Monday Bolts – 2.23.09

The Celtics want Joe Smith to be this year’s P.J. Brown. If you wanted him this bad, why didn’t you offer us Kevin thunderbolt2314Garnett and a first-round pick for him?: “Smith’s defense isn’t spectacular, but he’s been steadily holding power forwards to league average stats for the last few seasons. And that’s what I want from a potential C’s back-up big man: steadiness. Glen Davis doesn’t have it in any phase of the game (he still can’t shoot, no matter what your eyes seem to be telling you), Leon Powe doesn’t have it as a shooter and Mikki Moore definitely doesn’t have it. Joe Smith has it. If I’m Danny Ainge, I’m throwing whatever I can at Smith, even it means having no shot at Marbury.”

But Joe Smith says he doesn’t want to go anywhere: “Contrary to several media reports, Smith said he wouldn’t seek a buyout of his contract with the Thunder, The Oklahoman reported. “What for?” Smith asked. “I’ve been here all year. Why would I want to do that now? I’m (not) seeking it.” Smith said he has not talked to his agent about a buyout. It had been reported that Smith, 33, would ask for one so he could join a title contender. “A lot of people assume that when you reach a certain amount of years in the league that you always want to seek a title,” Smith told The Oklahoman. “It’s (not) just me. … Like I’ve said all year long, I like these young guys around here. We’ve developed some type of chemistry now where I got faith in them and they got faith in me.”

You thought Shaq’s JabbaWockeez was good? Check out Kid Delicious getting down.

Midseason rookie grades handed out by some guy. Russell gets a “B” and you have to read this part: “Truth be told, Thunder rookie Kyle Weaver is a better playmaker than Westbrook, which doesn’t bode well for Westbrook’s status as the franchise’s point guard of the future. So if Westbrook isn’t a natural point guard, he must be a shooting guard, right? Wrong. Though he excels around the basket, Westbrook leaves much to be desired when it comes to outside shooting. His release is flawed and inconsistent – a far cry from the wonder-stroke of Eric Gordon – and opposing guards generally let him take open threes. Through 53 games Westbrook is shooting just 40.8% from the field and 29.6% from downtown.”

The FreeDarko guys chatted about the Thunder/Warriors game. Here are the fantastic results: “BS: What if the Thunder don’t really play in Oklahoma City? Like they’re on a soundstage in Hollywood that Bennett owns, and the players are all cool staying with the team beacuse it’s really Los Angeles life? TK: I’ve been exchanging emails with the guy at Run of Play. And he said his dad works next to the practice facility. Mentioned that he gets updates on the cars in the parking lot, but nothing on the players. So it’s possible that they stage practices. BS: So anyway, the NBA is going to promote the fuck out of the Thunder starting next year because this team has such star power and is so fun. And none of them leave because it’s really LA. Plus all the “fans” are extras, professional ones, waiting in line to audition for Eastbound and Down.”

Dime says Jeff Green is the reigning “getting my [butt] busted every other night” rookie of the year: “As soon as the NBA does the right thing and starts its Rookie Confidence Intervention program, we need to get Jeff Green on the phone with Courtney Lee. As the reigning “Getting my [tookus]  busted every other night” R.O.Y. – thanks to the Sonics/Thunder grooming him to be Pippen to Kevin Durant’s Jordan while ex-coach P.J. Carlesimo was apparently unaware of the concept of help D and double-teams – Green perfected his 1,000-yard stare after some nightmare-ish nights left on an island with the likes of Kobe and Caron.”

Hardwood P grades the deadline deals: “Prof. Kerby – Love this trade for both teams.  For realsies. Prof. Mahoney – How many chances do we give Thabo before we settle on the fact that he’s just not that good?”

I’m nodding my head: “The two-on-one fastbreak with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that ended in a botched alley-oop dunk is not only an example of what’s wrong with this team, it’s the epitome of all that has plagued the Thunder. With a chance to cut the lead to six with 1:16 remaining, two 20-year-olds went for the highlight play instead of the heady one. A few Golden State writers were going nuts at the botched breakaway. I could only shake my head after seeing simple mistakes like that burn this team for 56 games now. One of the Warriors writers put it best when he said of the play, ”Man, that was stupid. But they’re young and they’re fun to watch.”

