Matt Moore of CBSSports.com says Russell Westbrook is the NBA’s top beta: “Everything changed after Westbrook’s injury last season, at least in the public’s eyes. No longer is Westbrook spoken of as a liability to Kevin Durant, but instead the only thing that stands between Durant and getting mobbed like any number of stars without help. His aggressiveness compromises their flow? It also sparks their team. His confidence and ruthless aggression give the Thunder an edge they lack without him. In short: If Durant is the beating heart that makes Oklahoma City strong, Westbrook is the spine that steels it against adversity. What’s odd: You could argue that Durant actually is the Beta Dog. For a point guard, Westbrook actually has the ball less than most counterparts, substantiated by SportUV calcuations, which place him second in the league behind DeMarcus Cousins in usage (times he touches the ball). He still ranks ahead of Durant, averaging 13 more touches — not many when factoring the considerable ball-handling duties of a point guard.”
Berry Tramel on the Thunder out of timeouts: “Last week against Memphis, the Thunder went 4-for-4 out of huddles – twice at the start quarters, twice out of timeouts, including a Jeremy Lamb 3-pointers. That’s nine points on four possessions. Fabulous production. The Grizzlies scored both times starting a quarter but otherwise scored just once, coming out of six timeouts. So that’s four games of data. The Thunder had 28 possessions coming out of a Foreman Scotty huddle – and scored 26 points. That’s a little less than OKC’s normal offensive output this season, 1.054 points per possession. Thunder opponents had 30 possessions coming out of huddles; they scored 16 points. That’s 0.53 points per possession. Way better than the 0.97 points per possession the Thunder is allowing this season. I don’t have any idea how good of a timeout coach is Scotty Brooks. But I know this. The last four games, the Thunder coming out of huddles has been OK offensively but fantastic defensively.”
Concerning quote from Reggie Jackson about being a starter: “Why not?” Jackson quickly retorted. “I looked at (Michael) Jordan growing up, idolized the greats. I think that’s how you’re remembered. I mean, it’s a fun role (off the bench), playing and competing. But every day I woke up at 5 in the morning in high school, getting shots up and I never said I wanted to be a bench player. I always woke up to be the greatest.”
Great piece on Game 6 of the Finals. I especially liked the part about the reporter.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss in a 5-on-5: “Indiana is certainly more invested in the regular season, and the Pacers have the superior defense. They aren’t as balanced as Miami, though. The Heat have the second-best offense and sixth-best defense, all the while resting players at will. Indiana’s monster D has also recently proven vulnerable to the transition attack (well, at least vulnerable when playing the extraterrestrials in Oklahoma City). I favor Miami’s balance.”
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: “Would the Thunder have preferred not to trade Harden? In a perfect world, would they have kept Eric Maynor as an insurance policy in case Russell Westbrook got hurt instead of trading him at last season’s deadline? Sure; nobody’s perfect, and you have to play the cards you’re dealt. (Note: Presti has the $2.4 million exception from the Maynor trade available to acquire a player through the Feb. 20 trade deadline.) But while teams all around them on the NBA landscape spin their wheels, squander future assets for a quick fix and unravel the mistakes of regimes that have changed many times over, the Spurs and Thunder just keep getting it right. Not all the time, but enough to keep winning. Which is more than a lot of teams with more assets and options can say.”