Loud Links: 11.25.09

ESPN NBA Awards Watch
[Just in case you didn't notice, Thabo has been mentioned by ESPN as a possible Defensive Player of the Year.] Thabo Sefolosha, Thunder: He is building a reputation as one of the top one-on-one defenders in the NBA. Go check the tapes to see how he slowed down Brandon Roy, Kevin Martin, Kobe and D-Wade. [Add D-Will to that list.]

ESPN - Elias Says: Sports Statistics - Stats from the Elias Sports Bureau - ESPN
[Another reason to keep an eye on KD.] Kevin Durant scored 28 points on Tuesday, giving him 407 in 15 games this season. Only three other players in league history had as many as 400 points over the first 15 games of a season at age 21 or younger: LeBron James (twice), Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jordan.

Thunder suffocate Jazz to end three-game win streak | StandardNET
Defensively, the Thunder held the Jazz to just 39 percent from the field and forced six turnovers. "They really made it tough for us to run our offense," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We just started taking shots (in the third quarter) and got into casual mode. I thought they did a terrific job defensively, they got up and really made it tough on us in almost everything we did." Credit Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha for causing the most trouble. Assigned to Williams much of the night, the fourth-year player from Switzerland used a four-inch height advantage to frustrate Utah's star point guard. "He's just a bigger guard, he took a lot of things away from me," Williams said. "That's my role, playing defense and trying to be that spark on the defensive end," Sefolosha said. The Jazz fell to 4-3 on their home floor this season. They still have four more home games between now and December 4.

NBA.com - The Game Happens Here
A brilliant adjustment made at halftime by Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks was one of the differences in the game. He put defensive-stopper Sefolosha on Deron Williams in the third quarter, and it took Utah's point guard out of his rhythm. Williams, after an effective first half, shot 1-for-5 and committed six turnovers in the second half. "Deron Williams is a phenomenal player and Thabo is one of the best defensive players in the league," said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. "It was fun watching him play defense like that and helping our team out. He's grown as a player, and he always helps on the defensive end." Sefolosha's defense was one factor in Oklahoma City blowing the game open in the third quarter. The Thunder, who led by one at halftime, outscored the Jazz by 15 points in the third period, limiting them to just four points in the final six minutes of the third. "We didn't do a very good job trying to contend them," Sloan said. "You've got to knock them off the boards every time you can and help each other on the defensive end. We got confused on defense and when we have those kinds of problems it's tough to pull yourself out of a slump."

How Good is Kevin Durant and the Thunder? " The Wages of Wins Journal
After 15 games this year it is beginning to look like "noise" was the culprit. According to BasketballValue.com, Durant’s adjusted plus-minus score is 16.09. This is the second highest mark on the team. So it looks like everyone is now in agreement. Durant is officially a "good" player (ain’t that a relief?). Fortunately for the Thunder, he is also not alone. Here are the top producers of wins in Oklahoma City [WP48 = Wins Produced per 48 minutes].

  • Kevin Durant: 579 minutes played, 0.204 WP48,13.5 projected Wins Produced
  • Thabo Sefolosha: 491 minutes played, 0.182 WP48, 10.2 projected Wins Produced
  • Russell Westbrook: 512 minutes played, 0.138 WP48, 8.0 projected Wins Produced
  • James Harden: 296 minutes played, 0.219 WP48, 7.4 projected Wins Produced

This quartet are on pace to produce 39.0 wins. As a team, Oklahoma City has an efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency) of 2.4, a mark that projects to about 47 wins across an 82 game season. So the four players listed above are responsible for about 83% of the team’s wins.

NBA Insider -- OrlandoSentinel.com
[Orlando respects KD realistic outlook.] Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant entered Monday ranked fifth in the league in points per game with a 27.1 scoring average. So, can the 21-year-old prodigy win a scoring title this season? "I doubt it," Durant said. "There's too many great scorers in the league." Durant would make history if he overtakes Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Bob McAdoo holds the NBA record as the youngest player ever to win a scoring title; he was 22 when he averaged a league-best 30.6 points per game in 1973-74 for the Buffalo Braves.

