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Tag:Russell Westbrook
Posted on: October 30, 2010 2:08 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2010 2:09 pm
 

What Tony Parker's extension means for the Spurs

Posted by Royce Young

After a summer of wondering if he'd go elsewhere - specifically New York - Tony Parker is staying in San Antonio. The deal is for four years and close to $50 million, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

For whatever reason, whether it be George Hill's rise or some injuries that kept Parker out last season, people seemed to think Parker was dispensable. Another funny thing is that people seem to think he's older. In reality, he's just 28 and with a four-year deal, will be with the Spurs through the prime of his career.

The Spurs Big 3 though of Manu Ginobili, Parker and Tim Duncan is now staying together for at least one more season. Ginobili is in San Antonio until 2013, but Duncan can opt out next season. It's somewhat unlikely that he will, but there's a possibility that it happens. But after the trade rumors that bounced around for Parker, it's clear he's not going anywhere.

Hill is signed through 2012, but clearly he's not staying with the Spurs, unless he plans on moving to shooting guard. Hill is a starter in the making and will likely demand a contract over the Spurs head when he's up. It's not impossible to keep both but like I said, it would probably require Hill moving positions and cracking the starting lineup, therefore getting starter money.

A question is though, can Parker assume the role as the front man for the Spurs? Consider his numbers over the past couple seasons: consistently around 18 ppg and around 6.0 apg. But as one of the "younger" pieces on this roster, he's likely going to be part of some transition. Gregg Popovich is trying to get his team to play faster and that suits Parker's abilities. But how will a future roster fill in around him? The key with any good point guard is the players around him. And if Parker's running mates move on somewhere else and he's only left with Matt Bonner, James Anderson and DeJuan Blair he probably isn't enough on his own to get things done.

Somehow, San Antonio continues to push forward with good teams despite everyone waiting for a down year. In retrospect, it's kind of funny that people thought the Spurs would move Parker. Unless Parker really wanted a change of scenery or was thinking he could get more somewhere else, the San Antonio formula is to sign Parker to a multi-year and make sure he's part of the core for years to come. Other teams have started to adopt that same model, most notably Oklahoma City. The Thunder locked up Kevin Durant already, but with Jeff Green's contract issue yet to be resolved and Russell Westbrook up for an extension next summer, OKC will have to figure it out.

I think part of the key is finding guys that are willing to be part of a process and aren't necessarily looking for brighter lights. Again, Parker could've looked elsewhere. I'm sure there was a draw to New York and playing in Mike D'Antoni's system. But it's almost like if you're a part of this Spurs team, you understand you're not going anywhere. There's a real culture there that just keeps things together. it starts with Duncan and Ginobili, but obviously the torch is in the process of being moved to Parker.

The fact San Antonio inked Parker should come as no surprise. R.C. Buford is all about keeping the pieces together. It's been what's kept the Spurs as one of the league's best teams for over a decade now and it's what will keep them good while Parker plays out this extension. The worry is after next year when Duncan can move on. I guess all San Antonio needs to do is find another Tim Duncan. That shouldn't be too hard, right?
Posted on: October 28, 2010 12:03 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2010 12:28 pm
 

Young, smart and hungry: Westbrook leads Thunder

The Thunder are young, but don't overlook the smart, efficient way they play and how that helped them to a big opening night win over the Bulls on Wednesday.
Posted by Matt Moore


Kids these days. One minute they're struggling to win games against bottom-feeders and the next they're rolling out a huge win in front of a raucous crowd with a combination of stout defense and efficient offense. If there was any question about whether the Oklahoma City Thunder were really grown up; last night they answered that question with finality in their 106-95 win over the Bulls. It wasn't just the win over a tough, gritty, talented Bulls team that even without Carlos Boozer is loaded with talent and expected to contend in the East, it was the way they did it. And that started with Russell Westbrook.

While Kevin Durant led the team with 30 points, as he will nearly every single night, he did it on just 9-of-24 shooting. On the other side of the aisle, the Bulls' leading superstar, Derrick Rose, was even less efficient, launching 31 shots with only 12 makes. That's 39% for a player who was expected to have a much-improved jumper. For Westbrook? Try 28 points on 8-of-15 shooting and 12 of 13 from the stripe. Throw in 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and a block (and an acceptable three turnovers considering his usage)? You've got a masterful performance that should put Westbrook in the talks of the elite point guards in the league.

