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Tag:Oklahoma City THunder
Posted on: January 8, 2012 11:58 pm
 

Report Card: Nash doing his Nash thing

Posted by Royce Young


Ricky Rubio

OK, so it was against the Wizards. But they have John Wall, remember? And Ricky Rubio torched them. Off the bench for the Wolves, Rubio piled up 13 points, 14 assists and six rebounds while being a +29. It's not so much that he's dazzling and making us say "Oooh" every time he passes it anymore. He's just a dang good point guard and he makes the Wolves a much better team.

Steve Nash

Nash dished out 17 assists, but 10 came in the first quarter. While people like me fawn over Rubio, you can't forget that Nash is still the best setup man in basketball. Chris Paul is a better point guard, but nobody puts a pass right on the money for a good shot quite like Nash. The Suns have been pretty up and down, but have won two straight games to get back 4-4. And when Nash has it going, that's a team that beat a whole lot of teams.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder are the first team this season to sweep their back-to-back-to-back with an easy rout of the Spurs. Kevin Durant flirted with a triple-double (21-10-7) and OKC's bench piled up 53 points. But as coach Scott Brooks said after the game, he wanted to keep it in perspective. The Spurs, who are old, were playing without Manu Ginobili and in their fourth in five nights which meant a lot of their veterans didn't play. Impressive win, but against a wounded opponent.

Raymond Felton

Since calling out Russell Westbrook, Felton has been pretty average. He's gone 7-30 from the field in his last three games, including 1-9 Sunday against the Cavs that featured five turnovers. Felton's Blazers are 2-1 in that time, so that's no so bad and he's dished out 19 assists, but he isn't exactly looking quite as hot as he did after beating Westbrook.

Marc Gasol

Matching up against his brother Pau and Andrew Bynum, Mark wasn't good. He didn't make a shot in nine tries and scored only two points in 44 minutes. He grabbed 11 rebounds, had four steals and three blocks, but without Zach Randolph, Memphis isn't going to beat many teams getting nothing offensively from Gasol in 44 minutes.

Washington Wizards

I think we might just need to remake the "F" for each night into a little Wizard logo. Because this is becoming a nightly thing. It's almost a surprise if Washington is competitive. I don't think they've necessarily quit on Flip Saunders, but something isn't working for them. They're terrible, John Wall isn't making a move forward and the other players around him aren't helping much. The Wolves are a decent team but getting blasted by 21 at home while only scoring 73 points. Come on.
Posted on: January 8, 2012 10:37 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2012 10:40 pm
 

Oklahoma City is getting an early mental test

Posted by Royce Young



OKLAHOMA CITY -- Three nights, three wins.

That's what the Thunder accomplished with an easy 108-96 win over the Spurs Sunday, but there was a little deeper meaning to it. It wasn't just a win over a team Oklahoma City had lost six consecutive games to. It was a testing ground for something the Thunder haven't had to deal with since their rise as a Western contender -- a major injury to a key rotation player.

A night after losing backup point guard Eric Maynor to a season-ending ACL tear, the Thunder were left to find a new answer behind All-Star Russell Westbrook. Would it be Royal Ivey, the steady veteran? Just more minutes for Westbrook? Moving super sixth man James Harden for some time out front?

Or just hand the keys to a rookie taken in last June's draft? As it is in Oklahoma City, next man up.

Reggie Jackson -- yes, Reggie Jackson, real name -- stepped in for Maynor in a big way scoring 11 points and dishing out four assists. Head coach Scott Brooks didn't baby him along either. Jackson came in right at the time Maynor normally does and played Maynor's usual fill of minutes. And in those nine minutes spanning the end of the first quarter to the middle of the second, the Thunder were a plus-10 on the Spurs.

“I thought he did well,” Brooks said. “I thought he did a really good job of picking his spots and running the team.”

Said Harden: "[Jackson] was very good. He's got a long way to go but he made all the right plays, made shots and got into the lane. Over time, he'll get better and he'll get a feel for the game."

Some of you might be thinking, "So what, a backup point guard? Call me when Kevin Durant gets hurt." Thing is, the Thunder's bench has become one of its most valued weapons. With Harden, plus-minus machine Nick Collison and Maynor, the Thunder had at least one of the top three second units in basketball. That time during the early second quarter and early fourth when both teams have most of their benches in were times the Thunder could really take control of games.

So without a major part of that group, it was a legit question to wonder if the Thunder had lost a potential championship piece. And they still might have, but the early returns on Westbrook's backup's backup were very good. Jackson played under control, played confident and played smooth. It's one game and the key to any backup point man is consistency, especially when you're doing it behind someone as erratic as Westbrook. But Jackson made a strong case for claiming that role for at least the rest of this year.

