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Tag:Kevin Durant
Posted on: December 30, 2011 12:59 am
 

Durant steals Westbrook's thunder again

Posted by Royce Young



OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook had them chanting his name. For about three minutes, he owned Oklahoma City. Chesapeake Energy Arena was all his.

And then Kevin Durant stole his Thunder.

Durant hit a game-winning 3 at the buzzer to lift the Thunder over the Mavericks, 104-102. And while it was a big shot that kept the Thunder undefeated at 4-0, it was also something symbolic for the team.

"I just tried to shoot a good one," Durant said. "I'm just glad I made it, man. I'm glad I made it."

The young Thunder had to endure a tough day of answering questions and hearing about how their two best players reportedly hate each other (or something like that). And with Westbrook struggling again, it looked like we might be headed for another ugly night. But Westbrook bounced back, hitting three of his last four shots and scoring seven of the Thunder's last 12. His first, a breakway and-1 dunk, had the crowd calling his name.

"RUSS-ELL! RUSS-ELL! RUSS-ELL!"

There was a reason for it. These Oklahomans aren't stupid. They know what was going on. A night before, Westbrook went 0-13 from the floor and had a reported altercation with Durant. And he was again stuck in a rut, laboring through another tough night starting 3-9. You could Westbrook was feeling it. He wasn't himself. He wasn't playing with that normal burst of energy or emotion. But the crowd lifted him.

"I've never seen in my 20 years with the NBA what the crowd did tonight," head coach Scott Brooks said. "They knew he was struggling. They watched our game last night and he struggled. When he made the layup and the free throw and the crowd started chanting his name out, that was special. This is a special place to play. I've never seen it before."

Said Westbrook:"It's amazing what these fans would do for you. I love this city, I love my teammates. I'm just thankful."

Said Durant: "The crowd was unbelievable tonight encouraging him and I think that gave him some extra push. We can only do so much. We're always on top of him encouraging but the fans for the fans to do that meant a lot and he hit some big shots ... That shows how much they follow us out there. For them to encourage him like that was beautiful to see. I'm glad he was able to carry us in the last few minutes of the fourth and lead us to a good win."

But all of that quickly became background noise because of what Durant did. With 1.4 seconds left and OKC suddenly down a point because of a Vince Carter go-ahead 3, Durant caught a pass from Thabo Sefolosha and in his beautiful, gliding way, launched a deep 3 that hit nothing but the bottom.

"He lives for shots like that," Westbrook said. "He has come a long way and I am really happy for him."

Which seems like it might be a thing Westbrook would say through gritted teeth. For a second, he was the Thunder's man. So many times last season, Westbrook carried the Thunder. And not only was he doing it against OKC's nemesis in Dallas, but he was producing quite the story. It was quite the bounce back, what, with the crowd chanting his name and such.

But like a slap in the face, he was placed right back in his role. He was humbled once again by the Thunder's alpha dog. Maybe that's going to bother him tonight when he goes to sleep, maybe not. All Westbrook would say after the game was he was happy to win. Short, and to the point, is Russell Westbrook.

Oklahoma City is still in its growing pains as a young team. The supposed tension between Westbrook and Durant made the game against Dallas something of a game within a game. How would they handle it? How would they respond? And it was against the Mavs nonetheless, a team that's been known to play with the Thunder's emotions.

With the Thunder's elevated exposure comes all the outside noise that hit the Thunder over the last 24 hours. But nothing shuts it up quite like the sound of a 25-footer swishing through the net as the horn sounds.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 11:45 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 1:29 am
 

Video: Kevin Durant buries the Mavs in one second

By Matt Moore

The Mavericks had the Thunder where they want them. Like last year in the Western Conference Finals, the Mavs had hit a huge shot, forcing the Thunder, who have historically struggled with final possessions, to try and hit a shot with just one second. Last time the Thunder tried this against the Mavericks, Kevin Durant was blocked on a pull-up 35-footer. 

But on Thursday night? The Thunder didn't try anything silly or miss their execution. A catch and shoot for the best offensive players in the league. The result? KABOOM.




That. The Thunder should do that every time they're in a late-game situation. Durant has one of the best catch-and-shoot motions in the league and yet he almost always is put in an ISO off the dribble position. That was absolutely perfect execution and an amazing shot from one of the game's best. 