Westbrook wasn't just blinding with his speed, he was patient and deliberate when the situation called for it. It's been this progression since his rookie season two years ago that has brought him to stardom. Well, that and his insane athleticism and uncanny ability to both see the floor and attack opportunities to get his own buckets. It's the complete nature of his game, including his spacing defensively and intensity that makes him so dangerous ... and at such a young age (Westbrook turns 22 next month).

Coach Scott Brooks spoke strongly about Westbrook's performance after the game (as told to CBSSports.com's Royce Young): “I hoped we would start making some shots and we did, but I thought Russell did a great job of leading us, controlling the game, picking his spots and figuring out where they needed the ball. He filled up the stat sheet and that’s what we like about Russell. He’s not a one-dimensional player.”

But of course, Westbrook, forever the second fiddle to Durant, will be looked over. Just as some will continue to look over the Thunder, even as conversely the hype continues to grow and they thrive as one of the most fun teams in the league. Don't believe me? Watch the Thunder in transition. According to Synergy Sports, the Thunder were 10 of 13 in transition last night, getting points 78% of the time. It's a high efficiency opportunity but the Thunder took it to its furthest extent. And they were just as good on the other side of the ball.

While Westbrook and company were harassing Rose into a 12-of-31 shooting night, Oklahoma City poured it on defensively across the Bulls. While an 11-point win doesn't look overwhelming, the Thunder held the Bulls to a 96 efficiency (96 points scored per 100 estimated possessions; need to be above 100 to be "good" in this category) while logging a 107 themselves. The Thunder got to the stripe by forcing the issue (47 free throws to only 22 for the Bulls: thanks home-court advantage!), and held the Bulls to 14% shooting from the perimeter.

Those are numbers. In execution, the Thunder were always attacking and then pulsing back on defense. With the Bulls missing Carlos Boozer, there was no need for the frontcourt depth of OKC to rear its head. Coach Scott Brooks only went to a nine-man rotation, and Serge Ibaka was the only real "big" off the bench. Then again, with Ibaka bringing 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 31 minutes, Brooks didn't really need to turn to Cole Aldrich or Byron Mullens (Nick Collison is out with an injury).

For the Bulls, things looked eerily similar to last season. Unable to spread the floor with shooters, Rose was harassed by multiple defenders, Noah a beast but the bench a no-show. Each team shot exactly 45 jumpers, and the Bulls actually had a higher effective field goal percentage (eFG%, weighing 3-point attempts), and were better on the offensive glass. But the Thunder turned transition opportunities into layups and got to the line at will. With the Bulls aiming for long jumpers and a silent 3-point attack, this is the result.

The Thunder are exciting. They've got highlights (like this one , good night, nurse). But they're also very smart, and that starts with Russell Westbrook. They play with emotion but they play with control. And if the Thunder are looking to take the next step in their rise to NBA championship contention, this was a solid first step. Teacher's pets, I suppose.

Posted on: October 28, 2010 11:04 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:12 pm
 

The Game Changer 10.28.10

Blake Griffin impresses in his debut, Russell Westbrook gets way up, Thabo Sefalosha talks block and "The Most Interesting Man in the World" makes a cameo in Los Angeles.
Posted by Ben Golliver

Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.

