David Thorpe looks at the top 20 NBA sophomores, which includes three Thunderers: “But the story now is also about Ibaka’s offense. Watch him drain more than half his jumpers from beyond 16 feet, and you’ll see a nice shooting motion. The same can be said for his free throws, which he’s now making at an 80 percent clip. And best of all, Ibaka does not need to score or block shots to impact his team and the game, as his passion and energy alone infect his teammates. He’s a candidate for the league’s Most Improved Player award.”
SportsCenter picked their favorite dunks of the year and two Thunderers were included, though I’m not sure about the Westbrook flush they chose.
Darnell Mayberry’s postgame notes: “Luis Scola destroyed Serge Ibaka tonight. Assistant coach Mark Bryant should sit down with Ibaka after Thursday’s practice and pop in the tape from this one. Ibaka never could stay down on Scola’s shot fakes. It exposed everything that’s wrong with Ibaka’s position defense. Scola’s footwork is among the best in the business for big men. But it was shocking how much Ibaka struggled. Ibaka is great as a help defender. But he’s got a long way to go in man defense.”
John Rohde makes a quality point here: “All these vintage possibilities, yet the pregame highlight video contains footage of players inside the practice facility. Nine shopping days until Christmas and we’re still watching scenes from training camp in September? Seriously? Many NBA teams update their pregame video weekly. Some update it more frequently than that, if it’s warranted. The Thunder video is archaic and its fans deserve better. When your players offer some of the best highlights in the league, your pregame video also should rank among the elite. It’s time to overhaul the Thunder’s pregame video, which could be unwrapped on Christmas Day against Denver.”
Shoals on the myth of the monolith: “Sometimes, the drama is real; the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant wars that brought down a dynasty didn’t need the public to fan any flames. At the same time, look at the Celtics, where no fewer than four players can now claim to be absolutely central to the operation. You can try and stir up controversy there, but it’s just not going to work. Everyone knows their place, knows they are respected, and understands what kind of authority he has. On the Thunder, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook complement each other, as players and as personalities. That dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking Heat team, far from being an act of cowardice or a recipe for dysfunction, just might be the best proof yet that basketball players can get along.”
The Big Lead looks at MVP candidates: “Russell Westbrook: Tough to imagine him winning with Kevin Durant leading the league in scoring (27.3), but Westbrook’s been tremendous so far. Across the board, his stats are up – scoring (23.6), rebounding (5.3), assists (8.8), shooting, 3-point percentage, steals, FT percentage. In his third year in the league, he’s made that leap into the elite point guard class. Chances he wins it: 8:1.”