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Tag:Kevin Durant
Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:34 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

Posted by Royce Young

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... Wait, we're almost to winter. What happened? Who cares, there's a season! The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a couple weeks. To get you ready for the season, we've put together some pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

Should Oklahoma City trade Russell Westbrook?

We all heard it. Read it. Saw it. Someone even said it. Russell Westbrook needs to chill out.

For the Thunder, pretty much all of the 2011 postseason was focused on Westbrook and what he should and shouldn’t be doing. Pass more, dribble less, shoot less, give it to Durant, know your role -- and on and on. Despite all of that outside noise, the Thunder became the youngest team in 20 years to go to the conference finals and that was with the 23-year-old Westbrook leading them.

For most Thunder fans, they were all saying, “What’s the big deal? That’s just Russell Westbrook.” But it didn’t matter. When people saw box scores showing 30 attempts by Westbrook’s name and the fact he took six more shots than Durant, there wasn’t a person in the world that could calm down the harrumphing going about.

A lot of it became about Durant needing a so-called "true" point guard to play with, someone that would get him the ball and then get out of the way. And while all this Chris Paul is hot and heavy right now, some have been rumoring him to Oklahoma City for Westbrook for some time. The common thinking is that alongside a pass-first guy like Paul, Durant would flourish and rule the league as the first 100-point-per-game scorer ever. (Or something like that.)

It was even taken so far that Durant and Westbrook were feuding, which isn't true at all. Did they and do they continue to get frustrated with each other? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean they want a divorce. Consider this quote from Durant this summer:

“I don’t want any other point guard,” Durant said. “He’s perfect for us, the type of guy he is, the type of player he is, the type of teammate he is. We’re all competitive, especially me and him. We get the best of each other in practice every day, and we want to go at each other and make each other better. We are going to have disagreements. That’s what all good players on good teams do.”

Let's assume though, you’re Sam Presti (designer glasses and perfectly gelled hair and all). You just signed Westbrook to an extension the second a new CBA is signed. Dell Demps calls you. Chris Paul for Westbrook, straight up.

What do you do?

First instinct says to do it, right? Chris Paul with Kevin Durant and a supporting cast of James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison sounds like an incredible roster. It sounds like it because it is.

But that's why you're not Sam Presti. He wouldn't do it. Because it's not what's best for his roster in the present, nor in the future. Westbrook's younger, hasn't had a major injury and probably hasn't actually found his ceiling yet. But it's not just about age, it's also about fit.

Consider this: Via NBA.com, the Thunder's offense actually improved more when Westbrook usage went up. Think about that. The more Westbrook inserted himself into the offense, the better OKC scored. And we're talking about a top five offense in both points per game and offensive efficiency.

Look at the numbers: Westbrook assisted Durant on more field goals made than any other player in the league (279, next closest is CP3 and David West with 212). The Thunder’s offense finished the season in the top five in both points per game and offensive efficiency, and was a top three unit the last couple weeks.

What made the Thunder turn the page offensively after Jeff Green was traded was three-fold: 1) Green and his horribly inefficient offensive ways were gone, 2) James Harden had a much bigger role and 3) Westbrook had a bit more leash.

The issue was never about Westbrook and Durant working together. It was about the structure and how things changed in a 7-game postseason series against a veteran team and good coach. Don’t you think Rick Carlisle had a gameplan prepared to stop the Thunder? And with seven games to figure it out, he was going to have something. The Mavs did their best to take away Durant and put all the pressure on Westbrook to make plays. Westbrook had to score. It was the only way the Thunder would crack 90.

What hurt Oklahoma City there was the fact that Westbrook often tried to do too much instead of taking a deep breath and that Durant had difficulty getting free of Shawn Marion for Westbrook to pass him the ball. In the series against the Mavs, OKC’s offensive rating dropped all the way to 78.2, which is horrible. But that was more about what the Mavericks did right, than the Thunder did wrong.

