Thursday Bolts – Today Is Next Year… Edition

I realize Russell Westbrook dropped in a lot of people’s eyes in the rookie race recently. If I had a vote (and I do in thunderbolt2311our “blogger” awards) I’d go Derrick Rose, Russell, Brook Lopez in that order. David Thorpe’s has had Westbrook as high as one for most of the season in his rankings and consistently in the top three. Well his final rankings came out and Westbrook is at SEVEN, behind guys like Michael Beasely, Marc Gasol and Kevin Love. What the heck?

Darnell has a clarification on Russell’s “non-committal” stance on Scott Brooks: “Speaking of Brooks, allow me to clear up something from Wednesday’s editions of The Oklahoman. Russell Westbrook was not and is not opposed to Brooks. He was simply saying that the decision was not up to him and never gave a firm answer one way or the other. But I know for a fact that Westbrook enjoys Brooks as a person and as a coach. In fact, while I was interviewing Brooks before the game, Westbrook gave his coach a hard five as he walked by.”

Well this was just unneccesay. Jason Quick of the Oregonian blasts Oklahoma City: “About the only good thing about covering a game in Oklahoma City is that the hotel I stay at is literally 20 feet from the Ford Center. Other than that, it’s easily No. 29 on the NBA tour of cities, even worse than Sacramento and Milwaukee. One reason why? When I arrived here with Oregonian photographer Bruce Ely (second roadie of the year for Bruuuce!), it was about 9:30 p.m. and we were starved. The downtown here might as well have had tumbleweeds blowing through it, but they do have what could pass as a lively section called “Bricktown” – which was within walking distance … OKC blows.” Cool.

BDL behind the box score: “This game was almost like the Steve Francis trade. Not the Vancouver-trade, or the one that sent him to Orlando. It was, instead, like the deal that sent him to New York for Trevor Ariza and Penny Hardaway’s expiring contract? Why? Because it was like a bad Bill Simmons joke, come true. That’s not a shot at Simmons, the dude is hilarious, but every so often he (or any of us other wonks) will toss in an aside the runs along the lines of, “what’s next, is Isiah going to trade for Steve Francis?” And then Isiah does it. What’s next? Are the Clippers going to lose, at home, to the Oklahoma City Thunder by 41 points? Will Baron Davis have more turnovers than assists? Will Marcus Camby give up a tip-dunk because he forgot that the Thunder were only shooting one free throw at the end of an and-one? Will Shaun Livingston return to bring the game’s best highlight, an alley-oop dunk on the same rim he crumpled underneath back in 2006? Will Earl Watson (16 and 14 assists) play like Steve Nash? Will the season end, now? For the Clippers, thankfully, yes. Special shoutout to Eric Gordon (22 points on 15 shots), who cares, and plays damn well.  For the Thunder? Sadly, yes. I’m going to miss that team, too. And I have a sneaking suspicion that, once Monday rolls around, they wouldn’t mind having a scheduled game that night to play. Next year, perhaps.”

HoopsWorld: “A big part of being an offensive threat in the NBA is turning the corner from just being a player who can beat his man and put the ball in the basket to becoming a player who is going to provide the best opportunity for his team to win the game – even if that means giving the ball up to a teammate with a better look. This is what Brooks is getting at, and he’s not alone in thinking Durant is developing this crucial skill.

Westbrook finishes No. 3 in SI’s rookie rankings: “Westbrook’s on-the-job training at the point hasn’t always been pretty. But the do-everything playmaker is averaging 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.4 steals — and has made Thunder general manager Sam Presti look awfully shrewd after reaching for him with the No. 4 pick. Westbrook’s high-charged performances have ranged from transcendent (31 points and 11 assists at Golden State on Feb. 21) to maddening (10 points and nine turnovers against the Bobcats on Friday), but coach Scott Brooks is confident Westbrook will be more consistent in his sophomore season by trimming his NBA-high 272 turnovers (he’s tied with Dwyane Wade in this department). “Russell has the ability to improve a lot,” Brooks told The Oklahoman. “He has a lot of athletic ability. He has a lot of talent. He works extremely hard. And the thing that I see is he understands and he knows that he needs to get better.”

Rick Kamla of NBA.com looks at the Thunder prospects for next year:

SLAM says OKC did “the right thing” by removing the interim tag: “It’s always a beautiful thing when the “Interim” prefix is removed from a deserving coach’s title: “‘We are excited to have a head coach in Scott Brooks who believes in our philosophies and consistently leads with those values,’ Presti said. ‘He has a passion to help our players develop, continue to foster accountability and selfless play and has the ability to communicate with every player on our roster.'”

Dime has Russell on its All-Rookie team.

The article Brian Davis was referring to about the All-Rambis team: “Collison has played 70 games this season despite broken fingers on both hands. He is often seen diving on the floor for loose balls. He also rebounds, bangs and rarely takes a poor shot (56.6% field goal shooting).”

