office with your play, with your off the court and the way you handle yourself. So it’s just all different.”
The Thunder reserves made the biggest impact in the first half. Abrines scorched the Lakers for 10 first-quarter points. That included knocking down two 3-pointers.
Oklahoma City also received strong contributions from its newest members. Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, who were traded from Chicago on Thursday, didn’t hesitate to get involved in their first game with the Thunder. The duo combined for 10 points.
“It felt great,” Gibson said. “I didn’t want to mess up. I was able to calm down and have a lot of fun with the guys. It’s a great group of guys, real unselfish. … I had a great time tonight.”
The Lakers stayed in striking distance throughout the first half. Russell and Clarkson were able to knock down a few jumpers while also driving to the rim for layups.
Los Angeles trailed Oklahoma City 58-51 at halftime.
Abrines once again came out on fire to start the third quarter. He hit three quick 3-pointers as the Thunder stormed ahead to a 73-58 advantage.
The third quarter was a disaster for the Lakers. Not only were they unable to slow down the Thunder, their offense fell apart.
Only Russell seemed to be able to get his shot off as they fell behind by 20 points.
Westbrook reached his triple-double midway through the quarter. He gaves his new teammates a front-row view of what the type of season he has been having.
“It’s a lot better to be with him than against him,” McDermott said of Westbrook.
The Lakers finally found their offense in the fourth quarter as Randle and Ingram joined the party. They were able to cut the Thunder lead to nine with four minutes left but didn’t have enough left in the tank to finish the run.
“I think the key was defense,” Thunder center Enes Kanter said. “I think we did a very good job of communication. We did a really good job on pick and rolls. I think the most important thing was everybody give 100 percent effort.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer for Eyeamtruth.com

Thunder revamp lineup with 5-player trade


By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – While most of the teams in the NBA have a timid approach when it comes to making trades, the Oklahoma City Thunder never have been in that category. 
As the 2016-17 trade deadline approached Thursday, Thunder General Manager Sam Presti once again showed he is not afraid to make moves. 
Presti sent guard Cameron Payne, forward Anthony Morrow and forward Joffrey Lauvergne to the Chicago Bulls for forward Taj Gibson, forward Doug McDermott and a 2018 second round draft pick. 
This was the third major trade the Thunder have been involved in since the end of last season. Only seven players remain from the unit that lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. 
The move strengthens the Oklahoma City bench and provides more consistent scoring around MVP candidate Russell Westbrook. 

Russell can help both of these guys, and both of them complement him,” Presti said. “I think we’re a better team this evening than we were this morning.”

Gibson leaves Chicago averaging 11.6 points and 7.0 rebounds a game. McDermott is posting 10 points a night while shooting 37 percent from 3-point range. 
Gibson, who had been with the Bulls for eight years, says he didn’t find out about the trade until after Thursday’s practice. 
“We were joking about (trades),” Gibson told the Daily Herald. “Nobody really took it seriously the whole practice. When (Jimmy Butler) heard the news, he texted me because everybody just left and didn’t know what was going to happen. 
“He texted me that he loved me of course and he’d see me in the summer. Continue to keep doing well and go get the bags. That’s his words.” 
The Thunder return back to action Friday night for their first game since the All-Star break. It is doubtful Gibson or McDermott will be in uniform when they host the Los Angeles Lakers at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. 
The Lakers are still feeling the impact of the takeover of Magic Johnson, who was named president of Basketball Operations Tuesday. 
The Hall of Famer met with his team for the first time Wednesday in the Lakers’ first practice since before taking off for All-Star weekend. It didn’t take long for Johnson to sell the talented, but young Lakers on where he wants to guide the franchise. 
“The Lakers organization isn’t a losing organization,” guard D’Angelo Russell told NBA.com. “He wants to get back to where we were.” 
Johnson led the Lakers to five NBA titles in his 12-year career. Along with Larry Bird, he is credited with turning around the NBA in the 1980s. 
But Johnson might have an even tougher challenge doing the same for the current Lakers (19-39), which sit one game out of last place in the Western Conference. 
Johnson’s first move as president was to trade sixth-man Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for Corey Brewer and an unprotected first-round pick. Los Angeles also showed interest in trying to pry Paul George away from the Indianapolis Pacers, but was unsuccessful. 
“Everything happened so fast,” Lakers coach Luke Walton ESPN.com. “The initial thought is why do it right before the trade deadline, but Magic came in and we got to work right away.” 
However, whether the Lakers made any trades or not, Westbrook really wasn’t concerned. He made it clear, he doesn’t care what changes are made to other teams. 
“Like I’ve always said, I never worry about other teams,” Westbrook said. “I don’t care if the Lakers have Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), Kobe (Bryant), it don’t matter. All my job is to worry about my team and who we got here and we go out and compete.” 
One of the pleasant surprises for Oklahoma City was having center Enes Kanter return to practice for the first time since he fractured his forearm Jan. 26 in a game against Dallas when he slammed it into a chair. 
The Thunder have been without his 14 points and almost seven rebounds a game and it has showed. 
Kanter took part in drills Thursday and Friday, but coach Billy Donovan hasn’t said whether he will be available when the Thunder host the Lakers at Chesapeake Energy Arena. 
“Him being out there with the team, it’s just good to have him back,” Thunder center Steven Adams said of Kanter. “Just a lot of energy.” 
Oklahoma City (32-25) has 25 games left on its schedule. Only seven of those are against teams with winning records. As they fight to move up in the standings, the players admitted to looking at the standings and talking about what they have to do going forward. 
“We want to try and create some rhythm, some momentum going toward the right direction,” Westbrook said.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Giving back a way of life for Thunder

