SLAM has five reasons Scott Brooks deserves an extension: “Either way, even when the Thunder were playing like your grandpa’s ’73 Sixers, Brooks was still encouraging, still clapping, still refusing to collect moral victories like he used to collect his team’s laundry when he was a coach in the ABA. Even the locker room, when things weren’t exactly humming, didn’t permeate a team dancing with futility. The players seem to genuinely like Brooks — some even call him “Scotty” — and when you like someone, you tend to play hard for them. Brooks perhaps draws strength from his own playing career. He was a short, white, undrafted and undersized guard, a CBA refugee who ended up sticking around for ten years and winning a title (with the ’94 Rockets). It’s entirely possible Brooks sees this Thunder team going through the same modus operandi as his own life in professional basketball: Success will eventually be born out of hardship, acquired through scrap and fight, where results and respect will be concurrently earned. Bottom line: He’s an upbeat guy, and his team is eating it up – 18-24 since their 3-29 start, with wins over San Antonio (twice), Utah, Dallas and Detroit since the second week of January.”
David Friedman of Pro Basketball News says give the RoY to Derrick Rose: “The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook is averaging 17.3 ppg since the All-Star break but he is only shooting .395 from the field during that time. For the season, he is averaging 15.7 ppg (tied with Gordon for third among rookies) and 5.1 apg (second among rookies) for a team that started slowly but now has a marginally better winning percentage than last year.” That’s it. That’s all the mention Russell got in Friedman’s Rookie of the Year thing.
Brook Lopez was asked about Rookie of the Year: “Probably Derrick,” Lopez said. Give a different one. “I’d say Russell (Westbrook).” Keep going. What about Lopez? So he named Robin. “Derrick’s changed his team so much. They’re definitely (in it) for the playoffs. Between (Kevin) Durant and Russ, Oklahoma City has obviously improved over the course of the season. He did too,” said Lopez, averaging 12.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.79 blocks, who gave his All-Rookie team as Rose, Westbrook, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon and Marc Gasol.”
NBA Outsider has a prediction: “Let me make it clear that I am NOT saying the Oklahoma City Thunder will be title contenders, but instead that they will be threatening to make it into the playoffs in three years. I try to be bold, not borderline brain damaged.” Oh my. How bold. Will be threatening to make the playoffs in three years? Really going out there on a limb with that one. Three years is a long time. That means you’re saying they stink in 2009-10. They’re bad in 2010-2011. But in 2011-12, look out! They might make the playoffs that year. NBA teams are the easiest to turn around. If OKC’s doesn’t contend for the playoffs until 2011-12, then something is seriously wrong.
OK, let’s get this straight. Chicago’s got their spiffy little website and has sent out “Rose” colored-glasses. Minnesota has a viral video campaign for Love Glass Cleaner. And right now, nothing for Russell Westbrook? No wonder he’s slipping in people’s minds and not getting mentioned. The team’s not promoting him. His numbers put him squarely in the conversation, but we need to get something out there for him. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to play on “Russell” or “Westbrook.” But come on, people get paid to be creative!
It’s official, the Nuggets pick is ours, all ours: “The Nuggets will send their 2009 first-round draft choice to Oklahoma City, it was assured Sunday night. Denver’s 110-87 win at Minnesota means the Nuggets can’t finish with one of the top 20 picks in June’s draft. As part of a Jan. 7 trade between Denver and Oklahoma City, the Nuggets sent the pick to the Thunder and protected it through the top 20. The Nuggets also sent Oklahoma City guard Chucky Atkins while getting center Johan Petro and the Thunder’s 2009 second-round pick.”
Ball Don’t Lie Behind the Box Score: “We’ve watched all season as the Pacers race out to early leads, only to see the offense dry up in the second and third quarters, with the eventual loss coming even as Danny Granger fills it up in the fourth quarter. 59 points in the second and third quarter for the Pacers on Sunday. Progress. You know what else? Five assists for T.J. Ford in 24 minutes. And it felt like more. He was looking to play as a point guard, and he probably put the Thunder away. Meanwhile, teams rarely come more exasperated than Oklahoma City did on Sunday. Looking at the stat sheet, you know why. Nenad Krstic missed 12 of 13 shots. Kyle Weaver, 7-10. 18-26 from the line, overall. Just six more games, kids.”
Empty the Bench on Shaun Livingston: “Enter the enterprising young Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that seems intent on compiling the best young collection of elite talent in the NBA … It’s a fantastic move. Livingston may already be more of a pure point than Russell Westbrook, whom I love but wonder if he will ever be a true point. And at just 23 years of age and impressively recovered from that career-threatening injury, this is a low-risk, extremely high-reward type of move. The early results have been positive, with Livingston dropping 10 points, 3 boards, 1 block and 1 assist on 5-of-6 shooting in his Thunder debut on April 3rd followed by an impressive 10 points, 7 boards, 5 assists and 2 steals on 5-of-7 shooting on Sunday.”
HoopsWorld on Livingston: “Livingston’s camp decided that Oklahoma City was the best opportunity for Shaun, and one game in it’s looking like he may have made the right decision. Other than the clunky knee brace he was wearing, Livingston seemed to show very few signs of problems with his left knee. He was stopping and starting, pulling up for jumpers, changing speeds and making an impact for the Thunder … This was a no-risk, high-reward play for the Thunder that could pay dividends down the road. Yet another shrewd move by Thunder GM Sam Presti.”
Basketbawful Worst of the Weekend: “KD scored only 13 points — matching his fourth-lowest scoring total of the season — while shooting 4-for-13 and committing a game-high 4 turnovers…and his team scored a season-low 72 points and lost by 35 at home. The Thunder are now 3-7 since Durant’s return from injury, following a streak in which they went 5-2 without him. And people wonder why I’m not ready to call him a superstar. I’d said it before and I’ll say it again: Be wary of players who light up the scoreboard for terrible teams … Spanked. At home. By the Indiana Pacers. But hey, “superstar” Kevin Durant scored a game-high 25 points! In completely unrelated news, this latest in winless weekends dropped the Thunder to 3-8 since KD returned from injury.” Somebody has a case of the anti-Durants. Fourth in the league in scoring, just 20 years old, his awesome showing at All-Star weekend… but yet just a sarcastic “superstar” in quotes to him. Strange.