clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Loud Links: 02|05|10

New, comment Scoring star Ellis can't end Warriors' All-Star curse
[This one is for you Z.] Monta Ellis tried. Really, he did. As hard as anyone possibly could. But even Ellis, perhaps one of the toughest 10 players to guard one-on-one in the NBA, couldn't snap the most dubious All-Star streak in the league. Which means the Warriors just went the decade without an All-Star, putting them on an island in that regard. As the rest of the league parties on next weekend in Dallas, the Warriors are wallowing once again, struggling to elevate in the West.

They're still trying to find an identity just three years removed from a shocking playoff run and are desperately on a star search to give them some much-needed credibility. For the moment, let's just focus on the star search. It's not that the Warriors went dry on very good players in the decade, and Ellis would've raised few eyebrows had he made the game. But the lack of a true star just symbolizes the plight of the Warriors. For comparison's sake, Oklahoma City has had more All-Stars this decade, and OKC just got a basketball team like, yesterday.


Line Score of the Week

Kevin Durant, Thunder: 40 minutes, 16-for-21 shooting, 11 rebounds, 45 points against the Warriors. Tough call here; Andre Miller went for 52 against the Mavericks and compiled that many points while making only a single 3-point shot. But that was clearly an aberration for Miller, who's not a 52-point guy. What Durant is doing is epic, at least for this season. He's gone 23 straight games with 25 or more points as he bears down on the scoring title. I can't tell whether Durant is the next Gervin or the next T-Mac ... maybe he's a hybrid. The guy gets points a variety of ways, which only makes him that much tougher to defend. Essentially, if his outside shot isn't working, he can still get 30 points by going to the line or the rim. The only question is whether Durant can give LeBron a run for MVP. That will depend on what Oklahoma City does, along with Durant, in the final few months. But just by raising the possibility of Durant as MVP -- and he's not even in the prime of his career -- says plenty about his quick start.

Bill Simmons would give up Boston's 2008 NBA Championship for Kevin Durant...

Bill Simmons: Super Bowl pick and new mailbag - ESPN
Q: If you could go back in time "Lost"-style and fix the 2007 lottery so the Celtics landed the second pick, would you keep what happened (No. 5 pick, KG trade, 2008 title, everything else that happened up to now), or would you switch it so that they ended up with the No. 2 pick and Durant? --Dr. Bill Simmons, Boston

SG: OK, I fibbed that one. My dad asked me that on the phone this week. And we both came to the same conclusion pretty quickly: You'd have to go with Durant. Have you seen what he's doing for the Zombies lately? Thirty a night, eight boards, 50 percent shooting, nails his free throws … just eerie, Gervin-like consistency for a young team that doesn't have another reliable scorer, and if that's not enough, he's the single best teammate in the league other than LeBron.

Barring injury, he's going to win this year's scoring title (he'd be the youngest ever by two years) and could be looking at a historic 35 ppg, 10 rpg, 50/40/90 percentage season soon. I don't see how you pass that up. And if you remember, the 2007 Celts had a decent nucleus in place already (Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Paul Pierce, Theo Ratliff's expiring contract, the rights to Minnesota's No. 1) and easily could have turned a couple of those assets into Pau Gasol a couple of months later.

Daily Thunder was quick to respond to Simmons...

How good is Kevin Durant? Trade-a-championship-for-him good | Daily
You know how many times I read that? Three. Three times. It’s just so lovely. But think about that kind of high praise. First off, Simmons says Thunder basketball is must-see-TV. (Too bad ESPN and TNT don’t see it that way.) But here you have a guy that is willing to forgo a title for his team in order to possess a player we currently have on our team. If that doesn’t tell you how good KD is, well, then you should really start watching Thunder games. And if that doesn’t make you scream like a 14-year-old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert, then you have no heart.

Here’s KD’s line since Dec. 22: 32.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 53 percent from the field, 54 percent from 3, 88 percent from the line. Add to that the 23-game streak, the fact his team is 15-8 in that span and oh yeah, that’s he’s 21 freaking years old and well, you should be changing your pants by now. It’s getting really old when people try and remind us that we’ve got something really special here in OKC, but people, WE’VE GOT SOMETHING SPECIAL.

