Welcome to Thursday, another day off to stew about what might have been two nights back. In the midst of the long season, the league seems to have settled into a quiet routine. Let's hunt for some interesting news that doesn't involve Carmelo Anthony.
Tramel offers a very astute observation about Coach Scott Brooks and how he runs his substitution pattern. It is extremely rigid and he seldom deviates unless he absolutely has to. As a result, Brooks will often miss mis-match opportunities as they arise on the fly. For example, Tramel noted that Brooks missed the opportunity to have Durant on the floor while defensive specialist Tony Allen sat. I think Tramel is offering a very fair criticism of the young coach, but honestly, I don't know what he can do about it at this point in the season. Sometimes when coaches try to take such a gamesmanship approach, they end up over-thinking the process and mess up the game's continuity. Reading a player on the fly, processing it, and calculating a new maximum line-up is incredibly difficult to do. It takes years of practice and a special relationship between player and coach to cultivate such a substitution dynamic. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has always been a master at this skill, seeming to know precisely when to put in guys like Brian Shaw, a Cliff Levingston, or a Bobby Hansen.
[Tony Allen] messed with the Thunder. Took them out of their offense, and single-handedly kept the Grizz in the game in the third with all his free throw makes. Could the Thunder have done better? I'm being serious when I tell you that I don't know.
Dwyer is right - Allen was a defensive phenom, seemingly controlling half the defensive court at all times. He locked up Durant well, keeping him shooting fade-aways vs giving in to Durant's curl patterns. He also disrupted the passing lanes, picking off lateral passes with ease that led to break-away layups. In the Thunder's win against the Suns, when Grant Hill played Durant well, the Thunder countered by running a lot of their offense through Jeff Green. Against the Grizzlies though, this technique didn't work as well because Green was being bodied up by Zach Randolph. With those two options neutralized, the Thunder had to adjust their offensive focus. Instead of running offense through their small forwards, they needed to run it consistently through their guards. Russell Westbrook and James Harden had clear advantages over their defenders, and both guys were effective offensively. Unfortunately, Westbrook's eight turnovers canceled out whatever positives he brought, and the game was lost because of it.
A fun list of positives on this season at its' midpoint. The Thunder knock three elements in his list, but what made me smile the most was in his referring the Celtics' Glen Davis as having an, "upholstered physique."
I can't disagree with all of the compliments the writer pays to the Thunder, but herein lies the difference fundamentally between the NBA and say, the NCAA, for example. The Thunder have the talent to beat any team on any given night. What they don't yet have is the ability to beat an elite team four times in seven games. There is a difference.
More links after the jump.
Click on over to the site to select your choice of the best first-half performers. There are a few Thunder guys in the running, so make your votes count.
I appreciate the fact that Durant needs to appear on every list possible known to man, but I'd probably have to argue that the most efficient scorer on the team is probably Serge Ibaka.
Bill Simmons had trumpeted this idea for years, and when the NBA finally took hold of it, they botched the concept completely. How do you screw up a competition where it actually levels the playing field between a guy like Durant and Rajon Rondo? Well, the NBA managed to do it. It also highlights one of the things that irks me the most about sports TV production these days - the networks' unchallenged belief that they know exactly what the viewer wants, and then ignoring the truth when they miss the boat.
The team is trying to get Kevin Durant warmed up for his 3-point competition by holding some informal shootouts after practice. Lost in all of the All-Star excitement is the fact that the Thunder actually have the 2009 3-point shootout winner on their team in Daequan Cook. It kind of underscores the fact that if the Thunder are only using a guy like James Harden or Thabo Sefolosha to shoot 3-pointers, it might be worth considering using an actual guy who excels at that skill.
Thunder U is in full force today" - Scott Brooks