Darnell Mayberry on LeBron and KD: “There’s a widespread belief that James is manipulating the media, strategically sounding off about all things Durant out of desperation. This, you see, has been the year of Durant and with the passing of each eye-popping performance by Durant, it’s LeBron who is losing ground, LeBron who is losing his stranglehold on the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, his reign as a two-time champ and maybe even his status as the world’s best player. Many feel that James, by sending subtle and not-so subtle messages aimed at and centered on Durant, is reminding everyone of who he is and what he’s done. That he has a hidden agenda behind all these comments.”
KD on Westbrook returning: “No. We’ve been playing together for so long. You guys must forget. We played six years together and it’s 25 games that he’s missed. I mean, out of six years that’s not a lot. So we shouldn’t have to talk about anything. He’s a dog. You got to let the dog off the leash sometimes and go play. And that’s the guy you got to let off the leash.”
Also: KD said his two favorite players are Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com has OKC No. 1: “Things couldn’t look much better for the Thunder. They have a comfortable lead at the top of the Western Conference, they could be getting Russell Westbrook back on Thursday, they play nine of their next 11 games at home (where they’ve won nine straight), and they have practice days (to work Westbrook back into the mix) ahead of big games against the Heat and Clippers this week.”
Ethan Strauss of ESPN Insider on Westbrook returning: “This season has challenged the notion that KD needs Russ. Durant’s performing better than ever, in part because his fellow star isn’t there to take shots away. He’s averaging 3.8 attempts more than he did when playing alongside Westbrook, and producing more efficiently despite the increased workload. OKC is likely better with Russ, but it’s increasingly hard to argue that he makes Durant better. Westbrook is already a lightning rod for criticism vis-à-vis how he plays with Durant, so this recent development puts him in a tough spot. It might be unfair to a player returning from a knee injury, but the questions about Westbrook’s selfishness will resurface if his return coincides with a lull for Durant, the Thunder, or both.”
Rob Mahoney of SI.com has a trade idea for OKC: “All of this makes for a rather dizzying daydream, but only that. The Thunder are far too good and the Pistons far too playoff desperate to make such significant change mid-stream, to say nothing of the tax considerations that would come with OKC taking on Monroe for the next few seasons. Detroit GM Joe Dumars wouldn’t likely touch a deal like this one with his job essentially hanging in the balance. The Thunder would have to needlessly grapple with a shortened rotation for the remainder of the season, despite the fact that they were set to be title contenders as perviously constructed. There are plenty of practical reasons why this deal would never come to pass, though the questions posed by the thought itself (Is it worth Detroit’s time to build around Monroe/Drummond? Should OKC move to do better than Perkins, and if so, at what cost?) make it a worthy enough indulgence.”
Jeff Caplan of NBA.com: “Westbrook could play as soon as OKC’s first game back Thursday against the Heat. OKC was playing its best basketball of, arguably, the Thunder era in the weeks prior to Westbrook leaving the lineup in late December to undergo a third right knee surgery in less than a year. Led by Kevin Durant, the Thunder surged in Westbrook’s absence and took over the West’s top seed, a spot they’re unlikely to surrender with Westbrook. Some suggest he’ll negatively alter the established on-court chemistry. Don’t bet on it. Some time will be needed for players, like Reggie Jackson, who stepped into larger roles and will now resume previous ones.”
Tom Ley of Deadspin on KD’s newest nickname: “But here’s the thing: while by all accounts Kevin Durant is, in real life, just as nice a guy as you could ever hope to meet, on the court he’s a ruthless killer. He’s the guy who will bark at an opponent’s bench before going on a game-winning scoring tear. He’s the guy who will call people out for being “fake tough guys.” He’s the guy who invented the “kill ‘em and pray for ‘em” celebration, complete with menacing throat slash, after a big dunk. Someday, when Kevin Durant inevitably does something that rankles Mike Lupica types, moments like the ones listed above will be dragged into the open and pointed at as evidence that Durant hasn’t always been “who we thought he was.” We’ll also be reminded of the fact that he is very aware of his shooting percentage. Maybe then, at last, the man will sign on to a decent nickname.”