Tyson Chandler… duhn, duhn, duhnnnnn: “Supposedly it was because of his toe, which he needed surgery on two years ago when the Hornets were in Oklahoma City. In fact, the same doctor who did that procedure for the Hornets when they were in Oklahoma raised the red flag for the current hometown Thunder. But there are some that think it is something deeper that the Thunder aren’t talking about as a courtesy to the Hornets and Chandler.  One league insider said the word going throughout the league is that Chandler hasn’t been able to truly practice in a year due to various foot and ankle issues. There is also some belief that his success offensively is largely tied to Chris Paul and his ability to run a devastating pick-and-roll when both are healthy.  No matter what, this is probably a drama that will have some more chapters.”

It’s looking more and more like Clay Bennett will get to keep his $30 million: “Hope appears to be fading that Seattle will collect a $30 million bonus from the Oklahoma group that bought the Sonics. Seattle officials have rejected a proposal for meeting the terms of a lease-breaking deal between the city and Clay Bennett’s firm, said Medina Democrat Rep. Ross Hunter, chairman of the House Finance Committee.”

Chad Ford grades the deadline deals: “Positive spin: The team has needed some help at 2-guard, and Sefolosha, at the very least, is a capable defender. Given his youth and upside, this deal could pay off in a pretty big way. If Tyson Chandler does have a chronic health issue, at least OKC didn’t get stuck with it for the next two years.”

Mike Baldwin thinks the *awesome* economy could help OKC land David Lee: “But Lee is a prime example how the shaky economy could work in Oklahoma City’s favor. Lee probably will seek a $10 million-a-year deal which isn’t a bad price for someone averaging 16.4 points and 11.8 rebounds. New York would love to keep its double-double machine – Lee has 42 double-doubles this season, tied with Dwight Howard for most in the league – but the Knicks probably won’t have cap room to re-sign the 6-9 power forward.”

Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like Uncle Jeff: “Mr. Consistency,” Brooks labeled his second-year forward. “He’s very efficient with his game. He’s meticulous in his work, and I love the way he approaches the game. For a young player, he has a very veteran’s approach to the game. I think that’s helped. It’s paying off.”

Kevin Durant is a Jedi Starfighter. You’ll just have to click to find out.

Josh Q. Public says what sophomore slump?: “Bill Simmons got this one right. Kevin Durant is a scoring machine. Last night, Kevin Durant scored thirty-two points in Oklahoma City’s loss to Golden State. The kid has scored 619 points over his last twenty games. Get out your calculators. That makes an average of slightly under thirty-one points per game. That makes this kid the second most proficient scorer in the league over that time. Only one NBA player has a higher scoring average than Durant since that date. Only King James. That tells you something right there. That tells you a lot.”

And be sure to watch Russell and Earl’s oop-off-the-backboard a couple of times today. Sweet play.