Dallas was prepared for that. Oklahoma City, all the way down to its coaching staff, was not. It’s something to learn from. And despite that, the Thunder were a couple blown fourth quarter leads away from having that series 3-2 in their favor and coming back to OKC. They weren't that far off, not by any stretch. 

Westbrook needs to improve in some areas. He knows it. Good thing he’s just, you know, 23 years old. At the rate he’s improved and transformed his game from year one to year three has been kind of incredible. He’s added a solid jumper, sees the floor much better, is under control more, passes the ball more authoritatively, actually understands offense and is capable of running one. Don’t forget: The Thunder won 55 games, the Northwest Division and was two fourth quarters away from playing for an NBA title. All with a team that features its top four players under the age of 25. The Thunder got to the Western Finals more because of Russell Westbrook, not in spite of him. People seem to forget that when they start playing with the Trade Machine.

The Thunder aren't just fine with Westbrook. They're actually better off with more of him.

Posted on: December 2, 2011 9:39 am
 

Report: Final Christmas game to be Magic-Thunder



By Matt Moore
  

Well, if Dwight Howard gets traded before the season opener, it's going to be quite the coal in Magic fans' stockings, and it'll be on display for all the world. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the fifth and final Christmas Day opening game of the season after Heat-Mavericks, Knicks-Celtics, Bulls-Lakers, and yesterday's report of Clippers-Warriors will be the Magic visiting the Thunder in Oklahoma City. 

It makes a lot of sense for the league. With another open spot, it's only natural that the Thunder, one of the league's most popular and up-and-still-coming teams make the debut. This means that the Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies are the only teams to make the second round who will not play on opening day. Oklahoma City is also the only true "small market" team to play on Christmas Day, though Miami is by the technical definition. 

If Howard is still in Orlando, it should be a competitive game, with Howard matched up against his old nemesis Kendrick Perkins, and the Thunder's perimeter attack faced up against a formidable backcourt when hot in Orlando. Kevin Durant had an "unspectacularly spectacular" season last year, and the shortened season with a team of tight-knit young guys may allow him to have a career year. He'll get his shot to open up right away. Christmas in Oklahoma. What could be better? 

 
Posted on: December 1, 2011 11:13 am
 

LeBron does the Plaxico dance in flag football

By Matt Moore  

LeBron James and Kevin Durant were true to their word, hosting a flag football game Wednesday night. James' team blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter (you're stunned, I know). But he did have the game-clinching interception for the seven-point win. And during the game, he broke out the Steve Johnson "Plaxico" dance. So Bob Costas will have some stern words for Mr. James. 

 
Category: NBA
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 12:36 pm
 

New 'Rose Rule' could pay a few rookies more

Posted by Royce Young

Nothing is more valuable in the NBA than a star on a rookie scale contract. For those three or four years before he's given a big extension, you can't possibly get more bang for your buck.

Some general managers have used rookie contracts to build their teams. It's no coincidence that Oklahoma City routinely has three or four players in every "most underpaid players" list.

Guys like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose have been on rookie deals the past few seasons while Durant has been named to the All-Star team twice with two scoring titles and Rose has won an MVP.

And in the new collective bargaining agreement, those rookie deals will remain equally as valuable. Except one thing is changing a bit and it's a rule named after Derrick Rose.

Rookie scale players are eligible to get an extension starting in their fifth season -- example: Russell Westbrook and Rose this year -- and can now get an extra little bump based on performance. A new max has been established which is up to 30 percent of the team's cap, up from 25 percent. But in order to qualify for that extra five percent, the player has to win an MVP, make the All-Star team twice as a starter in their first four seasons or get named to any All-NBA team in their first four years.

Rose obviously qualifies right now and Westbrook could with another All-NBA selection. He was named second team All-NBA last season. The difference is about an extra $3 million.