It should be noted that it was Russell Westbrook nailing two huge jumpers and converting a big steal along with a key offensive rebound off a Durant miss which set all this up. Regardless of their relationship, the two need one another and on Thursday, they delivered for each other.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 7:36 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 9:15 pm
 

Durant on altercation: 'Nothing happened'

Posted by Royce Young



OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Thunder locker room is typically a pretty fun, loud place to be before games. But Thursday night, it had a much more somber, serious tone to it.

Maybe it had something to do with what happened a night before in Memphis. Or maybe, it had more to do with the story that came out after that game. Which appeared to be the case.

A day after a reported altercation on the Thunder bench against Memphis which led to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook supposedly having to be separated, the team basically did absolutely everything possible to shoot all that noise and chatter down.

Westbrook, who did not speak to the media following an 0-13 performance in a win over the Grizzlies completely blew it off.

"What happened?" he said when asked about the incident. "Oh, I don't know what you're talking about. But we got a game tonight and I'm looking forward to playing against Dallas."

Durant took a similar approach.

"I don't think nothing happened," he said. "People keep saying we had this and that happen on the sideline. Nobody seen nothing. They didn't hear anything. Somebody said that something happened. Everybody on the bench was yelling, the coaches were yelling, not at each other in a bad way but trying to get everything in order. We gave up a few points in that possession so we were trying to get back in order. We were playing a good game and slacked off a little bit for two or three minutes so everybody was yelling.

Reportedly the incident occurred with about three minutes left in the second quarter when Westbrook passed the ball to an open Thabo Sefolosha who didn't take a 3. Westbrook loudly yelled "Shoot the f------ ball!" which evidently led to Westbrook raging on the bench during the next timeout. Kendrick Perkins stepped in to try and calm Westbrook down and then Durant did, which reportedly escalated things.

"It wasn't just myself or Russell or Perk. It was everybody," Durant said. "It was nothing that people should be blowing out of proportion. It happens every single day. Teams go through emotions, things happen. It's a competitive sport man, everybody's not always going to come in and be happy.

"I think you guys should just let it go man. I know you guys like conflict but you should just let it go."

Westbrook's mood was extremely reserved as he was clearly annoyed at the line of questioning he was met with before the game. Durant had a similar tone, but was at least willing to expound on the situation a bit. But it was certainly a different atmosphere than normal before a Thunder game. Maybe that had something to do with the world champion Mavericks being in town, but maybe not.

Westbrook said at the end of last season that he wanted to do a better job controlling his emotions and temper. I asked how he felt he was doing with that this season.

"Okay. I could definitely do better," he said. "But it's early in the year. We're winning. So everything's good."

Head coach Scott Brooks did his best to just pass this off as just the life of an NBA team.

"If you don't have disagreements, that means your team isn't very good," he said. "The game before that I got into a heated debate against our bigs. They weren't doing a good job in pick-and-roll defense. I think it's debate. To me an altercation is a fight or a shove or something like that. A discussion is different than an altercation but that did not happen.

"I've been coaching these guys for four years and we haven't had one fight, which surprises me," Brooks said. "We haven't had any issues that were below the belt where I had to step in."
Posted on: December 29, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 9:17 pm
 

Coach Brooks: Thunder altercation was 'healthy'

Posted by Ben Golliverbrooks-westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks says that an extended verbal altercation between his two All-Stars is not a big deal.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook reportedly got into an extended "altercation" after Westbrook reportedly scolded Thabo Sefalosha for failing to shoot with an open look during a Wednesday night game against the Memphis Grizzlies

The Oklahoman reports that Brooks believes the situation was "healthy" and not something to get too worked up about.
“When you have an intense game, you're going to have arguments,” Brooks told The Oklahoman. “I have no problem with it. I think it's healthy. I think you learn from it and you get better with it. That's just part of an NBA game. We have it and other teams have it. Good teams, bad teams and average teams. I have no issues with how our guys compete. At times they get frustrated. But it's always about the team.”
Brooks sticks perfectly to the script here. One thing no NBA coach has ever said: "Gee, my locker room is torn apart because my players hate each other's guts. We're doomed."

This early in the season, and given the chippy Westbrook's chippy personality, he said exactly what needed to be said. If there's a legit argument between the two players, it will be become more apparent before for too long and nothing Brooks says now will matter. If it winds up being something that does blow over, then Brooks handles this correctly by preaching unity and backing his two stars.