2009-02-23 10:10:08
I agree that Weaver is the better playmaker in terms of passing / court vision, but he can't beat guys off the dribble and get to the hoop like RW can. Although he has been showing that aspect of his game more often lately...
2009-02-23 10:16:42
I define "playmaker" as a guy that makes plays. And Russell Westbrook makes twice the plays Kyle Weaver does. Like you said, Weaver is a better passes and sees the court better, but he doesn't make near the plays RW does.
2009-02-23 10:39:14
I don't think that Weaver has been put into that position yet to really give a fair analysis. He can definitely handle the rock, and he can thread the needle on some crazy passes that RW doesn't even see, but, he does it here and there in transition, with an off guard usually guarding him. It's a whole different situation with Chris Paul (the steal leader) up in your Grill and a big getting ready to double you. I bet if we gave Weaver big minutes as the primary ball handler, we might have a different opinion. But I still think Weaver can fill the third point guard spot, and maybe the second if he works at it down the road.
2009-02-23 10:40:47
I agree Royce...but I think if Westbrook slowed his game down just a bit he would be better in terms of passing/court vision... If his passing/court vision catches up with his speed...We are going to see more and more sick nasty highlights from the Trio... Do you think Weaver is just lacking some confidence? In watching him I feel like he doesn't believe he can make a shot/pass...He looks so wide-eyed and maybe 'just happy to be there.' Don't get me wrong...I think he can do it...but I don't think he believes he is a starter...
2009-02-23 12:18:05
Hey, I'm the author of the midseason rookie grades article. I have to admit that I used the term "playmaker" too broadly in this instance. Westbrook is obviously better at creating in terms of getting into the lane and making plays happen that way. What I meant to say is that Weaver is the more established passer. He sees the court better than Westbrook when it comes to finding the open man and making the smart pass. That's what I had in mind when I said "playmaker".
2009-02-23 12:35:20
Appreciate the clarification Patrick. I don't think anyone would disagree about the passing skills. Different people define things different. But one thing about Russell is that since he's become a starter, he's shooting 44 percent from the field and 31 percent from three (but that's on just 64 attempts). Comparatively, Derrick Rose, (who got an A+) is shooting 47 percent from the field and 26 percent from three. He's averaging 16.6 ppg and RW is putting up 15.3 (and 17.3 ppg since he became the starter). Rose is dishing out 6.4 apg and RW 5.1 (5.6 as a starter). And while RW turns it over 3.1 times per game, Rose isn't perfect as he does it 2.6 times a night. Everybody sees things differently, but I just thought I'd point that out.
2009-02-23 12:37:39
"I’m the author of the midseason rookie grades article.." Uh-oh Royce, looks like we have an "Annie Hall" moment here. ;)
2009-02-23 12:38:01
Rookie PER of those you mentioned in the grade report- 1. Kevin Love - 17.65 2. Russell Westbrook - 16.25 3. Derrick Rose - 16.00 4. O.J Mayo - 15.50 5. Michael Beasley - 15.35 So basically, your grades are pretty far off, especially for Russ. And when considering his high turnover rate, which is something that improves for points as their careers progress, Russ has an even higher ceiling. Amazing that a guy that cant shoot is a more valuable player than any other non-big rookie.
2009-02-23 12:40:43
Yep, Westbrook is a tweener. Then again, Green is a tweener. Then again Durant is between a number of things. Hey, we're a special group here! You can't pidgeonhole us into some set category called "positions". We defy categorization!
2009-02-23 12:56:48
Westbrook's certainly a tweener, but that is actually a good thing. It means we don't have to pass on a chance to take Rubio! It says here, that if the Thunder have a top-3 pick come draft day, they will collect either Boozer 2.0, Harden or Rubio. I think either guard would fit very well with the squad currently constructed. Neither Harden or Rubio are great perimeter shooters; Rubio is actually subpar. But we don't need more 3-point shooters, we just need KD (43.4% from 3) and Uncle Jeff (41% from 3) to jack up more shots. Westbrook and the 2009 draft pick will improve from distance over time, but we don't need it out of the gate.
2009-02-23 13:10:27
<a href="#comment-2566" rel="nofollow">@Matt </a> PER is good for certain types of evaluation (mainly offense), but it doesn't explain everything. For instance, how do you account for the fact that it takes Kevin Love (17.65 PER) forever to run the length of the court? Or that Brook Lopez (17.47 PER) is terrific at directing his teammates on defense? Or that Greg Oden (17.76 PER) has a really, really hard time staying out of foul trouble? With PER, you can't account for those things. Marreese Speights leads all rookies in PER for crying out loud. And Roy Hibbert isn't far behind. Should those be the guys getting the A's? Westbrook's assist numbers next to Rose's are similar, but you have to account for the Kevin Durant Factor. That guy is a beast. You can give him the ball pretty much anywhere on the court and he can pull up and hit it from right there. Rose doesn't have a teammate like that.
