An interesting tidbit from Scott Howard-Cooper: “Since it will come up soon enough, when ballots are returned at the end of the regular season and Oklahoma City’s Scott Brooks is named Coach of the Year: No one has won the award in their first full season as a coach since Avery Johnson of the Mavericks in 2005-06. Mike D’Antoni of the Suns sort of did it the year before — it was his first full season in the NBA, but after eight in Italy.”
Practice was intense yesterday: ”Attributing a fierce and fiery practice to wanting to get past Wednesday’s blown opportunity at Charlotte, Kevin Durant proudly spoke about how things got heated during Thursday’s session. “It was cutthroat,” Durant said. “One-on-one, going at each other and bringing the best out of each other. We got angry. We threw basketballs. We yelled and screamed. But it’s all a part of our growth. I think it was one of our better practices. We’re excited for shoot-around (today) and the game.”
A Q&A with Bob Lanier and he talks about the death of the big man: ”FH: Again, where are all the great post players today? Lanier: They are gone. They don’t teach it. Tim (Duncan) is probably the best now. Dwight (Howard) is getting there. He’s got quickness and power and strength. As he grows to understanding other things in the game, how are you going to handle that. I don’t know. They are coming off the heels of Shaquille, who had it all.”
Russell Westbrook was again one of NBA.com’s Five on the Rise: “Last week, Westbrook feasted on the bad teams (read: Clippers and Kings) and got himself a spot in our list. This week, he gets the nod after giving a few lessons to some rookies and outplaying an All-Star. Against the much-balleyhooed New Orleans rookie tandem of Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton, Westbrook put up 17 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and two steals while holding the aforementioned guard pairing to 19 points on 4-for-17 shooting. Two games later, he burned Jazz guard Deron Williams for 30 points and 11 assists as the Thunder went up 3-0 in the season series (thus winning it) to keep the Thunder right in the mix for the West’s No. 4 spot. Aside from his usual forays to the hoop, Westbrook showed off his devloping post-up game, taking the 6-foot-3, 207-pound Williams on the block and either scoring or dishing to open teammates.”
What the heck is going on in Portland? Now Kevin Pritchard could be axed?: ”The people who work at Vulcan Inc. are busy working behind the scenes again with owner Paul Allen’s basketball operation, and those following the curious firing of vice president Tom Penn this week are looking at Pritchard wondering if his shelf life as the franchise Golden Boy is expiring. “They can’t do Kevin in the middle of the season, but they can do a drive-by on someone close to him,” said Warren LeGarie, the agent for Penn and Pritchard. “But guess who would be next?” The message from One Center Court has been a consistent: “Philosophical differences,” and the Vulcans are apparently steamed because they believe Penn bluffed the Blazers into a promotion and raise 10 months ago using a phantom offer from Minnesota.”
Hoops Addict looks at the changing of the NBA’s guard: “The first and most obvious team now ascending Olympus is Oklahoma City. The Thunder have won 8 of their last 10 games to rise all the way to fifth in the Western Conference, only two games back of the incumbent Utah Jazz. When a team’s starting lineup has an average age (23.2 years) almost in line with their win total at the All-Star break, some kind of youth revolt is definitely taking place. Surprisingly for being a young team, much of their success and be attributed to their defense, not offensive explosiveness (they rank third in the NBA in Opponent Field Goal Percentage, and 10th in Point Differential).”
SI’s Award Watch had KD third for MVP, first for Most Improved and Scott Brooks winning Coach of the Year: “A Thunder blog recently looked back at the preseason predictions of multiple NBA scribes and found the consensus was 32 wins. That was nine wins ago, which says as much about the job Brooks has done as it does the predictive powers of NBA ‘experts.’”
Magic Number Watch: Nothing changes, as OKC’s number stays at 11.