Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone says KD is the second best player in the league, now ahead of Kobe: “Kobe in reality has been no better than the second-best player in the league for about 18 months now — LeBron James passed him somewhere back in ’08. He still had a legit claim to Alpha Dog status coming in to this year because he’d just won a championship. But there’s a big difference between being “in the conversation” for the top-dog status and being the third best guy — and one who’s getting older. And that’s where he is, third, because Durant is suddenly poster-izing the whole league.”
I don’t know what reminded me of it, but anyone remember Ric Bucher’s ESPN the Mag article last year that came out around this time? Basically it said the Thunder had a shot at the playoffs. Boy, it’s looking pretty poignant now if you go back and read it. “The Thunder started the season 3-29, but they think they have the league right where they want it. Next year, the playoffs! (Laugh now, but consider yourself warned).” Good stuff.
Mike Sherman of the Oklahoman wonders if hometown guy Darnell Jackson could fit with OKC: “But here is are the factors that make me think the idea of bringing Jackson to Oklahoma City is at least being vetted by the Thunder: Character and connections. The Thunder places a premium on high-character players. And Sam Presti’s connections to Jackson, through his associations with Kansas (all Spurs connections run through Lawrence) and the Cavaliers (GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brownworked with Presti in San Antonio) guarantee this: He’ll know everything he wants and needs to know about Darnell Jackson.”
Darnell Mayberry on the game last eve: “James Harden is back. And apparently better than ever. The rookie had 23 points off the bench on 6-for-10 shooting after missing the past six games with a hammy injury. He checked in for the first time with 3:08 left in the first quarter and got a very warm ovation from the Ford Center crowd. You could tell the fans missed him and knew the impact his absence had on the team. Harden made his first 3-pointer with 11:35 left in the second quarter. Then he made his second with 11:03 left in the period. Then he took it hard to the rack and drew a foul on Luis Scola with 10:39 left. the offense just flows so much better with Harden on the floor.”
Pro Basketball Talk: “This baby was close, but then something weird happened in the second quarter and it just ballooned. The Rockets were trying to grab soap in a bath, that was their offense, and they just couldn’t grip it. Mostly because the Thunder was locked in. And when Jeff Green is spreading the floor and driving, it’s a tough matcuhup. Even for Luis Scola.”
Players might should start saving money for 2011: ”Jason Maxiell, the Pistons’ player representative, said players are beginning to take precautions with a lockout looming. “Mainly save your funds, knowing it could be like 1998 (the last NBA lockout),” Maxiell said. “It was tough for (the players) then, and it could be tough for us. As a player you have to be prepared for it.” (Via PBT)
If you get ESPN the Mag, I hear there’s a Russell Westbrook story within.
Susan Bible of HoopsWorld: “You don’t get to the highest level in professional basketball without setting goals. Whether it’s to work harder in the gym or keep learning the nuances of your position, what player doesn’t have the goal of winning each game? And beyond that, the playoffs loom with the promise of getting to the ultimate goal of a team championship. Given the Thunder’s present situation, with very few thinking they could be in playoff contention this soon, you wonder if they would be satisfied to just make it to the first round. They would be happy with just getting there, one might think. “No way,” says Maynor, shaking his head. “No way! It’s just like NCAA basketball. You don’t get there just to say you’re there. Everybody wants to prove to somebody that they belong there, so you’ve got to play. Every night.”
Dime lists their top 10 players with range. KD is No. 1. Though I’m not a huge fan of that list.
Magic Number Watch: Some movement! With the win over Houston, OKC’s number over the Rockets drops to six. And it drops to six over the Grizzlies too, as they lost to Golden State.