Chris Tomasson of Pro Basketball News reflects on the big trade that wasn’t: “The Thunder will get a chance to use its ample salary-cap room this summer to try to bring in a player similar to Chander. But for now, each time Chandler yanks down another rebound for the Hornets, they’re just trying to forget in Oklahoma City. Thunder coach Scott Brooks sounds as if he would like a procedure done similar to the one in the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which unhappy relationships are wiped from one’s mind.”
Henry Abbott commenting on the same story: “Is it better to be high or low-risk? It’s one of the great debates of the ages, and there are no easy answers. I have tremendous respect for both positions, and realize you have to have both in your arsenal, ready to deply with a nuanced sense of what’s called for, whether we’re talking about investing or anything else. Which brings us to Carlan Yates, M.D. He’s reportedly the doctor who cried foul on Tyson Chandler’s toe, and advised the honchos of the Thunder who then canceled the trade that would have moved the young big man from New Orleans to Oklahoma City. Yates also knows that toe well, having operated on it years before. The Thunder made a very conservative call: Paying big dollars to an injured player is one of the surest ways to ruin your NBA franchise. Assuring yourself of avoiding that scenario is admirable. This brand of conservatism allows that you’ll miss some opportunities, but in the long run you’ll look smart by avoiding catastrophe. But on the other hand — sooner or later, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook will be in need of a top shelf big man, and there are precious few ways to get them. At some point, the team’s investment in that young squad will be so great that it would be insane not to unlock the teams’ full potential with a quality big man. And quality big men are so precious that they almost always come with caveats, worries, and excessive contracts. In other words, it’s a risky business, but it’s a risk champions take.
“Behind the Box Score, where the Thunder are quite fun: “This game was very entertaining. The Spurs kept turning it over, the Thunder kept taking advantage. The crowd rose to the occasion, the Spurs could string together a long enough run to keep the Thunder at bay, and the upset didn’t really seem like an upset by the fourth quarter. Tony Parker (28 points, seven assists, five turnovers) seemed unstoppable at times, Oklahoma City’s backcourt wasn’t exactly the most efficient, but Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha might be the most exciting pair of starting guards in the NBA, and Nenad (the Rebounding Machine) Krstic has been quite the pickup for da Thundah. Also, Tim Duncan is clearly not healthy, Ime Udoka has never been the defensive stopper mainstream media pegged him as (he’s good, but nowhere near Bruce Bowen; and Bruce Bowen hasn’t been Bruce Bowen-like all season), while Kevin Durant was a few spin-outs away from 40 points. He had to settle for 25 in the win. Oklahoma City is so fun to watch. Even when just putting up 78 points.”
Ric Bucher of ESPN.com: “If Thunder forward Kevin Durant is to be believed, his pillow stayed dry for the first time in weeks Monday night. “Seems like it’s been forever,” Durant said after the Thunder’s 78-76 win over the San Antonio Spurs, arguably the best of Oklahoma City’s 19 victories this season … Durant wasn’t talking about playing (his seven-game absence due to a sprained right ankle ended Saturday at Phoenix) or the Thunder winning — this was their sixth win in the last nine games — but playing and winning. After a torturous season that began 3-29, he had been missing out on the fun.”I was crying myself to sleep every night,” he said. Judging by his smile, he might’ve giggled himself to sleep Monday.”
And Thabo was the Daily Dime’s best for Monday: “The Swiss mister swatted away Tony Parker and the Spurs on the final play, ensuring OKC a morale-boosting win over San Antonio. Sefolosha is averaging 3.2 steals over the last five games.”
48 Minutes of Hell on the Thunder: “The Thunder, like the Bobcats or the Hawks, have endeared themselves to me over the course of this season. Given the manner in which they left Seattle, I was by no means predisposed to liking this team. But they’ve wandered across a style that’s rife with adjectives plucked from your high school coach’s pre-game speech: Gutsy; gritty; fearless. They play with heart. They play like someone forgot to tell them they’re nearly always going to lose. If the nobility they show in loss weren’t so genuine it would make me sick. Everything about their hustle and tone seems prefabricated, like it’s some oft-quoted sports fable about the value of never giving up. But as you watch Kevin Durant’s expression dip from calmly driven to calmly frustrated (the man’s countenance is a fugue on the theme of neutrality), you find yourself slipping into Dad mode. “You’ll get’em next time, sport.”
