Tag:Russell Westbrook
Posted on: March 28, 2011 8:22 am
Edited on: March 28, 2011 8:24 am
 

Shootaround 3.28.11: Miami's Big 3 makes history

The Miami Heat's Big 3 make history, the Los Angeles Lakers could take a big financial hit, Russell Westbrook went big, the Portland Trail Blazers contemplate change and the New York Knicks make changes to their schedule. Posted by Ben Golliver. shootaround
  • The New York Times reports that the struggling Knicks are trying everything -- including making changes to their schedule's standard operating procedures -- to try to turn things around. 
  • The L.A. Times reports that Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom sounds kind of excited about potentially winning the NBA's Sixth Man Award. "It would be a great accomplishment," he said. "I never would have seen myself four or five years ago coming off the bench."
  • Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook was huge -- absolutely huge -- in a Sunday night win over the Portland Trail Blazers, sticking a three-pointer to ice it in the game's closing minutes. His coach Scott Brooks' take, according to The Oklahoman: “They were big shots. I'm not going to sit up here and say they were great shots, but they were big shots.”
  • ESPNLA.com says the Lakers could lose roughly 10% of their reported $3 billion cable TV deal if the Sacramento Kings move to Anaheim.
  • NetsDaily.com interviews Dmitry Razumov, "indispensable man" to New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. "I’ve closed many deals during my career," Razumov tells NetsDaily. "My proudest moments with the Nets so far have been when we closed the deal and the Deron trade." 
Posted on: March 12, 2011 1:17 am
Edited on: March 12, 2011 1:28 am
 

Russell Westbrook joins elite stats club

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook joins an elite club of NBA players who accumulated points, rebounds and assists early in their career. Posted by Ben Golliver. russell-westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is one of the most intriguing players in the NBA because Kevin Durant's presence makes it so easy to overlook him, at least until you watch him play. When that happens, Westbrook inevitably leaves you speechless. I've gone through this process at least 15 or 20 times and yet his name still doesn't come to mind immediately during the "elite point guards" discussion, as he gets left behind guys like Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and others.

The craziest thing about the fact that Westbrook is still overlooked is that he's been doing it for awhile -- a long while -- already. On Friday night, Westbrook joined an elite statistics club alongside some of the biggest names to ever play the game.
Westbrook added 13 points and 11 assists, becoming the fifth player in NBA history to reach 4,000 points, 1,500 assists and 1,000 rebounds during his first three years in the league. The others are Chris Paul, LeBron James, Anfernee Hardaway and Oscar Robertson.
Surveying this list, you see some of the most complete players of the modern era. In James and Paul you have arguably the two best all-around players currently playing in the NBA, in Oscar Robertson you have arguably the best all-around player of all time and in Anfernee Hardaway you have probably the single biggest case of "What could have been if not for injuries" over the last 20 years. Early Penny was just ridiculous; No one could match up with him. 

So how did Westbrook get here? A combination of a few very important factors.

First, it speaks to how much trust was placed in him immediately upon his entry into the NBA. This is a guy who was averaging 32.5 minutes as a 20 year-old-rookie point guard, a feat not often seen, especially these days when coaches are so often afraid to play young players so as not to risk their own jobs. 

Second, it says a lot about his durability: Westbrook didn't miss a single game in either of his first two seasons and hasn't yet missed a game due to injury this season. That's 228 straight games and counting.

But Westbrook hasn't just had the opportunity to play and good luck with health, though. He's also been insanely productive, improving his points per game and assists per game each year that he's been in the league, and being a steady, rock solid rebounder since Day One. His unique skillset -- an insane vertical leap, an explosive first step, a natural ability to put the ball in the basket -- coupled with Durant's presence as a knockdown shooter and all-around scorer have combined to make the three-category accumulation possible. His 22.4 points, 8.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game this season are at video game status.

Three years in, Westbrook stands as a textbook example of how things can go right, and go right quickly, for a young floor general to whom much responsibility is given. He has learned to deal with issues with turnovers and helped turn Durant into the game's single best scorer, he's continued to hit the boards night in and night out and he's improved his vision and decision-making.