ClipperBlog recaps and specifically looks at Shaun Livingston. Per usual, really great information here from Kevin Arnovitz: “Off DJ White’s block of Chris Kaman’s layup attempt, the Thunder go the other way. Watson pushes it up. Livingston runs the left sideline. As he glides over the arc, he signals to Watson. Livingston runs a basket cut simultaneous to Watson’s perfect lob pass. Livingston leaps, clears the rim by a good foot, and slams the ball down through the iron. By any player in any circumstance, it’s a highlight dunk. For Shaun, I imagine it’s also an anthem … Shaun is the only person who truly understands his physical limitations, and it’s likely he doesn’t completely trust his impressions of what he can and can’t do. Whether he can become an impact NBA player is uncertain. The irony is that Shaun appeared more confident on the floor tonight than he did during most of his tenure as a teenager in Los Angeles.”

Hardwood P is going to miss Russell Westbrook’s… face.

As was pointed out in the comments, Russell finished with 399 rebounds. Here’s what that cost him: “Westbrook will enter Wednesday season finale at the Los Angeles Clippers needing just six rebounds to become only the fourth rookie in NBA history to record at least 1,200 points, 400 rebounds and 400 assits. The other rookies to do so? Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and Alvin Adams.” Dang. One more stinking rebound. Let’s watch the tape and see if we can find one in there he didn’t get credit for.

A great feature about that “superfan” that takes off all the t-shirts: “The red digital clock in the basement of the Oklahoma City Ford Center reads 31 minutes and counting until the tipoff between the hometown Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, and Cameron Hughes stands alone in front of a locker-room mirror, warming up. He grips the sides of the white porcelain sink to brace himself, lurches forward, and contorts his face into a furious scream—all without making a sound. Then he grabs a white T-shirt with his right hand and twirls it dramatically over his head, again with a kind of silent pantomime. And just like that, as if a director had just yelled “Cut!” from somewhere on the periphery, Hughes drops the act and ambles over to an empty locker stall where he sits down, cracks open a can of Red Bull, then fishes through an overstuffed black duffel bag and quietly begins to wrap his ankles with a thick roll of white tape.”

And not that it matters a whole heck of a lot, but the AP’s recap of last night’s game kept refferring to Oklahoma City as “Oklahoma.” I don’t know, just kind of bothered me: “Oklahoma dominated Los Angeles on the boards 49-32 and penetrated the lanes. The Thunder went on a 16-4 run late in the third period to build an insurmountable lead and rookie Russell Westbrook had two highlight-reel dunks — one off an alley-oop pass and the other on a drive — to make it 90-57 with less than two minutes remaining.”