Using the word "healthy" alongside "intense," "compete" and "frustrated" was a particularly good choice. The most damaging scenario for the Thunder is that the often-emotional Westbrook gets written off as not being a part of the team concept or, worse, he gets labeled a "hothead" who is out for self. Brooks' word choice works to defuse that thinking which is critically important, because Westbrook refused to take questions from the media after the game.

Handling this thing in-house is the best play for Brooks, but his public reassurances need to come with a private reminder to Westbrook of his obligations to the media and his team. Ducking out not only makes Westbrook look bad, it potentially complicates an already tense situation. A one-time allowance can be made given that Westbrook arguably had one of the worst games of his career, shooting 0-for-13, but much more is asked of stars in the NBA. At the top of the list is composure and accessibility, especially under the media spotlight.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:39 am
Edited on: December 29, 2011 1:30 am
 

Westbrook and Durant have altercation in Memphis

Posted by Royce Young



Russell Westbrook labored through maybe the worst game of his career Wednesday night in Memphis going 0-13 from the floor for just four points. But maybe there was a reason for it.

According to the Oklahoman, Westbrook had a second quarter confrontation with Kevin Durant that led to the two having to be separated on the bench.
Westbrook's frustration appeared to have started with just 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the second quarter when he drove into the paint and kicked the ball out to Thabo Sefolosha in the corner. Sefolosha passed up a wide open 3-pointer, which prompted Westbrook to yell at Sefolosha “shoot the (expletive) ball.”

Sefolosha and other teammates, including Durant and center Kendrick Perkins attempted to calm Westbrook down immediately during an ensuing trip to the free throw line. But the emotions spilled over to the bench one minute later.

Durant appeared to again settle Westbrook, but Westbrook appeared to take exception to how Durant delivered his message. The two began shouting at each other and had to be separated.

Throughout the rest of the game Durant and Westbrook appeared to communicate well after the dust-up, giving high-fives and with Durant patting Westbrook on the head.

“We’re going to disagree sometimes, like I’ve always been saying,” Durant said after the game. “But I’m behind him 110 percent, and he’s the same way with me. And you seen when we came on the floor we clicked and everything started to work from there.”

Westbrook didn't speak to reporters following the game, but before you get too excited about that, realize that it's routine for Westbrook to skip out of the locker room quickly. Even after really good games.

Durant has tried to dispel every story and rumor about an issue between him and Westbrook saying that the 23-year-old point guard is "the only point guard for him" and different things like that. Durant has maintained quite often that Westbrook and him have disagreed quite a bit at times but that's just the nature of being teammates.

Westbrook is a very emotional player that has admitted that's an area he wants to improve in. He reacts, yells and gets very frustrated at times. It's just who he is as a player. It's what makes him great, and sometimes not so great. And Durant, as the leader of the Thunder, has to take it upon himself to calm Westbrook down, which sometimes results in a reaction. Which is what happened Wednesday.

Following the game, NBA TV spoke with Durant who reinforced his good relationship with Westbrook.

"Russell makes me so much better," Durant said. "A lot of people may say this and that about our relationship, but we always try to get better, we're always the first two guys in the gym, we always bounce ideas off each other too."

There's a hotter and brighter spotlight on the two though because of the mumblings that originated in the playoffs last season. Every time something like this happens, people will use it as a lightning rod to illustrate how the two are the next Kobe and Shaq. It's not really true at all, but it makes for a great story.

Look, I've been in Oklahoma City's locker room a lot. I've watched practices. These guys get along really well, but they're all competitive and they get mad or frustrated sometimes with each other. It happens. You probably have gotten mad at your buddy playing pickup on a Saturday morning. You just didn't have a fanbases and media ready to pounce on it to drum up some juicy, divisive story.

But the facts are that Westbrook and Durant got into it Wednesday at Memphis. Definitely wasn't the first time and probably won't be the last.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 11:40 pm
 

Report Card 12.28.11: Spurs ground Lob City

Posted by Royce Young


A: San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are too old right? THIS is the year it all starts coming apart for them, right? Yeah, right. The Clippers came to town bringing their lightshow of dunks and alley-oops, but the old, slow Spurs had no problems handling all that noise. San Antonio used a 38-point third quarter to pull away from the Clips and really highlighted a lot of issues Lob City has. They need a shooter and some depth, badly. The Spurs seem to have it all together once again, as long as the old guys can stay healthy. Doubt them all you want. Pay attention to the young, excited kids running and jumping and dunking. But the Spurs will just keep winning no matter how boring you may find that, thank you very much. The Spurs are 2-0 with blowout wins over Memphis and the Clippers. No big.

