If you haven’t seen by now, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard penned a nice long feature on the Thunder and Kevin Durant. I thought it was excellent. The issue hits the stands today, but you can read it here.
Shoals exploring the Hawks-Thunder relation: “Plus the Hawks, unlike the Thunder, have been a running joke, then a glorious mess, until Principal Mike Woodson finally succeeded in instilling some common sense in the kids. But now, there’s no way around it: These two teams, despite some notable differences (OKC drafted its superstar, ATL signed its; OKC front office and coaching is top-notch, ATL still questionable), these two teams are the closest I’m seeing to real … I don’t know, change, adaptation, even progress.”
Vince Thomas for NBA.com writing about KD: “So KD has the prospect of finishing the second half of this season as the unquestioned Man, not just on a young team, but a young team trying to beat back and overtake more experienced teams for a playoff spot. And you know what? He loves it. “That’s what I dream about,” he said. “About beating the pressure and challenge of carrying a team to a championship.” And it didn’t sound like lip-service to me. That’s what this kid is about. He’s as good as any 21-year-old has ever been in the league (yep, LeBron, Shaq, Magic Johnson, Jordan, Isiah Thomas included). What he’s doing is already scary. Five or 10 years from now? An absolute nightmare.”
ESPN’s Award Watch has Durant fifth in the MVP and first for Most Improved, Thabo fourth for DPOY and Scott Brooks second for Coach of the Year.
The West is best and the Thunder prove it: “Here’s a nugget you might not know: The Oklahoma City Thunder leads the NBA in inter-conference victories. Their victory Monday night in Atlanta pushed the surprising Thunder to 15-4 against Eastern Conference opponents. Not bad for a team which won only 23 games last season. They’ve won 23 already this season. The success of the Thunder against the East (they are only 8-14 in their own conference) drives home the point that, once again, after a one-year blip, the Western Conference, top-to-bottom, is the best.”
HoopsWorld says OKC and Charlotte make for nice stories: “Oklahoma City and Charlotte might be the best stories of the first half of the NBA season. If either stays the course and makes the playoffs they could be the best story of the NBA for the entire season.”
SI power rankings: “Is there such a thing as a moral victory? If it weren’t for two one-point losses, to San Antonio and Dallas, the Thunder would have come away with a 4-0 week. Oklahoma City has been resilient on the road all season; its 10 wins are two more than it had away from home all last season.”
Darnell Mayberry writes how the remaining schedule isn’t as easy as it seems: “But there’s nothing easy about the last leg. The Thunder closes the season with a 14-game gauntlet that should feature: Eleven games against teams likely fighting to improve their seeding or to make the playoffs. Five sets of back-to-back games that include second-night tests at Boston, Denver and Portland. A critical late-March homestand against the Spurs, Rockets, Lakers and Trail Blazers.”