Extrapolating Westbrook's statistical progress and accounting for his team's ability to make the post-season and the fact that he earned his first trip to the All-Star Game this season at the age of 22, the sky is quite literally the limit. There's no other way to put this: he's on the Hall of Fame track.
Posted on: March 7, 2011 5:52 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 5:53 pm
 

Eye on the MVP: Who's still in the running?

Posted by Royce Young



We've all been talking about the MVP, well, since before the season even started. We're fascinated by it. Winning the award is something that places you with the legends.

And with two-time winner LeBron James taking his talents south to join forces with Dwyane Wade, most felt like for the first time in a few years, the trophy has opened up to the field.

There's a little more than a month to go before the NBA regular season closes its doors and while teams are battling for playoff position (or ping-pong balls), there's also a pretty good skirmish going on for the MVP. Most would agree it's kind of narrowing down to a three-man race, but I see it as five that still have a shot at winning the award. Here's what each needs to do to maybe get his name etched on the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.

Derrick Rose:
He's already jumped the biggest hurdle. He has everyone buzzing about his candidacy. National talking heads bring his name up first in most every discussion and he's near the top of every list. Rose asked before the season why he couldn't be the MVP and it appears that he's answering his own question: He can be.

Rose has the leg up on the competition because he plays in an extremely visible market for a traditional power that's winning. He's carried a wounded Bulls team to Eastern contention and has put up sexy stats to go with it. He's missing a couple signature moments though, as the Bulls tend to win close games more on the defensive end than by Rose taking over. For instance, against Miami, while he had some big buckets in the fourth, he almost gave the game away with a bad backcourt turnover and an airball. The Bulls won anyway, so we forgot about it. But Rose needs a moment or two.

In the end though, I think he'll win this award if the Bulls just keep winning. If they can push all the way to 60 wins, the award is entirely Rose's. But if they can at least overtake the Heat, it'll be hard to rule against him.

Dwight Howard:
You can't deny Howard's numbers. They are, well, insane . Look at the path of destruction he left in February: 27 points and 14 rebounds per game on almost 70 percent shooting. And he's picked right up from there so far in March.

But playing a position where it's tough to win, plus the increasing issue of his technical problem, Howard isn't going to win this award unless the Magic make a run. He's picking up steam and people are taking notice of what he's meant to a jumbled Magic roster. But finishing fourth or fifth in the East probably isn't going to get it done when Rose's Bulls are pushing for the top seed.

The Magic need to finish really well behind the strength of Howard. If that happens and Orlando gets to third in the East, he could absolutely sneak in and steal the MVP. But Howard's not winning unless his Magic overtake Rose's Bulls.

LeBron James: All we are thinking about right now with LeBron is failure. We're thinking about the shots he's missed in crunch time, how he's come up short in big moments so far for the Heat. His numbers are pretty much as good as ever and with the way the Cavaliers have tanked without him, his perceived value is pretty much at an all-time high.

But if he's going to take a third straight MVP, he's got to come up with some big plays over the next month. The Heat are going to finish with a nice record and their share of wins. LeBron will have eye-popping stats as always. But to separate himself in terms of value, he has to become The Guy That Wins Games. Right now, people associate him with missing big shots or with coming up short.

His team isn't beating the good teams and he's accepted responsibility for that. He can still win this thing because he's freaking LeBron James (don't forget that, but in order to do it, he's going to have to win back a lot of doubters.

Dirk Nowitzki: In terms of pure resume, nobody has a better one. He's been awesome this year. His team has been awesome. Without him, they lost, a lot. I think with those three things, Dirk meets the incredibly vague MVP criteria as good as anyone.

Dirk has one MVP to his name so it's not like he's some long shot, unsexy pick here. He's one of the league's elite scorers and leaders. He means as much to that Mavericks team as anyone else on any roster. He's not a highlight factory. He doesn't finish above the rim. His defense doesn't catch your eye. But he hits big shots, comes up in big moments and his team just wins, with him at the center of it.

It doesn't feel like Dirk is going to win this thing because the buzz doesn't appear to be there, but don't ignore him. He needs some big time box scores and some big moments to grab attention because just winning and playing well doesn't seem to be doing it.