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — After more than three seasons with the Utah Jazz, Enes Kanter thought he had a good idea of what it meant to be in the NBA. But when he was traded to Oklahoma City in February 2015, Kanter quickly found out the organization does things a little differently than other professional franchises. While the Thunder strives to compete for championships and banners, the team also wants to be a leader in the community.

“We really didn’t do that much community work in Utah,” Kanter says. “I get to the Thunder, and we have something to do almost every other day.”

Kanter’s experience is not an outlier. This was evident in September 2016, when the Thunder held its annual Blue and White Scrimmage at Oklahoma City’s John Marshall High School. Each year, the team picks an Oklahoma high school to host a scrimmage on its basketball court. At the game, the Thunder Cares Foundation—the team’s nonprofit arm—donated $5,000 to replace John Marshall’s broken scoreboards. But the event was even more meaningful—in 2015, John Marshall student C.J. Davis was killed in a car accident, and the sixteen-year old football player’s death devastated his family and the student body.

“I know that family very well; that was the worst day of my professional life,” says Edith Vickers, athletic director at John Marshall.

At the scrimmage, the Thunder honored Davis. General Manger Sam Presti, who set up the program, presented his family with a framed number sixteen jersey.

“I was thinking on my son and all the great things the Thunder had done for him,” Cletus Glenn Davis Sr., C.J.’s father, says of that moment. “I’m very humbled by all of this and want to say thank you personally. This is more special than I can have words to say.”

But the Blue and White Scrimmage is just one of many ways the Thunder and its players help communities around the state. The team takes part in more than 200 charitable events each season.

“Our overall philosophy is organization-wide,” says Christine Berney, the team’s vice president of community relations. “It’s not just one person, and it’s not just the players. The whole organization has bought into the importance of being a good community partner.”

Some of the team’s biggest events include the Thunder Day of Giving, in which players and staff volunteer throughout the community, and the Holiday Shopping Spree, in which every player is paired up with grandparents who are raising grandkids for a trip through Target.

“The families get shopping on us,” Berney said. “The kids go off and have fun with the players, take them to the toy aisle. The grandparents also get a chance to shop for themselves. I’ve never gotten through that event without crying.”

It’s not just the franchise that seeks to give back. Several players have charitable foundations doing good work around the state. For Russell Westbrook, that includes his Why Not? Foundation, which has hosted Thanksgiving Diners for underprivileged

families, given away cars to single mothers, and created Russell’s Reading Room, a literacy initiative created to provide children access to books and a safe environment to read with friends.

“I feel blessed and honored to see my name and pictures around,” Westbrook said after opening his first reading room at North Highland Elementary in Oklahoma City. “Especially for young kids, I think it’s important for them to have access to different books and to be able to come into my reading room. It’s my job to be able to encourage them to read more.”

Other players who either have foundations, camps or host events, include Enes Kanter, Steven Adams, Anthony Morrow, Victor Oladipo, Cameron Payne, Andre Roberson, and Kyle Singler. But the entire organization—from owner Clay Bennett down to the youngest ball boy—takes community outreach seriously.

“We live in a special place,” Berney says. “We feel the support of the fans and the community here. As the only national team in Oklahoma, that’s a responsibility, but it’s something we love to do. We like to think of ourselves as part of the fabric of Oklahoma, so it’s important to us to give back.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Story ran in The Oklahoma Today.

Monster trucks invading OKC

By Michael Kinney

In 2004, Alex Blackwell was working as a truck driver in Pennsylvania, but his part-time occupation as a pro motocross rider was his passion.

After years of riding motorbikes, Blackwell’s legs began to wear out and he was forced to have surgery. During that time, a friend needed a simple favor from Blackwell.

He wanted him to climb inside a monster truck named Eradicator and drive it 300 feet so his friend could check something out.

As soon as he sat in one and felt its power, he was hooked.

Soon, Blackwell joined the Monster Jam traveling show and hasn’t looked back.

“When I got in the truck, it was unreal,” he said. “As soon as you put your foot to the floor, 1,500 horsepower … I said, ‘This could be fun.’ I’ve been having fun ever since.”