Thunder notebook: Kevin Ollie scheduled to have MRI on knee | NewsOK.com
Kevin Ollie, who missed Tuesday’s game at Utah with a sore right knee, will undergo an MRI exam today. Ollie said his knee has been troublesome for about three weeks, but the pain became unbearable in the first quarter of Sunday’s road loss against the Los Angeles Lakers when he attempted to challenge a shot by guard Jordan Farmar. "When I explode it hurts, but when I’m running it’s fine," Ollie said. "That’s the frustrating thing. In basketball you have to jump. You can’t go out there and play cautious and whatnot. So I think I’m hurting myself and most importantly I think I’m hurting my team.

Thunder 104, Jazz 94 | Thunder Rumblings
[Nice lengthy article by Mayberry, check it out.] Weaver, who was relegated to the D-League on Saturday and recalled from the Tulsa 66ers hours before tip-off only to provide emergency duty behind starting point guard Russell Westbrook, had played only 15 garbage-time minutes in the Thunder’s first 14 games. Fourteen of those minutes came in one contest. But on Tuesday night, Weaver matched his season total in minutes. And he provided more than just a steady hand. Weaver made plays, pestering Jazz point guards Deron Williams and Eric Maynor with his defense and seamlessly setting up the offense and swishing key shots. He finished with seven points on 2-for-3 shooting. He turned the ball over twice but had a career-high-tying three blocked shots to go with one assist.

Ibaka, meanwhile, continued to be a game-changer around the basket.One game after a career night — an 11-point, 13-rebound, five-block performance against the Lakers — Ibaka pulled down five rebounds and had one steal and one block in 21 minutes. He coolly filled in for Jeff Green when the Thunder’s starting power forward picked up two early fouls. He gobbled up a rebound following a Paul Millsap miss. He netted an 18-footer following a feed from Kevin Durant. He pulled down another board after Mehmet Okur’s missed jumper, giving him two points and two rebounds in just four minutes. Ibaka later spelled a foul-plagued Nenad Krstic and did much of the same. But most impressive was the 20-year-old’s confidence. When the Jazz came alive in the fourth quarter and used a 4-0 spurt to cut the Thunder’s 19-point lead to a tenuous 15 with eight minutes remaining, Ibaka smoothly sank an 18-footer. Thabo Sefolosha then nailed two free throws to push the lead back to 19.

And all James Harden did was bounce back from a woeful performance he turned in two nights earlier that could have rocked the rookie’s confidence. After a 2-for-15 shooting night (0-for-10 from 3) against the Lakers, Harden netted four of five shots and one of two 3-pointers for his 10 points during his 19 minutes. His second-quarter production showed his moxie. He poured in all of his points during a 3 minute, 14 second span that started with the Jazz leading by a point and ended with his 3-pointer that gave OKC a 39-36 lead with 6:54 remaining in the half. The Thunder trailed only twice the rest of the way, both times by just a point.

Thabo Sefolosha stymies Deron Williams; OKC wins | NewsOK.com
Williams was 1-for-5 from the field in the third quarter. His lone basket after halftime came on a breakaway. While Sefolosha was glued to him, Williams had just one assist and committed two turnovers in the third quarter. The Thunder outscored the Jazz 31-16 in the period. "He was unbelievable," Durant said of Sefolosha. "Deron Williams is a tough cover at the point guard position. He did a great job on him. That’s what we need from him every night and that’s what he’s been doing."

THUNDER: A Look Back on the Thunder's 104-94 win at Utah
Speaking of Weaver, the second-year guard/forward had a huge night. Weaver was recalled from Tulsa and joined his teammates in Utah. With both Kevin Ollie and Shaun Livingston out with injuries, Weaver became the backup point guard. Weaver finished with seven points, three blocks and an assist in 15 minutes off the bench. Although he hasn’t been in the regular season rotation, Weaver stayed ready for an opportunity like Tuesday.

