Three months after Buddy Hield led OU to the 2016 Final Four, he was drafted by the Pelicans. Hield played 57 games for New Orleans, then was sent to the Sacramento Kings at the trade deadline, in the DeMarcus Cousins deal.
Five years later, at another trade deadline two weeks ago, the Kings traded Hield to the Indiana Pacers, in the Domantas Sabonis deal.
All I can say is, hey, Buddy, welcome to the NBA. You finally made it.
Hield is undergoing culture shock – the good kind – in his limited time with the Pacers.
Spending 5½ seasons with New Orleans and Sacramento is a destitute assignment. With apologies to the Timberwolves and Knickerbockers, the Pelicans and Kings are the NBA’s most dysfunctional franchises.
Now Hield is experiencing what a real NBA franchise is like. Just in time for a showdown game against the Thunder.
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OKC plays at Indiana on Friday night in a huge game for the lottery. The rebuilding Pacers are 20-40; the rebuilding Thunder is 18-41. An Indiana victory means OKC would have the inside track for the fourth-best lottery odds for the 2022 NBA Draft. A Thunder victory would make it a horse race for those No. 4 odds.
You know how you’re always taught to look at the loss column when analyzing standings? That’s because winning teams win more than they lose. But when you turn the standings upside down, like we do for the lottery, you should focus on the wins, because losing teams lose more often. The Thunder is two wins behind (ahead of) Indiana; lose Friday night, and that’s a three-win margin.
But either way, no one expects the Pacers nor the Thunder to stay in lottery land long. And that’s good news for Hield.
“Hasn’t really hit me,” Hield said the other day as his Pacer adventure was beginning. “I’m excited to be in Indiana. Excited for the opportunity.”
Hield was a quality scorer in Sacramento. He’s averaged 15.9 points a game in his career, while shooting 40% from 3-point range. His long-ball shooting has incrementally worsened in recent years, but not much improves for anyone over the long haul in Sacramento.
Hield said his goal in Indianapolis is to play with energy.
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“I’m somebody that wants to win,” Hield said. “Somebody that’s been eager to win for a long time and hasn’t had a chance to.
“Come out here and do what I do best. Try to score the basketball and help the team out the way Coach (Rick Carlisle) wants me to. I’m very excited. Can’t tell you how much I’ve been waiting for this opportunity.”
The Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2006. Sacramento’s records, by year, since Hield joined the franchise are 32-50, 27-55, 39-43, 31-41, 31-41 and 21-36.
Meanwhile, the Pacers are the Eastern Conference version of the Thunder, only with more history.
Indiana missed the playoffs only six times between 1989 and 2021. The Pacers didn’t quite zenith the way the Thunder did in the Kevin Durant days, but Indiana made back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and 2014.
The Pacers are a rock-solid organization that figures to get back to their winning ways.
The Hield trade also brought in rising star Tyrese Halliburton.
Indiana is 1-3 since the trade was made but has the NBA’s easiest schedule remaining. And it won’t be easy for the Pacers to tank. At least not with Hield. He’s been in New Orleans and Sacramento. Now he’s in the NBA, and ready to win.
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Bud Wilkinson & the OU-Maryland Orange Bowl
The 1953 (season) Orange Bowl was one of the most underrated games in OU football history.
The Sooners in 1953 were widely respected but had not quite risen to the Olympus level they soon would scale.
OU had gone undefeated in 1949 and been crowned national champion in 1950. But those ‘50 Sooners lost 13-7 to Kentucky in the Sugar Bowl, ending a 31-game winning streak. Starting with that Sugar Bowl and going through the 1953 regular season, OU was 24-5-2. An excellent record. But not exactly 31 straight and no preview of the 47-game winning streak that was to come.
Then came that Orange Bowl. OU was 8-1-1 and ranked fourth. Maryland was 10-0 and had been named national champion, an honor then still presented before bowl games.
Better yet, Maryland was coached by the mercurial Jim Tatum, who had brought Wilkinson to OU in 1946 as an assistant coach. Tatum stayed at OU one year, got crossways with the administration and left for Maryland. Best thing that ever happened to OU football. Literally. Wilkinson was elevated and the program took off.