THE BIG ONE: BLAKE GRIFFIN MASHES IN HIS NBA DEBUT

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin was the Talk of Twitter Wednesday night, charging out of the gate with astonishing energy in the first quarter of his NBA debut, dropping jaws and immediately earning rave reviews from commentators and fans alike.  First things first: if you haven't seen the video of his right-handed alley-oop catch followed by his left-handed putback slam, both of which took place in the game's opening five minutes, then go here right now.  Griffin's energy and fearlessness in his return from a season-ending injury last year stood out most prominently, but his all-around game shouldn't be overlooked. His stat line speaks to his game-changing ability - 20 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, and a steal - and the only downside was that his Clipper teammates and coaching staff apparently forgot he was on the team down the stretch. While he's not yet a finished product, Griffin is by no means raw. He did almost all of his work around the basket tonight, finishing 6-10 on layups and dunks, while shooting 2-4 from outside the immediate basket area. There's a pro and a con to those numbers. The upside? He's attacking the basket relentlessly, both off the dribble and while crashing the offensive boards (he had nine offensive rebounds, and it felt like 29). The downside? Defenses will adjust quickly, daring him to shoot the mid-range jumper, a shot that is in his toolbox but that he didn't look particularly eager to shoot tonight.  Forget the nit-picking, the kid is special, and he set a high standard for his main competition for Rookie of the Year - Washington Wizards point guard John Wall - to match tomorrow night, when he makes his NBA regular season debut. Keep reading for a frame-by-frame look of one of Griffin's prettiest offensive moves, a stunning 360 degree spin move that left the Portland defense flat-footed.

GO-GO-GADGET LINE OF THE NIGHT:

Russell Westbrook:  28 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steal, 1 block, 8-15 shooting Two of Westbrook's 28 points came in spectacular fashion : a must-see coast-to-coast drive and dunk. Honorable mentions go to... Joakim Noah: 18 points, 19 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 7-13 shooting and... Monta Ellis:  46 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 18-24 shooting

DON'T MISS:

Ken Berger was on hand for the Miami Heat's first win of the 2010-2011 season in Philadelphia. He wonders when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will start clicking?

FRAME-BY-FRAME SPIN MOVE ANALYSIS:


OK, back to Blake Griffin.  Below you'll see a frame-by-frame look at a second-quarter spin move Griffin executed against Portland's Dante Cunningham. Let me set the scene a little bit. Frame 1: Griffin received the ball at the elbow with his Clipper teammates standing around in semi-hopeless fashion. With all five Blazer defenders eying him, Griffin slowly took a dribble to his left toward the paint, lulling Cunningham to sleep a little bit. Frame 2: Cunningham, an undersized power forward with good core strength and lateral quickness, trusts his defensive abilities on the perimeter and attempts to body Griffin to force a pass or tough turnaround shot. Rudy Fernandez dives down to make life for Griffin a touch more difficult but he doesn't commit fully, and Griffin is able to continue operating with relative calm. Frame 3: Griffin absorbs the body contact from Cunningham and explodes off of it, rotating nearly 360 degrees towards his strong hand with a reverse pivot and taking a monster gather step towards the basket in the process. The result is as explosive as it looks in the freeze frame: Griffin was in one place and then instantly in another, while Cunningham barely has time to react. Portland's help defenders are similarly stunned, as Brandon Roy stays home on the corner shooter and new Blazers big man, the aging Fabricio Oberto, has no chance to come over from the weak side to help. Frame 4: While Cunningham makes a game effort to recover and contest the shot, Griffin has created a clean look at the rim at close range, and he converts on the move. His quickness into his jump ensures no one will be able to block the shot. As the clock shows, the entire move, including the original dribble, took place in just two seconds.
blake-griffin

WHIMSY:

"The Most Interesting Man in the World" of Dos Equis fame took in the action between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. Seated in front of him appears to be a member of Napoleon Dynamite's extended family. most-interesting-man Video Clip Mania: Oklahoma City guard Thabo Sefalosha talks about how he sent back a Luol Deng shot attempt. Via Royce Young. 

HERO OF THE DAY:

Cleveland needed a hero to ice their huge win. Anthony Parker, with an assist from the clock crew, stepped up and became that hero.

