Loud Links: 11.30.2009

Thunder gets off to solid start | NewsOK.com
"Even though everybody is encouraged with our start, it’s only November," Nick Collison said. "There’s a lot of basketball left. We’re happy with how we’ve played some games. Other nights we haven’t played as well." One reason for optimism is the Thunder is above .500 while playing a schedule stacked with playoff teams. Oklahoma City has only two games left with last year’s finalists. They’re done playing Orlando and have two games left with the Lakers. The most encouraging sign is the Thunder is 5-4 on the road. Last season, OKC won eight road games. All season. The road success has included statement wins in San Antonio, Miami, Detroit and Salt Lake City. Once the schedule flips to 2010, OKC’s schedule gets easier.

Rockets notes: Scola expects to play next game | NBA Basketball | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle
[Good News, Scola is going to be just fine.] Luis Scola, who never has missed a game in his three NBA seasons, does not plan to now. He left Sunday's game when he was hit in the right eye by Etan Thomas 22 seconds into the game, opening a gash that needed seven stitches. Scola said he will go for tests today but believed he would play Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Clippers.

"We're going to see a doctor tomorrow," Scola said. "I wanted to come back (Sunday) but Keith (Jones the athletic trainer) wouldn't let me." But the Rockets thought Scola would return.

"We kept waiting for Luis to come around the corner running," Shane Battier said. "I had his back. People were like, ‘Where's Luis?' I said, ‘Oh, he's Argentinean. He's going to rub some dirt on it, run back out, like Willis Reed.' I kept looking. It was like the movie Shane. Shane doesn't come back. It was like, ‘Come back, Luis. Come back. Come back."


Rockets stop slide in Oklahoma City - 100-91 - The Dream Shake
[A little sympathy from Houston.] I am heartily sick of the Bill Simmons "Team That Shall Not Be Named" schtick when it comes to the Oklahoma City Thunder. I feel tremendous sympathy for Seattle and its fans. Only a cad wouldn't. There is no question Seattle was jobbed. But is it really OKC, as a fanbase's, fault? Should the enthusiastic fans watching a good young team bear the wrath of a city, a nation or an internet sports commenting phenomenon with a bully pulpit?

The whole sorry affair appeared to be a combination of bad acts on the part of Seattle's former owner (The Starbuckeroo), the OKC group, dithering on the part of the city of Seattle and an obviously pre-arranged deal with Stern and the NBA owners. When you've got a buyer who has all along looked like he wanted to move the team to a nice new facility in his hometown, why be surprised when he does just that? We like to think of teams as our own, and God knows, we fund them as if they were, building arenas and whatnot. In the end, however, they are private property, and owners in the USA can generally do what they want with their property. You may say we're foolish to build arenas, and maybe that's true, but tell that to Seattle, where a rather nasty point about new facilities seemed to be made by the NBA.

So while the loss of the Supersonics was a terrible outcome for the loyal and great fans of Seattle who did not deserve anything like that treatment, and there was without question treachery on the part of a number of actors, the fans of OKC are not to blame. Being petulant about a team and city isn't hurting Clay Bennett, Howard Schultz, or David Stern. Let it go, at least when it comes to OKC and its fans - they are 2nd least blameworthy group in this mess.

Deseret News | Flash drop decision in 2nd game at Tulsa
Tulsa finished with five players in double figures. Oklahoma City Thunder assignee Byron Mullens had his second straight double-double of the season with a 15-point, 17-rebound effort. [Byron also had 2 steals, 1 block and 8 offensive rebounds. There is still much improvement to be made since Mullens also had 7 TO's, shot 25% from the free throw line and fouled out.]

Thunder notebook: Russell Westbrook showing defensive skills | NewsOK.com
Much like Thabo Sefolosha’s stat lines never tell the entire story, Russell Westbrook had a solid all-around game in Friday’s win. Westbrook scored 20 points with seven assists but also helped limit Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings to 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting. "He did a phenomenal job on Jennings," said Kevin Durant. "There were a couple of times he beat him off the dribble to the middle and Russell did a great job recovering and blocked shots. That’s what we need from him every night. He had a great game."

Fantasy: Stock Up / Stock Down - Basketball News & NBA Rumors -
James Harden – Oklahoma City Thunder: Rookie Harden has been given increased minutes lately off the bench, which has allowed fans to see why he was selected #3 in the draft. He scored an average 5.8 points in the first eleven games, but in the last five games (when increased minutes began), he has averaged 16.8 ppg at an impressive .603% field-goal shooting. Three-point shooting has averaged .605% as well (this would be much higher if not for the 0-for-10 threes vs. the Lakers). Who knows, he could become an elite Sixth Man in this league. [Should we start a sixth man of the year campaign now?]

Nenad Krstic - Oklahoma City Thunder: The starting center has averaged 4.4 points and 4.2 boards in the past five outings vs. 10 ppg/5.3 rpg in the first eleven games. His minutes appear to be falling in favor of attention given to the development of Serge Ibaka. [I really hope so.]


Nation, Meet Thunder - HoopAngle: Thunder Edition
Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green did their "usual" work in order to give their team a chance to win. You can always count on those two to hustle, and hustle they did. They were only out-hustled by one Thabo Sefolosha, who had a great second half. Thabo finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds from the guard position. He is such a valuable asset to this young team, giving Scott Brooks the ability to bring phenom James Harden off the bench.

Speaking of Harden, as commentator Jon Barry pointed out, Harden is looking like he could become a serious scoring threat in the near future. He is a perfect complement off the bench right now, but Brooks is no Popovich, and Harden can earn a starting role if he becomes unstoppable. Harden only scored 15 points in 27 minutes, but the best part is that he was 3-3 from 3, and 6-7 from the field overall. All in all, this was a spectacular performance by the young Thunder, who are looking less and less young by the day. As Jon Barry said, this team is a solid .500 team, but could they become more than that? Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, but this teaming is looking very strong. If they can maintain focus and avoid serious injury, the sky is the limit.

DraftExpress: 2009-2010 D-League Preview / Power Rankings
Tulsa appears to be one of the deepest and most athletic teams in the D-League on first glance, one that could cause major problems for other teams if they manage to gel and buy into playing strong defense. No other team has as much potential to move up in our power rankings. Tulsa also has the most interesting prospect in the D-League, Latavious Williams. Williams is the first player to go straight from high school to the D-League, and will probably be the most heavily scouted prospect in the league. Williams is not eligible to be called up and will be automatically entered into the 2010 NBA Draft whether he wants to or not. He’s a big-time athlete who can make a real impact on both ends of the floor with his length and activity level, but is raw offensively and has had some questions marks raised by high school recruiting analysts about potential off-court red flags. Needless to say, we’ll be keeping a very close eye on Williams all season long.

Mustafa Shakur has played the past two seasons in Europe after graduating from the University of Arizona. He has call-up potential with his terrific physical attributes and natural talent, but we’ll need to see how his time in Europe has helped him improve on his known weaknesses, mainly perimeter shooting, and playing with consistent focus and intensity. Tulsa’s athleticism extends to the rest of their roster, with a bunch of long-armed defensive minded local products on board in the form of Moses Ehambe, Yemi Ogunoye, and Larry Owens. Owens in particular is a guy to keep an eye on. Other potential impact players include stocky point guard Byron Eaton (good enough to start, potentially alongside Shakur), Keith Clark, who went toe to toe with James White in the Dunk Contest last season, and shot-blocker Steven Hill.

Tulsa should see plenty of help this year from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Byron/B.J. Mullens and Kyle Weaver were both assigned to the team with Weaver being recalled already due to a rash of injuries the team suffered, only to get injured himself. The Thunder could also potentially send Serge Ibaka or D.J. White to the 66ers, but both are getting about 11 minutes per game which should be enough to keep them in the NBA for the time being.

Sunday NBA notes: Point-guard plenty
[Not really Thunder related, but an interesting observation.] Is it possible we're watching the greatest collection of point guards in NBA history? A lofty standard was set some 20 years ago, but in terms of depth and potential, the current season carries historic implications. The rookie crop alone is remarkably deep with Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, Ty Lawson, Stephen Curry, Jonny Flynn and some first-round picks with potential down the line: Eric Maynor (Utah), Jeff Teague (Atlanta), Jrue Holiday (Philadelphia) and Darren Collison (New Orleans).

There are full-blown stars in Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Jason Kidd, Deron Williams and Chauncey Billups, with the likes of Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Devin Harris and Russell Westbrook right on their heels. Throw in Baron Davis, Mike Bibby, Andre Miller, Mo Williams, Jameer Nelson and Derek Fisher, and you realize it's the rare team (most in the Eastern Conference) that doesn't have a respected point guard or one with tremendous upside.

N.B.A. Shows Are Better Than the Previews - NYTimes.com
[How about some national recognition via the New York Times?] Jennings often looked lost in Friday’s loss to the Thunder, finishing with 12 points, 3 assists and 3 turnovers in 30 minutes. He missed 8 of 11 field-goal attempts, including a handful of driving layups. He was replaced by the journeyman Luke Ridnour just five minutes into the game and split time with him the rest of the way. Over his last three games — all defeats — Jennings has gone 13 for 47 (.277) from the field. That rookie of the year campaign may yet become a three-man race, with the Sacramento Kings’ Tyreke Evans and the Los Angeles ClippersBlake Griffin, once he is healthy.

If Jennings forced casual fans to tune in Friday, Kevin Durant kept their attention. Durant put on a show with 33 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists, showing why Oklahoma City was everyone’s favorite sleeper pick in the Western Conference. Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook are fast becoming one of the best young trios in the league. The Thunder, which has been methodically rebuilding, suddenly looks ahead of schedule, with a 9-7 record after Friday’s game, and victories over Orlando, the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs.

Bucks drive-in new sponsorship with Sonic | NewsOK.com
[An OKC based business decides to sponsor the Bucks. Why not the Thunder? Big Daddy Clay needs that money.] The Milwaukee Bucks and Sonic drive-in restaurants have agreed to a sponsorship deal that includes a significant presence around the Bradley Center as well as a new mascot making game appearances. Financial terms of the new sponsorship weren't disclosed, but also includes advertising on the Bucks' video display boards, courtside displays and will include a Cherry Limeade character that will appear at Bucks games along with Sonic's roller skaters.

The Main Event: What coaches and players have to say about basketball IQ | NewsOK.com
Thunder guard Shaun Livingston: "Basketball IQ is an understanding of the game. It's just having a presence and a feel. It's more instinctive than anything. It's not really something that you can teach, especially when you get to our level. It's having an understanding or an uncanny feel for the game of basketball."

What is Basketball IQ? It's hard to explain, and most say it's something that players just have | NewsOK.com
Basketball IQ. Defining it isn't so easy. "It's a feel for the game," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "Some guys have it. Some guys don't. You don't necessarily need to have it to be successful. But when you have it you understand the game. You can pick up things quickly. You have a great sense of the team concepts and what the team is trying to do."

Nearly half the Thunder's roster at one point has been tagged with the term. You couldn't find a scouting report on rookie James Harden that didn't possess the phrase in the weeks leading up to the June draft. Shaun Livingston, Kyle Weaver, Kevin Ollie, Nick Collison and Jeff Green are among Harden's teammates who also have had the label attached to their names.

"We have a good IQ team," Brooks said. "I'm happy with our guys. Their level of IQ is pretty good." But the term is widely overused, Brooks said. "Absolutely. It's like 'Guys work hard,' or 'This guy's a winner,'" Brooks said. "I've been on teams where guys don't work hard but they're known as hard workers. "No one wants to tell the truth because it'll hurt people's feelings."

Oklahoma City fails to match Houston's grit even with Luis Scola out | NewsOK.com
[Presti, do you need any more examples to find upgrades at the 5 position?] Houston shot only 40.4 percent but attempted 19 more field goals than the Thunder. It’s rare, but the Rockets grabbed exactly as many offensive rebounds as defensive rebounds to win the battle of the boards 46-35. "They just out-hustled us," said Jeff Green. "They were the first to the ball and made the hustle plays. We didn’t get the offensive rebounds we needed. We didn’t get the stops we needed toward the end."


Thunder Insider: Westbrook the defender? | NewsOK.com
"I think the strength of our backcourt with those two guys is they can switch off," Brooks said. "It doesn’t give the offensive player a daily diet of the same guy. I’m using that to throw off the offensive player more than Thabo’s a better ball defender than Russell." Westbrook has had his moments this season. His defense in the Spurs win played a large role in the outcome despite the switch. Westbrook also has held Orlando’s Jameer Nelson and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings in check. And you can add to the list Sunday’s first half against Brooks, who had just three points on 1-for-6 shooting in the first 24 minutes.

But like Westbrook’s offensive improvement, the defensive development figures to take some time, maybe even more. But it’s perhaps an even more vital progression considering the Thunder excels when it buckles down on the defensive end. Oklahoma City fell to 1-7 when allowing 100 points or more. Add to that, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green can carry the load offensively, but outside of Sefolosha there aren’t many on this roster who can shut down an offensive threat. If Westbrook can bloom into that secondary body, he’ll also become one of the few point guards in the league who can make that claim.

DarnellMayberry: Kevin Ollie to miss up to four weeks after undergoing surgery on his right knee.

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers meet face to face in Dallas - ESPN
[Could we see Iverson in the Ford Center on Wednesday? I hope so.] "This afternoon, we met with free agent Allen Iverson in Dallas for the first formal discussion regarding a possible return to the Philadelphia 76ers," Stefanski said in a statement. "The meeting ... covered a variety of topics, all of which we would prefer to keep between the team and Allen. "At this time, both parties remain non-committal regarding a final decision and we will continue to discuss internally whether or not to pursue this course. We want to thank Allen, Leon and Gary for taking the time to meet with us today."

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