Sekou Smith of NBA.com: “The Thunder’s rise during that same five-year span, however, has been nothing short of remarkable. Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka were added to a mix that already included Durant and Jeff Green, who was traded last year to Boston so the Thunder could add a much-needed rugged, veteran big man in Kendrick Perkins. For all of them to come into their own simultaneously, though, isn’t so much a coincidence as it is a product of a group work ethic that makes first-time observers shake their heads in disbelief.”
Matt Tolnick of HoopsHype on James Harden: “While the PPS stat isn’t available in your everyday box score, you can find it on ESPN.com. Of course, big men who play in the paint are likely to average higher PPS than guards who play away from the basket (just as their field goal percentages are typically higher). In the case of the 2011-12 regular season, six of the top seven PPS players were forwards and centers, each of whom is listed at 6’8” or taller. James Harden, who has been recognized as the league’s best 6th man, is the lone guard in the top-7, and at 6’5”, he ranks #2 in PPS, trailing only Tyson Chandler.”
David Berri of Freakonomics: “Now who would make such a decision? Who would think it is a good idea to have Westbrook — with an effective field goal percentage of 48. percent% — take nine more shots per game than Harden? Well, Westbrook is the Thunder’s point guard. So many possessions begin with Westbrook having the ball. And just like the Sprint commercial, often Westbrook — given the incentives he faces — probably can’t see anyone who is open. So therefore, he simply has to take the shot. The means that Westbrook scores more points than Harden. And it also means that Westbrook makes more money than Harden.”
Tim Legler ranks his top five closers. Missing from the list? Trevor Hoffman. Wait, what?
In a revealing interview with Mark Titus of Grantland, Greg Oden said this: “I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t suck to see Durant doing so well,” he said. “Only because every time he had a good game in those first few years, I knew I was going to get a bunch of crap from all of my haters. But that doesn’t mean I dislike him as a person or anything like that. He’s a good guy and one of the three best players in the league right now. The only reason it hurts to watch him play is because I know that if I got the chance to show what I’ve got, I could be making All-Star teams like he and Horford are, too.”
Berry Tramel asked, what if it’s Denver: “The Lakers are a good matchup for the Thunder, even though Kendrick Perkins’ hip injury would make things a little hairy for OKC. But the Nuggets are an even better matchup for the Thunder. Denver can run, but the Thunder handles transition well when it’s focused, which the Thunder almost always is in the post-season. Denver has no clear answer for Durant or Westbrook, while the Thunder has some defensive answers for the Nuggets’ best weapons — Thabo or Westbrook on Lawson, Durant on Gallinari. The Thunder should do well if it happens to play Denver. Just don’t expect the same Denver team you saw last spring.”
Jenni Carlson on Russell Westbrook’s defense: “But in the fourth quarter, when Terry has a tendency to do some serious damage, the Thunder stuck Westbrook on him. The result? Terry touched the ball once on the offensive end in the last six minutes of the game. Once. And his one touch didn’t even pose a threat to the Thunder. Terry used a screen to shake Westbrook for an instance, but Westbrook recovered, keeping his balance despite getting held a bit by the screener, and forced Terry to catch the ball on the midcourt logo. Terry took a couple dribbles, then passed to Dirk and never touched the ball again in the game. Never recovered his hot shooting touch either.”
Scott Brooks in a radio interview asked about Westbrook: “He plays hard on both ends and he leaves everything out. He gets a lot of criticism, but I love what he has done. He’s taken us to the playoff three years in a row as the point guard of our team. Kevin [Durant] has lead the league in scoring three times and he gets criticized about this a lot that he doesn’t pass the ball. Can he become a better passer? Absolutely. Our whole team can be a better passing team. That’s on me as I try to get this team to be a better passing team cause I know passing wins championships as much as defense does, but Kevin has lead the league in scoring three times. What do people want? Do they want him to lead it by scoring 10 more points a game? It doesn’t happen and he’s a great point guard and he’s only going to get better. He has another level or two of improvement.”