Thunder continue to battle inconsistency

By Michael Kinney

There was a time the Oklahoma City Thunder were considered by many to be the one team that had a chance to compete with the Golden State Warriors and represent the West Conference in the NBA Finals. However, with the team’s recent stretch of ugly losses, that seems so long ago.

With Oklahoma City’s 12-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies Monday, the team has a 5-8 record in the month of March. Their winning percentage of .385 is tied for the 21st worst in the league.

Comparably, in the first three months of the season, their winning percentage of .640 was the sixth best in the entire NBA.

Then came the NBA All-Star break and everything has seemingly fallen apart since then. Since Feb. 11, the Thunder has only won back to back games once.

Yet, in that same span of time, they have two separate four-game losing streaks.

That type of inconsistency is not the sign of a team that has greatness on the horizon.

“We’re competitive. We know where we want to get to, we know where we want to be. We know that nights like tonight isn’t good enough,” Thunder forward Paul George. “It just goes to show that when we don’t come ready, we’re vulnerable against anybody.”

This became crystal clear over the past two road games for the Thunder. On Friday, the team traveled to Toronto to face the Raptors, who have the second-best record in the league. Oklahoma City came away with an impressive 116-109 victory.

Yet, just three days later, they lost to a Grizzlies squad that was missing its best player in Mike Conley and had traded away its most experienced members earlier in the season.

“I don’t think there can be any excuses, having the two days in between the Toronto game. Obviously, as a coach, when you have two days like that, you want to do the best job you can to help the team get prepared for what they are walking into,” Donovan said. “The disappointing part is that two nights ago, you could see the range of margin of how we can be on a night and how we can be on another night. If you are going to be a great team, the one thing doesn’t allow greatness is inconsistency.”

The Thunder came out of Monday sitting in eighth place in the Western Conference. With a six-game lead over the Sacramento Kings and only eight games remaining, they have a pretty secure hold on the final playoff spot.

Yet, the big question is do they plan to just settle on making the postseason. After all the moves, trades and offseason deals was it just to get beat by the Golden State or the Denver in the opening round.

With six of their last eight games at home, the Thunder can still make a move. Despite their recent play, only three games separate them and current No. 4 seed Portland.

But does Oklahoma City have what it takes to turn around this wandering ship that has been off course for more than a month? First, they had to all admit there is a problem.

 “I’m never worried. I never panic. Everybody is so wrapped around how everybody thinks we should be playing or how you’re supposed to be playing at this time of year,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “As long as internally we’re fine, that’s why I don’t worry, regardless of what happens – win, lose or draw.”

Michael Kinney Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Sooners hold on to earn Big 12 crown


By Michael Kinney

The Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team has owned the Big 12 for close to a decade. Coming into Saturday’s conference meet at Lloyd Noble Center, they have taken home the team title seven consecutive years.

Carrying a No. 1 ranking and an undefeated record, the Sooners seemed to be a shoo-in to make it eight straight.  But conference affiliate member Denver put up a  stronger level of competition than expected. It came down to the final rotation of the afternoon to decide the champion.

But just like the have in the past, the Sooners found a way to claim the crown,

Oklahoma posted a score of 197.575 to take the 2019 Big 12 Championship. No. 5 Denver was right behind at 197.250, with No. 22 Iowa State finishing third with a 195.950. West Virginia placed fourth with a 195.600.

The Sooners now have 12 conference titles, with 11 of them coming under the watch of OU coach K.J. Kindler.

However, Kindler was not impressed with her team’s total performance.

“Our vault landings, although our vaults were dynamic, at the end of the day in the postseason, the landings are going to be everything,”  Kindler said. “We had three hops that were greater than three foot which is a two-tenths deduction. That is what they were getting deducted for because the vaults were very pretty in the air. We have to do a better job of reigning that in so that it is a small step an only a tenth off verses that big step and the two tenths off.”

The Sooners came away with the top team scores on three of the four rotations. The floor exercises were the only event they took second.

That allowed Denver to make the meet closer than many thought it would be.

Olivia Troutman put the meet away for Oklahoma, though, when she hit a 9.975 on the floor. That sealed the title for the Sooners.