 



CONFETTI AT THE BUZZER

By Matt Moore
  • Russell Westbrook was simply devastating for the Thunder last night, slashing all the way through. He was lethal off in-bounds, off the rebound, and especially in transition. Derrick Rose matched him in points and assists. It was a classic point guard battle, though Westbrook killed Rose in terms of efficiency.
  • Derrick Favors was surprisingly good in limited minutes yesterday. He was active on the glass, that you'd expect, but he got a few buckets off the pick and roll and seemed to work smoothly in it.
  • The Nets got their first win, a month earlier than they did last year.
  • The technical foul issue popped up again in several games. That rule hasn't faded since the start of the season.
  • Monta Ellis was ridiculous, and didn't miss a single shot inside ten feet last night.
  • DeMarcus Cousins was overshadowed by Griffin, but had himself 14 and 8, and oh, yeah, his team won.
  • Utah got blown off the map, not how the Jazz wanted to start what should be a promising season.
  • How about Roy Hibbert in a losing effort last night? 28 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks for the big man. The Pacers need that and against easier competition, Hibbert could be the difference in wins and losses.
  • Terrence Williams is looking more and more like a complete player for the Nets. He had a solid outing last night, including a nice lob to Favors.
  • Andrea Bargnani's offense roared back after a terrible preseason, and he had two solid defensive plays. The problem as always? All the other defensive plays.

Follow F&R on Twitter at @CBSSportsNBA and check out our RSS feed . This has been your daily edition of the Game Changer.

Posted on: October 27, 2010 9:04 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:11 pm
 

Russell Westbrook coast-to-coast dunk

Video of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook throwing down a coast-to-coast dunk against the Chicago Bulls. Posted by Ben Golliver 2010-2011 is the season that Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is expected to make "the leap" into superstardom. During Wednesday's season opener against the Chicago Bulls, Westbrook leaped alright, getting way up for a thunderous dunk after taking the ball nearly the length of the court after corralling a defensive rebound. Here's the video, courtesy of NBARauf on YouTube. Goodness gracious sakes alive!
Posted on: October 19, 2010 1:29 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2010 1:43 pm
 

Trying to explain the odd SI Thunder cover

Posted by Royce Young

When Sports Illustrated leaked its NBA preview issue cover this morning, there were two big surprises: 1) There wasn't a glimpse of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James or Chris Bosh anywhere to be seen on it and 2) it featured Kevin Durant and... Nenad Krstic and Thabo Sefolosha?

Kevin Durant, we all get. No qualms or questions there. But Krstic and Sefolosha? Where's Russell Westbrook, a player whose star is increasing by the day? Or Jeff Green, one of the de facto faces of the franchise? Or even James Harden who is a major part of the Thunder youth movement? Those guys are the obvious candidates, not a guy that's noted for his tough perimeter defense and another that became famous for throwing a chair in someone's face this summer.

But as someone that resides in Oklahoma City and that has followed the Thunder franchise pretty closely since it moved here, I think I have an explanation. Or at least a theory. The Thunder wanted the cover that way.

Obviously Sports Illustrated takes the picture, but the Thunder probably pushed having Sefolosha and Krstic in the picture with KD. Why? Because it just reinforces the philosophy of the franchise. It's not about one guy or even three guys. It's about every player, even down to the training camp invite that's probably not going to make the team.

Every team preaches that idea. But the Thunder lives by it and not just for reasons on the floor. For instance, in my travels in Oklahoma City, I can recall only one, maybe two, major Thunder advertisements featuring Durant. You'd think every single Thunder thing would have his face and his face only all over it. But there are major billboards that have Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor together on it. There's even one with bench scrubs Byron Mullens and D.J. White. In the Thunder's practice facility, there's not any individual pictures or accomplishments to be found. There's one big banner that has a photo of the team in a huddle.

It a culture that's being built by the front office. And while it's good motivation for what happens on the court, it's also a marketing strategy off it.

The Thunder's goal is to not be Oklahoma City's professional sports franchise and something that's entertainment for residents. They aim to be part of the community. I'm not talking about just making school appearances and stuff. I'm talking about like being the local YMCA. These are professional athletes, these are citizens of your city.

One of the reasons they market the team and not individuals is because of long-term planning. Just in the same way Sam Presti has built the Thunder roster through patience and planning, the organization wants to build the fanbase the same way. For an eight-year-old, Kevin Durant won't be here in 15 years when he's thinking about buying season tickets. The Thunder wants to build a brand that appeals to that eight-year-old now and not just market a cool player to look up to. Because players come and go. The organization doesn't. (Well, shouldn't. Don't throw things at me Seattle readers.)

