Erik Horne: “To Westbrook’s credit, and what may sound ridiculous after 9-of-26 shooting, his jump shot looked online all night. The MVP candidate knew it too, frustrated that great looks weren’t falling. But distributor turned to closer in a game where his clutch heroics weren’t needed as much as what was working. The Thunder led by 15 after three quarters. Westbrook didn’t have a fourth-quarter assist after racking up 14. Donovan thinks it’s more than spreading around shots, or Westbrook’s commanding presence (and success) in fourth quarters. It’s limiting turnovers. It’s not dropping off defensively, as the Thunder did in spurts against San Antonio and Utah. What’s the best way for the Thunder to play? It’s a question that will continue into the final days of the regular season, throughout the playoffs and beyond, with Westbrook at the core.”
Katie Baker of The Ringer on Scott Brooks: “Brooks’s sabbatical may be over, but he remains a curious guy at heart. (Leonsis says that twice now he’s spotted the coach sightseeing by himself around D.C. at night.) He made it a point to visit Wizards players after he was hired last spring, going to Orlando to have dinner with Gortat and Los Angeles to see Beal. His trip to see Wall took place right after the point guard had surgery on both knees at the Cleveland Clinic Marymount. Wall was woozy from his meds, but Brooks stayed in town for a few days and the two watched the NBA playoffs, had dinner, and talked lots of hoops. Wall came away from the visit excited to play for someone with the eye of a point guard and the experience of a champion, while Brooks found himself thinking about Wall’s future, both near term and far.”
Erik Horne on one of the Thunder’s best anthem singers: “Olivia would never run, even if she gets more nervous in front of a small group at a charity event than she does in front of 18,000 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, where she’s become the Thunder’s go-to National Anthem singer. Her mother said, “She has nerves of steel.” They’ll come in handy April 2, when Olivia will sing the national anthem live on ESPN at the NCAA Women’s Final Four National Championship game in Dallas. Olivia studies National Anthem singers regularly, and she’s proud to sing it. She takes just as much pride in attracting attention to charities through her social media accounts, by being able to uplift and inspire at fundraiser events from coast-to-coast. There’s no looking down at the little girl with the big voice anymore.”
New episode of Mr. Presti’s Neighborhood. I hear there are antics.
Tim Keown of ESPN the Mag wrote a big Westbrook feature today: “Westbrook is a statistical aberration who manages to resist quantification. Watching him live and looking at the numbers, or even the highlights, is as different as swimming in the ocean and taking a shower. He is playing every game like he doesn’t trust it to be there tomorrow. He rebounds like a power forward, flies through the lane with a blatant disregard for his body and accelerates off the dribble like a Bugatti. Asked how big he feels on the court, Westbrook, at 6-3 and 200 pounds, says, “As big as I need to be.” Everything around him seems to diminish, as if this normal-sized man has the power to shrink the world around him.”