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Loud Links: 02|10|10

New, comments Sky's definitely the limit when it comes to OKC's Durant
"Thirty-five points a game's a lot, man," he said, seeming shocked at the suggestion he's a candidate to reach the summit.

But Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 one season, someone reminded.

"That's Wilt, though," Durant replied. "He was 7-feet and a strong center. It was easy for him. He could get all layups. But, no. Thirty-five a game, that's a lot of points, man. People expecting me to get 35 a game, I'm sorry. I'll tell you now, that's not going to happen."

Don't be so sure. Durant's attack is becoming much more efficient -- better shooting percentage, better shot selection, nearly double the free-throw attempts compared to two seasons ago. And good luck establishing a ceiling for anyone charging toward 30 per night at age 21. In that light, 35 doesn't seem so impossible.

"Is it realistic? Yeah, I believe it," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. You watch him play, he'll probably score more than that some year. It depends how high he wants to go and how high does the team want him to go. He's pretty hard to guard, that's for sure. And he doesn't seem to get tired of scoring, so ..."

Suns coach Alvin Gentry: "Oh, I definitely think so. To me, if you start talking about Kevin Durant, he's got to be mentioned in the same breath with Dwyane Wade and Kobe and LeBron and any of those guys. Not only from the standpoint of he's scoring, but his team is winning. They're successful. And he's the main guy behind that. But I think he'll get better. "The thing that makes him so tough is that he can stand out and make 3-pointers, he can put the ball down and drive it to the basket, he's got unbelievable length. So to say that he could average 35 points would not be a surprise to anybody that has seen him play, I don't think."

THUNDER: Durant, Westbrook Named to Team USA Program
About Westbrook, Krzyzewski said, "Westbrook brings an athleticism to the guard spot that you really like and he continues to develop into one of the outstanding guards in the league. He really did a great job in our camp this past summer. It’s the first time I’ve personally been able to watch him in a few days and he was one of the best players at the camp last summer."

Why Durant Will Stay Put -- NBA FanHouse
It's simple: Durant has absolutely no reason to leave. The team is boss. The front office lives in the future. He'll get adequate pay regardless. And while this isn't a knock on LeBron, Durant lives for basketball and basketball alone. The question has never been "won't KD want to go somewhere bigger" but "will OKC be able to give Durant the situation he needs to stick around?" It's almost Tim Duncan-esque. Which, given Sam Presti's Spurs pedigree and Durant's laser-like focus on the game, should come as no surprise. And yet it's still startling that we spend half our lives prattling about any and all LBJ possibilities, when Durant's future is a non-topic simply because he knows what he wants and has what he needs. Looks like that year of college does automatically turn these teens into superior human being after all.

27 Named To U.S. National Team - Basketball News & NBA Rumors -
"This is the group from which we will build our 2010 World Championship squad. We are taking the Worlds very seriously and know that this is the most important basketball competition in international basketball and it needs to be respected accordingly. We won gold at the 2008 Olympics because of the team we were able to assemble and build and we'll all be hard at work to do that again, and finish on top in Turkey this summer."

Returning to the USA National Team for 2010-12 are 2008 Olympic gold medalists Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets); Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz); Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors); Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers); Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic); LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers); Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets); Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat); and Deron Williams (Utah Jazz). Rounding out the list of Olympians on the national squad roster are 2004 Olympic bronze medalists Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers) and Amar'e Stoudemire (Phoenix Suns).

Completing the list of National Team players are LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers); Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets); Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder); Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies); Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers); Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers); Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers); Al Jefferson (Minnesota Timberwolves); David Lee (New York Knicks); Brook Lopez (New Jersey Nets); Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves); O.J. Mayo (Memphis Grizzlies); Kendrick Perkins (Boston Celtics); Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls); Gerald Wallace (Charlotte Bobcats) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder).

"I'm really excited about the players who were selected and who committed to be part of the 2010-12 USA National Team. I'm especially pleased that so many members of the 2006-08 team wanted and were able to return," said USA and Duke University Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski. "We know from our prior experiences that continuity, team work, and player versatility are critical parts to assembling a team that will be successful.

Blazers 77, Thunder 89 Re-Thoughts | Rip City Project | A Portland Trailblazers blog
Good golly Miss Molly can the Thunder play some defense. I think when watching them at other times I just took them for granted and it wasn’t until I watched them take away everything I knew the Blazers liked to do that I fully appreciated how good the Thunder are. You can’t exactly give them all the credit for Portland shooting 3-of-20 behind the arc, but allowing 77 points on 40 percent shooting is no mistake.

Kevin McHale was spot on about this all night, but the Thunder literally swarmed to and from the ball. Every movement from the Blazers resulted in an equal and opposite reaction from their defenders. When LaMarcus Aldridge touched the ball in the post, three guys moved towards him. When he passed out, they returned to their stations. Eventually, Aldridge wasn’t even getting the ball in the post because Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green were simply moving him aside and the other perimeter players were hampering entry passes with the simple threat of invading passing lanes.

