Tag:Russell Westbrook
Posted on: December 28, 2011 11:40 pm
 

Report Card 12.28.11: Spurs ground Lob City

Posted by Royce Young


A: San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are too old right? THIS is the year it all starts coming apart for them, right? Yeah, right. The Clippers came to town bringing their lightshow of dunks and alley-oops, but the old, slow Spurs had no problems handling all that noise. San Antonio used a 38-point third quarter to pull away from the Clips and really highlighted a lot of issues Lob City has. They need a shooter and some depth, badly. The Spurs seem to have it all together once again, as long as the old guys can stay healthy. Doubt them all you want. Pay attention to the young, excited kids running and jumping and dunking. But the Spurs will just keep winning no matter how boring you may find that, thank you very much. The Spurs are 2-0 with blowout wins over Memphis and the Clippers. No big.

A: LeBron James and Chris Bosh

The Heat got a tougher than anticipated test from the Bobcats, but LeBron and Bosh were terrific for Miami. LeBron had 35 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Bosh had 11 of his 25 in the fourth. And he also had this incredibly awkward and awesome dunk.

B: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder picked up a third straight win, beating Memphis 98-95 on the road, but it's a bit tainted as Mike Conley injured his ankle on the very first possession of the game. And on top of it, the Thunder shot just 37 percent from the floor and gave up 19 offensive rebounds. But winning is winning and it's always good. Especially when it's on the road against a contender. Kevin Durant dropped a beautiful 32 points and carried OKC down the stretch.

C: New Orleans Hornets

They beat the Celtics to start 2-0. And they did this one without Eric Gordon. That really deserves an A. But you're supposed to be doing bad, New Orleans! You're supposed to be tanking this season away! You're supposed to be setting yourselves up for the Anthony Davis sweepstakes! Each win will be bittersweet this season for that stupid reason. It's supposed to be about the future and every win hurts that a bit. It's a horrible thing, but reality.

D: Russell Westbrook

How's this for a line: Four points, 0-13 shooting, four turnovers. Yikes. So why isn't this an F? Because Westbrook picked up six assists, hit two very important free throws in the final seconds and his team won.

F: Boston Celtics

What can you say? The Celtics are 0-3 and just lost to the Hornets despite their best player sitting. And it wasn't even a close game as they lost by 19. Yeah, Paul Pierce is hurt. Yeah, it's a night after that tough game in Miami. That's not supposed to be an excuse for a team like the Celtics though.

E for Effort: Charlotte Bobcats

So, sooooo close to knocking off the Heat. Miami was dragging a bit and probably overlooked Charlotte a bit as the Heat were coming off a game the night before against Boston, but the Bobcats were ready to go. Charlottle held a one-point lead with a few seconds left and if not for Dwyane Wade being ridiculous, the Bobcats would've registered the upset of the early NBA season. Things to be encouraged about though if you're Paul Silas and the Bobcats though. Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo and D.J. Augustin should give Bobcat fans something to be excited about.

Incomplete: Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are 2-0, but have wins over the Pistons and Raptors, with both games being relatively close. Are they good or just beating who they're supposed to beat? It's hard to know right now.
Posted on: December 26, 2011 3:34 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

Posted by Royce Young



OKLAHOMA CITY -- Commissioner David Stern had himself a double-header Sunday, watching the Heat pound the Mavericks in Dallas and then making a short trip north to Oklahoma City to check out the Thunder.

His formal address to the media was the usual stuff. He talked about OKC's chances of getting an All-Star Game (the city needs more hotels), talked about the new collective bargaining agreement and how wonderful it is and talked about the NBA's business.

But after he wrapped, a couple of reporters chatted Stern up some more (or listened, if you're me). Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman led the charge asking Stern about how this new CBA that's supposedly designed to help small markets like Oklahoma City could be what tears the Thunder apart.

First, there's the new "Rose Rule," which allows -- actually scratch that -- forces teams to pay a superstar more money if he meets certain criteria. That's already happened in Oklahoma City as Kevin Durant has qualified by being named to two All-NBA teams. Durant will make roughly $15 million more over the life of his extension and some $3 million more per year. A number that has actually put the Thunder over the cap.

