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Loud Links: 11.02.09

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NBA At 2: Westbrook Learning To Lead - Basketball News & NBA Rumors
"I love the challenge of making our players better players and, obviously, I see the game through a point guard's eyes," says Brooks. "I played it and I understand what the four other guys are thinking and what the point guard's thinking. I think he's doing a great job of handling all that. It's not an easy job because every night you're playing against tons of pick-and-rolls. There are many more pick-and-rolls now. Then he has to facilitate the offense. Everybody blames the point guard if things don't go well, it's just part of the job. But with Russell I see his improvement and I like the fact that he's so coachable and he wants to get better. He continues to ask questions and watch film. He watches film with all of our guys and he's going to get a lot better."

Berry Tramel: For Kevin Durant, the shooting has never been this bad | NewsOK.com
Tossing the ball through the hoop from every corner of Oklahoma County seems to come natural for Durant, but Sunday night he couldn’t have hit a Del Rancho chicken fry if you’d have spotted him the gravy. "It got to the point where I would shoot the ball, it would look like it was going in and bounce right out," Durant said. "Seven or eight times in a row. Never happened to me before." Never? "Nope," he said. Not on the D.C. playgrounds or in Austin pickup games or in that rookie season in faraway Seattle? "Nope."

THUNDER: Morning Report: Durant Kept Plugging Away
The Thunder challenged Durant during the offseason to become a better rebounder. He went out and grabbed five rebounds on Sunday. The Thunder wanted Durant to be more active on the defensive end. So he used his length and athleticism to block two shots. And when he struggled to hit a jumper, Durant didn’t give up. Instead, he continued to attack the basket and draw fouls. He ended up 10-for-14 from the free throw line. "That’s a part of me growing, being a leader," Durant said. "I have to lead my team in the tough times and the good times. I wasn’t making shot tonight but I was still encouraging my teammates, playing my hardest on the defensive end. It happens. It happens to the best of them. Games like this are tough on me but I’ve got to comeback tomorrow in practice and work even harder."

U-G-L-Y, that’s what this one was | Daily Thunder.com
I have never, ever seen Kevin Durant shoot that poorly. Never. Ever. I wanted to cry. As someone that scours over box scores more than a normal human being should, "3 for 21″ sticks out like a white guy at a Tyler Perry movie. I’m telling myself he just got the bad one out of the way early. He went 3-21 from the field, yes, THREE of TWENTY-ONE. He even missed an easy cram towards the end of the game. But you know what? It happens to every good player. It just does. A couple of shots don’t fall, then a couple that you KNEW were going in don’t fall and now you’re not shooting, you’re guiding. You just want to place the ball on the rim and hope it somehow slips through the net. I think this paragraph summed up my basketball career actually.

Charting Martell Webster's Defense - Blazersedge
Given Martell Webster's inconsistent defense in the past and Kevin Durant's proven ability as a shooter and scorer, I will admit to initially siding with the "Thunder" interpretation: Durant had an uncharacteristically cold shooting night and, essentially, that cost his team the game. But given how hard Webster worked in defending Carmelo Anthony last week, and the importance of Webster's development on the defensive end, I thought a closer look at the Durant/Webster match-up was in order. So, much like last week's charting of Greg Oden's touches, I went back through the game tape and charted every "Thunder" offensive possession with Kevin Durant in the game. This time, I made a note of who was guarding Durant, the result of the play (if he shot the ball, where did he shoot from and how was he guarded.. if he didn't shoot the ball, where was he in relation to the play) and looked for any other stand out moments from Webster defensively.

Create-Your-Team 2009 | Dime Magazine (www.dimemag.com)
Kevin Durant It’s kind of cheating since we all know he’ll be an All-Star in February, but for now it counts. Pure scorer on the wing, and a shooter who can spread the floor and open things up for Roy and Duncan.

Thunder Insider: Etan Thomas doing dirty work | NewsOK.com
Well, the Thunder’s newest big man on Sunday night got his first real chance to reveal to Oklahoma City which category he falls into. And against a bigger, more athletic Portland frontline, the 6-foot-10 Thomas proved legit. The Thunder has found its enforcer, the guy who prevents nightly layup drills and makes opponents think a split second longer before dashing down the lane or mouthing off.