Jax Raging Bile Duct
2009-04-17 07:10:24
Joe, I would argue that his FG% has been that poor all season, and it's only this week in Thorpe's list that he's dropped to 7th. He's hovered around 40% all year, but stayed put in Thorpe's list due to his PER.
donuteyes
2009-04-16 15:43:08
regarding the "okc blows" article, read the one comment. the guy (he doesn't seem like an oklahoman) verbally pimp-slaps the writer and portland. it's funny.
Vega
2009-04-16 09:06:20
Off topic, but, would anyone here support a WNBA team in OKC?
Keith
2009-04-16 09:14:36
The rookie rankings make sense when you look at it with a "what have you done for me now" tempered with a "what did we expect in the first play perspective. Are Love and Beasley really top 5 rookies? No, but Love was never expected to amount to much and has become a solid role player, which in contrast makes him look great. Beasley's hype was torn down when he played the bench all year, so now that he's given more leeway he looks like he has so much more game all of a sudden. Rose, Lopez, and Gordon are all great players. I would rank Westbrook 3 myself, but I can understand 4. Rose is the ROY, Lopez has been a tremendous rookie center on a team starving for one, and Gordon has been the best player on his team. Also, I didn't get on last night, but great season. Here's to next year.
Keith
2009-04-16 09:18:56
<a href="#comment-5318" rel="nofollow">@Keith</a> No disrespect, women can be tremendous athletes, but the WNBA is not fun at all to watch. No one can shoot, it's painfully slow, and it's not near as fundamentally sound as it is said to be either.
Royce
2009-04-16 09:20:09
Yeah I think Clay Bennett wanted to leave the Storm in Seattle. The WNBA loses money every year and like you said, it's not fun. Women's basketball is pretty big in this state, but the WNBA caters to a "different" crowd I think.
Jax Raging Bile Duct
2009-04-16 09:21:53
Thorpe has always been in love with his PER. Mostly, he just order his list from highest PER to lowest, and when the PER is close, he looks at the other stats to split the hairs. Up until last month, RW's PER was the highest for any rookie guard in the league, but then he started taking fewer shots and dishing out more assists. SI's list has been more consistent all year, with what I consider to be more solid reasoning behind it. RW never made it to #1 on SI's list, but he's been in the top 3 pretty much all year. On the other hand, RW made it to #1 on Thorpe's list for a while, now a drop to 7th, that inconsistency just doesn't translate to performance on the court. It also took Eric Gordon 3/4 of a season and an act of congress to get Thorpe to rank him in the top 10. Thorpe's list just isn't up to par.
Jax Raging Bile Duct
2009-04-16 09:27:01
Oh I almost forgot! In regard to Darnell explaining Russell's stance on coach Brooks... I called it! Also, watching the game last night, there was a point where Russell and KD went for the same rebound. Russell had his hands on the ball, but KD pulled it away. In that moment, from my couch, I could almost tell by the look on Russell's face that he was thinking "dang... I hope that's not the one that costs me the record, what's KD thinking!"
Royce
2009-04-16 09:28:35
<blockquote cite="#commentbody-5327"> <strong><a href="#comment-5327" rel="nofollow">Jax Raging Bile Duct </a> :</strong>Oh I almost forgot! In regard to Darnell explaining Russell’s stance on coach Brooks… I called it! Also, watching the game last night, there was a point where Russell and KD went for the same rebound. Russell had his hands on the ball, but KD pulled it away. In that moment, from my couch, I could almost tell by the look on Russell’s face that he was thinking “dang… I hope that’s not the one that costs me the record, what’s KD thinking!”</blockquote> HA! I hope Russ gives KD crap for that for the whole offseason. And very well put about Thorpe. Those rankings were so up and down. SI's list was much more consistent.
Alex
2009-04-16 10:13:21
Yeah, there's very limited NBA coverage in mainstream media here in Germany but I see the team referred to as Oklahoma Thunder all the time. Kinda annoying
Chris
2009-04-16 13:38:30
What is the issue with sports writers going out of their way to trash OKC. Are written papers doing so poorly that they have now combined the travel section with the sports section? I cant think of any other reason that Mr. Quick has any business spending 5 paragraphs talking about the night life in OKC. By lack of night life I mean the
Jax Raging Bile Duct
2009-04-16 14:55:20
Negativity sells. So when no one cares to read what this guy writes, he keeps his job by writing pessimistic points of view. It's the newspaper version of boobs and butts. I did smirk a little at the thought of this guy trying to find a burger at the Devon Tower, while some of the best burgers in town were 3 block away at the Brewery. I guess OKC sucks because he can't find his way around and wouldn't ask for directions.
Joe
2009-04-16 17:01:29
Poor Russell. Just one more rebound and he would be in select company. But the real reason he fell to 7 is that .398 field goal percentage. That's below the "mendoza" line. It's the lowest of any of the rookies on the list. That's probably more damaging than any of the positives the others have to offer. If RW is shooting 44% instead of 39.8% and all other things are equal he is number one or number two at the lowest.
Jax Raging Bile Duct
2009-04-17 08:16:51
You do have a good point though. I found Russell's splits on hoopsstats.com. Month - Minutes - FG% Nov - 27.1 - .345 Dec - 33.0 - .465 Jan - 34.7 - .440 Feb - 36.6 - .380 Mar - 34.3 - .396 Apr - 30.9 - .341 However, Russell remained either tied for #1 or was in the top 3 during February where his fg% was below .400 I do think I should point out that in April, while his minutes went down, his assists were highest of the season, by a whole point, averaging 7.0 a game. The previous high was 5.9 in February. Also, his April rebounds (5.9) nearly matched his season high in Febrary (6.1) His point average was the lowest of any month, at 11.9 So while he played fewer minutes, he raised his rebounding and assists per 48, while scoring less. This is what we wanted him to do all year. I think this last month he was the most consistent running the team, but of course, the PER isn't looking at that.
kev
2009-04-17 08:21:04
jax - nice breakdown . . . I am really glad his assists are going up - but the .341 mark in April is unacceptable . . . he still goes into the lane when there are multiple defenders are waiting and then he just throws stuff up hoping it goes in - he has to get to the point where he recognizes that there's nothing in the lane BEFORE he goes in . . .
Joe
2009-04-17 12:26:47
Oh, I hear what you are saying Jax. It's a good point. What I am saying though is that there is something fundamental about the number .398, vs. .420 or the like. When these guys look at the numbers, my bet would be that they don't do a detailed breakdown like you did and saw that the assists and rebounds went up, they saw that .398 and moved him down. When you look at your breakdown, he really only shot well for two of the 6 months. If they did do a breakdown and look at the splits, they would then see that he only shot well for 2/6. I just think that psychologically, when they looked at the end of the season final numbers, that .398 is like a gut punch. I'm not down on Westbrook at all. I love his potential, and what he's done this season is phenomenal. I hope he makes a great jump next year and I think Westbrook should have been no lower than 4th.