“Brenna (Dowell) and Olivia pretty much saved the day on floor,” Kindler said. “They had no choice not to just stay on their feet, but to nail their routines with giant scores. One a senior and one a freshman, one experience and one can obviously handle the pressure. That is what I think of the meet. I think that there were some really great things and some things we can definitely improve on.”

The meet was the final home competition for several seniors. That includes Dowell, who was named the Big 12 Gymnast of the Year.

Trautman was named the Newcomer of the Year, joining teammates Dowell, junior Maggie Nichols and sophomore Anastasia Webb as Sooners to have won the honor. Junior Jade Degouveia was named the Event Specialist of the Year for the first time in her career.

The Sooners will now head off to the regional meet April 4-6, where they hope to land a spot in the 2019 NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas on April 19 and 20.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

A night to remember for Mr. Thunder


(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

If there was ever a player who epitomized the saying, ‘the numbers do not tell the whole story,’ it would be Nick Collison. The former Oklahoma City big man played 15 years in the NBA and posted modest statistics at best.

However, Wednesday night Collison was the center of attention before the Thunder took on the Toronto Raptors when he became the first player in Oklahoma City Thunder history to have his number retired. The man affectionately known as Mr. Thunder now has his No. 4 now hanging in the rafters at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

It’s an honor Iowa Falls native never saw coming.

“I could have never expected something like this,” Collison said. It’s really a special night for me and my family. It’s been a long run and to be able to have the career I had here, and have a celebration like that, I feel very fortunate.”

Collison was drafted in 2003 by the then Seattle SuperSonics. He stayed with the franchise when it moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder.

“It was difficult because I liked where I was at,” Collison said of the home he had made in Seattle. “When franchises move, it’s not easy for anybody. It’s a difficult thing. I liked where I was at. The team ended up moving. That’s the way the business works. Luckily, we came to a great place and it’s worked out incredibly for me and the team since then. I’ve really learned to love it here. People have been great to me. They were great to us from the very first day. Ended up becoming a special, special thing, coming out of a thing that was difficult at the time. Again, I’ve been really fortunate with the way things worked out for me.”

Over 910 regular season games, Collison averaged averages of 5.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 20.4 minutes per game. He also played in 91 postseason games where he averaged averaging 4.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 16.8 minutes.

But those numbers do not tell everything that Collison meant to a franchise. The low-key, quiet leader was a glue guy. He did the things that went unheralded in the press but were key to helping build a title contending team.

“For me, it was just doing my job. Whatever experiences I had before I got here, the way I viewed playing and my job as a basketball player was to do as much as I could, do whatever it took to the best of my ability to help the team win,” Collison said. “I think you just do that day after day, and I think that’s what the culture is here. Just doing the work day after day. We started from scratch. Everybody knows the story. We weren’t very good. We had a lot of things to prove. We just did it by doing the work over and over again. I think that’s kind of what it is. There’s really no magic to it. You have to be able to accept responsibility and do the work.”

During his speech, Collison said the thing he missed the most was being around his teammates.

“I’ve always loved my teammates,” Collison said. “I always wanted my teammates to know that all I wanted was to help them win,”

This was shown by the number of former teammates who showed up in Oklahoma City to celebrate Collison’s honor. They include Kevin Durant, who sat up in the suites to watch the festivities.

The current members of the Thunder were also impressed with the entire ceremony.

“It was beautiful, it was really, really good. It was really good for the organization too, to retire the jersey says a lot about him,” Thunder center Steven Adams said. “It was really wonderful. I miss the old bastard. I miss him but it was a beautiful moment.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content provider with EyeAmTruth Media

Auto designer feels the need for speed

(Photos by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

For Team Speed

It was easy to spot. Despite the hundreds of cars from automakers around the world at the recent Oklahoma City International Auto Show, Kip Kubisz‘s creation could be spotted from across the Bennett Event Center.

The “Auto Show Alpha Concept Car,” with its vibrant red color and slick black trim, caught the gazing stare of everyone who got caught in its trap. Luckily for them, Kubisz was on hand to explain his vision of the concept car, which he imagines would be all-electric or at least hybrid. His is the first concept car ever produced by an auto show, which built the full-scale model after choosing Kubisz’s design as the winner of the OKC Auto Show’s design competition.

