Question of the day: Which NBA team was the biggest surprise this season? Which was the biggest disappointment? [Updated]
Four reporters from the Tribune Co. give their answers to the question regarding the NBA regular season that comes to an end Wednesday night. Check back for updates throughout the day, and feel free to leave a comment expressing your opinion.
Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel
The surprise of the season is undeniable. Did anyone have the Oklahoma City Thunder among their playoff picks in the preseason?
Yes, there is a franchise player in place, in Kevin Durant, but this is not a team that snuck into the postseason through some sort of back door. Only a remarkably competitive conference kept the Thunder from going all the way from lottery to home court in the opening round.
As for disappointments, is there a drearier situation than in Philadelphia, where Elton Brand is a shell of his former self, Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert underperformed on their contracts and Eddie Jordan already has a foot out the door after stepping in just this past offseason?
Even the Allen Iverson reunion tour went terribly wrong. This is a case where those Philadelphia jeers were right on target.
Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel
Congratulations to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Butler of the NBA playoffs.
They've been the surprise team in the big-bully Western Conference, and just wait til they grow up.
This is a rising college team, basically, led by Kevin Durant, who might be a senior by now. Have you seen their coach, Scott Brooks? Looks like he's still in a frat.
Almost 50 wins this season?
No wonder the folks have more fun than any other NBA city. This is their Big Dance.
Beware of Okie City, though. It's not as if the Thunder are catching lightning in a flask.
The most disappointing team? It's a pick 'em.
I'd name Toronto, but Canada's always nice to me so I won't pile on. (Chris Bosh has been counting his days to free agency like a prisoner making scratches on a wall.)
New Jersey was a disappointment. I really thought that was a 14-win team.
Remember only a few years ago when the Hornets were a trendy choice? Apparently, following the Saints' Super Bowl win was too much for New Orleans' other pro team.
Now you pity Chris Paul.
But, hey, listen to the Thunder.
[Updated, 2:11 p.m.:
Andre D. Williams, The Morning Call
It always seems as if Larry Brown is a free-agent coach, available to the highest bidder, but the bottom line is this: He can coach. And this season, the Hall of Fame coach has pulled off wonders with the Charlotte Bobcats, by far the NBA’s most surprising team.
The Bobcats are headed to the postseason for the first time in their six seasons. They never even had a winning record before this year, and now they are the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Good players such as Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw have helped, but most of the credit goes to the superb coaching of the 69-year-old Brown.
Brown's former team, the Philadelphia 76ers, has been a big disappointment. Attendance was down and play was dismal -- and it was puzzling. With or without Allen Iverson, the Sixers should not be nearly 30 games below .500. The underachievement, of course, points to bad coaching.]
Mark Heisler, Los Angeles Times
Most surprising team -- In one for the ages, Oklahoma City.
The Thunder’s 26-win improvement, going into Tuesday’s finale, isn’t close to the 2007-08 Celtics’ record of 42.
Of course, the Celtics brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Oklahoma City brought in James Harden and Serge Ibaka. The Thunder started last season 2-24, finished it 21-25, started this one 13-14... then went 35-14 in a roll that lasted into April with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and spare parts.
You could cut their season in two and the halves would be the the No. 1-2 surprises in NBA history.
Biggest disappointment -- Lakers and Celtics (tie).
Before the season, Lamar Odom and Rasheed Wallace, among others, said theis teams could make a run at the Bulls’ 72-10 record. Neither reached 72, 71, 70, anything in the 60s or 59, 58 or 57. Wait ‘til next year.
Photo: Kevin Durant has led Oklahoma City to a surprising turnaround this season. Credit: Larry W. Smith / EPA.