I recapped Team USA’s friendly versus Spain yesterday. I’m pretty certain Russell Westbrook is making this roster, mainly because of the way Coach K used him yesterday.
John Canzano of Oregon Live still thinks Oden was the right pick over Durant: “I still believe he was the right pick. Not that he’s better than Kevin Durant, but the Blazers needed a generational center and thought they had one in Oden. Durant has been outstanding. But given what they knew at the time, I can’t blame them for picking the big guy, and I still think he has a chance to make Portland look smart.”
Kevin Arnovitz looking at seven curious things about the season: “The Thunder emerged last season as the most promising young outfit in the NBA. They finished with 50 wins and gave the Lakers their toughest Western Conference playoff series. Then, this offseason, they extended a max contract to Kevin Durant and fortified their bright young core by adding Morris Peterson, Daequan Cook and first-round draft pick Cole Aldrich. In some sense, general manager Sam Presti’s decision to essentially stand pat might have been one of the the boldest move of the offseason. Many executives with a talented core and some money to spend would’ve committed to a high-dollar addition, but Presti stayed the course. He’s banking that the maturation of Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, James Harden and Serge Ibaka will continue and vault the Thunder over of the scrum in the Western Conference. Is he being realistic? Can the Thunder ride a frontcourt of Green, Nenad Krstic, Ibaka, Nick Collison and Aldrich into the ranks of the NBA elite? Can a team that sustained no major injuries last season decline to add a single major pieces and still pick up 5-10 wins? The answer to these questions will give us an idea of how much “upward trajectory” is worth in the NBA.”
I wrote on positionality a few weeks back and the discussion continues.
Susan Bible of HoopsWorld with an in-depth look at Jeff Green: “This team also greatly values chemistry among its players. You can’t buy it. As a general manager, you put the pieces together that make the most sense to win basketball games, and you look at how the players will mesh…on court, in practice, in travel, in general. Take away a key piece when your team is on the rise, and you risk everything. Jeff Green knows his role on this team, and he understands that Kevin Durant is the superstar. And Presti is not about to risk disrupting the core when it worked so well last season and looks to only improve…which makes him very valuable indeed.”
Darnell Mayberry says KD’s development was on full display yesterday against Spain: “Durant exceeded every lofty expectation that was placed upon him entering this summer’s games, while kicking the criticism he collected following sub par showings in his first two exhibitions. And after such a stellar performance, with the world watching, there’s no telling what we might see next — as if what we’ve witnessed thus far hasn’t been impressive enough.”
The panel of ESPN’s 93 voted on Heat topics, with commentary about each of the answers.
Ziller on the World Championships: “The simple truth is that the World Championship field has a few other good teams, and that the tournament will be competitive. It’s no great shame if the Americans fall to silver, bronze or even lower. You aren’t going to lose your Costco membership. Just enjoy the idea of Russell Westbrook feeding Lamar Odom, or a Derrick Rose-Kevin Durant pick-and-roll. Stand aghast the high dribbles, the copious traveling calls, and the defensive boners. Treat Team USA’s summer like a gallery opening, and you’ll have a lot more fun.”
I did a Q&A that covered a bunch of Thunder topics including Harden over Tyreke Evans, the Sonics and expectations.