Loud Links: 04|27|10 Harper isn't being Bullish

OKLAHOMA CITY - APRIL 24: Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder pulls down a rebound against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Ron Harper says Lakers have to wake up, and shape up
Ron Harper has called out the Lakers all the way from his home in New Jersey. Harper specifically called out Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmar, wondering when they are going to "show up" for the Lakers in the Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harper feels as if he still has ties, and allegiance, to the Lakers, with whom he won his last two NBA titles in 2000 and 2001. He won those rings with Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Brian Shaw, now an assistant with the Lakers. Harper won five NBA championships total, all for Coach Phil Jackson, including three in Chicago.

Game 5 is Tuesday and Harper has plenty of questions for the Lakers in a best-of-seven series that's tied at 2-2. "Who is going to show up for L.A. in Game 5? They need somebody besides Kobe," he said. "And I ain't talking about the offensive end. I'm talking about on defense." Especially in transition defense, where the speedy Thunder has run the ball down the Lakers' throats.

Westbrook was the smart choice all along | FOXNews
Where Presti has earned the respect of his peers was in his second draft, the next year, when he used the fourth pick overall to take Russell Westbrook. It looked like a reach and that's how it was characterized in more than a few NBA draft war rooms -- coming out of UCLA, Westbrook was considered a late lottery pick -- but it's turned out to be ... well, just ask the Lakers, who now are in the fight of their lives. Losing two straight games in Oklahoma City, and looking like an old, lethargic and divided team, they'll tell you how good Westbrook has been in their first-round series. While Durant has had his moments against an obviously-ailing Kobe Bryant, the Thunder's point guard has been the best and most consistent player for Scott Brooks' No. 8-seeded team. Westbrook's dunk on Lamar Odom in the Thunder's Game 4 rout of the Lakers has been the signature moment of the series. Going into Tuesday's Game 5, without question the most important game the Lakers have played since last year's playoff run, there's no reason to think Westbrook won't continue to make an impact as the Thunder attempt to pull off the biggest upset in years. "Taking Westbrook was a great call by Sam Presti,'' said Milwaukee GM John Hammond, recently named the NBA's Executive of the Year. "I think people respected Westbrook's ability, but it was a surprise he went that high.''

Westbrook, an unlikely crack of Thunder | The Orange County Register
Jordan Farmar turned pro and Arron Afflalo stayed. Now Westbrook joined Afflalo and Collison during Ben Howland's boot camp practices, and Howland regularly let Westbrook have it. "I had to tell him not to listen to the delivery, but the message," Keating said, and Westbrook got it.

Not long after that, Howland was in his office telling the coaches, "Are we sure Russell Westbrook isn't going to be better than Darren Collison?" Westbrook began jumping off the bench and injecting UCLA games with his own Red Bull. He was, and is, such a hungry rebounder that Howland let him crash the offensive glass instead of thinking defense first.

He became renowned for an epic dunk against Indiana in the NCAA Tournament. He also became known as the finisher, often stealing and stuffing in the final minutes to take a game into harbor. "And he owned the locker room," said Clay McKnight, now the coach at Fairmont Prep but then on Howland's staff. "He was so charismatic, and everything revolved around him."


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