A: LeBron James and Chris Bosh

The Heat got a tougher than anticipated test from the Bobcats, but LeBron and Bosh were terrific for Miami. LeBron had 35 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Bosh had 11 of his 25 in the fourth. And he also had this incredibly awkward and awesome dunk.

B: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder picked up a third straight win, beating Memphis 98-95 on the road, but it's a bit tainted as Mike Conley injured his ankle on the very first possession of the game. And on top of it, the Thunder shot just 37 percent from the floor and gave up 19 offensive rebounds. But winning is winning and it's always good. Especially when it's on the road against a contender. Kevin Durant dropped a beautiful 32 points and carried OKC down the stretch.

C: New Orleans Hornets

They beat the Celtics to start 2-0. And they did this one without Eric Gordon. That really deserves an A. But you're supposed to be doing bad, New Orleans! You're supposed to be tanking this season away! You're supposed to be setting yourselves up for the Anthony Davis sweepstakes! Each win will be bittersweet this season for that stupid reason. It's supposed to be about the future and every win hurts that a bit. It's a horrible thing, but reality.

D: Russell Westbrook

How's this for a line: Four points, 0-13 shooting, four turnovers. Yikes. So why isn't this an F? Because Westbrook picked up six assists, hit two very important free throws in the final seconds and his team won.

F: Boston Celtics

What can you say? The Celtics are 0-3 and just lost to the Hornets despite their best player sitting. And it wasn't even a close game as they lost by 19. Yeah, Paul Pierce is hurt. Yeah, it's a night after that tough game in Miami. That's not supposed to be an excuse for a team like the Celtics though.

E for Effort: Charlotte Bobcats

So, sooooo close to knocking off the Heat. Miami was dragging a bit and probably overlooked Charlotte a bit as the Heat were coming off a game the night before against Boston, but the Bobcats were ready to go. Charlottle held a one-point lead with a few seconds left and if not for Dwyane Wade being ridiculous, the Bobcats would've registered the upset of the early NBA season. Things to be encouraged about though if you're Paul Silas and the Bobcats though. Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo and D.J. Augustin should give Bobcat fans something to be excited about.

Incomplete: Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are 2-0, but have wins over the Pistons and Raptors, with both games being relatively close. Are they good or just beating who they're supposed to beat? It's hard to know right now.
Posted on: December 26, 2011 3:34 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

Posted by Royce Young



OKLAHOMA CITY -- Commissioner David Stern had himself a double-header Sunday, watching the Heat pound the Mavericks in Dallas and then making a short trip north to Oklahoma City to check out the Thunder.

His formal address to the media was the usual stuff. He talked about OKC's chances of getting an All-Star Game (the city needs more hotels), talked about the new collective bargaining agreement and how wonderful it is and talked about the NBA's business.

But after he wrapped, a couple of reporters chatted Stern up some more (or listened, if you're me). Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman led the charge asking Stern about how this new CBA that's supposedly designed to help small markets like Oklahoma City could be what tears the Thunder apart.

First, there's the new "Rose Rule," which allows -- actually scratch that -- forces teams to pay a superstar more money if he meets certain criteria. That's already happened in Oklahoma City as Kevin Durant has qualified by being named to two All-NBA teams. Durant will make roughly $15 million more over the life of his extension and some $3 million more per year. A number that has actually put the Thunder over the cap.

The new luxury tax, which is more punitive than before, goes into action in two seasons. Right around the time the Thunder will have potentially locked up Russell Westbrook for big money along with needing to re-sign James Harden and Serge Ibaka. Plus, if Westbrook makes another All-NBA team, he'll qualify for the Rose extension, which would hurt the Thunder even more. So that's where the Thunder are at right now -- needing Russell Westbrook to NOT make an All-NBA team.

Stern disagrees with the idea the harsher luxury tax hurts small markets like the Thunder though.