For a young group like the Thunder though, part of the question with a loss like Maynor was the psyche of the team. They battled back Saturday night after Maynor left the game against Houston and won on the road. But how would they respond on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back sans one of their closest friends? The players were clearly shaken when Maynor had to be literally carried off the floor by Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

"The whole season is now for Eric," Harden said. "It's a tough loss. We were all sad. We got to spend some time with him last night at his house just giving some comfort and showing him how much we care."

But injuries happen and you have to move on. Not an easy thing to do, but maybe playing a third game in three nights was a good thing for this young group. Instead of dwelling on what happened to their buddy, the Thunder just got to pick up the pieces, stop thinking and play ball.

You've got to be mentally tough to contend for trophies. Whether it's a media firestorm over your two stars having an alleged altercation on the bench or one of your key players being lost with an ugly injury, you have to block it all out and just keep playing. It's been an early test for the Thunder and right now, they're passing. The season isn't even a month old and the Thunder have already been through a lot. And so far, it looks like it might just be making them stronger.
Posted on: January 8, 2012 6:15 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2012 6:19 pm
 

Maynor to miss rest of season; what now for OKC?

Posted by Royce Young

Eric Maynor will miss the rest of the 2011-12 season with a torn right ACL, the team announced Sunday afternoon.

“It is unfortunate to lose a player like Eric, whose work ethic and leadership has contributed to the culture of our organization,” Sam Presti said in a release. “Knowing him and the mental toughness he possesses, we are confident that he will do everything necessary to come back from this injury and be prepared for the 2012-13 season. Injuries are part of the NBA, and although it is tough to lose Eric, we must move forward and focus on our continued improvement as a basketball team.”

This is really the first major injury the Thunder have had to deal with. There have been some rolled ankles and sprained knees, but nothing this serious to this important of a player. It will be a big test for the Thunder’s depth, but also on their mental toughness. Losing a player that’s so close to everyone like Maynor isn’t easy.

Rookie Reggie Jackson seems like the obvious replacement for Maynor’s 10-15 minutes a night behind Russell Westbrook, but don’t be shocked if Scott Brooks uses Royal Ivey in that spot as well. Ivey is a steady veteran that is an ideal guy to give you 10 minutes of smart basketball. He won’t make big plays like Maynor, but unless Brooks really trusts in his rookie from Boston College, Ivey is the safer choice, at least for now.

But Jackson says he's ready for a big role on a contending team.

"Somebody has to step up in his position and I guess that’s what I have to try to go out there and do; be me and hopefully I can do enough for this team to keep winning," Jackson said before OKC's game Sunday.

Or even James Harden. I think Harden is entirely capable of handling some point guard duties in stretches and if Brooks is looking for a playmaker and doesn’t entirely feel Jackson is ready and that Ivey doesn’t add enough, Harden can run pick-and-roll all day long. He’s a great passes and while the bench will take a hit in depth, just play Daequan Cook more minutes.

It’s time for Brooks to coach a bit and figure out how to keep this team running while missing an important piece.

Brooks said before the Thunder's game against the Spurs Sunday that all three scenarios are likely, with a third thrown in too: Russell Westbrook just plays more minutes. Westbrook has been quite the iron man since entering the league having never missed a game in his three-plus seasons.

Obviously Presti could look at the free agent market a bit or the D-League or even a trade. But I’m sure the team is going to want to give Jackson a real hard, long look before they go that direction.

Posted on: January 7, 2012 10:11 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2012 5:25 pm
 

Eric Maynor tears right ACL, to miss season

Posted by Royce Young



UPDATE: The Thunder announced Sunday that after evaluation, it was revealed that Maynor tore his right ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2011-12 season.

“It is unfortunate to lose a player like Eric, whose work ethic and leadership has contributed to the culture of our organization,” Sam Presti said in a release. “Knowing him and the mental toughness he possesses, we are confident that he will do everything necessary to come back from this injury and be prepared for the 2012-13 season. Injuries are part of the NBA, and although it is tough to lose Eric, we must move forward and focus on our continued improvement as a basketball team.”

---

Early in the fourth quarter Saturday against the Rockets, Thunder backup point guard Eric Maynor went down with what appears to be a pretty serious right knee injury. His knee buckled underneath him and he had to be carried off the floor by his teammates.

Don't want to speculate on it, but it certainly didn't look good especially with Maynor's reaction. Maynor is a major part of Oklahoma City's solid bench, backing up All-Star Russell Westbrook. Maynor is a more steady, even-handed change of pace off the bench for OKC, looking to play more as a pure point to Westbrook's scoring-minded, aggressive style.

