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Afternoon Loud Links 1|28|11

Let's see how long tonight we can resist reminding ourselves that the Wizards are winless on the road. Hopefully longer than the opening three minutes, when the Wiz jump out to an early 10-2 lead. Here's a tip guys - trap John Wall. Trap him hard.

After Breakout Season, Thunder Somehow Look Worse |

More harping on the Thunder's defense. I regret that I did not start watching the Thunder a year ago, so I could see the change that everyone talks about in their team defensive strategy.

"I don't know if every team we play is looking at us different now. I'm guessing. But I would guess that they know we have a good team and they know that they have to play well against us and that brings a different level of competition. I'm not sure we've accepted and adjusted to that yet." - Coach Brooks

The Point Forward: The Latest Around the League | Sports Illustrated

Zach Lowe offers some historical context on what Kevin Durant did in his last game. In short, he played a game that has few peers. Lowe also offers this comment:

But even a guy like Thabo Sefolosha has a hard-to-quantify value when he is good enough — and versatile enough — defensively to give your star guard or wing player a rest. Watch the Thunder, and you’ll see Sefolosha doing this for Durant a lot.

I'm going to have to disagree with that statement, because I

have watched, and I have seen. Sefolosha is a good defender when he's guarding tall shooting guards and small forwards, because he can use his length and body strength to play them physically. However, when it comes to staying in front of other teams' star guards, he's really pretty bad.

The Truth About Kobe Bryant | TrueHoop

I think this story might get re-written every year or so. Which is not to say that I'm disparaging Mr. Abbott; he backs up his assertions well. We actually pontificated on this topic a little bit earlier this year.  One of the things he doesn't address in his piece though is free throws. This particular area is one where Kobe Bryant has excelled for years. If you look at this table, you can see that Kobe is #1 in clutch free throws attempted per 48 minutes and hits 89% of them. This means that even if he isn't hitting shots in the past five minutes, he is still generating offense better than any other player in the league. This factor deserves consideration when the question is asked of who is the best guy to go to when the game is on the line.

Bad D in DC, Early O in OKC | Hoopsworld

Here is a good look at what makes the Thunder's transition offense so effective. Despite Russell Westbrook's poor showing last game, over the course of the season he has been adept at making the right decisions when he attacks. The author notes how well the Thunder use hand-offs and blur screens in transition, which begs the question as to why they can do these things at a high pace, but in a half-court set, the offense seems to get dominated by one or two players.

More links after the jump.

What Might Have Been: Varejao to OKC | ESPN

Stein takes a look at Cleveland's most valuable asset - Anderson Varejao - and wonders what might have happened if he hadn't torn up his ankle tendon this year. With his injury though, I highly doubt that Presti would chase an injured player who is still looking for a good contract.

The Should-Be Western Starters in the All-Star Game | Ball Don't Lie

Mr. Dwyer offers his opinion on which players should have gotten the starting nod. Here's a tip though; Yao Ming is going to be voted in as a starter at least three years after he retires. 

Choose Your Squad for the 2011 Skills Challenge |

You can vote for Westbrook to participate in this year's Skills Challenge at the All-Star Game. Derrick Rose is the defending champ; let's see if Russell can take the crown.


Why the Wizards Have Been So Ruinous on the Road |

The Thunder cannot be their first victim. Fortunately, the Wiz play at the Cavaliers on 2/13, so I'm sure they've circled that calendar date and won't play hard tonight.

66ers to Host Thunder Affiliate Night | Our Sports Central

Affiliate night is meant to showcase the relationship between OKC and Tulsa basketball fans. The game ball will be dribbled 114 miles by the Thunder intern Hiroshi "Morris" Morioka. I'm completely shocked that they got an intern to agree to this stunt.

Heat Lead the Way in Oscar Nominations | Bleacher Report

Thunder up for multiple awards, including best supporting actor and screenplay.

Which Mumblecore Movie is Your Favorite NBA Team? | Business Insider

The movie analogies continue. I have to confess that I had to look up the word "mumblecore." Not sure how I feel about the Thunder being compared to a movie about amateur porn.