Jeff McDonald of My San Antonio.com: “The college kids had already packed up and left town, but it’s difficult to tell if the Spurs noticed. After all, 20-somethings all look alike to the oldest team in the NBA. The Big 12 tournament vacated the Ford Center a day before the Spurs arrived here Monday, with some of the participants off to make more March Madness memories. Led by a trio of players who still could be in college themselves — plus a 24-year-old from Switzerland — the Thunder had their one shining moment, overcoming an early 17-point deficit to beat the Spurs 78-76 in what might be the biggest victory in the team’s short Oklahoma City history. “We just beat one of the best teams in basketball,” a beaming Oklahoma City interim coach Scott Brooks said afterward.”
Interesting quote from KD about the whole Mark Cuban thing (h/t to Betts for finding this): “Earlier in the day, Durant — who, along with second-leading scorer Jeff Green, missed Oklahoma City’s 96-87 win against Dallas two weeks ago — questioned why the perception from that game was that the Mavericks played poorly instead of that the Thunder had vastly improved. “That was upsetting to see that. It was, ‘They did something wrong,'” Durant said. ” … Just give a little credit to us that we played all right that game.”
Hardwood Paroxysm is confused: “Here’s why +/- can be confusing: I’ll buy that the Spurs starters are better than the Thunder starters. Ergo, all positive for the Spurs starters and all negative for the Thunder starters. But, is the Thunder bench really better than the Spurs bench? Last night, both were pretty terrible. And then at the end of the year, that -12 for Durant counts just as much as the +12 for Kyle Weaver. It’s a strange stat that I don’t think tells us much over the course of a season.”
HoopsWorld rookie rankings: “This makes it three weeks out of the last four that Westbrook (who desperately needs an awesome nickname) has been at the top of these rankings. Nobody-not even Derrick Rose-has proven himself to be more capable of amazing all-around statistical games. On any given night it’s not surprising to see Westbrook hang 25 points, or dish out 11 assists, or pull down 9 rebounds. Or do all of those things in the same night. He’s going to be a beast, this Russell Westbrook, even if he doesn’t win Rookie of the Year.”
I don’t think anyone does a more awkward interview than Eric Snow. It’s almost impressive how uncomfortable he can make it. He talked to KD after the game via arena link.
SI power rankings: “Coach Scott Brooks knows what Russell Westbrook is going through. In college, Brooks alternated between the point-guard and shooting-guard spots before going on to play 11 years in the NBA, primarily as a point guard. Now Brooks is trying to pass on the lessons he learned to Westbrook, who is still adjusting to the position after two years as a part-time point guard at UCLA. “He’s unique,” Brooks said. “He can be really good at either guard spot but we want him to focus on becoming a very good distributor at the point-guard position.”
Kevin Durant wants to be Mr. Big Shot: “As clutch as Durant has been early in his NBA career, he admitted that this wasn’t always the case when he was a younger player. “Earlier on I’d be nervous, you know, when I was younger or in college I would be nervous,” Durant explained. “But now that I’ve got in the league I’ve seen guys do it and it’s just another shot for me. Every time I get that opportunity I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Basketbawful Worst of the Night: “When you’re the Spurs, and you hold your opponent to 78 points on 35 percent shooting and that opponent is the Thunder (19-48), you’re supposed to WIN the game, right? I mean, San Antonio went up by 17 points in the first 10 minutes. But this is the NBA, where they continue to play four full quarters of basketball no matter how much one of the teams is behind. And you know what they say: Everybody makes a run. Gregg Popovich — who was denied his 1,000th career coaching victory — said: “Oftentimes, it’s a coach’s worst nightmare. We’ve all had the leads. We’ve all lost them because it’s a game. It’s 48 minutes long. There are a lot of possessions. It can happen and it does happen often. It’s called basketball. It’s a basketball game. It happens all the time.” Yes, my friends. It’s called basketball. That is why Gregg is a coaching genius.”