As the New York Times notes, Durant could be eligible this season:
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant may be eligible because the extension he signed in 2010 has not yet taken effect. Under N.B.A. rules, a max contract is tied to league formulas, not a specific dollar amount. Durant could ask the Thunder for the extra 5 percent once the league reopens for business.
Otherwise, Westbrook could potentially make more than his superstar counterpart. Which would only add a little extra fuel to the already stupid fire that there's a rift between Durant and Westbrook.

Not a major win for players, but certainly a reasonable one.

Via SB Nation
Posted on: November 27, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 1:55 pm
 

NBA lockout's winners and losers

Posted by Ben Golliver

lockout-over
It's over. The 2011 NBA lockout is finally, mercifully over. Let's hail the victors and pity the vanquished in this rundown of the NBA lockout's winners and losers.

The Deal

Winners: NBA Owners

Over the next six years, the owners succeeded in shifting more than 1 billion dollars into their pockets by negotiating their share of the Basketball-Related Income split from 43 percent in the old deal to a 49 percent to 51 percent band in the new deal. That number could grow to more than 2 billion if both parties agree to continue the deal through to its full 10-year length.

In addition to the players' 10-figure financial give-back, the owners received major concessions on virtually every important issue governed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Contract lengths are getting shorter from a maximum of six years to a maximum of five years for players who are re-signing and four years for other free agents, meaningfully reducing the level of financial security players feel while also reducing the burden of bad contracts on a team. The mid-level exception system is shrinking, which hits the middle class free agents hardest while helping to keep owners from overpaying for mediocre talent. The luxury tax system is getting tougher, which limits the very highest-spending teams’ ability to compete and/or set the market for free agents while theoretically creating a slightly more level playing field between large and small market teams.

Whether or not you agree with the logic behind these major changes, their collective impact combined with the clear financial victory makes this negotiation a strong-arm highway robbery. And all it cost: less than 20 percent of the games in one season (and some hurt feelings among die-hard fans).

Losers: NBA Players

Any time you leave a negotiation thinking, “Well, this is bad, but it could have been worse,” you lost that negotiation. National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter even admitted that a recent NBA offer was “not the greatest proposal in the world", yet he and the players tentatively agreed to a deal very similar to the one he bashed publicly. This happened because the players never had real leverage or good alternatives. They were squeezed and had no escape route.

But, it could have been worse. The mid-level system in the agreement provides more spending power for teams (and thus more money for free agents) than in previous proposals. The luxury tax system is significantly tougher than the one in the previous CBA, but not as draconian as a hard cap – something that the owners maintained that they wanted for the longest time – and not as punitive as earlier reports indicated it might be.  The NBA also increased its spending floor for all of its teams, providing additional suitors for free agents and theoretically helping to prevent players from getting stuck on teams that totally slash-and-burn their rosters with no intention of actually competing.

America's Team

Winners: Miami Heat

Miami’s biggest concerns heading into the lockout: the new CBA would require the Heat to break up the Big 3 and/or the full 2011-2012 season would be cancelled, costing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh a year of their primes. With a season now salvaged, the Big 3 can get back to their redemption work. And, while the tougher luxury tax system and reduced mid-level exception for luxury tax payers will eventually make it more difficult to add big-name free agents, the tax system won’t kick in for two years, meaning Miami doesn’t need to make any major roster cuts for quite a while. Bosh, who many thought last season might need to be traded so that Miami could conform to a hard cap system, appears safe for at least two years, if not the duration of his deal. Forward Mike Miller, as ESPN.com notes, could very likely be spared because the Heat will have a full mid-level exception based on their current salary cap number this year, too.

Losers: Miami Heat

Despite the salary cap good news, the Heat are also short-term losers. The 2011-2012 season now officially bears the historical taint associated with an abridged schedule. The 2012 Finals winner, no matter who it is, will bear the asterisk of being “lockout champions.” That’s fine if you are the Dallas Mavericks defending your 2011 title or the Los Angeles Lakers adding to your stockpile, but if you’re James, Wade, Bosh and company, your first title needs to be clean or critics will mercilessly work to invalidate it. Winning in 2012 will require Miami to win future titles to prove that their triumph wasn’t a short season fluke. In other words, James and company will carry a burden into the 2012-2013 season even if he finally wins his first ring.