Bustin' a Recap - Games from November 1, 2009
The Oklahoma City Thunder are coming off of a 23-win season and are everybody’s sexy, predictable pick to be the team that surprises everybody and makes the playoffs. Here’s the problem with that – it’s almost totally unrealistic. The Thunder was a bad team last year and assuming they can just double their win total by not adding a really significant free agent or draftee (James Harden is a nice role player but he isn’t winning you 23 more games) is insane to me. So how do you measure the mark of an improved team and realize whether they’re ready or not to double their win total from a year ago? There are three things. First, they have to be able to win (and hopefully convincingly) against the mediocre to bad teams in this league. OKC did that with opening wins against the Sacramento Kings and the Detroit Pistons (sorry, Pistons fans, but this is not a good team). Second, the team has to be able to win really ugly games. And third, they have to be able to beat the good teams in the conference that are clearly better than them. The Thunder had a chance to accomplish two and three with one stone in this game against the Blazers and failed to do so on both counts.

dustbury.com " Trailing at the end
That lack of scoring shows you just how hard-nosed both defenses were, but the Blazers were just a little harder: the Thunder were held to a mere six assists, worst ever for the franchise and three away from the league record for futility. Then again, they blocked seven Portland shots. Russell Westbrook, who fouled out in the last minute, scored 23 points; KD, despite his shooting woes, still squeezed out 16; Jeff Green had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. The bench contributed more defense than offense, with Etan Thomas pulling down nine boards; overall OKC shot a seriously-subpar 34.3 percent.

Durant: Accepting the Challenge - Basketball News & NBA Rumors -
"There's not a lot of guys who can do what he does offensively," explains Thunder Coach Scott Brooks. "He scores in so many different spots. You challenge Kevin, and he accepts challenges. Rebounding the basketball is one of the challenges we put on him last year. We told him we wanted him to increase that, and he's doing a great job of that. I don't know if he can continue to go 11-12 boards a night, but we want him to be focused on the defensive end and engage in that area. We don't have that dominant rebounder where we're going to come in and get 14 or 15 boards a night by one person and that's fine. We have a team that rebounds together and we have to do that and Kevin is accepting that responsibility to be one of those five defensive rebounders."

Blazers 83, Thunder 74 | Thunder Rumblings
Sunday’s shot selection was particularly alarming. Alarming because Durant continued to settle for jumpers. Good looks, no doubt, but not as good as layups. Alarming because this, his third season, is the one he was supposed to come back with an even more refined game. But he looked like strictly a jump shooter Sunday. There were occasions when he manufactured points and attempted to take it to the rack. His 14 free throw attempts were a good indicator that it wasn’t all long-range heaves. But he could have done better, should have done better. "Great players have their off shooting nights, and I guess tonight was his," said Jeff Green. "He will bounce back next game and have a terrific game."

NBA.com: Still hurting, Orlando's Nelson making his way back
The Thunder's nice start verifies both the maturing of Oklahoma City's thickening young core (first-rounder James Harden is a keeper) and the tutelage of coach Scott Brooks, who got a two-year extension this summer. And OKC's management team continues to stick with the plan of keeping a low payroll, as evidenced by its extension with guard Thabo Sefolosha this week on a four-year, $13.8 million deal. Part of the plan is an edict from ownership to keep costs down, but GM Sam Presti also has consistently maintained a desire not to overspend for veterans of any stripe (it's why the then-Sonics were amenable to trading Ray Allen as opposed to giving him a new contract) so that when Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook come up for their new deals, the team will have flexibility to retain as many as it wants. That's left the Thunder in great financial shape for next summer's free agent bonanza. Newcomer Etan Thomas's $7.35 million comes off the books, leaving Nick Collison as the team's highest-paid player next year at a pedestrian (it's all relative, folks) $6.3 million -- the last year of his deal. Assuming Nenad Krstic picks up his $5.8 million option -- a good assumption -- the Thunder will still be just above $38 million in committed dollars ...

Sam Smith - Bulls.com
Nice payday for Thabo Sefolosha, who gets about $14 million for four years from the Thunder and starts over No. 3 overall pick James Harden. Said teammate Jeff Green: "He’s a defensive guy and guards the best player on the opposite team. He leads our defensive presence, so it feels good to know that we have him for another four years. Knowing that we’re going to have this same chemistry for another four years is a plus." Sefolosha averaged eight points on three of four three point shooting in the Thunder’s 2-0 start.

Hardwood Paroxysm " Blog Archive " 15 Footer 10.30.09 – The One Where 26 Teams Play Basketball on Friday Night
If I were to use a simple, inappropriate and barely relevant analogy to describe this situation (which I will proceed to do momentarily), the Pistons would be GM, a once proud brand struggling to remake itself in the face of a changing competitive environment, and the Thunder would be WE MAKE GIANT HOMICIDAL FUTURISTIC ROBOTS, LLC, INCORPORATED, a mom-and-pop killer robot boutique.