It all created an atmosphere of paranoia and confusion that kept the Blazers scrambling to run through their options and get open looks. On occasion the Blazers beat the D with fluid passing — such as the play when all five Blazers touched it within seconds, resulting in an Andre Miller drive and dish — but too often the open options were No.’s 3 and 4, resulting in short shot clocks and bailout shots. The Blazers made their run, but the Thunder kept it at just that.

Media Row Report: Blazers 77, Thunder 89 - Blazersedge
Perhaps even more amazing was the briefest of exchanges as Durant brought his workout to a close. As a general rule, visiting players and media typically rarely interact on the court prior to games. If they do, it's the media who initiates the conversation and not the other way around. Generally speaking there's a glass wall between the two groups, at least until the players return to the locker room and are briefly available for questions. An important corollary to this protocol: the better a player, the more likely he is to keep to himself and the more likely the media is to respect his privacy during warm-ups. That's just how things are done. So imagine my surprise when Durant saunters past Dwight Jaynes and me. We are, as is custom, watching his team warm up intently but without intruding. Out of the blue, Durant offers a "How y'all doin' tonight?" as polite and genuine as can be. It goes without saying that it takes a lot to impress Dwight , who has been to more than 1,000 NBA games in person. I would venture to say that even Dwight was impressed by this unusual and unsolicited politeness from one of the league's best. I certainly was. The determination, the personality, the likeability, the effortless scoring, the developing leadership. He is the real freaking deal.

Thunder Has Talking Heads’ Turning | Thunder Rumblings
On NBA TV’s Fan Night following the game, Chris Webber and Kevin McHale gushed about the Thunder’s present and future. They expressed a bit of man love for Kevin Durant and pegged the Thunder as a playoff team, Webber going as far as saying, ‘They’re going to be fifth, maybe fourth (seed) in the playoffs." Here’s what else they had to say.

Webber on OKC fans watching the Thunder grow: "This team is mature. This doesn’t happen much in the NBA with a team jumping like this. This is really something special to see…(Golden State) had a young team that grew together and they beat Dallas (in the first round of the playoffs). That whole fan base got to watch that team grow. Oklahoma City fans better take advantage of this because, believe me, it does not happen often when it grows (like this). I’m a Lions fan and you see where I am today. This Oklahoma City team is young, they’re good and hopefully they can stick with the plan of youth."

McHale on Durant’s new nickname: "He’s ‘The Icicle.’ Long, skinny and cold-blooded."

Webber on Durant: "He’s one of the smoothest playrs I’ve ever seen. Every game he continues to break down this myth. I remember when he came into the league, people said, ‘he needs to lift weights. He needs to gain 50 pounds.’ For what? He’s going by you, he’s not going through you. This guy is a beast. When it comes to scorers in our league, (Durant) and Carmelo (Anthony) are right there at the top of the list for who can score the easiest." McHale on Durant’s scoring ability: "He scores very easily like any great scorer. What makes him unique is that he can make the long jump shot and he makes contested shots. There are times when you are up on him and you’re playing great defense and he rises up and knocks it down right in your mouth."

Webber on the Thunder’s defense against Portland: "This year, out of all the games we’ve watched, this is one of the best defensive efforts I’ve seen by a team."

The one thing that was said that missed the mark was McHale’s opinion that the front office will huddle in a room after the season, sit down and say, ‘We’re closer than we think," as if the organization will make a major move to try to speed the process. As we all know, GM Sam Presti is a patient man. That’s not happening. This Thunder team will not skip steps so long as Presti is running the show. He’ll continue to allow this group to develop together before going out and blowing his wad on a major addition that could handicap the team’s future.

Here's a dozen NBA commodities that could figure into deadline deals - ESPN
OKC's other extra draft picks/assets/flexibility - We just mentioned Harpring, who was acquired along with Eric Maynor from the Jazz on Dec. 22, and whose contract is being paid by an insurance company. Also, Harpring (because he was traded into open cap space) is exempt from what's known as the two-month rule, which would normally prohibit him from being combined with another OKC player in an outgoing package for two months.

We should also mention that the Thunder hold the rights to Minnesota's second-round pick, which will likely fall somewhere between No. 31 and No. 35, plus an extra second-round pick (Chicago's, Houston's or Portland's, whichever is the least favorable), plus their own second-rounder, provided it is in the top 45 (otherwise it goes to Dallas).

Indie rock legend Stephen Malkmus' observations of the game.

Almost Live: Thunder at Blazers (Stephen Malkmus Guest-Blogs!) | Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

  • collison and krstic – the same man.
  • thabo is looking good with the short hair…
  • sweet james harden is in there looking john salmons- like with the beard.
  • westbrook is looking awesome , hes been on fire of late and the UCLA pedigree is on display
  • whoa casey spotted mo cheeks over there–asst coach. what a nice guy .
  • the decibels are being flung around like numchucks….its louder than monsters of folk in here
  • vcu product eric maynor is making steve west proud of his alma mater tonight. at halftime Bob nastanovic said "westbrook is deferring to maynor"….i did not notice tha…………..t but the golden rams are aces in my book
  • final summation–the thunder have a super exciting team and their fans should bne spcyhed. we have a weird team with cool guys but its looking like a struggle to get the 8th seed….