NBA Players Abroad

Winners: Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez

Until a recent minor knee tweak by Fernandez, all four NBA players made it through their international excursions in good health. No NBA player made more money playing hoops during the lockout than Williams, who took a risk in broadening his family’s horizons and staying active that paid off in game checks and lack of boredom. Parker and Batum returned home to France, garnering a hero’s welcome, while Fernandez did the same in Spain, where he is extraordinarily popular. All three put up big numbers and gave their fans a chance to see them during their peak years rather just a victory lap when their NBA careers are through. That’s got to be an incredibly fulfilling feeling.

Losers: Anyone that gets stuck in China

The Chinese Basketball Association insisted on preventing NBA opt-out provisions in its contracts, theoretically tying any player who signed with a team in that league through March, when the regular season ends. Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Yi Jianlian, Aaron Brooks, Patty Mills and others agreed to play in China and now their future is uncertain. Best case: their Chinese team agrees to release them so they can return to the United States. Worst case: they remain stuck until March, when finding a good NBA landing spot, not to mention salary number, could be significantly more difficult. The major consolation here is that Chinese teams were reportedly offering seven-figure deals, so guys that are trapped until March won’t be leaving empty-handed.

Saving The Season

Winner: Kobe Bryant

We’ve been saying for months and months that no player needs a 2011-2012 season more than Kobe Bryant. At 33, losing a year of his career would have been a disaster, and not just because he would have lost more than $25 million in salary. Bryant is embarking on dual epic quests: passing Michael Jordan in total number of championships and passing Michael Jordan on the all-time points list. Salvaging a season gives him a much better chance at both goals.

Older vets like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are similarly winners in that they save a twilight year from being extinguished.

Loser: Greg Oden

The Portland Trail Blazers center has not appeared in an NBA game since Dec. 2009 and is now a full year removed from his most recent microfracture surgery. Even so, The Oregonian reports that Oden still doesn't have a firm timetable on an expected return to the court and hasn't yet been cleared for basketball activities. Oden is a restricted free agent and now must enter contract negotiations without the ability to prove he can play again. Contract aside, a lost season would have helped delay the return of the enormous pressure he faces as a former No. 1 overall pick; now, Oden will likely come back to Portland, where expectations are still gigantic, after hiding out for most of the lockout, only to face another round of jokes and barbs about his health.

Public Relations

Winners: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Brandon Jennings and other charity game workhorses

The best way for a player to improve his standing with basketball die-hards is to show off his own unrequited love of the game. James, Durant and Jennings stood above the crowd in their dedication to playing in organized events across the country, connecting directly with fans and providing hope even when the lockout turned ugliest. Twitter and savvy sneaker campaigns – “Basketball Never Stops” and “Are You From Here?” – helped keep the positive momentum going. There’s no question all three guys made lifelong fans with their actions over the last six months.  

Loser: Michael Beasley

Beasley got busted for marijuana, threw an "All-Star Classic" charity game in which all the All-Stars bailed, shoved a fan in the face during a New York City exhibition, and sued his former agent and AAU coach – his surrogate father during high school – alleging major NCAA rules violations. He also hired and was then dropped by a PR firm that was working to help improve his image. To top it all off, he spoke out against his players union, saying that it was "kind of retarded" for the players to be fighting over a few BRI percentage points. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves now bring to camp the No. 2 overall draft pick, Derrick Williams, who will be an instant fan favorite and figures to compete for his minutes.

JaVale McGee was another memorable face of player cluelessness, leaving one important NBPA meeting early to tell the media that the players insider were "ready to fold." He quickly denied that he made that comment only to have multiple reporters post audio of his statements instantly. Not his finest hour, to be sure.