The new luxury tax, which is more punitive than before, goes into action in two seasons. Right around the time the Thunder will have potentially locked up Russell Westbrook for big money along with needing to re-sign James Harden and Serge Ibaka. Plus, if Westbrook makes another All-NBA team, he'll qualify for the Rose extension, which would hurt the Thunder even more. So that's where the Thunder are at right now -- needing Russell Westbrook to NOT make an All-NBA team.

Stern disagrees with the idea the harsher luxury tax hurts small markets like the Thunder though.

“The idea that the luxury tax hurts small markets is ludicrous," he said. "It may impact a small market that's a great team and has to raise its payroll. But at the bottom, it's designed to eliminate the ability of teams to use their economic resources to distort competition"

He's right. Because that's a blanket statement. It doesn't hurt all small markets. But specifically applied to this Thunder team and its current roster structure, it absolutely does. Stern put it this way though: If you're good enough to have to be forced with making the decision to "go for it," as he put it, that's a good thing. At least that's the league's perspective.
And then he dropped this bombshell:

“People are saying to Miami, ‘Well, you're going to have a decision to make with respect to one of your big three.' And they may say the same thing to Oklahoma City, and that's a good thing. That means you've arrived and you're out there being competitive."

So David Stern thinks it would be a good thing if the Thunder are forced to give up either Westbrook, Harden or Ibaka because they can't pay to keep them all. The way Stern put it is that the new CBA doesn't just share more revenue, but shares more talent. He sees it as "player sharing."

A small market team like the Thunder, who have become the poster child for small market viability, could potentially be punished for their slick management and wise draft choices. Stern sees that as a good thing. I get his point -- if you're having to pay players lots of money that means you're doing something right. But at the same time, Thunder general manager Sam Presti has always preached on "sustainable success," which this new CBA makes a bit difficult to accomplish. You can have Durant plus either Westbrook or Harden. But not all three and definitely not all three plus Serge Ibaka. Something about that just doesn't seem right to me.

I wrote about this over the summer when the idea of a hard cap was floated. Build a team like Oklahoma City using the "Thunder model," as so many people like to call it, and you may be breaking it apart in just a few seasons. The irony here is that Presti might've done too good of a job assembling his team.

The idea with the new tax is that teams won't be willing to bust into it, large or small. Of course Oklahoma City can just choose to pay the harsh tax penalty. But are they really going to do that? Stern seemed extremely confident that not many would.

“They could, but they won’t," he said. "There are going to be very few circumstances where someone is going to go $20 million over to pay $65 million in total unless they’re sure this is their time and they’re going for it once.”

Basically Stern is banking on big markets shying away from paying the harsher tax. He could be right as it's possible the Lakers dealt Lamar Odom for virtually nothing to get away from paying so much of it. The Blazers, who once had a $57 million tax bill, won't be going into that territory again. But let's face reality: Stern talked about teams choosing to pay the tax to "go for it." Big market teams like the Lakers and Knicks will have the chance to "go for it" a lot more than the Spurs, Grizzlies or Thunder because they have a bigger slice of the pie. If they swing and miss, oh well, they can try again later.

No bother to Stern though. He's sure of this new system. Positive of it, in fact.

“You’ll see. It’s beauty,” he said. “It’s all going to happen and then we’ll look back at it rather than prejudge it. I happen to think it’s going to be good for all of us, and it’s going to hit small market and large market teams alike.”

Or destroy one like the Thunder. But whatever.
Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:34 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

Posted by Royce Young

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... Wait, we're almost to winter. What happened? Who cares, there's a season! The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a couple weeks. To get you ready for the season, we've put together some pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

Should Oklahoma City trade Russell Westbrook?

We all heard it. Read it. Saw it. Someone even said it. Russell Westbrook needs to chill out.

For the Thunder, pretty much all of the 2011 postseason was focused on Westbrook and what he should and shouldn’t be doing. Pass more, dribble less, shoot less, give it to Durant, know your role -- and on and on. Despite all of that outside noise, the Thunder became the youngest team in 20 years to go to the conference finals and that was with the 23-year-old Westbrook leading them.

For most Thunder fans, they were all saying, “What’s the big deal? That’s just Russell Westbrook.” But it didn’t matter. When people saw box scores showing 30 attempts by Westbrook’s name and the fact he took six more shots than Durant, there wasn’t a person in the world that could calm down the harrumphing going about.