On The Move: Northwest Division - Hoopsworld
Oklahoma City Thunder: Likely to be Moved: Etan Thomas With the improved play of Serge Ibaka in the past two months, Thomas has fallen out of head coach Scott Brook's rotation in Oklahoma City. While he's a nice veteran presence in a locker room that consists of mostly young players, perhaps his biggest asset to the Thunder is his $7.35 million expiring contract. Most NBA people agree that Oklahoma City is just one good big-man away from being a really scary team in the Western Conference. If the contract of Thomas along with a draft pick can help OKC land a player like Brendan Haywood of the Washington Wizards, for example, it would be a move the club would absolutely have to consider.

Likely to be Mentioned: Jeff Green Your friendly neighborhood columnist has talked to a number of GM's who are very intrigued by what Green brings to the table even despite the fact that he's a classic "tweener" with no true position. The only problem is that the Thunder have no interest in moving him without getting incredible value in return. However, the fact that other teams like Green will virtually ensure that his name gets tossed into the rumor-mill even though the chances that he actually gets moved are slim to none.

I Have Seen Shawn Kemp, And You, Serge Ibaka, Are No Shawn Kemp - SB Nation
Because of the surprising season they're having and their collection of up-and-coming talented players that are also model citizens, you can excuse people for going a little ga-ga over the Oklahoma City Thunder. I'm guilty myself. But there comes a time when we must step back in the name of rationality and take a bunch of chill pills. After reading this item from Darnell Mayberry, the Thunder's beat reporter from the Oklahoman, that time is now.

"Serge Ibaka is developing faster than anyone with the Thunder could have projected. And anyone in the organization is more than willing to admit as much. The 6-foot-10 post player from Congo has blossomed into a bonafide post threat, one that rebounds, blocks shots and patrols the paint like no one this franchise has seen since Shawn Kemp more than a decade ago."

Uhh ... yeah. And now, for my rebuttal:

In defense of Mayberry, maybe he has some scoop we don't. Maybe Serge Ibaka has also fathered seven children with six different women.

The Tides Are Changing Out West, Just Ask Oklahoma City & Memphis
We aren’t even at the All-Star break yet in the current season and both teams have already surpassed last season’s win totals. Oklahoma City is currently 28-21 and securing the 7th seed in the West. Meanwhile, Memphis is 26-22 and trailing the 8th seeded Blazers by a game and a half. Hats off to head coaches Scott Brooks and Lionel Hollins for the jobs they’ve done to this point with their young clubs.

The real story, however, has been the play of third-year man Kevin Durant and Memphis newcomer, Zach Randolph. Both are having career years and will make their first All-Star appearances. Durant is enjoying career highs across the board while leading the NBA in scoring (as I predicted), and Randolph is averaging 20 and 11 while leading the West in double-doubles.

These aren’t the only two guys playing well either. Russell Westbrook is building on his solid rookie campaign and averaging almost 16 and 7, and rooks James Harden and Serge Ibaka have proved to be solid options off the bench.

Thunder rebounding as a team |
"We've got great rebounders at all positions," Durant said. "Our point guard is the best point guard rebounder in the league. Thabo is a great rebounder. Nick (Collison) is probably our best rebounder. Serge (Ibaka) is really good. And those two are coming off the bench." Size isn't everything.

Despite the lack of a dominant big man, the Thunder features young, athletic players, like Durant, Jeff Green, Ibaka, Sefolosha and Westbrook, who leap above opponents. Another reason for OKC's board success is coach Scott Brooks emphasizes rebounding in practices and games. Improved defense also is a factor. "We've done a good job guarding this year," Collison said. "There are a lot less breakdowns. Playing better defense allows everyone to box out instead of having to come over and help (defensively)."