Salary Cap Nuances

Winners: Young superstars like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook

SBNation.com notes that players who excel during their rookie deals -- such as 2011 MVP Derrick Rose and 2011 All-Star Russell Westbrook -- stand to gain millions of extra dollars in attainable salary thanks to new rules that will reward players who produce at an all-NBA level while on subsidized rookie contracts. Elite players have way outperformed rookie contracts for years and deserved this extra financial incentive.

Losers: Small-market teams clinging to superstars

As the Arizona Republic notes, the rule that would have banned players from signing extend-and-trade contracts a la Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks last season was not included in the final CBA. So superstars who are impending free agents like Orlando's Dwight Howard and New Orleans' Chris Paul still have the opportunity to force their way out of town, should they choose to do so. You can hear the rumor mill doing extra laps around the track and stomach crunches to whip itself into midseason form.

Internet

Winners: Basketball Video Mix Websites

HoopMixTape.com and other highlight-reel videographers saw major upticks in traffic and interest during the summer pro-am and fall charity league circuits. Their ability to take high quality, professional footage and cut it together seamlessly in a matter of hours feeding the hoops need for basketball's year-round global audience in nearly real-time.  

Losers: NBA Online

The NBA’s decision to strip its websites of references to players and to start a Twitter account to aggressively push its labor message to media members, and even players, came off petty, heavy-handed and way too Big Brother in an arena that is supposed to be about fun, not business. The league has some serious fence-mending to do, especially with its core audience. It’s unclear whether the league knows that or not.

Negotiators

Winners: David Stern and Billy Hunter 

NBA commissioner David Stern and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter are begrudgingly buried here at the end. After months of cringe-inducing public statements, snail-slow negotiations, legal threats, condescending comments and all the rest, these two old adversaries actually struck a deal, which not only saves the league they serve but also manages to protect their own legacies from irreparable damage.

Posted on: November 25, 2011 2:15 pm
 

Video: Basketball Never Stops in OKC

Posted by Royce Young



It shouldn't be a surprise that Nike has done an excellent job in basketball marketing during a time where there's no basketball. But the "Basketball Never Stops" campaign has been excellent.

And Nike added to it with a city specific commercial featuring Kevin Durant in his hoop adopted hometown of Oklahoma City.

The campaign really fits Durant because he's embodied the "Basketball Never Stops" mentality during this lockout. He's played everywhere, with everyone in every game he could find. So him rolling out a ball on a blacktop at a gas station or retirement home is almost spot on. Basically, if you bounce it, he will come.

The patented KD free throw shimmy with the old guy was a pretty good touch, but the best part about the commercial is the van. You might be wondering what the deal is with that giant conversion van. That's actually KD's main ride. Which is so very Kevin Durant.
Category: NBA
Posted on: November 23, 2011 9:35 pm
 

Jeff Green: 'I can really (expletive) play'

Posted by Royce Young



It's been a weird turn for Jeff Green. He was an All-American at Georgetown, the fifth pick in 2007 and seen as a future cornerstone for a bright and blossoming franchise.

But he never quite realized his potential. Or maybe it wasn't even that. Maybe he never quite figured out how or where to fit.

That's how he sees it, it appears. Green told the Boston Heraldthat he thinks Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sort of overshadowed him and therefore didn't allow the world to see his full cupboard of talent. And even added an (expletive) for emphasis.

“Yeah, man, you know a lot of people don’t know what I can really do,” he said. “In Oklahoma, I was kind of overshadowed by Kevin (Durant) and the way Russell (Westbrook) picked up, but, excuse my language, I can really (expletive) play. I can really play this game, man.”

So let's evaluate these comments. Can Jeff Green really (expletive) play? If we're talking about professional basketball, then I think he might need to take a step back.

