An excellent article in the Kansas City Star (hat tip: jk): “Here in Oklahoma City, where the Sooners and Cowboys have long ruled the sports landscape, it’s an NBA team with an underwhelming 17-46 record that’s capturing the time and attention of Oklahomans. And with the Ford Center sitting at the center of the Thunder’s ascension, the Big 12 tournament that’s rolling into town this week is no longer the only high-profile ticket in town. Take notice, Kansas City. This is the impact an NBA franchise can have in that time between the Super Bowl and the start of baseball.”
The Lost Ogle on the Swiss diff: “Before the trade deadline, most Oklahomans knew only that Switzerland produces good chocolate, helpful pocketknives, secretive banks, and hot blondes. Little did we know that the country could also provide difference making basketball players. An afterthought dealt by the Bulls after their “blockbuster” trade which netted them John Salmons overloaded the team at the wing, Thabo Sefolosha’s being moved was not picked up by the media until well after the league’s deadline had expired. Just mere weeks later, the Thunder’s acquisition of the Swiss national in return for a late first round pick in a weak draft class is already being billed as the steal of this year’s trade season.”
Dime had a Q&A with Nick Collison and Jeff Green: “Dime: So I was just talking to Nick about the move to Oklahoma City. How are you liking it so far? Jeff Green: Oklahoma is wonderful. Great people and the weather is lovely. Different from where I grew up in the Maryland/D.C. area. You know, everything is fast paced, a lot of buildings. Oklahoma is kind of relaxed and always willing to help and lend a hand. It’s a lot of space, ya know. It’s quiet. I think it’s good for us, gives us a lot of down time. Time to relax.” And you got to love the answer about going to eat after every game and going bowling with Russell and KD. I love that that these guys are best friends.
An endorsement for Scott Brooks: “Brooks should become head coach. The Thunder, thanks to GM Sam Presti, have got everything else right recently, so making the former assistant the full-time sideline boss is likely. Ignore Oklahoma City’s mediocre record. This organization has momentum. And Presti, a young executive groomed by the San Antonio Spurs, deserves much of the credit for the turnaround.”
Shoals talking Most Improved Player: “I had Kevin Durant as my no-brainer pick. Once the Thunder made their coaching switch, Durant went from rising star to superstar seemingly overnight. When serious hoops aficionados like Kelly Dwyer make a case for Durant as the best small forward in the West, it’s hard to imagine not handing the former Longhorn the MIP by default. After all, no one who got better in 2008-09 ended up as good as Durant. But Durant was supposed to be this good; if the award simply went to high lottery picks who took one season to come into their own, there would be no point in voting. What’s more, KD closed out his rookie campaign with two months that, while they didn’t match the brilliance he’s shown this year, were easily All-Star level. That was his major breakthrough, that turning point where he announced that he was for real.”
Russell Westbrook Q&A in Sporting News Today (you may have to sign up, but trust me, it’s worth it): “SN: Kevin Durant was saying he gets recognized around time, but only because he’s tall. Do you? RW: I get it sometimes, but not as much as Kevin. I am tall but not that tall. That will come the more we get seen on TV and stuff.”
Fanhouse power rankings: “Apparently, Kevin Durant sucks and his teammates hate him. How else do you explain the team going 5-1 with their best player on the bench?”
Also, something I failed to mention in the recap last night: Brian Davis mentioned that Bedlam III will be tonight (Boomer Sooner), but he said, “We’ve got a rubber match at the Ford Center tomorrow with OU and OSU.” Maybe he had a heavy brain and was tired because of four games in five days, but does he not realize that “rubber match” means one team won one game and the other one another? That means the series is 1-1 and this game breaks the tie. Obviously, OU is 2-0 against OSU this year, so there’s no rubber game. Just something that bothered me all night.
Ball Don’t Lie Behind the Box Score: “There were a few fast break highlights — more than a few, actually — but Denver won this with halfcourt execution. They won it in the halfcourt, mind you, while pulling away and making it a semi-blowout in transition. There’s the distinction. Either way, the offense, against an improving Oklahoma City defense, is back. As mentioned in this space yesterday, I’m not too worried about the Nuggets. They’ve fallen back to earth a bit, but they’ve fallen to where they probably should be. This was never a conference contender, but they’re not about to fall out of the playoff bracket, either. Oklahoma City would have had a miserable offensive outing were it not for their 30-32 mark from the line. Russell Westbrook played nearly 30 minutes and dished just one assist, and who does he think he is? Derrick Rose?”
Sometimes, I feel like being an NBA scout can be one of the easiest jobs ever. Because it seems like they’re really going out on a limb here: Blake Griffin is considered a safe pick: “I think one of the reasons why [Griffin is] considered the number one pick is, for sure, for a lot of people he’s a safe pick,” said an NBA player personnel director, who requested anonymity because of league rules prohibiting teams from speaking about underclassmen. “He’s going to be a bona-fide rebounder, night in and night out, and a lot of his scoring is through sheer effort. How he’s going to affect the game, I think Karl Malone is a pretty good comparison.”
Roundball’s game reaction: “It sure was nice to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in a game that did not require a last second shot for once. Denver was in control from start to finish, but before we get too carried away with an easy win against a less than stellar squad, let’s take a look at how Denver did in the areas we highlighted earlier this afternoon.”
The Robert Swift/Chris Andersen matchup last night was definitely epic in every way possible. If you were watching the game with a buddy, you probably spent at least 10 minutes ripping jokes there. Basketbawful noticed it too: “Basketbawful reader Eric G. wrote in to say: “Wow. Robert Swift and the Birdman are in the Thunder-Nuggets game and they’re guarding each other! Has there even been a more tattooed scrawny, lanky, tall, white guy matchup in NBA history? Maybe they look less ridiculous because they’re standing next to each other?” I cannot find a picture of this epic duel. Please, somebody help me out! By the way, neither man could contain the other: Birdzilla scored 10 on 5-for-6 shooting (to go with 5 rebounds and 4 blocked shots) and Swift erupted for 10 too (on 4-for-5 from the field). You can’t stop them, you can only hope to contain them they go to a tanning bed. Bonus lulz from the AP recap: “That left the Nuggets without much of a bench beyond swingman Chris Andersen, who strained his right calf when Robert Swift toppled over him while they were going for a loose ball with 9:37 left before halftime.” I love this game!”
Darnell wants a take-back on saying Durant would be back for San Antonio. He’s thinking maybe this Saturday against Phoenix: “Before I get to the game, a quick note on Kevin Durant. I wrote in this space after Tuesday’s game against Sacramento that I expect to see him return Monday against San Antonio. But after a couple of conversations tonight, it looks like KD will be a go for Saturday at Phoenix. Durant said before the game that he’s able to do a lot more and feels only a pinch of pain. His conditioning, he said, is more of an issue than his foot at this point.”