Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com with some thank yous: “To Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant: A couple of years ago when he was filling in as the interim head coach in Denver for a recovering George Karl, Adrian Dantley was asked why the Nuggets’ pick-and-roll defense was struggling. He responded incredulously, saying there was no such thing as “good” pick-and-roll defense, that even the best protection against an NBA ball screen was nothing more than damage control because two professional basketball players in that action were virtually unstoppable. That’s certainly the case when those two guys are Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who worked in tandem on a number of occasions on Christmas to positive effect.”
Kelly Dwyer of BDL on Perk calling out some teammates: “By any measure, though, Perkins is the weak link. So why is he the loudest voice? The half-full approach gives us a half-empty response, which we don’t mind, telling us we’re big dummies that do not know what’s going on behind the scenes of a team Perkins has been charged to lead as a former NBA champion. We’d love it if Perkins’ words were not only a smartly-crafted and tactful set of shots at an anonymous player or players that deserve it, but one that led to greater things for his team. Without that elucidation, though, we’re left to wonder. And while a person’s character shouldn’t be judged too harshly by a rise of temper in the waning moments of a big game, Perk didn’t mind showing his teammates up after a play that seemed to be completely his fault. While complaining more and more behind the scenes later. We’d like to hear more from Perk. Thunder fans might be getting to a point to where they want to see less of him, though.”
Perry Jones, Daniel Orton and DeAndre Liggins back to the D-League.
Darnell Mayberry says OKC can’t handle the Heat: “For myriad reasons, the Thunder just can’t handle the Heat. But in each of the defeats, there has been a common denominator, a disturbing factor that has defined Oklahoma City’s futility against the team that without question has become its most frustrating foe. The Thunder has been obsessed on playing its big lineup. In June, it was a decision that ended in disaster. On Christmas Day, it again contributed to the Thunder’s disappointment down on South Beach.”
Tom Ziller of SB Nation on social media and the NBA: “There’s also the issue of the sharers that the NBA doesn’t have jurisdiction over. No minor scandal escapes notice these days. Consider the Zach Randolph-Kendrick Perkins off-court confrontation a few weeks back. Only through Twitter did anyone realize anything happened. I don’t want to accuse the league of brushing its knuckles-up underbelly under the rug, but … yeah. We hear about every fight or near-fight now. There are no possible smokescreens when everyone has a camera and a distribution channel. The NBA handles this sector a lot better than other leagues, in my view. But it’s going to always be a challenge, especially as we all continue to try to make sense of what the egalitarian access really means.”
Jonathan Tjarks of Real GM: “LeBron is the shadow looming over everything Durant does. Durant’s career highs in field goal percentage, rebounds and assists? LeBron has better numbers in all three categories. He is the best player in the world, the favorite to win a fourth MVP in the last five seasons and play in a third consecutive NBA Finals for Miami. If Durant’s career were a video game, LeBron would be the final boss. He is guarding all the doors and holding all the keys — in the NBA playoffs, all roads lead to South Beach. Durant, still only 24, continues to scale the proverbial NBA mountain, but the peak to reach is as high as it has been in two decades.”
Marc Stein of ESPN.com in a 5-on-5 on the West’s best team: “I’ve got a question for you first. Are you asking in a Power Rankings kind of way — with more of the focus on right now — or a favorite-to-win-the-West kind of way? If it’s the latter, OKC is the closest to meeting that standard, even after I just rolled the Clips out in the No. 1 spot Monday in the most recent edition of the rankings.The Russell Coaster and all of its ups and downs continue to give me pause, but KD, Ibaka and, yes, even Russ are all better players than they were a year ago. And Kevin Martin has fit in as well as Sam Presti could have hoped. The Thunder thus remain the team to beat in the West … to the credit of everyone there after the shock timing of the Harden deal.”