Russell Westbrook has jumped to No. 2 in ESPN’s MVP watch: “In September, when Kevin Durant was leading Team USA to the gold at the FIBA World Championship, who’d have thought KD would be the second-best player in OKC?”
John Hollinger on Westbrook: “The irony is that the team is winning right now precisely because of Westbrook’s youthful, attack-now impatience (deftly broken down here by our Jackie MacMullan). He makes mistakes because of his aggression, but his constant push has kept opponents on their heels, especially late in games, and allowed the Thunder to overcome a surprisingly rough start from Durant. That may not be enough to earn an MVP trophy, especially when other candidates are likely to own much gaudier win totals and compare more favorably with people’s preseason expectations. But Westbrook’s ascension to superstardom has allowed Oklahoma City to weather Durant’s early shooting slump — not to mention a host of lesser ills — far better than anyone would have expected.”
The new Thunder Shop opens today. It’s bigger, has more stuff and the store’s hours are expanded. Also, spend $100 today and you can get a free ticket to an upcoming game. Spend $25 and you get free parking under the Cox Center for a game.
Power rankings from CBS: “First-month assessment: Looking for a team on the rise? Seven of the club’s first nine December foes failed to make the playoffs last season, and the eighth (Cavs) doesn’t count.”
Mike Prada of SBN says Westbrook is OKC’s best player right now: “The scary thing is that Westbrook can still get better. He still isn’t great at getting the ball to his teammates in good scoring spots, particularly in isolation situations. You can’t really blame Westbrook too much for the Thunder’s third-quarter woes – the rest of their team just didn’t hit shots or move well off the ball — but Westbrook still could have been better in setting those guys up. He also doesn’t need to shoot so many pull-up jumpers, because teams aren’t giving him that shot consistently this year. Once he makes those improvements: watch out.”
Scott Brooks is sticking with KD in clutch situations: “If the Thunder has a chance to win tonight’s game at New Jersey on the final possession, there’s no mystery who is supposed to get the ball. Despite his shocking lack of success in converting buzzer-beaters, Kevin Durant is the man and remains the man in the eyes of Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I believe in him,” Brooks said. “I’m still going to go with him, so it’s not going to surprise the other 29 coaches in the league. The next time that happens, Kevin’s probably going to take the shot.”
Outside the NBA on Westbrook: “We’re in the presence of something glorious here. Westbrook’s play not only shows a confidence in his ability, but also a control over the game that we haven’t seen in prior years. He’s hitting his man more often on cuts, and he’s finishing around the rim at a higher rate. His motions are still full of visceral force, but Westbrook’s unstoppable drives always serve a purpose now, something we couldn’t say last season. He’s been handed the responsibility of managing the floor since day one. Now we’re seeing a career built on promise begin to bear fruit.”