“It’s got a lot of different concept elements in it,” said Kubisz, pictured above at the show. The Lubbock, Texas-based artist elaborated on the “Auto Show Alpha Concept Car” in a recent profile. “With electricity powering [the Auto Show Alpha], you could use the electromagnetic power to get it going and for braking, as well,” he told the paper. “I’ve got a lot of concepts in my head of how the suspension would work, and how the power train would work, but those really aren’t involved in this stage of the model. It’s more of the exterior of the car so people can see the shape of the body.”

The 102nd edition of the Oklahoma City International Auto Show, which was held March 8 through 10, was the first show to display the Auto Show Alpha. The concept car is a full-size model made of high-density foam and polyurea coating, and of course, a smooth coat of cherry-red auto body paint. And as reported by The Oklahoman, the model was built locally by Oklahoma City-based Taylor Foam, which did an excellent job.

According to Kubisz, it took him six months to complete the design and 600 man hours to build it. Fortunately for him, it was the auto show that paid for it to be built.

“Having an opportunity to be the first auto show in the nation to produce something of this caliber is a big thrill for us,” Metropolitan Auto Dealers Association Chairman Laine Diffee said. “For it to be a full-size concept car model that has never been in public prior to this week just makes it even more impressive.”

“This vehicle would have no drivetrain, no axles,” said Kubisz while discussing the concept racing car at the Oklahoma City International Auto Show. “You got four electric motors: one in each wheel hub. Also, [because] it would be electromagnetic, you’d have magnets in the wheel and also magnets in the wheel well that would provide torque from the outside of the rim. Almost every other car, you’ve got an axle hitting the tire in the middle. You’ve got a lot more torque when you’re pushing from the outside of the rim instead of right in the center.”

Kubisz also wanted the Auto Show Alpha to be different from the race cars of today.

“Most race cars, all their ground effects and things are up top with big wings,” Kubisz said. “This one, because the airflow goes right through the car, all of my downforce elements are underneath. You see how the air flows right through the car.”

However, the question on everyone’s mind is: How fast can it go?

“It’s so hard to say,” said Kubisz. “Once again, it depends on the power plan. Conceivably, I can see it easily doing 350 mph. But it does depend on the power plan. And for racing, most tracks may not be able to get up to that speed.”

Kubisz doesn’t know if his concept will ever become a reality on the race circuit, but he certainly hopes so.

“I guess that depends on the reaction from it,” answered Kubisz. “Most race cars these days, the shape of them is dictated by the rules of the racing series. That’s what was fun about this: I had an open sheet to do whatever I wanted. There were no regulations on me. So, this is kind of my idea of what I wish racing would be like.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth Media

No. 1 Baylor rolls to 10th title

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – For the last four years, Baylor had made Oklahoma City a second home. In the three previous seasons, they had taken home the Big 12 Women’s Championship twice with their fans overrunning the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

With 2019 being the final season of the tournament being held in Oklahoma City before moving to Kansas City, the Bears made sure to close it out in style. They defeated Iowa State 67-49 Monday to win the program’s 10th tournament title in the 19 years coach Kim Mulkey has been head coach.

“I can’t say enough about the Baylor fans today,” Mulkey said. “They were loud and proud. They were here. Gotta keep doing it. Gotta keep feedin’ that monster.”

Baylor’s Kalani Brown was named the tournament’s MOP after posting 17 points and seven rebounds. The senior finished her Big 12 career with four regular-season championships and three tournament titles.

“We set goals in the beginning of the season. This was pretty much the final little mini goal before we make our run for the NCAA tournament,” Brown said. “So, I think that’s the only thing we haven’t checked off our list is the Final Four. Winning tonight should make our team more focused.”

Lauren Cox chipped in with 14 points, eight boards and three blocks. Chloe Jackson added 16 points.

No. 13 ISU was led in scoring by Alexa Middleton. She had a game-high 18 points on 7 of 12 shooting. Bridget Carleton added 13 points and six rebounds.