Look, Jeff Green's a really good basketball player. Versatile, skilled, athletic, smart -- he's got a ton of tools. He's just perpetually caught in between positions. So much that it might put his success and career in the NBA in jeopardy. It's one thing to be a really good player, but if you don't have a place on the floor and therefore a role, what value do you have to a team? You have to be able to fill a need and spot. You have to produce. And while that has everything to do with your ability to really (expletive) play, it also kind of has nothing to do with, if you know what I mean.

Green was clearly overshadowed in OKC because of Durant and Westbrook and I always thought that was one of his strongest qualities. He had no issue in playing his role and quietly doing his job. He never stepped out of character to try and gather a little attention and spotlight for himself. The way he handled himself and his business in Oklahoma City was admirable. And Jeff Green will forever be one of my favorite players ever because of it.

But he just didn't have the capabilities to do his job to the level the Thunder needed. He couldn't rebound as a 4. Couldn't defend that position. Couldn't stretch the floor with a consistent outside jumper. Never really took advantage of other power forwards with his athleticism. Despite possessing some solid post skill, he never used much of it. Green was always just kind of there. A night of 15 points, five rebounds and three assists was the usual for Uncle Jeff. Good, but not good in the right ways.

He's clearly frustrated with his lot right now because he didn't find himself in a role he could flourish in Boston. While he was out of position in OKC, he was very much in the right one (as much as he can be) with the Celtics, but was forced to try and milk everything he could out of 20 minutes a night behind Paul Pierce. That's difficult for anyone.

It's a contract year for Green as he's a restricted free agent and he's understandably upset with how last season went. He knows he can play. He's a really good basketball player. But he has yet to find that spot, that place he can succeed. And really, it's hard to say if he ever will.

Posted on: November 18, 2011 8:41 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 9:10 pm
 

NBA stars to play Barack Obama fundraiser game

Posted by Ben Golliverbarack-obama

Do you support United States President Barack Obama, like professional basketball and have $5,000 sitting around? If so, I know just the event for you.

President Obama is hosting a Washington, D.C. exhibition game featuring some of the NBA's biggest stars on Dec. 12. The only catch? Tickets start in the triple digits, with proceeds from the game going to the Obama Victory Fund to support the President's 2012 re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The Obama Classic Basketball Game, announced on BarackObama.com, is expected to feature NBA and WNBA stars past and present.
Please join us in Washington, DC for a game featuring basketball's greatest super stars in support of the Obama Victory Fund.

Confirmed to play: Ray Allen - Carmelo Anthony - Chris Bosh - Vince Carter - Tyson Chandler - Jamal Crawford - Kevin Durant - Baron Davis - Patrick Ewing - Derek Fisher - Rudy Gay - Blake Griffin - Tyler Hansbrough - Dwight Howard - Juwan Howard - Antawn Jamison - Dahntay Jones - Brandon Knight - Kevin Love - Jamal Mashburn - Cheryl Miller - Reggie Miller - Alonzo Mourning - Dikembe Mutombo - Chris Paul - Quentin Richardson - Doc Rivers - Steve Smith - Jerry Stackhouse - Amare Stoudemire - Tina Thompson - John Wall - Russell Westbrook. More players to be added soon! 
Tickets for the game start at $100 and escalate to $5,000 for courtside seats. The venue is currently listed as "to be announced."

Obama, a huge basketball fan, has said in recent months that the ongoing NBA lockout has left him "heartbroken" and "concerned." Asked recently if he planned to intervene in the NBA's ongoing labor dispute, Obama said that he "wouldn't intercede" because he has "some bigger fish to fry."

I guess putting the still-unemployed players to work fundraising for a president re-election campaign technically counts as frying a bigger fish. The message here: ask not what the President can do for your job, NBA players, ask only what you can do for the President's job. 

But, seriously, if this is anything like the Carrier Classic -- a college basketball game played on an aircraft carrier that Obama and his wife attended on Veteran's Day -- then it will be all sorts of awesome.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com