Prehistoric power

He has traveled to 25 countries with the show and hopes to add even more to that list this year.

Monster Jam roars into Chesapeake Arena, 100 W. Reno Ave., Saturday-Sunday. This will be the second time Blackwell has visited Oklahoma City with the tour.

The first was in 2006, when he commanded Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This time, he’ll show off his newest ride, 12 foot-tall, 12 foot-wide Megalodon.

“It’s prehistoric, dinosaur-looking. It’s supposedly the oldest, biggest shark known to man,” Blackwell said. “I don’t know how many are actually left in real life in the water, but this one is out of the water, so I am claiming it to be the biggest shark ever.”

Monster Jam trucks can weigh 10,000 pounds and are built for short, high-powered bursts of speed. Rolling on 66-inch tires, the vehicles command close to 2,000 horsepower and can reach 100 mph while also being able to jump 35 feet high and soar over 120 feet.

Fan favorites

Other trucks scheduled to compete in the family-friendly Oklahoma City championship are Incinerator, Stinger, Full Boar, Prowler, Master of Disaster, Predator and Carolina Crusher.

“Trucks … do wheelies, doughnuts and freestyle,” he said. “Then there are pit parties. All the fans get to come out and see everything up close; take pictures with them, get autographs with their favorite drivers and then enjoy the show.”

But Blackwell said the accessibility of the drivers is just as big a factor to Monster Jam’s success as anything else.

Drivers sign autographs for two hours at the pre-show Pit Party and meet fans and sign more autographs after the show “until the last person leaves,” Blackwell said.

“There have been times I have been signing to 3 or 4 in the morning because people want your autograph,” he said.

Monster Jam is 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at Chesapeake Arena. The pit party is 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com 

After slow start Thunder dismantle Knicks

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City wasn’t just carrying a simple two-game losing streak when it came into Wednesday night. Both losses to Golden State and Washington were blowouts in which they were never in contention to win.
Russell Westbrook wanted to make sure the Thunder were able to put those games behind them before heading into the annual All-Star weekend. Spearheaded by his 27th triple-double, Oklahoma City defeated the New York Knicks 116-105 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“You always want to have a good feeling, a good taste in your mouth going into the break,” Westbrook said. “And then you make sure you come back ready to play.”
Westbrook scored 38 points to go with 14 rebounds and 12 assists. He now sits alone in third place all time for most triple-doubles in a single season.
Victor Oladipo poured in 21 points on 9 of 17 shooting. Jerami Grant came off the bench to score 13 points while Steven Adams added 11 points and eight rebounds to raise the Thunder to 32-25.
Oladipo was particularly impressed with what the Thunder got from Grant.
“He played great today,” Oladipo said of Grant. “He needs to play like that every night.”
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 30 points on 11 of 20 shooting. Derrick Rose collected 25 points and Courtney Lee scored 16 as New York dropped to 23-34.
With the Thunder leading by seven, Rose came up empty on a layup with under six minutes left in the game. The Thunder got the rebound and passed it ahead to Westbrook, who was fouled attacking the basket.
Westbrook sank two free throws to put Oklahoma City ahead 101-92. Anthony came back down the court and drained a turnaround jumper on Andre Roberson.
Westbrook was fouled again and he made 1 of 2 from the line. However, he grabbed his own rebound and then knocked down a 3-pointer for the four-point play and a 105-96 advantage.
“I did know I missed it,” Westbrook said of the free throw. “Good thing I know when it’s going to be short. I can usually go back and get it real quick. It’s good for our crowd, it’s good for our team. It hurts the other team, obviously. That’s a good play for us.”
After Courtney Lee hit a midrange jumper, Westbrook and Grant hit back-to-back 3-pointers and the Thunder pushed their lead to 111-96.
That was enough to close out the Knicks for the night.
Oklahoma City hit 12 of 23 shots from 3-point range and outrebounded New York 48-39.
“It’s a strange thing, but when you’re not scoring, your defense slacks off,” Thunder coach Jeff Hornacek said. “I think that’s what happened to them in the first quarter and to us almost the rest of the game.”
Anthony was on the attack from the opening tip. Despite the defensive-minded Andre Roberson guarding him, he hit his first six shots of the night.
But it was more than Anthony, who helped the Knicks grow its lead to 17 in the first half. As a team, they knocked down 6 of 9 from 3-point land and it looked like they had taken the Thunder out of the game early.
But Oklahoma City found renewed energy on the defensive end and started forcing New York into turnovers. This allowed Oladipo and Westbrook to get out on the breaks for easy scores.
The Thunder backcourt combined for 20 points in the second quarter as Oklahoma City held a 62-60 halftime advantage.
“Just being aggressive,” Oladipo said. “Being aggressive and shooting the ball with confidence and going out and protecting the win.”

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