A lot of it became about Durant needing a so-called "true" point guard to play with, someone that would get him the ball and then get out of the way. And while all this Chris Paul is hot and heavy right now, some have been rumoring him to Oklahoma City for Westbrook for some time. The common thinking is that alongside a pass-first guy like Paul, Durant would flourish and rule the league as the first 100-point-per-game scorer ever. (Or something like that.)

It was even taken so far that Durant and Westbrook were feuding, which isn't true at all. Did they and do they continue to get frustrated with each other? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean they want a divorce. Consider this quote from Durant this summer:

“I don’t want any other point guard,” Durant said. “He’s perfect for us, the type of guy he is, the type of player he is, the type of teammate he is. We’re all competitive, especially me and him. We get the best of each other in practice every day, and we want to go at each other and make each other better. We are going to have disagreements. That’s what all good players on good teams do.”

Let's assume though, you’re Sam Presti (designer glasses and perfectly gelled hair and all). You just signed Westbrook to an extension the second a new CBA is signed. Dell Demps calls you. Chris Paul for Westbrook, straight up.

What do you do?

First instinct says to do it, right? Chris Paul with Kevin Durant and a supporting cast of James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison sounds like an incredible roster. It sounds like it because it is.

But that's why you're not Sam Presti. He wouldn't do it. Because it's not what's best for his roster in the present, nor in the future. Westbrook's younger, hasn't had a major injury and probably hasn't actually found his ceiling yet. But it's not just about age, it's also about fit.

Consider this: Via NBA.com, the Thunder's offense actually improved more when Westbrook usage went up. Think about that. The more Westbrook inserted himself into the offense, the better OKC scored. And we're talking about a top five offense in both points per game and offensive efficiency.

Look at the numbers: Westbrook assisted Durant on more field goals made than any other player in the league (279, next closest is CP3 and David West with 212). The Thunder’s offense finished the season in the top five in both points per game and offensive efficiency, and was a top three unit the last couple weeks.

What made the Thunder turn the page offensively after Jeff Green was traded was three-fold: 1) Green and his horribly inefficient offensive ways were gone, 2) James Harden had a much bigger role and 3) Westbrook had a bit more leash.

The issue was never about Westbrook and Durant working together. It was about the structure and how things changed in a 7-game postseason series against a veteran team and good coach. Don’t you think Rick Carlisle had a gameplan prepared to stop the Thunder? And with seven games to figure it out, he was going to have something. The Mavs did their best to take away Durant and put all the pressure on Westbrook to make plays. Westbrook had to score. It was the only way the Thunder would crack 90.

What hurt Oklahoma City there was the fact that Westbrook often tried to do too much instead of taking a deep breath and that Durant had difficulty getting free of Shawn Marion for Westbrook to pass him the ball. In the series against the Mavs, OKC’s offensive rating dropped all the way to 78.2, which is horrible. But that was more about what the Mavericks did right, than the Thunder did wrong.

Dallas was prepared for that. Oklahoma City, all the way down to its coaching staff, was not. It’s something to learn from. And despite that, the Thunder were a couple blown fourth quarter leads away from having that series 3-2 in their favor and coming back to OKC. They weren't that far off, not by any stretch. 

Westbrook needs to improve in some areas. He knows it. Good thing he’s just, you know, 23 years old. At the rate he’s improved and transformed his game from year one to year three has been kind of incredible. He’s added a solid jumper, sees the floor much better, is under control more, passes the ball more authoritatively, actually understands offense and is capable of running one. Don’t forget: The Thunder won 55 games, the Northwest Division and was two fourth quarters away from playing for an NBA title. All with a team that features its top four players under the age of 25. The Thunder got to the Western Finals more because of Russell Westbrook, not in spite of him. People seem to forget that when they start playing with the Trade Machine.

The Thunder aren't just fine with Westbrook. They're actually better off with more of him.

Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 12:36 pm
 

New 'Rose Rule' could pay a few rookies more

Posted by Royce Young

Nothing is more valuable in the NBA than a star on a rookie scale contract. For those three or four years before he's given a big extension, you can't possibly get more bang for your buck.

Some general managers have used rookie contracts to build their teams. It's no coincidence that Oklahoma City routinely has three or four players in every "most underpaid players" list.

