Friday Bolts – 2.13.09

Holy crap it’s Friday the 13th and tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. That means something, right? Right? Tonight we’ve got the thunderbolt238always lackluster incredible Rookie/Sophomore game. And with basically the entire Thunder roster playing, I figured I’d bust out a good ol’ live running diary of the game (tip is at 8 p.m.). Should be awesome. I know you’re all super excited.

UPDATE: David Thorpe has a preview of tonight’s Rook/Sophomore game: “In this year’s rookie-sophomore game, the sophs have, by far, the best player on the floor, Kevin Durant. They also have the oldest and most experienced pro, Luis Scola, and five players with real playoff experience. But the rookies have everything else. Their roster is deeper, their bigs are bigger, their guards are better on offense and defense, and their confidence is sky-high. This rookie class is one of the best we’ve ever seen. And considering how the rookies typically get blown out in these contests, we can presume this team will be on a mission, too. Still, the sophs will no doubt play with pride. And they have the advantage of experience and the knowledge that this is a game they are expected to win — so I wouldn’t expect them to roll over and allow dunk after dunk. If the sophs lock in for most of the game, we should be looking at the best rookie-sophomore game ever played.”

Kevin Durant wants to guard Russell Westbrook. That should end well: “Kevin Durant plans to politick Orlando star Dwight Howard, who will be an assistant coach for the sophomore team tonight in the rookie-sophomore game that’s part of All-Star weekend in Phoenix. “I’m going to tell him I want to guard Russ the whole game,” Durant said. “You might see a show.”

Nothing is moving right now in Seattle: “If momentum doesn’t start building soon in Roy’s hometown, his basketball career could be finished by the time the professional game revisits one of its past homes. Despite a $30 million incentive on the table, and with more NBA teams facing financial hardship and looking for softer landing spots, the chances of professional basketball returning to Seattle appear slim. After the backroom negotiations between the city of Seattle and the ownership group of the Oklahoma City Thunder, chaired by Clay Bennett, that led to the departure of the SuperSonics for the Midwest last summer, apathy has become the overwhelming emotion among the general sports population in Seattle. The apparent consensus: If money gets approved for a renovation of KeyArena and Seattle eventually lands a new team, great. If not, oh well.”

Hoops Addict on the Melo/KD “best in the West” debate: “However, the best small forward in the Western Conference might be Kevin Durant. Yes, he plays on a bad Oklahoma City team, and you can argue his numbers are inflated as such. I strongly disagree – Durant has very clearly taken his game to another level since Scott Brooks took over as the head coach and he is now a premier NBA talent, well ahead of schedule. Durant has been the most efficient small forward with a PER of 20.5, and his statistical line is awe-inducing for a 20-year old.”

A little All-Star weekend preview: “The contestants for this event are O.J. Mayo of the Memphis Grizzlies, Joe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks, and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This event could potentially be a hit, or fall flat on it’s face. The one rule I don’t like about this event is there is no dunking allowed. With that being said, I am going to go with Joe Johnson of the Hawks, who can shoot better than both Mayo and Durant combined.”

Shoals on Wednesday’s Blazer game: “Durant, who seemed abnormally focused during the pregame shootaround, and more demonstrative than usual when the lineups were introduced, may have something of a chip left lingering. On the other hand, two years into rebuilding from scratch, the Thunder have an extremely talented core, and given the combination of a high lottery pick and GM Sam Presti’s track record, look to add another key piece this summer. They may not be the Blazers, but down the road, the Thunder could have an even higher ceiling. Even as a bad team, they still pose a threat when Durant, Westbrook and Green get going.”

One user at the Thunder forums had an interesting stat. Kevin Durant is 48 points away from 3,000: “The next game Durant plays will be his 133rd career game. Lebron James scored his 3,000th career point in his 133rd game. MJ did it in 108 (!!!) Shaq in 139.”

Coach P.J. is an All-Star – but not the good kind. He’s SI’s Anti-All-Star coach: “Carlesimo, who guided the franchise to a 20-win season last year in Seattle, was fired after a 1-12 start in which the young Thunder were blown out repeatedly while playing uninspired basketball. The veteran coach was replaced by assistant Scott Brooks, who moved Kevin Durant from shooting guard to small forward and turned over the point guard duties to rookie Russell Westbrook. Within a month, Durant was performing at a level that placed him in the All-Star conversation, and Westbrook had emerged as a capable playmaker and scorer. The team eventually followed suit, rebounding from a 3-17 start under Brooks to go 7-7 in January, seemingly chipping away at Brooks’ “interim” tag with each victory.”

Dime previews the biggest stories for All-Star weekend: “Honestly, this is the first time that I’m going to watch the rookie-sophomore game. I’ve got both feet on the Kevin Durant bandwagon, and I’m a big fan of the ‘08 rooks. Even though they’re not quite on the level of the LeBron/Carmelo class, they could give the sophomores a tough time and maybe win for the first time in seven years.”

FreeDarko on HORSE: “Now, to draw an analogy I absolutely hate myself for, it’s classical music from a score. Putting Durant, Mayo and Johnson in there, is—arghhh—improvisational. Instead of all aspiring to a set-piece one dude knows like his own hand, you’ll have weird combinations of elements emerging on the spot. Okay, so maybe these three will do some preparation, but not like how the Other Horse would go down, or how they would do for the Dunk Contest (P.S. the “white” HORSE with, say, Love, Miller and Dunleavy would be the white Dunk Contest). Am I falling victim to stereotypes here myself? Maybe. Durant could very well decide he has to win this one. But given the kind of players, and personalities, these three are, you know they’re not going to come with anything corny, or a shot that it’s clear they’ve spent their whole life working on. I’m thinking lots of high-bounced, backboard use, and range. Like the Dunk Contest of consummate scorers. Now that’s got a solid ring to it.”

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