The Thunder have two other point guards on the roster in rookie Reggie Jackson and veteran Royal Ivey.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 4:45 pm
 

Felton calls out Westbrook for playing one-on-one

Posted by Royce Young



There's not a ton of history between Raymond Felton and Russell Westbrook, but enough I guess for Felton to feel the need to basically call Westbrook out.

Or he just felt like piling on to poor old Russell.

Westbrook was hyper-energetic on the defensive end Tuesday guarding Felton, really trying to swipe at the ball, pressuring relentlessly in an effort to force turnovers. It had mixed results with Westbrook sometimes creating good pressure, but other times he gambled too much and forced OKC's defense to collapse and rotate after Felton got by him. It obviously didn't work enough as Portland beat the Thunder 103-93 with Felton putting up 12 points and seven assists.

Felton noticed this. And I guess he took it somewhat personally, essentially calling Westbrook out for not being a team player. Via Jason Quick of the Oregonian:
“That’s the type of guy he is, that’s his mindset, that’s how he plays,” Felton said when I remarked about Westbrook’s win-the-battle, but lose-the-war mentality. “He’s always in a one-on-one battle with all the point guards. I’m not really into that. I’m into winning. If you win, everybody gets the praises. We are not wearing ‘Felton’ on the front of our jerseys; it says Blazers. I care about the Blazers winning.”
I think we can all read between the lines there. Felton is essentially saying that Westbrook only cares about showing up the man across from him, not that his Thunder win the game.

Having watched Westbrook for three full seasons though, I'd say that's entirely unfair. There isn't anyone on the roster -- not even Kevin Durant -- that cares about winning as much as Westbrook. He almost cares too much, which is why his over-aggressive style can be seen as selfish sometimes. Westbrook has always had a chip on his shoulder and has always wanted to prove people wrong.

Scott Brooks made a point to single Westbrook's performance out last night though.

“I thought Russell had one of his best games,” he said. “He left everything on the court. He made plays for us. He was moving the ball. He was defending.”

Felton saw that as being selfish, however. Which I think is just a mis-read of how Westbrook plays. Because Russ has gotten heated with a lot of other point guards -- Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Deron Williams, Derek Fisher and basically 25 others who happen to be opposing him on any given night. Westbrook plays emotional and approaches each game as a challenge to beat the man across from him. I think he sees it as if he can do that, his team will win.

And in most cases, it's true. But that's part of what the NBA is -- one-on-one battles. Games within games. Kobe wants to humiliate the defender trying to check him. Same with Durant. It's how they approach it. Does that mean they're selfish? Some certainly would think Kobe is at times but his main objective is winning. Felton is suggesting that winning the game comes second behind winning the individual matchup.

Felton and Westbrook did battle out it in the playoffs last season with Felton's Nuggets falling to the Thunder in five games. Felton had a front row seat to the beginning of the supposed ball-hog noise following Westbrook that really started with Game 4 in Denver where Westbrook took 30 shots. But at the same time, Westbrook's Thunder handled Denver fairly easily in a gentleman's sweep en route to the Western Conference Finals.

This is the type of thing you can be sure Westbrook has heard and will think about when the Blazers play the Thunder again. It probably isn't all that tough to get into Westbrook's head so it could be a little psychological warfare on Russ. Which isn't a bad move by Felton considering the events surrounding Westbrook the past few days.

Tuesday night, Felton got the better of Westbrook by playing a calm, measured point compared to Westbrook's frenzied, aggressive one. Felton's team won the game. We'll see what happens next time.

Via Thunder Rumblings
Posted on: January 3, 2012 7:10 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 8:48 pm
 

Warriors sign Nate Robinson to 1-year deal

Posted by Ben Gollivernate-robinson

The NBA's diminutive dunk champion has found a new home in Northern California.

The Contra Costa Times reported on Tuesday that 5-foot-9 guard Nate Robinson, a 3-time winner of the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest, is set to sign with the Golden State Warriors this week. Robinson reportedly could join coach Mark Jackson's team in time for a Friday night game against the Lakers in Los Angeles.

SI.com confirmed the move, saying the deal will be worth approximately $1 million, pending a medical physical.

Update: InsideHoops.com reports that the Warriors officially announced the signing on Wednesday, noting that Robinson will wear jersey No. 2 and will be available for the Lakers game on Friday. Contract terms were not released.

An explosive talent who brings athleticism and energy off the bench, Robinson, 27, has seen his career take an interesting swerve over the last year. He was traded by the Boston Celtics to the Thunder at last year's trade deadline, but barely played after the trade. Back in June, Robinson was cited for public urination and, during the lockout, he asked Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll if he could try out for the NFL team. To make matters worse, former Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal called out Robinson in his recent autobiography for his antics and obsession with Twitter. 

