Update: Marc Stein’s power rankings: “Best team in the league that has already been mathematically eliminated from playoff consideration? With the Thunder at 16-21 in 2009 and fresh off wins this month over the Mavs and Spurs, I don’t think it’s even close.” That’s good, right?
Alright Thunder management, what’ve you got? The Bulls just launched a campaign for Derrick Rose’s Rookie of the Year candidacy. I think the best campaign would be for Russell Westbrook to completely outplay him for the rest of the season, but that’s just me. That could do a lot more than some website with a couple quotes on it. But what do I know?
George Karl thinks “guys like Durant” get calls because they’re skinny: “It seems like skinny guys get more call than big guys or thick guys,” Karl observed. “Like when (Kevin) Durant goes in there he gets pushed off and you can see him get pushed off. Melo is so strong that he gets hit with the same hit — and I’m saying that all over the league — thick guys don’t get pushed off their spot where you can see a skinny guy get pushed off his spot so the whistle blows. I don’t think that’s fair. I think if there’s contact and there’s dislodging, if it’s only six inches instead of 16 inches it’s still a foul.”
Ball Don’t Lie, Behind the Box Score: “The Thunder had one turnover in the first half, and if that doesn’t speak to the type of players that Sam Presti has brought in, and the uncomplicated-but-efficient type of offensive sets that Scott Brooks has introduced, then we’re just going to have to talk about the Timberwolves. No? OK, Oklahoma City really seems to enjoy playing with its current roster. As soon as Thabo Sefolosha sat for Kyle Weaver in the first quarter, Thabo was immediately off the bench pointing things out to Weaver after a blown defensive assignment. And instead of acting insulted, or too sensitive, Weaver listened to the man who essentially stole his starting job a month ago. Very cool. And instead of worrying about their power being usurped by a guy in his mid-20s usurping their authority, the Thunder coaching staff let Thabo make his point. This team talks, on both ends, and it does selectively run, but most of the damage against the Timberwolves was done in the half court. I don’t think the Thunder are 18 points better than the Timberwolves over a 24-minute span, Minnesota’s lackadaisical play contributed to that early deficit, but taking down a team like Minnesota 57-39 in the first half is worth a nod in OKC’s direction.”
Basketbawful, Worst of the Weekend: “Remember how I mentioned the ‘Wolves were 3-16 since Al Jefferson was lost for the season? Make it 3-17 after their 97-90 home loss to the Thunder. And that final score is deceiving. Minny trailed by as many as 32 points and had to outscore the Thunder 37-13 in the fourth quarter to make it close. After the game, Kevin McHale called his team’s effort “unacceptable.” Added McHale: “I can give you 50 excuses. I can give you all kinds of stuff, but the bottom line is you’ve got to go out there and play.”
D.J. White is off to a nice start in Tulsa: “But after overcoming the initial shock of how the Thunder rookie no longer looks like a power forward, your next reaction will be amazement at how effective he is at playing like one. With his home white Tulsa 66ers jersey sagging off his shoulders Saturday night, White showed why the Thunder is so fond of his skill set and why team officials believe those talents could have a major impact on Oklahoma City’s roster. White scored 20 points with eight rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and two steals to help the 66ers post a 98-97 win over the Los Angeles D-Fenders on Saturday at the SpiritBank Events Center.”
Canis Hoopus wasn’t that thrilled with the Wolves’ performance yesterday: “OK, I’m not going to write about the Wolves/OKC game today. I turned the game off midway through the 2nd quarter and I’m not going to waste time on a game when the team did not show up at the opening tap. Garbage. Absolute garbage. That was the first time I can remember turning off a Wolves game. It was painful to watch and I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. I suppose I could write a post about how the team is on dangerous ground when the die-hards don’t want to watch, but….well, it’s just one game with a terrible team and my final test for fandom comes in the offseason and before the 09/10 trade deadline. If they flub that, I’m all aboard with the Okie inlaws and the Thunder.”
Don Seeholzer of TwinCities.com: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If the answer is yes, maybe the Timberwolves really did play a basketball game Sunday afternoon at the half-empty Target Center. Actually, it was more of an afternoon nap for the Wolves, who trailed by as many as 32 points in a 97-90 loss to an Oklahoma City team they had beaten by 42 on its last visit to Minnesota.”
Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: “Those of you fretting about the Wolves’ lottery odds, don’t worry. The Thunder will leave the Wolves in the dust before this is all over and only Washington, Sacramento, Memphis and the Clippers will stand between them for the best odds at the No. 1 pick. Five months ago, I loved the young nucleus the Grizzlies had put together and was a bit skeptical of the Thunder and Kevin Durant and thought it would take quite some time for the transplanted franchise to mature. Now after the Grizzlies’ incredibly disinterested performance at Target Center a week ago and another look at this new, improved Thunder team…I’d say Oklahoma City is next in line behind Portland in the Western Conference race of, say, 2013.”
Britt Robson of Secrets of the City: “While we give the Minnesota braintrust a mulligan on Krstic (if only because their past screwups poisoned the salary well too thoroughly), the Thunder’s acquisition of Sefolosha is exactly the sort of bold stroke that would behoove Jim Stack–who used to work for the Bulls, Sefolosha’s former employer–and the crew to execute. As announced, the deal was for the Thunder to give the Bulls the worst of their boatload of draft picks this summer, which turns out to be San Antonio with the 26th overall pick. Now the Wolves likewise will have three or four picks, and have publicly said they can’t keep all of them, would in fact like to package one or two for another commodity. Well, how about a 6-7 defensive specialist in the backcourt? Since the Bulls were more interested in shedding Sefolosha’s salary than in securing a quality player in return –they’d just acquired John Salmons, Tim Thomas and Brad Miller–they probably would have taken the Celtics’ first-rounder owed the Wolves (high 20s, higher than San Antonio’s), especially if a contingency was that they’d get the Utah pick in the low 20s if the Jazz played well enough to make it transferable to Minnesota this year (it is top 22 protected).”
Hoops Hype looks at the varied success of this year’s interim coaches: “Oklahoma City’s recent fine play has moved Brooks from being a maybe to looking good. Brooks took over from PJ Carlesimo after he was fired following a 1-12 start, and the Thunder eventually fell to 3-29, putting them in great position to challenge Philadelphia’s 9-73 futility mark of 1972-73. But Oklahoma City has gone 16-21 since then, making Brooks 18-38. ‘I never looked at it as being tough,’ Brooks said of overcoming an interim title. ‘I understand the makeup of that tag. But I looked at it as a great opportunity.’ Yes, some interim coaches have survived to thrive.”
Jeff Capel says Blake Griffin should asbolutely go pro. But out of that story, I found this quote to be most interesting: “Capel admitted his dream job was to be in an NBA front office. He never wanted to be a coach. But his NBA career was cut short by an injury. Then Coach K invited him in to watch the team. And then he watched his father coach. And he decided coaching was for him for now. “I’m not a lifer,” Capel said. “This is not something I’m going to do when I’m 50.”