Friday Bolts – 1.23.09

First off, a big happy birthday to my wife who is celebrating her golden birthday today. I got her a game worn Robert Swift jersey. She’ll love it, right?

  • Jeff Green says he called bank on Wednesday’s game-winner: “SLAM: Did you call ‘bank’ on your thunderbolt22game-winner? Jeff Green: (Laughs). Yup. SLAM: You did? JG: Yup.” Be sure to read on to see a good interview with Russell Westbrook too.
  • Excellent lengthy feature by Chris Colston of USA Today on Oklahoma City and the ride that is professional basketball: To some, this game might be a meaningless blip in the NBA’s 1,230-game regular season. But inside Ford Center on Sunday, it doesn’t feel that way. Overhead speakers rumble with recorded thunder, and nearly all game the pale-blue-clad crowd roars when the home team scores. It’s Oklahoma City’s ninth sellout in 23 games — and third in its last four. Even with the NFL conference championship games on TV, the upper deck is packed, going we-just-won-the-NBA Finals crazy when team star Kevin Durant hit a three-pointer to cut the Miami Heat’s lead to five with 9:44 left” The best quote from the piece came from David Stern –  “I can’t imagine any scenario where that franchise would leave Oklahoma City.”
  • What’s that you hear Washington? That’s right, it’s Thunder: “Once the ball banked off the glass and through the hoop, I immediately thought to myself that the Thunder could actually enter the all-star break with a better record than Washington. It seemed impossible at the end of 2008, but the Thunder is playing better basketball than the Wizards right now and its schedule between now and the all-star break is slightly softer.”
  • Really interesting thinking here by Shoals about alley-oops: “Maybe we’re putting the heads ahead of the other heads. But remember, the dunk itself was once thought of as useless tomfoolery. Now, most people would agree that relatively sane dunking is the easiest way to ensure the ball goes through the hoop. The paradox of progress is that imagination is always linked to style, and yet it also provides the seed for innovation that changes the face of function. Think about the way the Suns or Warriors use to alter the dimensions of the court (scrapped book idea: using advanced physics to prove this), all through a mode of play dripping with style. Is a team like the Magic or Hornets this close to another great, sustained breakthrough?”

  • Guys on bad teams get no All-Star love. Is that fair? More Shoals: “Case in point: Danny Granger, Devin Harris, Kevin Durant and Al Jefferson. All are young players on the ascent, stars in the making, who on paper are having All-Star-worthy seasons. All also happen to play for teams below .500, albeit some of them more disastrous than others. Standard basketball thinking holds that, if Indiana, New Jersey, Oklahoma City and Minnesota have serious problems winning, these players’ shine and shimmer might as well be a mirage. Even if we’re willing to accept that Granger, Harris, Durant and Jefferson as the focal points of their respective teams, we have to dock their value because their presence isn’t leading directly to victory.” And Shoals says here he’d put Durant in the West’s starting five over Amare.
  • SI’s mid-season report card – the Thunder’s passing!: A buzzer-beater victory at Golden State (after a 72-point first half) on Wednesday, with the Clippers in their sights for Friday night? Things are looking up for the Thunder, who are 6-5 since New Year’s Eve. Russell Westbrook is coming along, coach Scott Brooks looks ready to grow with the rest of these guys and GM Sam Presti could set up his club nicely with a deadline move or two. Grade: D+
  • Steve Aschburner has Kevin Durant as an All-Star reserve: “Gotta have Steve Nash — the game’s in Phoenix. No Amaré Stoudemire? I’m taking Manu Ginobili (making the Spurs the only West club with two All-Stars) because he’s a living, breathing model of team-first focus on a day when that value gets trampled. See, kids, you can be a sub and still be an All-Star. Stoudemire often seems 180 degrees from that. Kevin Durant is ready for his national close-up, and Al Jefferson has been the best center, day in, day out, in the West. Besides, Shaq’s more fun to watch all duded up on the sidelines.”
  • A mid-season report from Sporting News’ Sean Deveney: “Draft revisted – The big surprise was worth it. Russell Westbrook was not supposed to go at No. 4, but the Thunder are glad he did.” And Deveney has Westbrook as his No. 3 in ROY with the tag, “Future All-Star.”
  • Dime has Oklahoma City all the way up to No. 25 in its power rankings: “Monumental week for OKC: Their first official blowout win (cracking the Jazz by 20), their first two-game win streak, then a buzzer-beating game-winner on the road via Jeff Green in Golden State.”
  • And here, spend the next two minutes and 21 seconds watching Russell Westbrook do what Russell Westbrook do. (Royce view count: four and rising.) I could watch that cram on Chalmers all stinking day.