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OKC Loud Links: And So It Ends

The NBA season finally ends for the Thunder. It has been a season heavy with twists, turns, and even violence. OKC finishes up tonight against the Nuggets and the team faces an interesting scenario. Currently Denver is in 6th place with two games remaining, and they are leading both Dallas and Utah. If OKC tries to win tonight's game, they could potentially knock down the Nuggets to the 7th seed and then face them in the 1st round. If they choose not to compete all the way to the end, there is a strong likelihood that OKC will face their vanquishers from last season in the 1st round.

The playoffs are all about small advantages that accumulate over the course of a series. Would OKC be yielding some advantage to Denver by ceding a win and choosing not to play them in round 1? Conversely, would Dallas feel disrespected by OKC opting to take them on? Fortunately for OKC, they laid out a nice blueprint in last night's win. They used their entire bench for the duration of the 4th and fortunately the bench won the game. So if the Thunder repeat this template, they can rightly be seen as simply following a preordained plan and avoid perpetrating any sort of mental leverage to their future opponents.

Elbow Issues | Daily Thunder

The DT 3-on-3 trio examines the aftermath of the Artest suspension. Seven games seems 'fair.' However, a 'fair' penalty is not a deterrent one, and given Metta World Peace's spotted history of suspensions, this one likely isn't going to be a deterrent either. Honestly though, how can you deter something that is outside of rational control?

2012 Awards | Sports Illustrated

Lowe offers up his picks for the gamut of awards. James Harden takes home two SI awards, the 6th Man award and Most Improved. Harden's super-efficient game translated into an amazing 66% true shooting percentage. He also made the jump from what many argued was a draft lottery bust into arguably the 3rd best 2-guard in the game, all the while coming off the bench. Once Harden lets go of some of his 3-point attempts per game and eliminates a few of the high risk turnovers he sometimes gets, he'll be a guard with no weaknesses.

All Defensive Teams | Basketball Prospectus

Pelton runs down his list, putting LeBron James at the point and awarding honorable mentions to both Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha. I would really like to see Russell Westbrook in this discussion a year from now.

LeBron James Speaks | Sports Illustrated

Lee Jenkins has a great profile on LeBron James and how his life has evolved since moving to Miami. Teammate Shane Battier says it best - LeBron is a "fascinating sociological observation."

NBA Ratings Improved This Season | Ball Don't Lie

Or, in other words, the owners won the lockout war.

Mike Miller: Playoffs Can't Get Here Fast Enough | Ball Don't Lie

No kidding.

Jim Nantz and Dick Stockton in a Hot Tub | SB Nation

As awesome as it sounds. Step inside the Aquajet 9000 and partake in some steak, french fries, and of course, scotch.

Steve Francis Debuts Mazerati Music | SB Nation

Steve Francis is sometimes mentioned as a warning sign for Russell Westbrook. This may be true, but we can only hope that one day Westbrook too tries his hand at '90's rap.

Larry Brown Lashes Out at Michael Jordan | Ball Don't Lie

Larry Brown takes aim at Michael Jordan's ownership of the Bobcats. Honestly, even if everything he says here is true, I still have very little sympathy for Brown. Brown is a manipulative opportunist and a guy who actively undermined his own teams while auditioning for jobs elsewhere and frequently left teams while still under contract. Brown and Jordan deserve each other.