Guys like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose have been on rookie deals the past few seasons while Durant has been named to the All-Star team twice with two scoring titles and Rose has won an MVP.

And in the new collective bargaining agreement, those rookie deals will remain equally as valuable. Except one thing is changing a bit and it's a rule named after Derrick Rose.

Rookie scale players are eligible to get an extension starting in their fifth season -- example: Russell Westbrook and Rose this year -- and can now get an extra little bump based on performance. A new max has been established which is up to 30 percent of the team's cap, up from 25 percent. But in order to qualify for that extra five percent, the player has to win an MVP, make the All-Star team twice as a starter in their first four seasons or get named to any All-NBA team in their first four years.

Rose obviously qualifies right now and Westbrook could with another All-NBA selection. He was named second team All-NBA last season. The difference is about an extra $3 million.

As the New York Times notes, Durant could be eligible this season:
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant may be eligible because the extension he signed in 2010 has not yet taken effect. Under N.B.A. rules, a max contract is tied to league formulas, not a specific dollar amount. Durant could ask the Thunder for the extra 5 percent once the league reopens for business.
Otherwise, Westbrook could potentially make more than his superstar counterpart. Which would only add a little extra fuel to the already stupid fire that there's a rift between Durant and Westbrook.

Not a major win for players, but certainly a reasonable one.

Via SB Nation
Posted on: November 23, 2011 9:35 pm
 

Jeff Green: 'I can really (expletive) play'

Posted by Royce Young



It's been a weird turn for Jeff Green. He was an All-American at Georgetown, the fifth pick in 2007 and seen as a future cornerstone for a bright and blossoming franchise.

But he never quite realized his potential. Or maybe it wasn't even that. Maybe he never quite figured out how or where to fit.

That's how he sees it, it appears. Green told the Boston Heraldthat he thinks Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sort of overshadowed him and therefore didn't allow the world to see his full cupboard of talent. And even added an (expletive) for emphasis.

“Yeah, man, you know a lot of people don’t know what I can really do,” he said. “In Oklahoma, I was kind of overshadowed by Kevin (Durant) and the way Russell (Westbrook) picked up, but, excuse my language, I can really (expletive) play. I can really play this game, man.”

So let's evaluate these comments. Can Jeff Green really (expletive) play? If we're talking about professional basketball, then I think he might need to take a step back.

Look, Jeff Green's a really good basketball player. Versatile, skilled, athletic, smart -- he's got a ton of tools. He's just perpetually caught in between positions. So much that it might put his success and career in the NBA in jeopardy. It's one thing to be a really good player, but if you don't have a place on the floor and therefore a role, what value do you have to a team? You have to be able to fill a need and spot. You have to produce. And while that has everything to do with your ability to really (expletive) play, it also kind of has nothing to do with, if you know what I mean.

Green was clearly overshadowed in OKC because of Durant and Westbrook and I always thought that was one of his strongest qualities. He had no issue in playing his role and quietly doing his job. He never stepped out of character to try and gather a little attention and spotlight for himself. The way he handled himself and his business in Oklahoma City was admirable. And Jeff Green will forever be one of my favorite players ever because of it.

But he just didn't have the capabilities to do his job to the level the Thunder needed. He couldn't rebound as a 4. Couldn't defend that position. Couldn't stretch the floor with a consistent outside jumper. Never really took advantage of other power forwards with his athleticism. Despite possessing some solid post skill, he never used much of it. Green was always just kind of there. A night of 15 points, five rebounds and three assists was the usual for Uncle Jeff. Good, but not good in the right ways.

He's clearly frustrated with his lot right now because he didn't find himself in a role he could flourish in Boston. While he was out of position in OKC, he was very much in the right one (as much as he can be) with the Celtics, but was forced to try and milk everything he could out of 20 minutes a night behind Paul Pierce. That's difficult for anyone.

It's a contract year for Green as he's a restricted free agent and he's understandably upset with how last season went. He knows he can play. He's a really good basketball player. But he has yet to find that spot, that place he can succeed. And really, it's hard to say if he ever will.

Posted on: November 18, 2011 8:41 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 9:10 pm
 

NBA stars to play Barack Obama fundraiser game

Posted by Ben Golliverbarack-obama

Do you support United States President Barack Obama, like professional basketball and have $5,000 sitting around? If so, I know just the event for you.

