Monday Bolts – 1.23.12

Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “The Thunder, though, can’t be done for this season. Named NBA Coach of the Year as recently as 2010, Scotty Brooks is in the final year of his contract. Doesn’t he need a contract extension, sooner rather than later, to be able to manage the mercurial Russell Westbrook with the requisite authority and freedom?”

Nick Collison with a terrific new post at GQ on NBA travel: “Coach Cheeks told me when he played, teams didn’t have buses. They piled into a few Cadillacs and got to hotels and arenas by themselves. If the guys on our team had to do that—get around all these different cities using an actual map, instead of Google Maps on our iPhones—it would be a disaster. I would get lost and be late to half the games. The only pregame requirement back then was that the players had to be dressed and seated 40 minutes before game time. There wasn’t much scouting; the assistant coach went to games when he could to see other teams. That was all they had.”

KD is on top of NBA.com’s MVP rankings: “Durant has been the model of consistency for the Thunder. He’s averaging 26.0 points in the Thunder’s last 10 games, 26.5 when they win and 26.3 in their two losses, with the only glaring discrepancy in those instances being his shooting percentage (53 percent in wins and 40 percent in the losses). He lit the Knicks up for a point a minute (28) in a Jan. 14 win, dropped 28 on the Celtics in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day win and scorched the Wizards for 33, while shooting just 2-for-10 from beyond the 3-point line, in a surprising loss to the league’s worst team Wednesday night in Washington. He’ll need to clean up his turnovers (3.8 in the past five games) and find his touch from deep. Otherwise Durant has a nice, firm grip on the No. 1 spot.”

Sam Gardner of FS Southwest: “If it seems like Kevin Durant is a little bit less active in the Oklahoma City Thunder offense this season, it’s because he is. But if it seems like he doesn’t really mind, it’s because he doesn’t. Durant, the league’s two-time defending scoring champion, has seen his numbers dip slightly in the first month of the season. But the Thunder are off to the hottest start in the NBA, and many around the league have them penciled in as a favorite to win the competitive Western Conference. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with Durant. He’s young, healthy and one of the hottest stars in the league. Instead, most of Durant’s decreased productivity — if you want to call it that — stems from the emergence of Russell Westbrook and James Harden as leaders on the team, maturation Thunder head coach Scott Brooks is thrilled to see.”

Darnell Mayberry on Westbrook’s extension: “Translation: Bennett is prepared to dig deep. He and his partners who make up the Professional Basketball Club, LLC are primed to back up the Brinks truck to two more houses if need be and do what it takes to continue to compete. That would mean this Thunder team could soon be headed into luxury tax territory. But when that day comes, it will be viewed as a justifiable business expense because the building blocks that have been put in place have been model pieces.”

I asked Westbrook about Kevin Love’s extension yesterday: “Kevin’s my man. He’s probably the best power forward in the game. He’s going to be able to take care of that and get that done.”

David Aldridge of NBA.com: “The Thunder will never be a luxury-tax payer under primary owner Clay Bennett, but they could be among the recipients of the league’s enhanced revenue sharing plan down the road. At the least, corporate dollars are plentiful in Oklahoma City, home of several Fortune 500 companies. The playoffs the last two years have provided incredible experiences — seeing the Lakers bully them in 2010, seeing the Mavericks dissect them last season. They had to play smart against Denver and they had to slug it out with the Grizzlies. They are young, but seasoned. There are no excuses. The Thunder’s time is now.”

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