Monday Bolts – 4.6.09

SLAM has five reasons Scott Brooks deserves an extension: “Either way, even when the Thunder were playing like your thunderbolt233grandpa’s ’73 Sixers, Brooks was still encouraging, still clapping, still refusing to collect moral victories like he used to collect his team’s laundry when he was a coach in the ABA. Even the locker room, when things weren’t exactly humming, didn’t permeate a team dancing with futility. The players seem to genuinely like Brooks — some even call him “Scotty” — and when you like someone, you tend to play hard for them. Brooks perhaps draws strength from his own playing career. He was a short, white, undrafted and undersized guard, a CBA refugee who ended up sticking around for ten years and winning a title (with the ’94 Rockets). It’s entirely possible Brooks sees this Thunder team going through the same modus operandi as his own life in professional basketball: Success will eventually be born out of hardship, acquired through scrap and fight, where results and respect will be concurrently earned. Bottom line: He’s an upbeat guy, and his team is eating it up – 18-24 since their 3-29 start, with wins over San Antonio (twice), Utah, Dallas and Detroit since the second week of January.”

David Friedman of Pro Basketball News says give the RoY to Derrick Rose: “The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook is averaging 17.3 ppg since the All-Star break but he is only shooting .395 from the field during that time. For the season, he is averaging 15.7 ppg (tied with Gordon for third among rookies) and 5.1 apg (second among rookies) for a team that started slowly but now has a marginally better winning percentage than last year.” That’s it. That’s all the mention Russell got in Friedman’s Rookie of the Year thing.

Brook Lopez was asked about Rookie of the Year: “Probably Derrick,” Lopez said. Give a different one. “I’d say Russell (Westbrook).” Keep going. What about Lopez? So he named Robin. “Derrick’s changed his team so much. They’re definitely (in it) for the playoffs. Between (Kevin) Durant and Russ, Oklahoma City has obviously improved over the course of the season. He did too,” said Lopez, averaging 12.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.79 blocks, who gave his All-Rookie team as Rose, Westbrook, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon and Marc Gasol.”

NBA Outsider has a prediction: “Let me make it clear that I am NOT saying the Oklahoma City Thunder will be title contenders, but instead that they will be threatening to make it into the playoffs in three years. I try to be bold, not borderline brain damaged.” Oh my. How bold. Will be threatening to make the playoffs in three years? Really going out there on a limb with that one. Three years is a long time. That means you’re saying they stink in 2009-10. They’re bad in 2010-2011. But in 2011-12, look out! They might make the playoffs that year. NBA teams are the easiest to turn around. If OKC’s doesn’t contend for the playoffs until 2011-12, then something is seriously wrong.

OK, let’s get this straight. Chicago’s got their spiffy little website and has sent out “Rose” colored-glasses. Minnesota has a viral video campaign for Love Glass Cleaner. And right now, nothing for Russell Westbrook? No wonder he’s slipping in people’s minds and not getting mentioned. The team’s not promoting him. His numbers put him squarely in the conversation, but we need to get something out there for him. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to play on “Russell” or “Westbrook.” But come on, people get paid to be creative!

It’s official, the Nuggets pick is ours, all ours: “The Nuggets will send their 2009 first-round draft choice to Oklahoma City, it was assured Sunday night. Denver’s 110-87 win at Minnesota means the Nuggets can’t finish with one of the top 20 picks in June’s draft. As part of a Jan. 7 trade between Denver and Oklahoma City, the Nuggets sent the pick to the Thunder and protected it through the top 20. The Nuggets also sent Oklahoma City guard Chucky Atkins while getting center Johan Petro and the Thunder’s 2009 second-round pick.”

Ball Don’t Lie Behind the Box Score: “We’ve watched all season as the Pacers race out to early leads, only to see the offense dry up in the second and third quarters, with the eventual loss coming even as Danny Granger fills it up in the fourth quarter. 59 points in the second and third quarter for the Pacers on Sunday. Progress. You know what else? Five assists for T.J. Ford in 24 minutes. And it felt like more. He was looking to play as a point guard, and he probably put the Thunder away. Meanwhile, teams rarely come more exasperated than Oklahoma City did on Sunday. Looking at the stat sheet, you know why. Nenad Krstic missed 12 of 13 shots. Kyle Weaver, 7-10. 18-26 from the line, overall. Just six more games, kids.”