The organization wants to make it cool to be a Thunder fan, not just a Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook fan. Obviously the players are a major part of it, but little things like putting two role playing non-stars on the cover of a major magazine is just something that's not surprising with this organization. It all starts with the stars, but they're not anymore important than the last player on the bench.

It's about brand management for the long haul. Kind of the opposite of what the Heat are doing now. The Heat introduced their new Big 3 together at a huge party, as if they're the only three players on the team. But what happens when their contracts are up and they move on? The Heat are building a brand based off three players, not off the entire Miami Heat team. It's a different approach and one that works for a major market, but for a small community driven market like Oklahoma City, it's always team first, individuals, well, never. 

It helps that the Thunder's star is as bought in to the team concept as the organization. Reportedly, Durant was going to be on the cover by himself but demanded he have a couple teammates on there with them. Maybe he specifically asked for Thabo and Nenad. Maybe that's all that was available. Or maybe the team sent them. Who knows. But this team concept thing helps when the guy that would be getting all the attention defers to the same philosophy as the franchise.

There's a line in an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is talking to George and mentions how silly professional sports kind of are, mentioning that really, we're just rooting for laundry. And it's like the Thunder had made that its mantra. They want their fans to root for the laundry, not the guys wearing it.
Posted on: October 13, 2010 5:20 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2010 5:26 pm
 

The seven teams you should pick for LP Broadband

Posted by Royce Young



If you could pick only seven TV shows to watch , what would they be? Like seven shows, period. Once you picked them, that's what you're watching for the next season of programming. Wouldn't be easy, huh?

Would you go with your favorites? Would go with what's fun to watch ? Or would you go with something informational or important? Questions all that help determine the criteria on your selection.

It's a question die-hard NBA fans have to ask themselves every year when it comes to getting NBA League Pass Broadband. For a little less, you don't get the whole league. Just unfiltered access to seven teams. But the hard part - and kind of the fun part - is figuring out what seven squads you want to have any time you want them. 

Who would I pick? Well I'm glad you asked. Here's my seven choices:

1. Miami Heat - In my crude rating system that I just made up as I was typing this sentence, the Heat pretty much score high in everything. Watchibility . Interesting-ness . Talent on the floor. Importance to the league. And of course the fact they're one of the league's three or four absolutely legit contenders.

I mean, how could you not include the Heat? Even if you hate everything about them down to their weird looking mascot, this is the most intriguing NBA roster well, since I can remember. Because of what's going on in South Beach, the NBA offseason took precedent of Major League Baseball and NFL training camps. Yeah, so it's kind of a big deal.

And how could even think about missing any of it this year? Yes, they will be on national TV a lot. But you're not guaranteed to get every big performance there. What if the biggest Heat story of the year happens some random February night against the Raptors where Dwyane Wade and LeBron both explode for 40? Or in late March, there's a little argument on the bench between LeBron and Bosh? How could you be willing to miss that?

2. Los Angeles Lakers
- Every game the Lakers play, it's an event. Kobe Bryant doesn't have that many games left and how could you give up the chance to watch one of the greatest ever try and win a sixth ring?

What makes the Lakers interesting? It's all in what they are. First, they're the Lakers . They're Hollywood basketball. They're Jack Nicholson sitting courtside , Phil Jackson running the show, Kobe hitting big shots. And Ron Artest doing potentially who knows what night-to-night. It's can't-miss stuff.

Plus, for a lot of teams, playing the Lakers is the biggest game of the month. It's just a little more important and a little bit more meaningful to both the team and its fans if the game's not in L.A. So you can expect packed houses, fired up crowds, pumped up teams and good basketball.

3. Milwaukee Bucks
- You know who I had here originally? The Celtics. And why did I take them off? I don't really know, honestly. Because the Celtics are definitely a good team to have. But I guess I just don't find them all that interesting. They're old, potentially washing up and they're going to have 50 percent of their games on TV anyway.

So instead, I'm going with an upstart team featuring a fun scorer in Brandon Jennings, an emerging center in Andrew Bogut , an underrated forward in Ersan Ilyasova and a dark horse contender in the East.