Some of the most excruciating losses for Thunder fans have been watching Houston twice dominate the offensive glass in the waning minutes to post wins. It was a similar scenario in an overtime loss at Milwaukee and a lopsided loss to Chicago in the Ford Center.

But don't let those games fool you into thinking the Thunder isn't a good rebounding team. They're one of the best in the league. The Thunder gives up nearly a dozen offensive rebounds a game, the third most. They compensate by grabbing 11.6 offensive boards themselves.

Another factor is having a young team that thrives on competing, whether it's post-practice free-throw contests, three-on-three pickup games or grabbing rebounds. "Yeah, we have a competition to see who can get the most (rebounds)," Green said. "It's not a jealousy thing. But we all want rebounds. Some of our rebounds are hustle, just beating someone to the ball. We're balanced. We have a lot of guys who can do a lot of things. Everyone can rebound."

Basketball Prospectus | Articles | Rookie Challenge
James Harden, G, Oklahoma City: Harden's ability to attack the rim has translated well to the pros. He's been too often utilized as a spot-up shooter and his long-range accuracy has been inconsistent. However, he's passed the ball well and held up on defense for the most part. His overall value has been held down because of playing time issues. Harden has played behind Thabo Sefolosha all season. He's a better player, but Harden's usage isn't a great fit for Oklahoma City's first unit. It'll be interesting to see how this works out in the long run, because Harden is too good to be on the bench over half the time.

Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City: The big three we saw emerging for the Thunder has really become a big two, as Westbrook has emerged as the primary complement to Kevin Durant. Westbrook's playmaking skills could stand to improve, as could his shot selection. But he's one of the most athletic guards in the NBA and, at 21, has a tremendous ceiling.

Hardwood Paroxysm |NBA Trade Deadline: Is D.J. White The Diamond In The Rough?
The Thunder will likely not be movers at the deadline, though I’d expect them to make a move of some type before the draft (you can’t have a 28 man roster and they’ve got too many picks). But if they were to make a move, moving for D.J. White and Weaver (injured) might not be a bad plan.

Look, I get that White’s played eight whole games this year, averaging 8.9 minutes. But a 21.4 pp40, with 8.5 REB, and 1.1 Blocks is worth a look. OKC has cap room, a few expirings ($18 mil worth), picks, and White and Weaver are young, talented, with good per minute numbers and upside. The more you think about it, OKC has the ability to acquire pretty much anyone they want. But then, they don’t need to, don’t want to, and don’t have to.

Paupers to princes, so to speak. - Cory Elfrink - The Top-25 of 25-and-Under
#22. Russell Westbrook, 21 - Westbrook is playing second fiddle to Durant, but his quick adaptation to the point guard role has been impressive and is far from over. He is already one of the best rebounders and transition players at his position and can lockdown his man on defense. His assist total will climb a la Rajon Rondo in the coming seasons as he matures into his playmaking ability. While his jump shot needs work, he's in very good hands under coach Scott Brooks.

#2. Kevin Durant, 21 - At the ripe age of 21, Durant is delivering the second best fantasy season of any player in the league. He has scored at least 25 points in 22 straight games, a feat that hasn't been accomplished in nine years (Iverson was the last to do so). Durant has proven to be a rebounding force, and his defense has grown by leaps and bounds. Although he has yet to appear in the playoffs with his young team, it's clear we're witnessing the development of a superstar. Kirilenko, Martin show flashes of All-Star form
G: Russell Westbrook, Thunder -- Westbrook gets the nod this week for his near triple-double en route to a schooling of Hornets rookie guard Darren Collison. Westbrook, who played with Collison at UCLA, helped limit New Orleans' new starter to a 4-for-12 shooting night and five turnovers. Westbrook, for his part, had 26 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds while impressing us, also, with just two turnovers. It marked the second straight game in which Westbrook flirted with a triple-double (he had 12 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in a win over the Hawks) and controlled the pace in both games. "I'm just trying to stay consistent," Westbrook told The Oklahoman. "Whether we win or lose, I think if I stay consistent it's a better outcome most of the time."