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Loud Links: 12|18|09

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The Official Home of Kevin Durant | Blog
[KD passes on the Dunk Contest.] Okay, I know NBA All-Star Weekend isn’t until February, but I just wanted to let you all hear it from me first: I will NOT be participating in the Slam Dunk Contest. I was offered a spot in the contest not too long ago but politely turned it down. But hear me out on this one.

My agent came to me last week and asked me if I wanted to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest and I was like…‘Nah.’ I’m just not a dunk contest dunker, you know what I mean? I don’t even do any good dunks in games. I can’t jump as high as those guys, either, so I’ll leave that up to the Rudy Gays and the Dwight Howards to show off in the Dunk Contest. I’ll pass on that.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I was really honored to be asked. There’s a lot of great dunkers in this league and they decided to put me out there, to call on me but I had to gladly say ‘no thank you.’ Besides, I think it’s more fun to watch than to be in.

Naismith Hall of Fame voting could open to fans, media - ESPN
[Fans voting for the Hall of Fame? Here comes Rodman!!!] The James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction process has long been one of the most secretive and exclusive of all the major sports shrines. Jerry Colangelo, Naismith's newly elected chairman of the board, is looking to change that. His plan includes having both fans and the media involved in the selection process.

"Nothing is etched in concrete at this point," Colangelo said. "I have to get my board to agree with me. I just believe it's the right thing to do and when you believe that and you're passionate about it, you usually can get something done."

Tulsa 66ers Acquire Forward Deron Washington - OurSports Central - Independent and Minor League Sports News
[Hardin dropped by the 66ers.] To make room on the roster, the 66ers released center DeVon Hardin due to an injury. Hardin will remain in Tulsa for further evaluations by team physicians. Washington will wear jersey number 41 and will be in uniform for tonight's game against Rio Grande Valley.

Thunder notebook: Home struggles |

After missing a fourth-quarter layup against Dallas, Russell Westbrook jumped up and slapped the net out of frustration when play stopped. Westbrook isn’t a great shooter but he’s rarely experienced a slump like his current one. Over the past seven games, Westbrook has shot 32.1 percent. Remove a solid outing against Memphis and Westbrook has shot 28.0 percent in OKC’s other six December games, 17.6 percent on 3-pointers.

"He has a good shot and has good form," said coach Scott Brooks. "He just has to keep getting reps in practice... It’s going to improve. It’s not improving at the speed that he probably wants, or I would like, but he’s practicing hard. That’s all I can ask." Westbrook shot 39.8 percent overall his rookie season, 27.1 percent beyond the arc. His shooting stats are similar but have dipped slightly below last year’s pace because of his recent slump.

Changing course: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City's offensive star, is turning heads with his defense |
"I don’t know if he could have guarded me his first year," quipped Brooks, the 44-year-old coach. Let’s just say Durant didn’t mince words Thursday when retorting to reporters.

"He’s lying," Durant countered, only half jokingly. "My first year, they put me on everybody. I was guarding Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade. And I was doing decent."

Said Brooks: "Kobe had 48 against him!"

But on this, the coach and the player, as well as anyone else who has paid attention over the Thunder’s first 24 games agree; Durant’s defense is markedly more impressive in his third season. Durant has bought into playing on both ends in an attempt to morph into not only a complete player but also one who is recognized alongside the game’s elite. "His defense has really improved," said one Western Conference scout. "It’s contagious with their entire team ... They’re way better defensively. (Durant) gets a lot of credit for that."

The Top 5 NBA Coaches This Season | Dime Magazine
[Scotty being honored by Dime] If the playoffs started today, the Thunder would not be in the playoffs. Odds are, they probably won’t be come April. But what Brooks has done with the Thunder has been nothing short of amazing. Brooks is a young coach, who is coaching an even younger roster in a loaded Western Conference. They’ve dropped 3 straight, but the Thunder are still 12-12 and have had big wins against the Spurs, Jazz and Magic. Now that he has the confidence of his extremely talented young core (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, James Harden), Brooks could grow up with them in this league and be the coach that will take OKC to a championship some day.

Pistons vs Thunder preview
"It's very frustrating, we came out as a very aggressive team, we got stops we moved the ball, guys made nice baskets," Villanueva said. "We played like a team that first half; the second half we gave them a little bit of breathing room and we just collapsed offensively."

In injury news for the Pistons, guards Ben Gordon (ankle) and Richard Hamilton (hamstring) are both questionable against the Thunder.