4. Washington Wizards
- I for one, am fascinated by this team. First, Gilbert Arenas. He's the league's most interesting personality. He makes up stories about being hurt. Like Jerry in the Seinfeld episode George asked him to not be funny, Arenas is touching his dark side and trying to be serious. And like Jerry, he can't not be funny. With that beard, it's impossible to take Arenas completely serious (though he's shaving it off soon).

More than that though, this team is coming off a season full of incredible turmoil, plus it has some of the most erratic personalities in the league. Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee and extremely talented but borderline on the headcase chart. Josh Howard never minces words. Al Thornton is already a little perturbed about his role. And then of course there's John Wall who is supposed to now be the face of the team. Put it all on the court together and you've got an intriguing team to watch .

Plus, any time you can get a good look at one of the future talents in the league as a rookie, it's a must. Don't you wish you could go back and watch LeBron James for 82 games as a rookie? Or Dwyane Wade? Or Kevin Durant? John Wall is almost a guarantee to be great and here's your chance to watch him get started. Here's your chance to watch him evolve and grow. I wouldn't want to miss it.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder - In terms of pure excitement, there probably isn't a more fun team to watch in the league. They're got exceptional athletes. They've got exciting young players. They've got talent. And best of all, they're actually good.

Watching Kevin Durant score is like a Sunday afternoon nap. You're never unsatisfied with what you get. Durant scores in the most boring exciting way possible. It'll be the third quarter and a graphic will flash at the bottom and you'll see a line of 27 points on 10-16 shooting and you'll only remember three of his baskets.

And while Durant scores in the quiet, efficient way, Westbrook scores in the loud, look-over-here way. This team is something you can't miss. Nobody knows how good they can really be and what makes them so fun to watch is that they never take a play off and truly love each other. They play hard and they play together. Nobody is more refreshing.

6. Los Angeles Clippers - Just look at that starting five. It looks pretty good, right? Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Ryan Gomes , Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman - looks nice.

But what makes the Clippers a team I wouldn't want to miss is Griffin. From the small pieces we've gotten in preseason, he's going to provide at least one "WHOA!" moment a night. Whether it's a block, an oop or just a stuff over three defenders, Griffin is always going all out.

Add in the fact that when Davis is locked in, he's as good as any guard out there and the evident emergence of Eric Gordon as a scoring guard and you've got a team that could maybe make some noise. Griffin and Kaman on the inside is as good a looking interior one-two you'll find and the fact they don't get much spotlight in a city that has lights to spare makes them just a little more cool to watch .

The problem with picking the Clippers though is that a month in when two key players are hurt, Baron Davis is already putting on weight and taking quarters off and you realize Vinny Del Negro is the coach, you'll really regret picking them. But it's almost becoming an NBA tradition to be interested in the Clippers in October. The talent is there and they should be fun.

7. Chicago Bulls - The new Bulls era is off to a bit of a rough start with Carlos Boozer breaking his hand because of a gym bag. But this is a team transitioning in a weird way. They're combining their exciting young talent with quality veterans. The Baby Bulls of a few years ago fell apart, but this group is set up to actually compete.

But forget that. Derrick Rose is the only reason you actually need. End to end, he's just about as exciting a player as you're going to get. He just moves differently than other guys. Even a simple thing like a driving layup has another kind of flash, another kind style with Rose.

He may not be there in terms of stepping into the truly elite, but he's a can't-miss player. And with him on a team that's going to be good with players that are also talented, exciting and interesting, the Bulls are definitely a must-watch .

Obviously the two toss-ups on my list are the Clippers and Wizards. Those could be HUGE mistakes come January. Substitute in the Celtics and Magic and you've got a guaranteed solid seven. Or the Spurs and Mavericks. Or the Blazers and Hawks. Or the Jazz and Nuggets.

Or just say screw it and buy the whole League Pass and watch on TV. That's probably a better call. This season is going to just be that good.
Posted on: October 11, 2010 11:51 am
Edited on: October 11, 2010 12:05 pm
 

Kevin Durant is playing all five positions

Posted by Royce Young

Look out, NBA. It's beginning to sound like The Durantula is nearly fully operational.

Kevin Durant has worked hard - very hard - at improving his overall game. He was known as a scorer coming into the league but two years ago, he committed to getting better defensively. And he did. Then this past summer is was about passing and handling the ball. And by all accounts, he's starting to round out.

