Check, check it – Joe Smith – I mean – JOE BEAST, has released his debut rap album. Making a guest appearance is Desmond Mason on and be sure to listen closely to Murda Kapital/Lucifer: “Keep thunder like Kevin Durant and the fire gone…” or something like that. All I know is that he mentioned KD by name. DJ Switch, a local DJ helped Smith on the album and evidently it’s getting airplay here in OKC – though I wouldn’t know because my dial rarely moves away from 98.1. You can download the whole thing for free at or preview it at his Myspace. You got to love the cover Just Died In Your Arms Tonight.
Empty the Bench looks at the seven teams in the West that didn’t make the playoffs: “They have an exciting core of youngsters-Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook-who all can do a little of everything. They lost 14 games by 5 points or less, which should drop as this group gains more experience. Without anyone on the team averaging more than 6.9 rebounds, the Thunder were still seventh in the league with a +1.41 rebounding differential. Starters Nenad Krstic (center) and Thabo Sefolosha (guard-forward) weren’t present for a combined 95 games. Can wunderkind point guard Shaun Livingston continue his solid play in the summer league and actually play a full regular season?”
Joe and I both talked to Hoop China. Don’t worry, they translated it for us. Also, it looks like they interviewed Berry Tramel and Mike Baldwin as well: “I think if the Thunder can get Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups or Derrick Rose for next to nothing, then fine, let’s kick Westbrook to the curb. But otherwise, I don’t understand the questions about Westbrook.You’ve got a rookie point guard, who is only 20 years old, and didn’t get toplay much point in the past, who averages 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists a game for a bad team. He’s wonderfully athletic, and everyone thinks he will become a defensive stopper. He’s a penetrator deluxe. His flaws are that his decision-making is still shaky and he’s not a great shooter. There are about 29 NBA teams that hope the Thunder listens to the skeptics and moves Westbrook off the point.”
Ricky Rubio “officially” has declared for the NBA Draft: SLAM 128 cover kid Ricky Rubio, the 18-year-old point guard sensacion from Barcelona, Spain, is entering the 2009 NBA Draft. While Rubio could still remove his name from the Draft until as late as June 15, his agent, Dan Fegan, told ESPN, “Ricky will be in the 2009 NBA Draft.”
An early look at next year’s rookie of the year race: “As the virtual lock to be the top overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft Griffin has to be considered the frontrunner for the award. Griffin is as NBA-ready as they come with the strength, versatility, and skill needed to take the league by storm in year one. At the conclusion of the draft lottery we will know where Griffin will be playing at next year as he is hands down the top overall selection. You cannot make the case for any other player at the top spot, including Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio if he decides to stay in. Griffin is going to be successful whether it’s in Washington, Sacramento, or ideally Oklahoma City. It’s his award to lose.”
Thunder players and coaches really feel the support: “They had every reason to say, ‘oh, this is fun early, but let’s wait, let’s wait and see if they can turn it around,'” Brooks said. “But they stood by our guys. And our guys, they knew what was going on. We’d been in other arenas where it was not like that. We’d been to other arenas where the record of that team was really good and it wasn’t like what we have every night in Oklahoma City. Our players appreciate that.”
NBA attendance was up this year and revenue held strong: “The NBA cushioned the impact of a crumbling economy during its 2008-09 regular season by increasing attendance and keeping its gate revenue at last year’s record-setting level. Average attendance rose almost 1 percent and the flat gate revenue comes even after tickets were deeply discounted by most of the NBA’s 30 teams in an effort to fill seats. While the league refuses to disclose its gate revenue, one source familiar with NBA finances said that last year’s record gate ranged between $800 million and $1 billion, with overall league revenue in the neighborhood of $3.5 billion … The NBA’s gate was also helped by the Oklahoma City Thunder’s inaugural season. The team drew 18,704 a game compared with the 13,355 fans a game the Sonics drew in their final season in Seattle.”