Shoals has some resolutions for Kevin Durant: “It’s been a blast to watch Russell Westbrook come into his own, and make us ooh and ahh with every other possession. The bottom line, though, is that Durant is this team’s best player, and began this season expected to emerge as one of the league’s true elites. He was supposed to make a leap forward this year after his amazing showing at the Worlds; the Thunder were expected to improve over least season’s inaugural playoff appearance. Durant would become more of a playmaker, initiating the offense more often, and continue to improve as a defender. Well, it’s time he make it happen. As Rob Mahoney pointed out this week, the Thunder’s unremarkable start may just mean that, like the Spurs in the past, they take their time getting it together. Durant has lately started to look more like the player we saw this summer; Christmas Day was certainly a good sign. However, we want to see the MVP candidate we were promised. And, if the Thunder are going to themselves move up in the league’s rankings, they do, too.”
Cole Aldrich has been sent back down to Tulsa. That’s why he was nowhere to been seen last night.
KD is one of the best all-around performers, writes a fantasy person for ESPN.com: “Amazingly, Durant’s worst category this year on the Player Rater has been his shooting from the floor. That’s after shooting an impressive 48 percent from the floor (considering the shots he takes) for two straight seasons. Bear in mind, he was hovering right around 40 percent for the first month of the season and is currently at 51 percent for December. I have no doubt that his contribution in field-goal percentage will continue to increase for the balance of the season, so it’s possible his 3.1 assists per game will end up being the weak link in his game, which seems about how it should be.”
I missed this little nugget from CBSSports.com’s power rankings this week that the Thunder should be contracted. I’m going to go ahead and say I disagree somewhat.
Susan Bible of HoopsWorld on James Harden’s emergence: “Then something changed beginning in December – Harden became aggressive. During the past 14 games, he is averaging 14.1 ppg, 3.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 2.4 assists, and 1.5 three-pointers. Overall, he has logged an average 25.8 minutes of playing time, and the majority of his numbers in home games now surpass the road game numbers. And in the four games missed by Kevin Durant, Harden stepped up big-time with big minutes played. Thunder coach Scott Brooks points to improved confidence in shooting to explain the difference in Harden’s production.”
Russell Westbrook’s fast break dunk from last night. Raise your hand if while he was at about the free throw line you were thinking, “He’s going to doink this.”
Darnell Mayberry: “We saw some attitude out of the Thunder tonight when James Harden gave Sasha Vujacic a piece of his mind. Very interesting sequence there in the second half. Harden had left the locker room by the time the media went in, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have elaborated on the exchange anyway. A replay showed some tugging going on by both players on a previous sequence. Then Vujacic looked to have overreacted when he hit the deck with Serge Ibaka. You don’t see Thunder players get in an opponent’s face very often. But is that the kind of attitude this team eventually needs before becoming a power?”
Nets Are Scorching: “Meanwhile, the Thunder resembled the ultra-talented, sky-is-the-limit team many expected them to be before the season started. From a ball distribution standpoint, they racked up 31 assists on 45 field goals made, including three guys, Jeff Green (5), Russell Westbrook (7) and Eric Maynor (7), who had just as many or more than Uzoh. They shot 55 percent for the game, and racked up 58 points in the paint. As has been the problem even in some of the Nets wins the past months, OKC came out in a flurry early, going up 10-4 as Devin Harris (19 points, 3 assists) and Kris Humphries (4 points, 7 rebounds) missed some easy layups. While the Nets actually led this game at one point, 22-17 in the first quarter, they peaked early.”