Kevin Durant:
The preseason favorite and as a result, he was cursed by high expectations. Everyone loved him to win this award and while he definitely had the needed hype, he also had the burden of expectation. People figured he would just build on last season's awesome campaign by following up with an even better 2010-11. The reality is, his team is better, they're going to win their division, probably finish fourth in the West (or higher) and he has pretty similar numbers to last year, where he finished as the runner-up to LeBron.

It's not Durant's fault that you penciled him in for 35 points per game this year. He's still having a terrific year and is going to win his second straight scoring title, all while his team improved and is a real contender in the incredibly tough Western Conference.

If he's going to get his name to the top of the list though, he has to finish strong. He needs a couple massive efforts, some late game heroics and for good measure, it'd be nice if the Thunder could get on a roll and take over third in the West. Durant's a big of a long shot right now, but he definitely has the chops to get there.

FOUR DARKHORSES

These four won't win, but they deserve a mention:

LaMarcus Aldridge: A player that elevates his game when the franchise player goes down for an extended period and therefore, his team wins more? I think that qualifies someone for MVP consideration. After Brandon Roy had his knees scoped, Aldridge cranked his game to another level. If the Blazers could rip of a good streak and get into the top four of the West, I'd be inclined to give him my imaginary vote.

Manu Ginobili: He's having one of his very best seasons for the best team in the league. When you look at the Spurs roster, it's hard to locate an MVP because nobody's numbers pop out. But Ginobili has been awesome for them.

Zach Randolph:
The Grizzlies are rising, and this is without Rudy Gay. The reason? Zach Randolph has been spectacular. He's averaging 20.3 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. If his name was Blake Griffin and he jumped over compact cars, we'd all be freaking out about everything he did. Don't short Randolph just because of his market and because of his style.

Russell Westbrook: Look at his numbers compared to Derrick Rose. Westbrook's are actually a bit better. Yes, he plays with Durant, but LeBron plays with Wade and that's not hurting things. Hey, I'm just sayin'.
Posted on: March 7, 2011 2:11 pm
 

Kevin Love was recruited hard in Los Angeles

Posted by Royce Young

If you paid any attention to the Twitter accounts of Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, James Harden or Russell Westbrook during All-Star Weekend, you noticed a theme. They were always together.

Westbrook of course is already good friends with Love, having played with him at UCLA. But it was obvious that Love bonded well with the Thunder guys, as he was pretty much with them everywhere. They sat together, arrived together, ate together and in general, were all best friends the entire weekend. It got a lot of people talking and thinking, especially after the comment Love made after the World Championships .

And via David Aldridge’s column for NBA.com , Love says Thunder players recruited him pretty good in Los Angeles:

Love, who’ll be a restricted free agent in ’12 if he doesn’t sign an extension with Minnesota (OKC’s Westbrook is in a similar situation) got recruiting pitches from everyone during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.

“A lot of it was (about) OKC,” Love said. “A lot of it was a few other teams that just need that one more guy. And a lot of it was circulating around the Lakers, ’cause we were out there as well. There was a lot of pressure and a lot of questions were circulating, and I almost felt like, ‘Damn, I have to take a step back and, not assess the situation, but kind of look at things from a broad horizon.’

“As far as right now, I love the city of Minneapolis. I like Minnesota as a state. I love the people here. Our team is very young. We have a lot of stuff going for us when you look past the win column. I think I just have to look at that come contract time.”

Tampering? Eh, in this world of the NBA, it’s hard to see how tampering even exists anymore. Players talk, they joke, they text. You can’t really stop this sort of thing unless you just cut off all communication between players on opposing teams.

It's funny how we all just assume Love will turn down an extension from the Wolves this summer. Yes, the franchise is kind of in a weird place and seems to be stuck in a permanent state of rebuilding, but when's the last time a player turned down a third-year max offer extension? Never? Love may not love the way the Wolves are going, but that doesn't mean he's just going to take off.

Having said that, let's speculate.

The Lakers kind of make a little sense. It would take some shuffling around by general manager Mitch Kuchak, but by 2012, the Lakers are going to be in the market for some fresh superstar blood. Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom could both be off the books by then, making way for UCLA product Love to come back to L.A. Who knows, maybe Westbrook would complete the reunion and join him there.