Empty the Bench on Shaun Livingston: “Enter the enterprising young Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that seems intent on compiling the best young collection of elite talent in the NBA … It’s a fantastic move. Livingston may already be more of a pure point than Russell Westbrook, whom I love but wonder if he will ever be a true point. And at just 23 years of age and impressively recovered from that career-threatening injury, this is a low-risk, extremely high-reward type of move. The early results have been positive, with Livingston dropping 10 points, 3 boards, 1 block and 1 assist on 5-of-6 shooting in his Thunder debut on April 3rd followed by an impressive 10 points, 7 boards, 5 assists and 2 steals on 5-of-7 shooting on Sunday.”

HoopsWorld on Livingston: “Livingston’s camp decided that Oklahoma City was the best opportunity for Shaun, and one game in it’s looking like he may have made the right decision. Other than the clunky knee brace he was wearing, Livingston seemed to show very few signs of problems with his left knee. He was stopping and starting, pulling up for jumpers, changing speeds and making an impact for the Thunder … This was a no-risk, high-reward play for the Thunder that could pay dividends down the road. Yet another shrewd move by Thunder GM Sam Presti.”

Basketbawful Worst of the Weekend: “KD scored only 13 points — matching his fourth-lowest scoring total of the season — while shooting 4-for-13 and committing a game-high 4 turnovers…and his team scored a season-low 72 points and lost by 35 at home. The Thunder are now 3-7 since Durant’s return from injury, following a streak in which they went 5-2 without him. And people wonder why I’m not ready to call him a superstar. I’d said it before and I’ll say it again: Be wary of players who light up the scoreboard for terrible teams … Spanked. At home. By the Indiana Pacers. But hey, “superstar” Kevin Durant scored a game-high 25 points! In completely unrelated news, this latest in winless weekends dropped the Thunder to 3-8 since KD returned from injury.” Somebody has a case of the anti-Durants. Fourth in the league in scoring, just 20 years old, his awesome showing at All-Star weekend… but yet just a sarcastic “superstar” in quotes to him. Strange.