“The idea that the luxury tax hurts small markets is ludicrous," he said. "It may impact a small market that's a great team and has to raise its payroll. But at the bottom, it's designed to eliminate the ability of teams to use their economic resources to distort competition"

He's right. Because that's a blanket statement. It doesn't hurt all small markets. But specifically applied to this Thunder team and its current roster structure, it absolutely does. Stern put it this way though: If you're good enough to have to be forced with making the decision to "go for it," as he put it, that's a good thing. At least that's the league's perspective.
And then he dropped this bombshell:

“People are saying to Miami, ‘Well, you're going to have a decision to make with respect to one of your big three.' And they may say the same thing to Oklahoma City, and that's a good thing. That means you've arrived and you're out there being competitive."

So David Stern thinks it would be a good thing if the Thunder are forced to give up either Westbrook, Harden or Ibaka because they can't pay to keep them all. The way Stern put it is that the new CBA doesn't just share more revenue, but shares more talent. He sees it as "player sharing."

A small market team like the Thunder, who have become the poster child for small market viability, could potentially be punished for their slick management and wise draft choices. Stern sees that as a good thing. I get his point -- if you're having to pay players lots of money that means you're doing something right. But at the same time, Thunder general manager Sam Presti has always preached on "sustainable success," which this new CBA makes a bit difficult to accomplish. You can have Durant plus either Westbrook or Harden. But not all three and definitely not all three plus Serge Ibaka. Something about that just doesn't seem right to me.

I wrote about this over the summer when the idea of a hard cap was floated. Build a team like Oklahoma City using the "Thunder model," as so many people like to call it, and you may be breaking it apart in just a few seasons. The irony here is that Presti might've done too good of a job assembling his team.

The idea with the new tax is that teams won't be willing to bust into it, large or small. Of course Oklahoma City can just choose to pay the harsh tax penalty. But are they really going to do that? Stern seemed extremely confident that not many would.

“They could, but they won’t," he said. "There are going to be very few circumstances where someone is going to go $20 million over to pay $65 million in total unless they’re sure this is their time and they’re going for it once.”

Basically Stern is banking on big markets shying away from paying the harsher tax. He could be right as it's possible the Lakers dealt Lamar Odom for virtually nothing to get away from paying so much of it. The Blazers, who once had a $57 million tax bill, won't be going into that territory again. But let's face reality: Stern talked about teams choosing to pay the tax to "go for it." Big market teams like the Lakers and Knicks will have the chance to "go for it" a lot more than the Spurs, Grizzlies or Thunder because they have a bigger slice of the pie. If they swing and miss, oh well, they can try again later.

No bother to Stern though. He's sure of this new system. Positive of it, in fact.

“You’ll see. It’s beauty,” he said. “It’s all going to happen and then we’ll look back at it rather than prejudge it. I happen to think it’s going to be good for all of us, and it’s going to hit small market and large market teams alike.”

Or destroy one like the Thunder. But whatever.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 2:50 am
Edited on: December 8, 2011 5:41 am
 

Rules to affect free throw rates next season

By Matt Moore

ESPN reports that the league has adopted several rule changes for the 2011-2012 season. Stu Jackson, vice president of basketball operations, explains that the tweaks, in short, will make for shorter games in terms of real time, and fewer free throws. 

One rule in particular is going to have significant impacts if it is officiated to the letter of the new law.  
"Rip-through" moves, where an offensive player swings the ball into a defenders outstretched arm and then attempts a shot once he has created contact, will be considered non-shooting fouls if the contact begins before the offensive player starts his shooting motion.

Also, on drives to the basket, a shooting foul will be called only if contact occurs after the offensive player has begun his shooting motion, not after he has initiated his leap toward the basket.
via NBA alters emphasis for shooting fouls in 2011-12 - ESPN.

Wait.

Do you hear it?

It's Kevin Durant. Screaming out. In horror. As his scoring average plummets because that's a huge part of his offense. Durant was one of the league leaders in free throw rate last season and 28 percent of his total points came at the stripe. Many of those came from the rip-through move he perfected. But if Durant is the poster-boy for the rip-through, Kevin Martin and Kobe Bryant are the slightly less-in-focus supporting figures in the background of the poster. This isn't going to be a huge differential in terms of raw numbers. After all, the foul is still called, but just not as a shooting foul. But those free throws that extend leads or keep games close earlier in the game will be affected, as will players' efficiency. 

And that's a good thing.

The league needs fewer free throws, and to reward defense. Continuation has been a big problem in officiating and it's good to see the league addressing it. ESPN also reports replay is going to be pulled back in certain ways and substitutions will be limited. The effect should be a shortening of the amount of time games take.
 
 
 
 
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