The buttoned-down Thunder simply had no use for distractions and, perhaps more importantly, no readily available minutes for Robinson. A loaded backcourt rotation,  featuring All-Star Russell Westbrook, breakout sixth man James Harden, Eric Maynor, Thabo Sefalosha, Daequan Cook and the up-and-coming Reggie Jackson, led the team to arrange a buy out of Robinson's contract in December.

Golden State isn't exactly lacking in perimeter talent, either, but Robinson will definitely be able to find minutes in a reserve role. The Warriors currently have new aquisition Brandon Rush and rookies Klay Thompson and Ish Smith behind starters Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. Robinson likely plugs in as the fourth guard then, assuming everyone is healthy. He could even step into the starting point guard role if Curry is sidelined due to injury by continuing ankle problems.

Robinson's career numbers: 11.3 points, 2.6 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game.
Posted on: January 3, 2012 2:37 pm
 

NBA Power Rankings: Breakdown, Takedown Vol. 3

Posted by Royce Young and Ben Golliver

durant-pull-up

The 2011-2012 NBA season has officially entered 2012. With that comes the third installment of CBSSports.com's NBA Power Rankings by Eye On Basketball's Matt Moore.

What did he get right? What did he get wrong? We're here to break it down and take it down.

1. Too High: Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 1. This week's Power Rankings made it through exactly zero spots before being completely wrong. Both Oklahoma City and Miami have one loss. OKC's loss is to the four-loss Dallas Mavericks, ranked No. 19 this week (No. 29 last week, don't think we forgot about that). Miami's loss was to one-loss Atlanta, ranked No. 4 this week. Sure, Miami lost to the Hawks at home, but they also did exactly what OKC couldn't: beat Dallas in Dallas, thumping the Mavericks on Christmas Day. OKC is dealing with reports of teammate-on-teammate verbal violence while Miami is humming along like a group of really, really athletic Boy Scouts. This one is indefensible. -- BG

2. Too Low: Miami Heat at No. 2. Let's be clear: the Heat are not infallible. A Dwyane Wade foot injury and an awful 4-for-17 shooting night against the Hawks provide some consternation. But the body of work is absolutely there. The Heat are No. 4 in offensive efficiency and No. 9 in defensive efficiency, a ranking sure to rise. As it stands, both rankings are better than the Thunder. Pick an advanced statistic -- rebounding rate, true shooting percentage, turnover percentage and assist rate -- and Miami is better than Oklahoma City. South Florida, stand up. For the first time in years I have your back. -- BG

3. Most Overrated: Atlanta Hawks at No. 4. They beat the Heat. Good for them. No seriously, good for them. But are the Hawks really a top four team? The same Hawks team that did virtually nothing except add Tracy McGrady and lose Jamal Crawford in the offseason. Let's keep our heads here on the Hawks. They're the same old Hawks that are just good enough to keep our attention but not quite good enough to actually be in the conversation. -- RY

4. Most Overlooked: Chicago Bulls at No. 3. The lively debate over the No. 1 spot didn't include Chicago, and it probably should have. It's hard to be overlooked at No. 3 but I'd argue that's the case. Derrrick Rose had about as good of a game as you can have last Friday against Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers, and it barely made waves, lost in the New Year's celebration. Chicago has been winning ugly and they didn't drop jaws throughout their Christmas Day victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the same manner that Miami and Oklahoma City did. They're still smarting from that first impression a bit. With a 3-1 West coast road trip, they had the toughest schedule of the top-3 teams and they handled it in typically professional style. Look for Chicago to remain at No. 3 or higher for the foreseeable future. -- BG

5. Sure Thing: Washington Wizards at No. 30. Holy crap, they are so bad. Monday's game in Boston was finally somewhat competitive, but it's simple: John Wall has to be excellent if the Wizards are going to compete. Right now, he's playing average basketball. With Nick Young, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and whoever else running with Wall, that roster isn't good enough to win unless Wall takes them to a higher level. They are the NBA's worst and there isn't a doubt about it. -- RY

6. Wild Card: San Antonio Spurs at No. 10. The Spurs came out of the gates working people over like their old selves. They looked to be well on their way to another year of everyone doubting them while they just owned the West. Except after a dominant 2-0 start, the Spurs have dropped games to Houston and the Wolves, while not being all that competitive in either games. Plus, Manu Ginobili broke his hands. The Spurs could be a top five team, but they could also fall way past that. -- RY
Posted on: January 3, 2012 2:34 pm
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