More than likely, it’s nothing more than a dream for it to happen for Oklahoma City, though something feels like Love kind of wants to play with Durant and Westbrook. With Westbrook’s extension coming and the Thunder committing to Kendrick Perkins long-term, then Serge Ibaka and James Harden’s situations, plus the new CBA that could roll back salaries and create a hard cap, it’s hard to see how the Thunder could possibly have room for Love.

Still, it’s pretty fun to think about. For both sides too.

Posted on: February 20, 2011 1:47 am
Edited on: February 20, 2011 1:55 am
 

Chris Paul's embarrassing All-Star moment

Chris Paul misses layup to open Skills Competition performance. Fails miserably.

Posted by Matt Moore


Chris Paul was the favorite. He wasn't even voted into the Skills Challenge. He was just entered. But during a stretch where his team is struggling and the fans are starting to wonder about his play , even All-Star Weekend didn't afford him a break from the tough going. Paul took off for the Skills Challenge first round, and ... well ... take a look. 




Oh, Chris. 

Paul was, naturally, eliminated in the first round while Stephen Curry breezed to an easy victory over Russell Westbrook in the second round.  But for CP3, the concern is probably going to be greater Saturday night at the round of parties and tomorrow in the Western Conference All-Star locker rooms when everyone starts cracking up at a blown layup right off the bat. 

It's almost as if Paul wasn't giving his all, or something. 
Posted on: February 17, 2011 11:29 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Derrick Rose makes a statement against Spurs

Derrick Rose takes over to beat Spurs with 42 points and 8 assists. What is it that makes him not only so good, but different from the other elite point guards?
Posted by Matt Moore

When Derrick Rose said that this game was a "statement" game, he apparently had more than one thing he wanted to make a statement about. 

"The Bulls are good enough to beat the Spurs." Check. 

"The Bulls are a legit Eastern Conference contender." Check.

"The Bulls will rise to the challenge when facing the great teams." Check.

"Derrick Rose is an MVP candidate." Check.

The Chicago Bulls have improved in a lot of ways this season, particularly defensively. They're a more complete team, have better perimeter scoring, better interior defense, a legit post presence in Carlos Boozer, and a better knowledge of how to execute in key situations. But Thursday night the biggest reason for their improvement was clear: Rose. Rose dropped 18-28 from the field, lobbed 8 assists, grabbed 5 rebounds and had but one turnover against the Spurs, a virtuoso performance which encapsulated his best attributes. 

There are so many great point guards in this league and everyone has their own favorite. Recently Royce Young argued that Chris Paul was still rule of the roost, but that Rose was on his way. However, tonight's performance served as an excellent example of what makes Rose so transcendent. He's blessed with a point guard's skills and a small forward's ability. His scoring ability is elite, there's no question of that now. Typcially this season, Rose's three-point shot has been on and his mid-range jumper has struggled. Against the Spurs it was the opposite, as he went 0-4 from the perimeter but nailed all but two of 13 jumpers inside the arc. That range forces the defense to step up, at which point, said defense is ruined, along with said defense's mother, face, and hope for the future. Rose showcased a floater that is as good as any player in the league, often off jump-stops or pump fakes, creating and-one opportunities. 

Rose's eight assists, though, don't come like Rajon Rondo's twisting, turning exploitations, or Chris Paul's seamless extensions of the offense like it was a part of him. Instead, Rose continually finds assists where there are seemingly none to be found. He is often credited with things described as "winning plays" and "big-time plays." In reality, this is a reflection of his ability to convert on low-percentage situations.  Against the Spurs, Rose swung passes over triple-teams from defenders trying to stop the gushing wound caused by Rose's dribble penetration. The result are wide open threes. Whereas Rondo and even Paul to an extent, create scoring opportunities with the threat of their passing ability, Rose creates passing abilities through the onslaught of his offensive repertoire. Essentially, he gouges you until you try and protect the wound, then he hurts you where you're revealed yourself. 

For the Spurs, it's a downer going into the All-Star break, especially because of the defensive implications. For a while Gregg Popovich has been harping on the defense, and in a situation against an amped opponent who was willing to work even on the last game before the vacation, they found those problems amplified. The Spurs are a fantastic team with just ten losses. But if they don't improve their defensive ability, it will all be for naught. 