2009-02-23 13:19:20
@Patrick "...the Kevin Durant Factor." Hey, I like it. Maybe we could trademark that. KDF: the Kevin Durant Factor (but what is its numerical value? 10? 100? 1000?)
2009-02-23 13:20:30
Considering what Westbrook's expectations were before the season and where he is at now, I think he should have been in "A" territory. But I'm also the guy that thought I should have gotten an "A" in Calculus because "I tried hard."
2009-02-23 13:29:18
<a href="#comment-2571" rel="nofollow">@Royce </a> Lol. "I tried hard" is classic. I'm with you on the Calculus thing. It kicked my ass in college. I love watching Westbrook play. His first step is outrageous. If my memory is right, I put in the column that I think he can beat any guard in the league off the dribble and I mean that. It's a bold statement, but I stand by it. With Westbrook, though, I just don't see the same court vision as with Rose. It's not something that's identifiable with stats or anything, it's just there or it's not. Like the difference between Steve Nash and Ray Felton. I'm not trying to be a hater. I think the Thunder have a great future ahead.
2009-02-23 13:53:24
"I think the Thunder have a great future ahead" So do I. A FANTASTIC future. Just wished the present look better! :(
Jax Raging Bile Duct
2009-02-23 13:54:42
Honestly, when I read in the excerpt that Weaver was a better playmaker, I didn't click the link to read the whole article. Why? The same reason I don't read ESPN's conversations. When it comes to the eye test, everyone has an opinion, even the blind. So I saw that Patrick wanted to offer some explanation, and I understood where he was coming from, so I read the article after all. I guess a B isn't a bad grade. I gladly took two of them for my year of Calc 1 and 2 in college. I do think that it is worth mentioning that if you're going to judge a player on a few stats, and also the eye test, you should have included the rebounding that RW gives you. He did have 8 offensive rebounds in one game just last week. I've seen it addressed very few times with national pundits and bloggers, and I think it's highly under-rated. People laud Jason Kidd for it. However, I do agree heavily with two eye test statements in the article. This: <i>"He lacks court vision and tends to telegraph each pass like he’s Alexander Graham Bell."</i> and this: <i>"But there are also a lot of holes in Westbrook’s game; primarily, outside shooting, ball security and court vision."</i> As for <i>"Nothing is impossible, but it’s Stretch Armstrong to imagine that Westbrook will suddenly find his stroke at the age of 21."</i>, I would just like to point out the free throw percentage increase from college to the pros (~60% to ~80%). I think that jump is significant, and an indicator that his shot is getting better.
2009-02-23 14:12:04
<a href="#comment-2576" rel="nofollow">@Jax Raging Bile Duct </a> Jax, thanks for taking time to read the full article. It's a good point you make about Westbrook's rebounding numbers. As you can tell, though, the article is already really, really long. I could go on for days about these guys, but I did have to edit to some degree. In the future I'll remember to give him props for his rebounding numbers.
2009-02-23 14:55:52
BTW, Royce, I just read your interview on True Hoop. Good stuff. If the Thunder draft Blake Griffin this season, I hope to read a super-long celebration article from you. It'd only be fitting for him to come to OKC.
Steve H
2009-02-23 15:11:39
Nobody has mentioned Mike Baldwin's speculation about us picking up David Lee come summer. If we don't land Griffin, I would LOVE to see us pick up Lee as our starting 4 (absolutely a big fan of Uncle Jeff's, but the fact remains he's not really a power-forward). This would also explain our patty-cake deal sending Wilcox to the Knicks. We gave them a quality replacement they can re-sign for less, and hopefully engendered enough good will so they won't drive up Lee's restricted contract price just to make us pay more.
2009-02-23 15:13:38
<a href="#comment-2584" rel="nofollow">@Patrick</a> It could be anywhere between 25 and 30 thousand words. We will celebrate, trust me. And Steve, I agree. Joe and I have talked about David Lee a lot and what a nice addition he'd be. He's basically Nick Collison but with more ability. He'd give us rebounding and a much stronger inside presence.
2009-02-23 15:20:07
<a href="#comment-2586" rel="nofollow">@Royce </a> I'm a long-time Kings fan. If we can't get Griffin, I hope you guys do. If nothing else I'll get to read the first 30 thousand word column in sports writing history. Then maybe I'll match it with 30 thousand words about how much it sucks to be a Kings fan.
2009-02-23 15:36:11
TrueHoop interview: kewl!!! That was a good read. Seems like something was missing though... Oh, I know - not one reference to '3 and FREAKING 29'. Royce - you look so...... normal! I had a pictured you as being real dweeby with coke bottle glasses. Sorry, don't know why - that's just what came to mind. Congrats dude! You're a celebrity now.