|Kevin Durant has found himself, and the Thunder are rolling. (Getty Images)|
The Baseline Awards hand out rewards for exceptional and not-so-exceptional events and players of the past week. Award rankings are at the end and, please, watch your step as you exit the ride.
Eastern Conference Player of the Week
Brandon Jennings, Bucks: Come on, LeBron can't win it every week. That would get stale. How about this? Brandon Jennings, the Brandon Jennings, shot 50-40-90 last week, (50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3, 90 percent from the line) for 24 points with seven rebounds and three steals. Absolutely stunning numbers for a player so many have questioned. Contract year, man. Contract year.
Western Conference Player of the Week
Kevin Durant, Thunder: It's not the scoring, for once. Durant this week averaged 10 rebounds and six steals to go along with 28 points per game. The expansion of his game was something pivotal for his development, but it's still stunning to see. With James Harden gone, Durant's doing more. Additionally, I saw him testing out post moves this week, in games. The results weren't great, but it's still a sign he's exploring it, which, much like LeBron, is basically a real-life American Horror Story for everyone else.
Narratives of the Week
"Royce White is in a standoff over airplane travel."
It's amazing to me how lazy members of the media will just kind of fill in the gaps on stories like this with whatever they want. Listen, I'm lazy sometimes. I write four to six posts a day, sometimes as many as 10. It's like the NBA regular season: It's a grind, and you can't go all-out every day. But when you're dealing with a kid's mental illness, maybe you should aim higher than just assuming this conflict is over him getting on a plane. It's part of it, but that's like saying someone with chicken pox has a complexion problem.
White's in an incredibly complicated situation that involves not just his mental health but also his ego, his temperament and what he believes is a moral stand. It's not about airplanes.
"Andrew Bynum is a moron who injured himself bowling."
Thing is, this seems ridiculous precisely because of how unlikely it is. How do you injure your knees bowling? How does that happen? I think the worse part of this is that Bynum tried to hide it, at least from the press. That's just not a good look. I don't blame the guy for wanting to have a little fun while he's injured; it has to be frustrating not doing anything physical. But there's just no way for him not to look silly here.
"Rajon Rondo's double-digit assist streak means something."
It has been 34 games now with Rondo dishing at least 10 assists after he just managed to whip out enough in a Celtics mail-it-in loss on Sunday. Is this streak enough to really focus on? It's the third-longest in NBA history, and that seems like a huge deal. But it's such an arbitrary number. Is the gap between nine and 10 in one category that big? I get a double-double streak a lot better. This one feels a little bit forced.
Also, I have no problem with Rondo gunning for assists in the game on Sunday. It was the Celtics' third game in four nights, and the team just clearly didn't have it. He could have played it straight and as hard as he could, and it wouldn't have made a difference. Rondo is the only player with a shot at 30 to break Scott Skiles' record, a real record that matters. Any shot that he has to get it, he should take. That will live forever if he breaks it. The double-assist record won't.
Eastern Conference Team of the Week:
And not just because they were the only Eastern team to go undefeated this week. Brandon Jennings has this team running on all cylinders and, man, that sounds weird to say. The Bucks have the 11th-best defensive efficiency in the league this season and the 12th-best offense. It's not elite, but it's good enough to get them second in the East and a plus-9.3 efficiency mark this week.
Western Conference Team of the Week:
Los Angeles Lakers
Hear me out. A plus-10.9 efficiency mark this week, and their only loss was to the San Antonio Spurs on a late-game disaster. Bernie Bickerstaff is going to go out having had one of the best coaching weeks in the NBA this season. Standing O, Bernie. Now move aside, the D'Antoni circus must go on.
The Mayan Apocalypse Award for WHAT?!
The Bucks play the Bobcats on Monday night in a meaningful Eastern Conference matchup. What is happening?
The 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' Award for coaching their face off
Lionel Hollins, Grizzlies: Memphis is giving teams the Grizzness. And if you want the key, it's no one player holding the team up; it's consistent and complete effort on both ends of the floor. Hollins has this team believing it is as good as it looks. They won't be this good the whole year. But if they get to the playoffs in this condition, they're going to be incredibly dangerous and primed for a shocker.
The Horde Award for team you should fear:
Oklahoma City Thunder: Verrrry quietly, the Thunder have made themselves into, you know, the Thunder. A plus-8.3 efficiency mark this week, Durant's playing at an MVP-level again, and Russell Westbrook is starting to figure it out. You want to know how well things are going offensively for OKC? Thabo Sefolosha is shooting 50-40-90 this season. That's how you know the going ain't tough.
The 'Hello, Kitty' Award for team wimpiness
Denver Nuggets: Destroyed by the Spurs on the road after losing to Miami, which was on a fifth-game-in-a-six-game-road-trip, back-to-back-after-getting-in-at-4-a.m. gimme game. The Nuggets are a mess right now and look to be making fools of everyone's lofty preseason expectations, especially mine.
The Ricky Davis Honorary Award for more field goal attempts than points
1. LeBron James, Heat: Nearly didn't play Saturday with an illness, still dominated, still won. Next level.
2. Carmelo Anthony, Knicks: Became frustrated in the Memphis game, which cost his team, but his defensive and rebounding effort has been so high and has translated to production.
3. Kobe Bryant, Lakers: If his defense were just a step better, he'd be No. 1 on this list. And not just for scoring. He's doing everything right now, a transcendent start to the season in what could be his best ever.
4. Kevin Durant, Thunder: All the stuff we said above, plus, you know, he can score the crap out of the ball and is becoming a better defender every day.
5. Chris Paul, Clippers: The quietest brilliance you can imagine.
1. Damian Lillard, Blazers: Took over the game twice over the weekend, and the Blazers are a .500 team almost entirely because of him.
2. Anthony Davis, Hornets: Turned an ankle, re-aggravated it, dropped his best game of the season this weekend. Monster.
3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bobcats: Making a difference in places outside of the box score, and a huge reason the Cats are competitive.
4. Dion Waiters, Cavaliers: Stock is falling ...
5. Andre Drummond, Pistons: Things I did not expect to say this early: #FreeDrummond
1. Lionel Hollins, Grizzlies: Player development, balance, rotation management, defense, intensity, consistency -- Hollins has done it all these first three weeks.
2. Mike Woodson, Knicks: Keeping the defense sharp as the offense starts to regress will be key.
3. Gregg Popovich, Spurs: Ho-hum, the usual.
4. Vinny Del Negro, Clippers: Give me an argument why not that doesn't involve inflating Chris Paul's role with the team. See, you can't!
5. Mike Dunlap, Bobcats: The Bobcats, man, the Bobcats.
Honorable mention: Rick Adelman, Timberwolves; Scott Skiles, Bucks; Rick Carlisle, Mavericks
1. Jamal Crawford, Clippers: He's basically a starter, but he's not starting. He's starting to look like this year's Harden. 50-40-90 with a terrific PER.
2. Kevin Martin, Thunder: Doing what he needs to and producing. That's the goal, right?
3. Carl Landry, Warriors: Muscle + Effort + Savvy = Success.
4. J.R. Smith, Knicks: I will never get used to him making the smart play consistently.
5. Ray Allen, Heat: Have we mentioned how unfair it is the Heat got Ray Allen?
1. Tony Allen, Grizzlies: Junkyard dog gotta eat.
2. Omer Asik, Rockets: Big man is big.
3. Dwight Howard, Lakers: Starting to get it together, and the results are showing it.
4. Carmelo Anthony, Knicks: (Jaw remains dropped.)
5. LaVoy Allen, 76ers: Allowing just .512 points per possession, via Synergy Sports.