And for Chicago? Luol Deng played great. Carlos Boozer was solid when he wasn't getting blocked by Tim Duncan, and the Bulls' wings did a nice job on Manu Ginobili. But the statement in reality is fairly simple. 

Derrick Rose hasn't just arrived. He's taking the next step, and that's what should leave the rest of the league petrified. 
Posted on: February 17, 2011 7:53 pm
 

Rose, Curry, Wall, Westbrook join CP3 in Skills

Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, John Wall, Russell Westbrook voted to challenge Chris Paul in Skills Competition. But is Rose the favorite over even Chris Paul?
Posted by Matt Moore




The fans have spoken, and they've spoken for the young guys. 

The NBA announced Thursday night that Derrick Rose, John Wall, Stephen Curry, and Russell Westbrook have been voted in to join Chris Paul in the Taco-Bell Skills Competition on NBA All-Star Weekend Saturday Night.  The crew represents a young field of challengers, with Curry the oldest at 22 (by only about a few months over Rose and Westbrook, also 22), and Wall the youngest at 20.  

When we broke down the odds on these guys winning, we just about nailed it, factoring in Tyreke Evans' foot injury which will keep him out of this weekend's action, and putting aside our irrational love of Tony Parker as a spoil sport for the high flying kiddos. 

Given Chris Paul's recent struggles which may or may not be injury related you have to think Rose is the favorite here. That's odd to think about considering how he's probably the least "point guard"-esque of the star guards in this league. Stephen Curry is likely the sexy sleeper pick and John Wall the underdog because of his three point shooting (31% from the arc). The fans did right in this one, stacking the competition with young, charismatic guys they want to see instead of rewarding veterans for their history of excellence. 

After all, that's what Sunday's for. Isn't that right, Mr. Aldridge? 
Posted on: February 3, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 7:02 pm
 

NBA All-Star Reserves: West and East rosters

A constantly updated list of the 2011 NBA All-Star reserves. Posted by Matt Moore and Ben Golliver.

As the NBA All-Star reserves are inevitably leaked in advance of the 7 p.m. ET announcement, we'll have updates for you. The full rosters have now been announced.

Update 7:00 p.m. EST: Yao Ming's Replacement

Finally, Yahoo! Sports also notes that Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash is the favorite to replace Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, who is injured. 

Update 6:49 p.m. EST: Western Conference Reserves

Yahoo! Sports reports the following players have been named to the Western Conference All-Star team as reserves: 

Update 6:45 p.m. EST: Eastern Conference Reserves

Yahoo! Sports reports the following players have been named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team as reservers: 

Update 6:05 p.m. EST: Kevin Garnett

Like Gasol, we found that Garnett has a page built, along with previously leaked Rajon Rondo. 

Garnett will make it at least two Celtics reserves, with more on the way most likely. Garnett's been playing at a near MVP level with the impact he has on both sides of the floor. He's been his usual dominant, crazy self on defense, and his inside post moves have returned in addition to his mid-range jumper on the pick and pop. He's arguably the biggest reason the Celts have laid waste to the league this season. 

No other prospective reserves have such pages built, as of yet. These definitely don't confirm that they've been selected as All-Stars, but considering the three posted now are locks, they look pretty legit. We'll keep you posted. 

Update 6:01 p.m. EST: Pau Gasol


Someone is either running live screen tests or they jumped the gun. Hoopshype discovered that Pau Gasol has a page built for him as an All-Star. 

Gasol's a no-brainer, as he's arguably the best player on the Lakers, and that's saying something considering, you know, Kobe Bryant. Either way he's the biggest reason for the Lakers' past two championships outside Bryant, and is widely considered to be the best active big man in the game. Odds are good he might wind up replacing Yao Ming as a starter at center, despite his power forward designation.

Rajon Rondo


Yahoo! Sports reports that Rondo will be named an All-Star Reserve. The word you're looking for is ... "duh."  Rondo leads the league in assists per game and Assist Ratio (percentage of possessions ending in an assist). He's the starting point guard for the best team in the Eastern Conference and he does things like this:



Whether the Celtics send three or four , we all agreed, Rondo needs to go. He's the obvious choice. 
 
 
 
 
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