For instance, last season, Durant played a good amount of power forward as well as his normal small forward and some shooting guard. Over the summer in Turkey, Coach K used Durant some at center. And Friday against the Heat, Durant played all five positions. That's right, from 6'10 small forward to a 6'10 point guard. Scary.

"I think that I have an advantage with my quickness against some (power forwards)," Durant told The Oklahoman. "It's going to be tougher for me on the defensive end because they're stronger and bigger than me... But I just got to make up for being skinny with my heart. And with me being a point guard... I got to try to make the right play. I'm still working on that. I've got to watch more film to try to make the right play. But all I can say is I'm going to try to work on it."

One of the things Sam Presti has worked very hard to do in Oklahoma City is to create a breathing roster, that's flexible and versatile at every position. He wants players that can move and flow within multiple positions. Russell Westbrook can play both guard spots. Jeff Green can play both forwards. Serge Ibaka can play power forward and center. Thabo Sefolosha goes between multiple spots. And Durant can evidently handle all five.

What's the benefit of this for the Thunder? For starters, matchups. How does an opponent go about lining up against a group of Durant, James Harden, Green, Ibaka and Cole Aldrich? Or what about a linuep with Russell Westbrook, Harden, Green, Ibaka, Durant? Or the fact that Scott Brooks could potentially flip Durant from the point to the post on alternating possessions. That makes this Thunder team a tough group to gameplan for.

Of course this isn't a good thing if Durant's not effective. Against the Heat, KD wasn't all that wonderful playing the 5. He's a little light on the muscular fortitude to be completely capable of pushing against Andrew Bynum or Dwight Howard. But still, OKC has that option.

Positionality has been a fun discussion amongst NBA people over the past few seasons. Is there really a need for defined positions? What is a power forward? What really is a point guard? Does it even matter? And with the Thunder, they're just taking that and turning it around. Sure, there are positions. Our guys just happen to play all five of them.
Posted on: October 8, 2010 4:04 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2010 5:50 pm
 

Brooks thinks the Thunder are coming along nicely

Thunder coach expects difficulty in managing frontcourt versatility, praises Westbrook's leadership growth.
Posted by Matt Moore


Scott Brooks simultaneously has an extremely difficult and conveniently easy gig right now. He's got a top club in the NBA's Western Conference, but operating with a young roster in a small market, expectations aren't through the roof. He's got a high volume of frontcourt depth, but he's got to figure out how to manage all the rotations and minutes. And he's got guys that love to play together. There's really no downside to that.

At practice Friday morning before OKC's preseason game versus the Heat, Brooks talked about that frontcourt depth. Cole Aldrich, the eleventh overall pick (acquired in a trade with the Hornets that also netted Mo Peterson) will get the start tonight in KC, less than an hour from KU where he made his bones in college. The Thunder this year have worlds of depth down low, with Aldrich joining Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison (another KU alum), and Nenad Krstic with Byron Mullens mopping up the excess. Brooks says the depth is a good thing to have, but a challenge for the staff.
"I like the depth we've got at all five spots. It makes it challenging for the coach, but it's better. You'd rather have that than have to bleed every minute of the starting five. I feel very confident that our guys off the bench whoever they may be will come in and do well. I like the frontcourt. We've have a lot of different style of players. Serge brings his game, and then on down the line: Cole, Nenad, and Jeff, with Byron and D.J. It's my job to figure out how to mesh it all together."
Brooks also spoke about Russell Westbrook and the leadership skills he took from his work this summer with Team USA:
"Any time you're around a great group of athletes like he was with Team USA, it's going to help your game and your leadership. Coach K's a terrific coach, and you learn something from every coach you have. Russell's leadership skills have improved every year. I think as a point guard you want that. It's hard to lead a team as a rookie. The only one I can remember is Magic. But Russell's done a great job in developing his leadership skills."
Westbrook will get his chances to show the offensive leadership tonight against a Heat team that will start Mario Chalmers (another former Jayhawk) and Mike Miller, filling in for an injured Dywane Wade.
 
 
 
 
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