President Obama is hosting a Washington, D.C. exhibition game featuring some of the NBA's biggest stars on Dec. 12. The only catch? Tickets start in the triple digits, with proceeds from the game going to the Obama Victory Fund to support the President's 2012 re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The Obama Classic Basketball Game, announced on BarackObama.com, is expected to feature NBA and WNBA stars past and present.
Please join us in Washington, DC for a game featuring basketball's greatest super stars in support of the Obama Victory Fund.

Confirmed to play: Ray Allen - Carmelo Anthony - Chris Bosh - Vince Carter - Tyson Chandler - Jamal Crawford - Kevin Durant - Baron Davis - Patrick Ewing - Derek Fisher - Rudy Gay - Blake Griffin - Tyler Hansbrough - Dwight Howard - Juwan Howard - Antawn Jamison - Dahntay Jones - Brandon Knight - Kevin Love - Jamal Mashburn - Cheryl Miller - Reggie Miller - Alonzo Mourning - Dikembe Mutombo - Chris Paul - Quentin Richardson - Doc Rivers - Steve Smith - Jerry Stackhouse - Amare Stoudemire - Tina Thompson - John Wall - Russell Westbrook. More players to be added soon! 
Tickets for the game start at $100 and escalate to $5,000 for courtside seats. The venue is currently listed as "to be announced."

Obama, a huge basketball fan, has said in recent months that the ongoing NBA lockout has left him "heartbroken" and "concerned." Asked recently if he planned to intervene in the NBA's ongoing labor dispute, Obama said that he "wouldn't intercede" because he has "some bigger fish to fry."

I guess putting the still-unemployed players to work fundraising for a president re-election campaign technically counts as frying a bigger fish. The message here: ask not what the President can do for your job, NBA players, ask only what you can do for the President's job. 

But, seriously, if this is anything like the Carrier Classic -- a college basketball game played on an aircraft carrier that Obama and his wife attended on Veteran's Day -- then it will be all sorts of awesome.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 1:54 pm
 

Wall, Westbrook in club where shooting happened

Posted by Royce Young

A number of NBA and NFL players were partying at a New York City nightclub when a gunman opened fire, killing an ex-con and injuring two others, according to the New York Daily News.

None of the NFL or NBA players were injured. Among them though were John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Carlos Boozer, Chris Duhon and Kemba Walker, as well as five New York Giants -- Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Aaron Ross, Antrel Rolle and Chris Canty. The NBA players were still in New York, presumably after the players' meeting that happened Monday.
The gunman, clad in a white leather jacket, crashed the crowded party at the Juliet Supper Club on W. 21st St. by squeezing off five shots shortly before 2:30 a.m., police said.
[...]

In Tuesday’s bloodshed, the killer is thought to have fired the shots in a bid to get even after a woman was bumped on the dance floor — but her relationship to the gunman was not clear, the sources said.
Also in the club was actress Reese Witherspoon and her former husband Ryan Phillippe. Again, no players were involved or injured. They were just there when some psycho came storming in firing off shots. Which is extremely scary.

Via PBT
Posted on: October 26, 2011 5:04 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 10:30 pm
 

LeBron James, other stars bail on world tour

Posted by Ben Golliverlebron-james-uk

It sounded too good to be true, didn't it?

A full galaxy of NBA stars travelling the globe to bring basketball to all corners of the Earth during the biggest hoops drought in a decade?

As recently as a few hours ago, plans were reportedly all set for Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and a host of other NBA stars to make a six-game tour that would have included stops in Puerto Rico, England and Australia.

Unfortunately, multiple reports broke on Wednesday afternoon that many of the biggest names would not actually be participating.

Although his name was mentioned by tour organizers, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that James "not only won't be part of NBA world tour but had never committed to [the] project in [the] first place." 

Shortly thereafter, ESPN.com reported that James, Anthony and Paul had all chosen not to participate. HoopsWorld.com then reminded everyone that Rose and Westbrook were recent scratches too.

I guess if you're going to fail, fail big.

Update: The Sun Sentinel reports Wednesday night that the world tour has been repackaged as a one-game exhibition in Puerto Rico, starring Bryant, Durant, Stoudemire, Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Diwght Howard, Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Carlos Boozer and Tyson Chandler.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com