NBA.com with five challengers for the Mavs: “Forget about the criticism that he takes too many shots and isn’t a good fit with Kevin Durant. The fact is Russell Westbrook isn’t going anywhere. The pair of 22-year-olds first shocked everyone by reaching the Western Conference finals ahead of schedule and then was flogged by some for not being ready for prime time. The experience of being in the spotlight and taking hits will ultimately be beneficial as Durant learns to be more assertive and Westbrook learns to pick his spots. There is no question that the Thunder need a third scorer in the starting lineup. That could be Serge Ibaka, but more likely it’s James Harden. He can get to the basket, hit the outside shot and is learning to become a better defender. Maybe just as important, he can also play minutes at the point guard position, allowing Westbrook to slide into the “2″ spot at times and fill that need to be a scorer. When Harden makes the inevitable move into the starting lineup, OKC will need to find a scorer off the bench. But it’s only a matter of time before they rule the West.”
Darnell Mayberry says his his gut say Nate Robinson won’t be back: “I think he has value now as an expiring contract next year. And teams know he can be a big-time spark offensively off the bench. But he also has a reputation of being a knucklehead, and some teams are turned off by that and may consider him unworthy of the risk. At this point, I’m not sure the Thunder can get much for him. But I learned a long time ago never to underestimate Sam Presti and the Thunder when it comes to trades. My gut says [we won't return to OKC].”
Jenni Carlson states the obvious: “But if the NBA has a lockout, especially a prolonged one that cuts into next season, the league is going to jeopardize its increased popularity. Newbie fans who have fueled the increased ratings are most likely to bolt. Their interest is fresh and fragile, and a messy work stoppage will surely drive away many. What’s next for the NBA? I fear it will be neither grand nor glorious.”
Friend Rob Mahoney was hired to write the quickie title book for the Mavs. Buy it here.
J.A. Adande of ESPN.com with some smart thoughts: “Barkley had the easier escape because he has established a broader boundary than LeBron. We expect Barkley to outrage and even offend. It’s part of his job description. LeBron hasn’t been granted that leeway. In fact, he might have turned into the most restricted player in the NBA. He doesn’t get to play where he wants without criticism. He doesn’t get to play how he wants — as a facilitator first, scorer second — without criticism. And he doesn’t even get to say what he wants.”
Sam Amick of SI has OKC taking Kyle Singler: “I’m sticking with Singler here for all the same reasons as before: He’s an experienced, tough and accomplished player who could serve the Thunder bench well as Oklahoma City continues on this path to perennial playoff contention. Honeycutt is an option, too.”
Interesting story: How Dirk almost went to Penn State.