From Darnell Mayberry's Twitter:

  1. The #OKCTHUNDER has waived forward Ryan Bowen. A backup point guard could soon be added.
  2. It's not all bad, folks. S. Livingston had stitches removed from his knee 2day & says the timetable for his return is up to him.
  3. More bad news Thunder fans. Kyle Weaver left today's practice with a shoulder injury. Went to the Doc. Questionable for Friday. #OKCTHUNDER

From KD's Twitter:

  1. RT @uclabruin4lyf8 @KevinDurant35 who was your role model growing up?(my mommy, she showed me how to work hard)
  2. RT @kayso5 If u kud play anybody one on one old or new players who would it be? @KevinDurant35(magic Johnson)
  3. RT @SLEINWANT @KevinDurant35 What was your all time favorite moment as a pro basketball player(getting drafted in 2007)
  4. RT @3O5_ @kevindurant35 are you the team captain?(yesss)
  5. RT @Stence3 @KevinDurant35 r u playin in the in 2012 olympics(that's the goal, gotta continue to work)
  6. RT @gowherehiphop @KevinDurant35 what song has been pumpin' you up before games lately?(I'm good-clipse)
  7. RT @Harry_Stevens @KevinDurant35 No MJ in your all-time 5?(I forgot about mj lol)
  8. RT @aj_is_now @KevinDurant35 if u weren't a pro b'baller in the @NBA ,what profession would u pursue?(meteorologist)
  9. RT @uclabruin4lyf8 @KevinDurant35 what did you do with your first NBA paycheck?(bought my family cars)
  10. RT @jharriswhite @KevinDurant35 Who's in your all-time starting 5?(magic, Oscar Robertson, wilt chamberlain, Hakeem Olajuwon, lebron)

Thinking about Thanksgiving
What’s up everybody? Thanksgiving is only a few hours away and I’m ready to eat, spend time with friends and family and just chill. Tomorrow will be about friends, family, food and even some basketball. I’m just going to be here in Oklahoma City enjoying the off day with some of my teammates and brothers. That’s about it. Same thing as last year. I’ll enjoy a good meal with my teammates and get ready for my game on Friday. I’ll probably go to the gym tomorrow, lift some weights, get some shots in and then enjoy the rest of my day off. Russell said he’ll come through and I’ll go over James’ house. I’ll just move over from James, Jeff and Russell’s house throughout the day. It’ll be fun. Growing up, Thanksgiving for me was having all my family be at my Aunt’s house. All the kids, there was about 20 of us, We’d play football in the front yard and wait for the food to be cooked. Either the Cowboys or Redskins would play and we’d watch that. Thanksgiving was always big in our family. As far as favorite Thanksgiving Day foods go, my Aunt used to cook this macaroni and cheese. It was unbelievable. Different than anything I’ve ever had before. I don’t know how to describe It except that it was extra cheesy. Oh yeah, and about those Redskins. I know they’ve had a tough season, but they’re still my team. They had a hard loss against the Cowboys on Sunday but we had a good win against Denver the week before so hopefully we can still build off of that. And even though the ‘Skins won’t be playing tomorrow, it’s always fun watching football on Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Talk to you soon.

2010 NBA Rookie Card Page - ESPN
[Harden is now #4 on ESPN's Rookie Watch] Nov. 25: Thunder GM Sam Presti had the opportunity to draft Ricky Rubio or Tyreke Evans with the No. 3 pick. But Rubio had the buyout hanging over his head and wasn't a sure thing to come play in OKC. And Evans, who needs the ball in his hands a lot to be effective, would be a tough fit with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who have similar needs. Harden, meanwhile, was the rare scorer who had terrific passing skills and could impact games without taking lots of shots or dribbles. And so far in his rookie season, he has been true to that evaluation. He has an assist rate that puts him in the top 10 of the class, making him the only non-point guard in that group. He's been a solid defender on a top-10 defensive team. And although his shooting numbers are down, he has the mechanics to get that back up soon.

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