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NBA AM: Frustration Building in Oklahoma City

The Thunder are suffering from a rash of injuries and not surprisingly frustration levels are rising

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Frustration levels rising in Oklahoma City

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been one of the most successful teams in the NBA over the past few seasons, but to start the 2014-15 campaign the franchise has been besieged by a rash of injuries to key rotation members.

The Thunder have quickly descended from a title contender expected to win the majority of their games, to a team who would be happy hovering near .500 until reigning MVP Kevin Durant (foot) and All-Star Russell Westbrook (hand) return to the lineup.

Frustrations boiled over in the Thunder’s road loss to Brooklyn with veterans Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka effectively freezing out guard Reggie Jackson after the pair became unhappy with his play. Jackson was just returning from injury and was noticeably aggressive in seeking out his own shot attempts.

“Just let the game come to you,” Perkins said told the Oklahoman about Jackson. “But with myself and with Serge, we got to do a better job with our body language and leadership skills, because I didn’t like the way I acted in the Brooklyn game as far as my body language toward Reggie. But we know Reggie means well. We support him. He’s one of my good friends off the court. So it’s no harm in that.”

Jackson, unable to secure a early contract extension by October 31 deadline, is more than likely headed to restricted free agency next summer. There are numerous reports swirling about Jackson’s desire to be paid like a premier player and take on a larger role in the rotation wherever he ends up.

In his first two games this season, Jackson is averaging 17 shot attempts and shooting just 35 percent from the floor (14 percent from three-point range).

Jackson has undoubtedly been aggressive since entering the lineup, but now there will be debate among fans whether his mentality is being driven by the Thunder being undermanned or if he’s playing for a next contract.

“I don’t play for the fans so I’m not worried,” Jackson said. ”As long as my teammates know that my heart’s in the right spot, that I’m trying to do everything I can to go out there and compete and help my teammates and that we’re all trying to rally and get a win, that’s all I care about. Some fans are going to cheer you on. Some fans aren’t going to do so. They’re going to criticize you. That’s how the world works. So I’m not really worried about it.”

The Thunder host the undefeated Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. Shooting guard Jeremy Lamb is expected to make his season debut after suffering with a back issue early.

Coach Jim Boeheim defends Carmelo Anthony’s greatness

The age old question still remains. Can a guy be considered a great player if he hangs up the laces with zero championship rings? It is a debate that continues to follow the career of New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony. Despite all of Anthony’s gaudy statistics and offensive prowess there is still a legion of doubters about his place in history and whether he could lead a team to a title as it stands currently.

One thing Anthony did do, however, was win a NCAA championship at Syracuse University. His coach there, Jim Boeheim, still remains one of Anthony’s most vocal supporters.

“Carmelo Anthony, he may not win an NBA title but he’s a great player, as was Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley,” Boeheim told Mike Francesa Wednesday during a radio interview.

“You gotta get a cast, you gotta be in a position to win.”

The Knicks have started the season 2-3 as they adjust to implementing the Triangle Offense and rookie head coach Derek Fisher’s philosophy. To start the campaign, Anthony is averaging just 19.2 points on 41 percent shooting from the field.

Despite the struggles Boeheim says it’s time to stop nitpicking at Anthony and start appreciating his talents.

“The loyalty he’s shown in New York is a little under-observed,” Boeheim said. “I mean, everybody says the money. He would’ve gotten $100 million [elsewhere] instead of $120 [million]. OK, big deal. You make that up in endorsements.

“He had a better chance to win in Chicago, he stayed in New York and I admire that. He stayed because he thinks Derek Fisher and (president of basketball operations) Phil Jackson can get this done. I think Derek Fisher, from what I’ve watched, I think he’s a good coach. You don’t have to coach 10 years to be a good coach. You can understand the game. If you play the game at a high level in the NBA and win championships and are cerebral, I think you can be a good coach and I think he will be.

“It’s a question to me of can they get that one [other] player who can make a difference, maybe for next year’s team. Who thought this time last year LeBron James would be in Cleveland? No one.”

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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