Thursday Bolts – 12.29.11

John Hollinger names James Harden to his All-Breakout team: “This one feels like stealing because the breakout already mostly happened. Harden before the All-Star break a year ago: 10.3 points, 43 percent shooting; Harden after the All-Star break: 15.8 points, 46.5 percent shooting. A third-year pro who is only 22 years old, Harden could still play more minutes, too; he averaged only 28.6 even in his second-half blow-up a year ago. If he keeps coming off the bench he’s a good bet to win the Sixth Man Award; if he starts his minutes will increase enough that he could win Most Improved.”

Via ESPN Stats and Info on Westbrook’s 0-13 game: “A check of Basketball-Reference.com showed this to be only the fourth time since the 1985-86 season that a team won a game in which it had a player shoot 0-for-13 or worse from the field, the first since David Wesley for the Hornets against the New Jersey Nets in 2001.”

Oh yeah, KD and Russ. Kurt Helin of PBT with a smart take: “It happens, and with the win the two likely will shake hands and move on. But there remains an undercurrent of tension between the two stars of this team that comes out in stressful times, and that should be a concern to Thunder fans and management.”

KD beat out LeBron by two votes in ESPN.com’s Winter Forecast MVP predictions.

I did grades at CBSSports.com for last night’s NBA action and gave OKC a B and Russell Westbrook a D.

One thing to understand about the supposed Westbrook-Durant stuff: It’s not an issue now. But what happens if they stop winning? That’s when things could get scary because of this built-in tension manifested from the media.

Darnell Mayberry with more: “Westbrook and Kevin Durant got into a heated exchange on the bench during a second quarter timeout. It was as fierce as anything I’ve ever seen from the two publicly and the kind of scene that lends credence to the alleged beef between the two. It didn’t appear to have anything AT ALL to do with the rumored rift that so many seemingly wants to be true. But they had to be separated more than once as they lashed out at each other. Fans in the first few rows behind the bench even came to their feet as if a fight was breaking out. The two eventually sat at opposite ends of the five-man unit that was sitting while waiting on Thunder coach Scott Brooks to enter the huddle. But when Durant and Westbrook took the court, Durant walked over and patted Westbrook on the back of the head.”

Here’s the play that supposedly started the Durant-Westbrook altercation with Westbrook very loudly yelling at Thabo to “shoot the f—— ball!” Unfortunately there’s no video of the actual argument.

David Thorpe: “I don’t worry about KD and Westbrook arguing. I worry about Westbrook’s maturation process, it’s slower than it needs to be.”

Doug Gottlieb talking about it. Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.

Tom Ziller of SB Nation: “The problem with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant is that everyone wants there to be a problem with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. We are a society bored without conflict. We demand drama, and not just of the competitive variety. We are a nation and world that loves to watch sports, but there’s no denying that we gravitate toward the operatic. How else do you explain the Miami Heat’s incredible ratings last season? Every writer in the nation (myself included) rushed to note how clinically boring the Heat usually were on the court; from a purely aesthetic view, there were good teams (the bemoaned San Antonio Spurs, the Thunder, the Memphis Grizzlies) that were much more pleasing to the eye. But everyone watched the Heat, no matter how sanitized the play itself was.”

Ricky Rubio: “What u can do against him? KD35 is just incredible.”

Kendrick Perkins calling out Chris Webber: “and im tired of chris webber hatin on me get a ring first and then i can respect ya comments other wise keep my name out of ya mouth.”

From Elias: “Kevin Durant scored 32 points while shooting 10-for-17 from the field in the Thunder’s 98-95 win at Memphis. Durant has now scored at least 30 points and shot better than 50% from the field in all three Oklahoma City games in 2011-2012. Only two other players in the last 30 years have opened a season with three straight 30-point games while making more than half their field-goal attempts in each: Shaquille O’Neal for the Magic in 1993-1994 and Ray Allen for the Bucks in 2001-2002.”

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