The Thursday ScissorTales began a series of Wilkinson interviews, courtesy of Georgia historian Loran Smith, who interviewed Wilkinson a variety of times, this one in 1983. The subject today is that OU-Maryland Orange Bowl.
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“Jim was not at Oklahoma very long. He was just there one season, and memories are short, and he’d gone to Maryland. So you’re talking about six years later.
“I’d coached with him in the system one year at Oklahoma, but I think to the best of my recollection we were both playing the split-T (offense).
“I remember the game vividly, because it was the fourth bowl game (for Wilkinson; OU hadn’t gone bowling in 1951 or 1952). We had two halfbacks, Larry Grigg and Jackie Ging. Jackie went on to become a movie star of sorts in Hollywood. The hardest thing to have happen in a split-T offense is the guy that’s faking for the ball to make a legitimate fake, because if he looks like he’s got it, he’s gonna get hammered. All he’s got to do is look like he doesn’t have it, and it’s kid gloves.
“I was asked to do a radio interview, about 2-3 days before the game, and I took Gain and Grigg with me. Driving back to the hotel, which at that time was about a 40-minute drive, they were telling me how they were going to fake harder for each other than when the other guy had the ball. I thought right then, we’ve got a chance to win.
“We substituted on the clock (in those single-platoon days, substitution was limited). That was when you had to go both ways. Maryland, first down on the three(-yard line), I think it was, first quarter, and it was time to substitute. We put our alternate group in, we called ‘em, and they stopped them four straight times. Fourth down, it was maybe a foot, and they ran a lateral , and I think it was Dick Nolan (future 49ers head coach) had the ball, I’m not positive, but very few plays you remember vividly.
“Larry Grigg, who was playing safety, came up, and Nolan has turned up the field, and Grigg hit him on the 1-yard line and Grigg wins the battle. Nolan does not cross the goal line. Then we scrambled around, I don’t really remember how we scored.
“It was a conference rule at the time (for the champion to go to the Orange Bowl). So we had no choice, I believe. The Sugar Bowl was always the (preferred) choice. That was before the conference lock-in, and I think the Big Eight was one of the first conferences to get locked in other than the Pac-10 hosting (the Rose Bowl) and the Southwest Conference hosting (the Cotton Bowl).
“The Orange Bowl was a much different circumstance. New Orleans is a unique city and certainly was a thrill for our kids to be there, but the ocean and the tropics (of Miami), for a kid from Oklahoma, you’re in a different world.”
Fun, fun stuff. A treasure chest, really.
OU won the game 7-0. Larry Grigg gained 89 yards on 13 carries and scored the game’s only touchdown. Nolan, whose son Mike also became an National Football League head coach, had two catches for 31 yards.
The victory was OU’s ninth straight. The Sooners would go to perfect seasons in 1954, 1955 and 1956, en route to the 47-game winning streak.
A teaser in this series: More to come on Jim Tatum.
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OU women only March Madness hopeful
The OSU men are banned from the NCAA Tournament.
The OU men have played themselves not just out of bracket projections, but even bracket speculation. In espn.com’s latest bracketology, the 14-14 Sooners are not even listed among the first eight teams out of the field.
The OSU women, 8-16, long ago played their way out of NCAA consideration.
All of which leaves OU women’s basketball as the lone hope for March Madness in these parts, and there, the news turns good.
Despite OU’s recent slump – ended by the Sooners’ 92-57 rout of Texas Christian on Wednesday night – Jennie Baranczyk’s team is a No. 3 seed in the NCAA women’s tournament bracketology, released by espn.com Friday morning.
Being a top-four seed is much more important in the women’s field than in the men’s. Top-four seeds in the women’s bracket get to host first- and second-round games.
The Sooners, 21-6 and 10-5 in the Big 12, could be playing at Lloyd Noble Center the third week of March, if they finish strong.
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OU’s final three games of the regular season are Saturday hosting Kansas State, at OSU on Wednesday night and hosting Kansas on March 5.
OU’s Big 12 titles hopes are virtually over. Baylor and Iowa State lead the conference, each at 12-3. The Sooners, Texas and Kansas are tied for third at 10-5.
Texas’ remaining games are TCU, at Kansas and OSU.
Kansas’ remaining games are at Baylor, Texas, at OU.
