Thursday Bolts – Today Is Next Year… Edition

I realize Russell Westbrook dropped in a lot of people’s eyes in the rookie race recently. If I had a vote (and I do in thunderbolt2311our “blogger” awards) I’d go Derrick Rose, Russell, Brook Lopez in that order. David Thorpe’s has had Westbrook as high as one for most of the season in his rankings and consistently in the top three. Well his final rankings came out and Westbrook is at SEVEN, behind guys like Michael Beasely, Marc Gasol and Kevin Love. What the heck?

Darnell has a clarification on Russell’s “non-committal” stance on Scott Brooks: “Speaking of Brooks, allow me to clear up something from Wednesday’s editions of The Oklahoman. Russell Westbrook was not and is not opposed to Brooks. He was simply saying that the decision was not up to him and never gave a firm answer one way or the other. But I know for a fact that Westbrook enjoys Brooks as a person and as a coach. In fact, while I was interviewing Brooks before the game, Westbrook gave his coach a hard five as he walked by.”

Well this was just unneccesay. Jason Quick of the Oregonian blasts Oklahoma City: “About the only good thing about covering a game in Oklahoma City is that the hotel I stay at is literally 20 feet from the Ford Center. Other than that, it’s easily No. 29 on the NBA tour of cities, even worse than Sacramento and Milwaukee. One reason why? When I arrived here with Oregonian photographer Bruce Ely (second roadie of the year for Bruuuce!), it was about 9:30 p.m. and we were starved. The downtown here might as well have had tumbleweeds blowing through it, but they do have what could pass as a lively section called “Bricktown” – which was within walking distance … OKC blows.” Cool.

BDL behind the box score: “This game was almost like the Steve Francis trade. Not the Vancouver-trade, or the one that sent him to Orlando. It was, instead, like the deal that sent him to New York for Trevor Ariza and Penny Hardaway’s expiring contract? Why? Because it was like a bad Bill Simmons joke, come true. That’s not a shot at Simmons, the dude is hilarious, but every so often he (or any of us other wonks) will toss in an aside the runs along the lines of, “what’s next, is Isiah going to trade for Steve Francis?” And then Isiah does it. What’s next? Are the Clippers going to lose, at home, to the Oklahoma City Thunder by 41 points? Will Baron Davis have more turnovers than assists? Will Marcus Camby give up a tip-dunk because he forgot that the Thunder were only shooting one free throw at the end of an and-one? Will Shaun Livingston return to bring the game’s best highlight, an alley-oop dunk on the same rim he crumpled underneath back in 2006? Will Earl Watson (16 and 14 assists) play like Steve Nash? Will the season end, now? For the Clippers, thankfully, yes. Special shoutout to Eric Gordon (22 points on 15 shots), who cares, and plays damn well.  For the Thunder? Sadly, yes. I’m going to miss that team, too. And I have a sneaking suspicion that, once Monday rolls around, they wouldn’t mind having a scheduled game that night to play. Next year, perhaps.”

HoopsWorld: “A big part of being an offensive threat in the NBA is turning the corner from just being a player who can beat his man and put the ball in the basket to becoming a player who is going to provide the best opportunity for his team to win the game – even if that means giving the ball up to a teammate with a better look. This is what Brooks is getting at, and he’s not alone in thinking Durant is developing this crucial skill.

Westbrook finishes No. 3 in SI’s rookie rankings: “Westbrook’s on-the-job training at the point hasn’t always been pretty. But the do-everything playmaker is averaging 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.4 steals — and has made Thunder general manager Sam Presti look awfully shrewd after reaching for him with the No. 4 pick. Westbrook’s high-charged performances have ranged from transcendent (31 points and 11 assists at Golden State on Feb. 21) to maddening (10 points and nine turnovers against the Bobcats on Friday), but coach Scott Brooks is confident Westbrook will be more consistent in his sophomore season by trimming his NBA-high 272 turnovers (he’s tied with Dwyane Wade in this department). “Russell has the ability to improve a lot,” Brooks told The Oklahoman. “He has a lot of athletic ability. He has a lot of talent. He works extremely hard. And the thing that I see is he understands and he knows that he needs to get better.”

Rick Kamla of NBA.com looks at the Thunder prospects for next year:

SLAM says OKC did “the right thing” by removing the interim tag: “It’s always a beautiful thing when the “Interim” prefix is removed from a deserving coach’s title: “‘We are excited to have a head coach in Scott Brooks who believes in our philosophies and consistently leads with those values,’ Presti said. ‘He has a passion to help our players develop, continue to foster accountability and selfless play and has the ability to communicate with every player on our roster.'”

Dime has Russell on its All-Rookie team.

The article Brian Davis was referring to about the All-Rambis team: “Collison has played 70 games this season despite broken fingers on both hands. He is often seen diving on the floor for loose balls. He also rebounds, bangs and rarely takes a poor shot (56.6% field goal shooting).”

ClipperBlog recaps and specifically looks at Shaun Livingston. Per usual, really great information here from Kevin Arnovitz: “Off DJ White’s block of Chris Kaman’s layup attempt, the Thunder go the other way. Watson pushes it up. Livingston runs the left sideline. As he glides over the arc, he signals to Watson. Livingston runs a basket cut simultaneous to Watson’s perfect lob pass. Livingston leaps, clears the rim by a good foot, and slams the ball down through the iron. By any player in any circumstance, it’s a highlight dunk. For Shaun, I imagine it’s also an anthem … Shaun is the only person who truly understands his physical limitations, and it’s likely he doesn’t completely trust his impressions of what he can and can’t do. Whether he can become an impact NBA player is uncertain. The irony is that Shaun appeared more confident on the floor tonight than he did during most of his tenure as a teenager in Los Angeles.”

Hardwood P is going to miss Russell Westbrook’s… face.

As was pointed out in the comments, Russell finished with 399 rebounds. Here’s what that cost him: “Westbrook will enter Wednesday season finale at the Los Angeles Clippers needing just six rebounds to become only the fourth rookie in NBA history to record at least 1,200 points, 400 rebounds and 400 assits. The other rookies to do so? Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and Alvin Adams.” Dang. One more stinking rebound. Let’s watch the tape and see if we can find one in there he didn’t get credit for.

A great feature about that “superfan” that takes off all the t-shirts: “The red digital clock in the basement of the Oklahoma City Ford Center reads 31 minutes and counting until the tipoff between the hometown Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, and Cameron Hughes stands alone in front of a locker-room mirror, warming up. He grips the sides of the white porcelain sink to brace himself, lurches forward, and contorts his face into a furious scream—all without making a sound. Then he grabs a white T-shirt with his right hand and twirls it dramatically over his head, again with a kind of silent pantomime. And just like that, as if a director had just yelled “Cut!” from somewhere on the periphery, Hughes drops the act and ambles over to an empty locker stall where he sits down, cracks open a can of Red Bull, then fishes through an overstuffed black duffel bag and quietly begins to wrap his ankles with a thick roll of white tape.”

And not that it matters a whole heck of a lot, but the AP’s recap of last night’s game kept refferring to Oklahoma City as “Oklahoma.” I don’t know, just kind of bothered me: “Oklahoma dominated Los Angeles on the boards 49-32 and penetrated the lanes. The Thunder went on a 16-4 run late in the third period to build an insurmountable lead and rookie Russell Westbrook had two highlight-reel dunks — one off an alley-oop pass and the other on a drive — to make it 90-57 with less than two minutes remaining.”

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