Well would you look at that – the Thunder’s started a “campaign” for Russell Westbrook. And by campaign I mean some hastily thrown together photoshop with some stats. Well consider me convinced. I did think this stat is pretty darn impressive though: Westbrook has dished out 10 or more assists on seven occasions, most of all rookies and he leads all rookie guards in double-doubles. Take THAT Rose Colored Glasses!
The SI roundtable takes a look back at Oden and Durant: “I’m still in the too-soon-to-tell camp on this one. You won’t find too many people who don’t think Durant is destined to be an MVP candidate in the next few years. He’s a polished and dynamic offensive player and, if you believe Thunder coach Scot Brooks, his defense is starting to come along. In Oden’s case, we still don’t know if he is going to be a part-time player for the rest of his career. Even if he isn’t, what I’ve seen of Oden’s offensive game makes me wonder if he will ever develop into anything more than Dikembe Mutombo. Now, I know 30 teams in the league that would take a young Dikembe Mutombo on their roster. But that’s not the question, is it?”
Ricky Rubio declares for the draft… again: “Ricky Rubio is back on our 2009 mock draft, after a four month stint where he was projected for 2010. Sources close to the situation indicate that Rubio’s family is now in favor of him entering this year, and that will almost certainly be on the early-entry list when it’s released on April 27th. His buyout still needs to be negotiated, which is easier said than done, but a final decision on whether to stay in likely won’t come until very close to the pull-out deadline, on June 19th. Unlike college players who are bound by the more restrictive NCAA rules, International players can enter the draft up to three times, which gives him plenty of wiggle room.”
San Antonio News-Express: “Before his team took the court to play an Oklahoma City Thunder team that had beaten it twice in the month of March, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called the loss of star guard Manu Ginobili for the season a “shock to the system.” In need of some healing, the Spurs got the therapy they required from team captain Tim Duncan.”
48 Minutes of Hell: “The highlight of the night was Bruce Bowen’s effort against Kevin Durant, who has looked every bit the superstar against the the Spurs this season. Durant still looked like a future MVP, but Bowen made KD work for his points, “holding” him to 7-16 for 24. Durant finished with a +/- of -10. The Spurs and Thunder have squared off 3 times in recent weeks, and this is the first game in which Kevin Durant appeared even remotely bottled up. In every contest against San Antonio, the Thunder have simply located Michael Finley and ran plays at him. In the last two contests, this gave rise to a Kevin Durant highlight reel. But not last night.”
Last night I said Durant didn’t have that “I’m taking this over” look and something I didn’t realize – he only took two shots in the fourth quarter. Worse, one was a three-pointer with 50 seconds left. And we wonder why the Thunder got outscored 24-17 in the fourth. Said Durant: “I just play my role. I just run the plays Scotty calls. I trust him that we’re going to get a good shot every time down. We got good shots, but we just got to do a better job making them. Of course as a competitor, as a player, I want the ball in my hands. But I feel confident in my teammates that they’ll hit shots. So I’m not worried about it at all. Whenever my number’s called I’ll be ready.” You think Kobe Bryant or LeBron James is taking just two shots in a tight fourth quarter game? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
ESPN’s Award Watch has Kevin Durant holding strong for Most Improved: “This season he has increased his per-game averages in points, rebounds, assists and steals. He just might follow up his Rookie of the Year from last season with an MIP award.”
Basketbawful: “I guess they don’t really have much to play for at this point, having long since been eliminated from the playoffs, but a double digit home loss against a Spurs team they beat in San Antonio exactly a week ago is still not all that great. Nor is the fact that the Thunder have now lost 6 of their last 7. It’s interesting to note, as is often pointed out here, how much worse the Thunder seem to play with top scorer Kevin Durant in their lineup. Going back to February 10th, the Thunder embarked on a 7 game losing streak which stopped with a win at Memphis in the first game Durant missed due to injury. Then while Durant was hurt the Thunder went on to win 5 of 7; yet OKC has managed to only go 3-9 since Durant returned from that injury.”
SI’s rookie rankings: “Rookies don’t expect to get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to officiating — just ask Lopez, who’s averaging a mind-boggling 2.6 free-throw attempts despite playing more than 30 minutes a game in the post — and the referees have made no exception for Westbrook. The UCLA product almost lost his cool Friday after taking a vicious Greg Oden forearm to his head while slashing toward the rim in the first quarter. The 20-year-old point guard went to the locker room but returned to finish with eight points (on 1-for-8 shooting), eight rebounds and four assists in a lopsided loss. “I don’t know what to say,” Westbrook told The Oklahoman. “It’s something I’ve got to fight through. It’s been going on all year long. But it’s even more frustrating when you’re losing.”
FanHouse looking at the NCAA’s one-and-done rule: “So Blake Griffin is ready to make the jump now. The whole thing is nicely wrapped up with a bow for David Stern and Myles Brand, who should be high-fiving, lighting up victory cigars. The Naismith Award winner, the nation’s best college basketball player, is more mature for having stayed at Oklahoma for his sophomore year. He probably worked some education in somewhere, too. So yes, this worked out perfectly for him to jump to the NBA now. And isn’t that, after all, why Stern, the NBA commissioner, put in the rule requiring kids to go to college for a year before turning pro? For the good of the kid? That’s what he says, anyway.”
Darnell Mayberry looks at which lottery teams most needs Blake Griffin: “No lottery team needs a low-post scorer as much as the Thunder. Nenad Krstic is a pick-and-pop shooter. Nick Collison is primarily a rebounder. And Robert Swift is likely on his way out of town. Griffin isn’t the answer to the Thunder’s interior defense woes. His ability to score from the painted area, however, would take loads of pressure off Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook and give what is a jump-shooting Thunder team a reliable scoring option when jump shots aren’t falling.”
Also, David Thorpe has handed out All-Rookie Awards: “Only rookie to rank in the top 10 among rookies in scoring, rebounding and assists. He is also second in steals and first in free throws made and attempted. He willed his team to some terrific wins and showed incredible promise.”