J.G. (Joey)
2009-04-06 08:59:53
The Thunder should send out "Russell Westbrook Approved, Ankle Braces." - "Because if they can save your ankle from a Westbrook dribble-drive, then you know they can brace anything." And then have a giant picture of Russell smiling on the box with a collage of blow-by drives and dunks of his in the background. Done and done.
Jax Raging Bile Duct
2009-04-06 09:07:42
Good SLAM article. I just hope the recent showing doesn't hurt Brook's chances. The last time we saw this kind of effort on the court repeatedly, the axe wasn't far behind.
2009-04-06 09:09:47
<a href="#comment-4550" rel="nofollow">@J.G. (Joey) </a> Very nice. Very, very nice.
J.G. (Joey)
2009-04-06 09:10:30
Furthermore... The Thunder could even do a commercial ad video for it where you have a guy on a couch wearing Thunder gear and a headband and he looks into the camera and says, "I have to wear my Russell Westbrook approved Ankle Braces just watching the game. Because, well..." And then cut to a video of him watching Westbrook cross somebody over and blow by them and the dude on the couch twists his ankles and falls to the floor. Then pats the braces, smiles and says, "Thank you Russell Westbrook Approved Ankle Braces!"
2009-04-06 09:26:02
<a href="#comment-4553" rel="nofollow">@J.G. (Joey)</a> Reminds me a little too much of the Kobe "Ankle Insurance" ads Nike did a while back. With regards to KD--there does seem to be a correlation between scoring lots of points and hurting the overall team effort. Look how well the Rockets have played since losing T-Mac, and the Lakers' record isn't sparkling either when he tosses up tons of shots. I watch most of the Thunder games, and it seems that KD is most effective when coming off screens in the flow of the offense, not dribbling at the top of the key and pulling up for a J. That being said, however--KD is often very efficient in getting his points, but it seems like after he went down with the injury, the entire team realized they needed to step up. If KD gets his 30 points in the flow of the offense and our defense doesn't suffer, all the better. But it's a bit worrisome to see our record since he came back.
2009-04-06 09:26:49
I thik these last few games will decide it. Yes, Brooks got the Thunder of the Dark Ages (PJ's tenure). Now he has to get the team to the next level. If you take out the Spurs games, the defense has been a sieve as of late. I am sure the coaches are preaching defense in practice (why wouldnt they??) but the team isn't responding - that falls on the head coach. Jax alluded to this in the "Help Wanted" comments - bench those who aren't playing defense. Start with a different lineup - do SOMETHING to get their attention . . .
2009-04-06 09:37:21
I say we are in the playoff run next season. That's going bold. serious note, with suns mavs spurs getting another year older, hornets trying to shed salary. I do think that we have a good chance at making the playoff. and knocking Suns to the lottery helps our pick too!
J.G. (Joey)
2009-04-06 09:42:23
<a href="#comment-4554" rel="nofollow">@KingGondo </a> Well yeah, it's certainly similar. I mean how many different ways can you talk about "breaking ankles." You know? But I'd like to think that it's different enough as a preventative measure and not as an actual insurance policy (especially since half of those ads have Kobe's shoe on the screen saying, "If you don't get these shoes, you're ankles will get broken. Go get em'!"). And definitely wouldn't have the cracking and screaming sound. Now if I start sticking RW on a donkey (or jefe) in the faux ads, then we probably have a legal minefield. :) But hey, if you don't like that then they could do "Russell Westbrook approved Sneaker Springs - Just attach these specially designed Sneaker Springs to the heels of your basketball shoes and you can leap like Russell." Then show a mid-thirties male bounce a few times and then run and jump towards the basket and fly over it, through the side of the gym and out onto the parking lot. :)
2009-04-06 14:26:34
In some ways, this team sort of has a similarity with the T-Wolves of yesteryear with Rookie Kevin Garnett. It was his rookie season, not his second like KD and Green, but Minny fired their basically one season head coach and put Flip Saunders in there as interim. He went 20-42. Not great for sure, but good enough to get him back the next year. That next year they added Stephon Marbury who added about 16 points and 7 assists as a rookie (not all that more than our own Westbrook). That team went 40-42 and snuk into the playoffs back in the day when the West wasn't so powerful. Each year they got a bit better, going 45-37 the next year. This team could go that way. Brook is probably as qualified as Flip, who was a successful CBA coach. Brooks did a short stint in the minors as a head coach and then has been an assistant for about 5 years. The team may also never find it's wings next year. Hopefully Presti turns these two draft picks and some of our scrap players into pay dirt. However, if he's not bringing Scotty back, don't go for an unproven guy again. Bring in somebody who is a proven winner. That has to be somebody like Flip Saunders, or Avery. The coach is so, so paramount on a young team. How about "hard hats" for people who get dunked on by RW?
2009-04-06 17:23:13
I'm a bit biased towards Durant, but it seems a little crazy to blame him for the record. The biggest knock on Durant is his +/-. And you know what, it's true, the team plays worse with him on the floor than when he's not. However, that's a loaded statement. Durant is a transcendent talent: efficient, smart, and continuing to get better. But, there seems to be a lot of leaning going on between him and his teammates. When he is in the game, you can see the team slow down (and not in a good way). I don't know what to tell you. When Durant is out, guys are giving 100%. Once he's back in, it seems like a lot of guys think they can chill out for stretches, as if KD's very presence will make up for it. It's just one of those things. When you watch a game and see Durant obviously the best player out there, even doing a good job (for him) on defense. But in the end, you look at the box score and see him with the worse +/- of the starters. You know, intrinsically, that he was in no way the worst starter. But there it is, mathematical "proof". At some point the team is going to realize that they need to give 100% all the time, because they simply aren't good enough to do less. And I'm including Durant in that statement too. He can't take plays off on defense. He can't shuffle around the perimeter when he knows the play isn't being run for him on offense.
2009-04-06 18:14:57
Well said Keith.