“I want to thank the people of Oklahoma City, the people here at Chesapeake Arena,” ISU coach Bill Fennelly said. “Our kids have been smiling since they landed and I’m going to get them to smile again before they leave. They provided our kids with a lot of memories and I hope that the people here enjoyed having Iowa State here.”

After finding themselves by 12 to start the game, it looked like Iowa State was on the verge of getting blown out in the first half.

However, the shooting of Middleton and the entire ISU defense allowed the Cyclones to reel the Bears back in as Baylor led 30-25 at halftime.

In the second half, whenever it looked like the Bears were on the verge of pulling away, the Cyclones wouldn’t let them get away. ISU trailed 48-44 going into the fourth.

However, in the fourth quarter, Baylor began to show why they are one of the top teams in the country. The Bears offense picked up in the paint behind Cox and Kalani Brown.

But it was Baylor’s defense that took over the night. They held the Cyclones to two points in the first five minutes of the quarter as they expanded their lead to 59-46.

Once Baylor got rolling, Iowa State had no answers and the Bears cruised the rest of the way.

“It’s a blessing to be with this team,” Jackson said. “This is a special team and it’s just surreal. This is what I came here for. I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group of girls.”

Michael Kinney is a freelance content provider with EyeAmTruth Media

Syring looks to take Thunder brand global

By Michael Kinney

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – Will Syring has quite a view from his office on the top floor of Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The new vice president of corporate partnerships for the Oklahoma City Thunder looks down on an empty field surrounded by unused roads, railroad tracks and ongoing construction.

But that is not what Syring sees when he stares out on the undeveloped property.

“We’re the anchor tenant here,” Syring said. “There’s a 600-person hotel that’s going to be built. You’re going to have an auditorium outside that’s going to be built right next to our arena. This energy that’s in this city – I needed to be a part of it.”

The Thunder hired Syring last month to help navigate the NBA franchise into the future as a global brand.

“The NBA has created new rules, in some cases relaxed some rules, that allow teams to be more aggressive and more creative in the global space,” said Brian Byrnes, Thunder senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Part of what Will is bringing is experience in working in that space and will help us to develop global partnerships that right now are new to the team.”

As the head of corporate partnerships, Syring’s job is to lead the franchise’s business strategy to optimize sponsorship sales and brand activation. He and his team plan to leverage the Thunder and the NBA’s global platform to elevate and maximize brand awareness for new and existing corporate partners.

“We provide opportunities for those businesses to reach our fans wherever they are, and that’s what I do,” Syring said. “I always see the sales function of the department and the activation side of our business.”

Syring joined the Thunder in the first week of February after he left his position leading the goal sales team with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. It was a move he never thought he would be making.

“I wasn’t looking to leave Chicago,” Syring said. “I had just bought a home. I have a 6-month-old at the house, at the time was 4 months old. I didn’t want to leave Chicago.”

But after visiting Oklahoma City, Syring said he saw the potential for him, his family and the Thunder.

“It quickly became apparent to me that (Chicago) wasn’t a place where I wanted to be,” Syring said. “I needed to be here. For me, it was about being a part of something that is continuing to grow.”

When it comes to making a connection with businesses in Oklahoma, Syring already has previous experience. Before going to Chicago, he worked for Learfield Sports in Tulsa from 2010 to 2012.

“I got familiar with some of the same clients that I work with now at the Thunder, and it was an interesting time in my life because I competed against the Thunder,” Syring said. “Even lost sponsorship opportunities to the Thunder at a time when I thought this was a college market.”

Syring didn’t join an organization that was floundering and didn’t have success. In fact, it was the opposite. The Thunder was already at the top of their game and one of the best in the NBA.

“We are consistently in the top 10 of sponsorship rankings, consistently in top five, recently top two in TV rankings and local market as you compare ourselves to the NBA,” Syring said.

Yet, Syring said he wants to take the brand to new places by establishing more national and global partnerships.

“I envision a world where we have more integrated, more collaborative partnerships that take advantage of the reach this brand now has,” he said. “I think we’re just scratching the surface on what this team can do.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth Media

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