Monday Bolts – Wrapping All-Star Weekend… Edition

Oklahoma City didn’t have anyone in the game last night. And though we all know Kevin Durant deserved to be there, thunderbolt239it kind of didn’t matter. After KD dropped 46 in the Rookie Challenge along with Uncle Jeff Green throwing down multiple dunking slam jams and Russell Westbrook flying around the hardwood and then KD winning HORSE, for a moment, OKC was the center of the basketball universe. For just a second, we knew what it felt like to be the Lakers or the Celtics. Every story coming out of Phoenix was about Durant or the young Thunder trio. We were the talk of the town and let me tell you, that felt good. It gave a tiny view of what it could be like in three years if this plan happens to come to fruition. But even though there wasn’t somebody playing in the big game, this All-Star weekend was a smashing success for OKC. Anyway, on to some All-Star weekend Bolts…

Tom Ziller on KD’s big weekend: “Durant scored 46 points, breaking the record by 10. He had a littany of extraordinary moves, leaving teammate (and trash-talker) Russell Westbrook in a cloud of dust time after time. He even played a little defense to help the sophs pull out a victory, ignoring the legend that playing defense in the Rookie Challenge is like walking under a ladder. And as many have noted in the aftermath, Durant has been doing this since New Year’s Day. No one in the league is scoring more per game since January 1. K.D. is doing it efficiently, with an inventory of rebounds, blocks, steals and assists, as well. That Durant sits on the sidelines while someone like David West (a solid player, but a winner) made the Main Event … that says more about the coaches than it does Durant. There is an unfortunate pecking order, with youth and losing pushing stars like K.D. and Al Jefferson (R.I.P.) down the list. But Durant started a fire Friday, I suspect he’ll stoke it tonight during H-O-R-S-E, and the whole world will see the smoke next February.”

John Hollinger: “The feeling was mutual. Tonight’s game was a coming-out party for the Thunder’s entire rebuilding program as much as it was for Durant. They don’t see much daylight outside their pint-sized market thanks to a brutally awful start, but they’re quietly playing decent basketball of late behind their three young stars. The public has been a little slow on the uptake regarding the rapid ascent of each, with Durant getting little All-Star attention and Westbrook a nonentity in most Rookie of the Year discussions, but this, perhaps, will get a few people’s attention. Westbrook soared and finished at the basket, and created havoc on D, while Green showcased his vastly improved jumper at several key moments. And then there was Durant. He soared in for flying dunks over the rookies’ bigs, and then stepped outside and effortlessly rained in long J’s, showing the total package that seemingly has the 20-year-old forward (yes, he’s just 20) headed for a scoring title in the very near future.”

Latest trade talk from around the league has OKC talking with NOLA: “Our freshest non-Amare scenario: Sources say Oklahoma City is going after New Orleans center Tyson Chandler, with the Hornets known to be seriously interested in slicing payroll and with the Thunder capable of offering the Hornets two replacement big men with expiring contracts (Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox) as well as one of its five first-round picks in the next two drafts. You’d like to think that the Hornets would first try to get through this season, see how far they go in the postseason and then shop Chandler closer to the draft if moving him remains their best money-saving option, since trading its interior defensive anchor — in spite of Chandler’s struggles this season — would force us to reevaluate New Orleans’ status as a contender. Yet it remains to be seen if the Hornets can pass up such a payroll-friendly proposal. Word is he remains very much available if the right deal presents itself.”

Arash Markazi of SI on KD’s nice showing: “Not to take anything away from anything that might happen Saturday or Sunday, but the highlight of NBA All-Star weekend might very well have been the performance of Kevin Durant during the Rookie Challenge. The second-year forward from the Oklahoma City Thunder poured in a Rookie Challenge-record 46 points in 30 minutes to lead the sophomores to a 122-116 win in the closest Rookie game in nearly a decade. It’s hard to call a meaningless exhibition game a coming-out party but for those that haven’t watched many Oklahoma City Thunder games (that would basically be any non Thunder fan without NBA League Pass). It was the first time they had a chance to watch the maturation of Durant as a true star in this league.”

Hardwood Paroxysm: “Durant was sublime in rooks-sophs. Sublime. A stream of threes, dunks, steals, more threes, jumpers, leaners, the grand palette of basketball. It was a terrific coming-out party for him, and well worth it. It’s a significant paragraph in his wikipedia article. That game was actually pretty rad/dross/boss/Road-Rash too.  Marc Gasol hustling like it was an actual game, Stuckey dishing, and Westbrook having the time of his life. Durant can have the stupid trophy. Mayo earned that game of HORSE. The shot of the whole game was the one from the stands. It’s bizarre, because OJ isn’t awkward on the mic, yet he’s not good with it, either. And yet, when they needed a shot to loosen things up, to make that thing a hit, Mayo said “I’m going to the stands.” Johnson would have eliminated Durant if he could have landed the finger spin just once, and Durant only won because OJ had burned himself out on actual HORSE shots as opposed to run-of-the-mill threes.”

Durant talks with Dime: On his game plan for H-O-R-S-E: “I haven’t thought of any trick shots yet. I know for sure I’ma shoot a couple deep ones, maybe some behind-the-backboard stuff. We play (H-O-R-S-E) after practice all the time. The only difference is the cameras will be on this time.” On hitting his stride as a top-flight scorer in the League: “I think that I’m trying to establish myself as more than a scorer, but an all-around player, a guy that can get his teammates involved, a guy that can get rebounds. I’d like to make that my identity as a player.”

Awful Announcing: “The Rookie Challenge and Youth Game is just about the most boring game on the planet, but this year’s contest was actually a bit entertaining. There were less terrible alley-oop attempts, an actual semblance of plays being run, and one Kevin Wayne Durant. Not only is the kid having a ridiculous season (25.6 ppg, 6.7 reb, 2.8 assts), but he set a Rookie-Sophmore record with 46 points tonight. Not only did he beat the previous record, but he crushed it by ten points (Amare Stoudamire – 36). Just an amazing kid, and he’s now on the “must watch” list with Lebron, Kobe, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. At least that’s my list at the moment.”

Deadspin liked the HORSE trophy: “So, that’s what Kevin Durant received for his troubles yesterday. Yes, it’s a miniature horse inside a hastily-assembled plastic box. You got a problem with that?After bombing in enough long distance daggers, Durant’s competition — OJ Mayo and Joe Johnson — wilted away, making KD the winner of the first ever All-Star H-O-R-S-E event. Here’s to hoping that, no matter how popular this event ever becomes, they never change the trophy.”

Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley to HoopsWorld: “Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley had been waiting for that moment since they were kids – the chance to equally shine on the same court in the NBA. Friday night in Phoenix at the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam, neither the sophomore Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder nor the Miami HEAT rookie Beasley disappointed. Durant won MVP honors by finishing with a record-breaking 46 points. Beasley led all rookies with 29 points. Once again they were on opposing teams, but throughout the night they lived the same dream.  “Coming out of our area not too many guys get this opportunity, so coming in we told each other we wanted to stick together along with the other guys in the area – just make a bond,” Durant said about his long-time relationship with Beasley. “I think we are doing that right now.”

 And since pitchers and catchers reported this weekend, how about a little baseball love. You’ve got to check out this picture. It’s maybe the best picture ever.

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