Baylor, Iowa State and Texas all are seeded second in the ESPN bracketology. OU is a No. 3. Kansas State and Kansas each are seeded No. 8.
The Big 12 Tournament will cause some movement, too. OU, whether a No. 3, 4 or 5 seed, figures to play Kansas State or Kansas in the first round. Iowa State or Baylor would almost surely be waiting in the semifinals. Iowa State swept OU, but OU swept Baylor.
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Mailbag: Thunder 3-point shooting
Some fans haven’t bought into the Thunder’s tanking philosophy. Some don’t even realize the Thunder is tanking. Which, frankly, leads to some interesting questions.
Fred: OKC averages 38 3-point shots per game at a completion rate of 31%! Why do we need 3-point shooters? Obviously not to score more than the other team. To keep the opponent from crowding the foul lane area? Who is afraid of a 31% shooter? Replace 38 3-point shots with 38 2-point shots. This would add two points to our total score and take away six possessions from our opponent (each 3-point shot requires two misses whereas each 2-point shot requires only one miss!) These changes would result in a 7- to 10-point gain.”
Tramel: Well, I’m confused, so maybe somebody can clear it up for me. Why does each 3-point shot require two misses and each 2-point shot requires only one miss? I have no idea what that means.
But mathematically, Fred is on track in that OKC is more efficient when shooting 2-pointers. The Thunder is shooting 31.2% from 3-point range, which is abysmal. Worst in the NBA. And its 37.4 3-point attempts are the eighth-highest in the league. So that’s no way to win. Which might be the point, of course.
OKC is making 49.6% of its 2-point shots (which ranks 28th out of the NBA’s 30 teams). This is not a good offensive team no matter where it shoots from. The Thunder ranks 27th in foul shooting percentage.
Anyway, if the Thunder percentages held, it would score 93.3 points per 100 possessions shooting only 3-pointers and 99.2 points per 100 possessions shooting only 2-pointers. And in general, you get fouled more often on 2-pointers.
However, Fred is wrong that defenses aren’t afraid of 31% shooters. Defenses do pack the lane against OKC, but that would happen even more without 3-point threats. Spreading the floor is the basis of all modern offenses. Without floor spacing, offenses bog down.
If the Thunder shot significantly fewer 3-pointers, those drives to the lane by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort and Josh Giddey would be as packed as the Santa Monica Freeway.
Does the Thunder shoot too many 3-pointers? Absolutely. But one reason for that is that often, that’s the only shot OKC can get. Until the talent upgrade arrives, the Thunder is limited. And strategy has very little to do with it.
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The List: Big 12 rebounders
Kansas State’s Mark Smith leads the Big 12 in rebounding with 8.6 per game. If that number seems low, it is. But mostly historically.
Kansas’ Markieff Morris led the Big 12 in rebounding with 8.3 per game in 2010-11. And way back in 1985-86, OU’s Darryl Kennedy led the Big Eight in rebounding at 8.2.
But generally, individual rebounding numbers have been going down by the decade. Teams are shooting more – and generally missing more – so there are plenty of rebounds to be had, so I assume coaches are emphasizing more mass rebounding.
And that makes sense, as positionless basketball becomes more and more prevalent. Check out the current OSU squad – 7-foot center Moussa Cisse leads the Cowboys at 6.0 rebounds per game, followed by point guard Isaac Likekele at 5.6. And OU’s rebounding leader, at 5.9, is hybrid Jalen Hill.
Only OU’s Blake Griffin has produced an epic rebounding season in the last 44 years of Big 12/Big Eight. Here are the 10 top rebounding seasons in the Big 12 or Big Eight since 1952:
1. 17.5, Wilt Chamberlain, Kansas, 1957-58
2. 16.9, Wilt Chamberlain, Kansas, 1956-57
3. 16.5, Bill Stouffer, Missouri, 1951-52
4. 15.2, Bill Cain, Iowa State, 1969-70
5. 14.6, Don Smith, Iowa State, 1967-68
6. 14.5, Jack Parr, Kansas State, 1956-57
7. 14.4, Andy Hopson, OSU, 1973-74
8. 14.4, Blake Griffin, OU, 2008-09
9. 14.3, Bob Reiter, Missouri, 1954-55
10. 14.1 Bill Bridges, Kansas, 1960-61
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected]. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism