Loud Links: 02|08|10

Kevin Durant's extension eligibility could be problem for Thunder - Frank Hughes - SI.com
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, who is tied for second in the league in scoring, is eligible for a contract extension starting July 1. And while the aforementioned big three will undoubtedly secure maximum contracts with their respective suitors, Durant, in many ways, is the linchpin of the upcoming collective-bargaining battle between the league and its players.

Why? In any other season, the Thunder would simply give the blossoming superstar a maximum extension -- likely for around five years and $80 million, similar to what Denver's Carmelo Anthony signed almost four years ago -- and move on to their next order of business. But with a potential lockout looming that is bound to reconfigure the cost structure of the NBA, the Thunder have to consider that waiting to extend Durant's deal until after a new CBA is in place could potentially save the organization up to $25 million over the next five years, assuming the league's desire for some sort of hard cap is implemented.

And so the organization must weigh this question: Does it wait until a more fiscally responsible time to sign Durant at the risk of alienating a third-year player who, at 21, is already in the running for MVP? "I never pictured myself with another team," Durant told SI.com during Oklahoma City's weekend visit to Golden State. "I like these guys so much. I like being around them. But I know this is a business here. A lot of different things happen. As far as being on the basketball court, these are the guys I envision myself playing with. But we'll see what happens."

Thunder's Russell Westbrook named Player of the Week | NewsOK.com
Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has been named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played February 1 through 7. Leading Oklahoma City to a 3-0 week, Westbrook averaged 19.7 points, 9.7 assists, 8.0 rebounds and 3.3 steals. In Saturday's win at Golden State Westbrook's eight steals matched the league season high. "I'm proud of the way Russell has developed," said coach Scott Brooks. "He put in a lot of work in the summer and a lot of work during the season. He does a great job of working to get better." One of nine second-year players selected to play in Friday night's rookie-sophomore game in Dallas, Westbrook is averaging 16.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and is eighth in the league in assists (7.5).

Trail Blazers: Maurice Cheeks enjoying life with Thunder; news, notes and links | OregonLive.com
Maurice Cheeks stood next to Russell Westbrook, leaned over and whispered something into Westbrook's ear. Westbrook nodded attentively before Cheeks backed away and the Thunder players resumed their practice.

Cheeks, the former head coach of the Blazers, is now working as an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Cheeks said he is having fun working with head coach Scott Brooks and with a bunch of young players.

"I'm happy doing what I'm doing. I'm working for a great coach and a great organization," Cheeks said after the Thunder's practice at the Rose Garden Monday afternoon. "The players are young and very receptive."

Cheeks was hired as an assistant coach last August. Cheeks said he provides input in various areas of the team, but his main responsibility to mentoring and working with point guards Westbrook and Eric Maynor. "(Point guard) is something I did for a long time," said Cheeks, who played 15 seasons in the NBA. "I just give him some advice - Scottie does a heck of a job with these guys - I just try to offer little things that I know."

A western conference team executive chats H.O.R.S.E. - TrueHoop Blog - ESPN
Last year, for the first time in decades, All-Star Weekend featured H.O.R.S.E., and Kevin Durant defeated O.J. Mayo and Joe Johnson. This year, word is the competitors will be Rajon Rondo, Omri Casspi and Kevin Durant. A team executive is worried that the League does not properly understand the appeal of H.O.R.S.E., and expressed the following in a gmail chat:

The league selects the absolute worst H.O.R.S.E. competitors. Rajon Rondo??? Here's how you make H.O.R.S.E. good: You gotta have the guy who hits crazy impossible shots. Steve Nash would have been perfect. You gotta have guys with OVERSIZED trash talking personalities. A guy like Eddie House or Rasheed Wallace or even Brandon Jennings. Just an all-round talker. Nash, Nate Robinson, Rasheed, and Baron Davis. Now that's a HORSE competition worth watching. Omri Casspi should be interesting. He looks like he has some off-the-wall stuff. Not Kevin Durant's boring a--! And definitely not Rondo! Knock him out making five consecutive free throws!!

NBA.com: Durant's game is MVP-like, but OKC has to pick up the pace
What does all this mean? It means that Durant's Thunder club had better pick up the pace if it wants him to crash the MVP party over Cleveland's LeBron James and L.A.'s Kobe Bryant. The Thunder greeted Friday with a 28-21 record, a .571 winning percentage that pro-rates out to 47-35 for the full season. That might be good enough for a COY. But it rarely is good enough for an MVP.

Thunder Insider: The real test lies ahead | NewsOK.com
Oklahoma City enters Tuesday’s game at Portland riding a five-game winning streak and sporting a 29-21 record. Before Sunday’s games, the Thunder sat in seventh place in the Western Conference and just two games out of the fourth seed. But historically, it’s been what teams have done after the All-Star break that determines the success of their seasons. The final 32 games for the Thunder after Tuesday’s pre-All-Star date with the Blazers shouldn’t be any different. The question is whether the Thunder, the second-youngest team in the league, is ready to play with the big boys? Has Oklahoma City matured, mentally more than anything, enough to maintain its pace and continue to pick off teams that are about to begin playing with more renewed energy and more determined purpose?

The Hornets, and so many like them, couldn’t answer the call.

Despite entering the All-Star break at 29-23 and holding onto the West’s sixth seed back in 2005-06, the Hornets went 9-21 over their final 30 games. They lost six of their last seven and finished 38-44, six games behind eighth-placed Sacramento.

A year later, the Hornets were 25-28 at the break but went 14-15 over the final 29 games to finish three games behind eighth-seeded Golden State. The Warriors went 9-1 over their final 10 games to finish 42-40.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Welcome to Loud City

You must be a member of Welcome to Loud City to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Welcome to Loud City. You should read them.

Join Welcome to Loud City

You must be a member of Welcome to Loud City to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Welcome to Loud City. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker