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Tag:Russell Westbrook
Posted on: October 19, 2011 3:26 pm
 

Report: NBA stars planning overseas tour

Posted by Royce Young

I think we can all agree that the charity hoops circuit is a little played out. NBA fans are ready for real basketball. From Washington D.C. to Philadelphia to Miami to Los Angeles to Oklahoma City, fans have seen their stars play glorified pickup games. It's getting a little old now.

So the players have recognized that and are taking the next step: They're taking their talents overseas.

No, not to play professionally. They're taking their charity games on tour. Via ESPN.com:
While the final details are still being worked out, more than a dozen of the league's best players are working to join forces on what would be a two-week, six-game, three-continent blockbuster tour, sources said.

In a trip that could resemble Team USA's takeover of the world stage at the 2008 Beijing Games, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Rajon Rondo, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Carlos Boozer, Paul Pierce and Kevin Love are among the players expected to participate. Kevin Durant and Kevin Garnett, among a few others, are also contemplating joining the tour.

The tour is planned to take two weeks and has been in construction for some three months by Atlanta business mogul Calvin Darden. While some players have actually reportedly signed contracts to play in this, there's a chance it could fall apart. One major reason being if a labor deal is worked out.

The tour is scheduled to start Oct. 30 and go through Nov. 9 with stops in Puerto Rico, London, Macau and Australia. Each game will be held in arenas with at least 15,000 seats. There's a hope to air the games internationally as well as in the U.S. too.

Here's the kicker: The players will make some bank off this too. The report says players will receive somewhere between a six-figure payout and $1 million. "Some" of the money will go to charity.

Here's to hoping the whole thing falls apart because the players are in training camp by then.
Posted on: October 16, 2011 10:17 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 6:44 pm
 

Video: Kevin Durant raps in a club

Posted by Royce Young

Note: Potentially bad words ahead. Though it's kind of hard to tell for sure.



Enough of Kevin Durant dropping 50-spots in pickup games. It's time for him to impress us some other way.

So how about grabbing the mic to bust out a little rap? Tell me how my Durantula taste.

Now of course this isn't the first time Durant's shown off his flow. As his alter ego, Velvet Hoop, Durant dropped some lines and showed off a little ability.

I have no idea what he's saying here, but he definitely has the presentation down. Mic cocked just right, using the off-hand to play up the crowd and saying words fast in rhythm.

And let me tell you who seems to be loving it: Russell Westbrook. See everyone! They're friends! (It's unconfirmed though whether or not Westbrook grabbed the mic from Durant later though.)
Posted on: September 29, 2011 5:05 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 5:06 pm
 

How important is team chemistry in winning?

Posted by Royce Young



Chemistry isn't just something that Walter White is good at. It's a basketball buzzword, that hidden ingredient that can supposedly take a good team straight to greatness.

Build a team with talent, add a good coach and make sure they all like each other and you've got a recipe for good things. Isiah Thomas had chemistry as a major part of "The Secret," which is the secret formula to winning. The right mix of stars, role players and quality chemistry means success.

Everyone embraces that idea. Everyone agrees that it's better to like your teammates than not. Everyone knows that if you've got two guys on the floor that hate each other's guts, it's going to affect their ability to win.

But the question is, how much does it matter? And moreover, why does it matter?

Dwyane Wade admitted this week that he feels the real reason the Mavericks topped his super-loaded Heat team is because they were mixed better. He said, "One thing that Dallas beat us at – they had more chemistry than us. They had a game plan and we were still figuring ours out in our first year together."

Chemistry can kind of be a cop-out though. When you're losing and things are working right, it's easy to just say, "It's our chemistry, man." The Heat certainly lacked a feel for each other at times. Between LeBron and Wade, it was a teeter-totter on who got the ball with Chris Bosh awkwardly hanging in the balance. It was really a basketball science fair project. The Heat were putting the limits of basketball chemistry to the test and I suppose they failed since they lost, but there's always time to improve.

Wade's referencing on-court chemistry though. What about just general locker room mood? The off-court chemistry. Is it equally as important? Here's the thing: I think with one, comes the other. If you get along off the court, you're likely to get along on it. I'm not totally sure it works the other way -- see: Kobe and Shaq -- but it's always better to like the guy next to you rather than not.

What made me really start thinking about it was the supposed rift between Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder -- a team known worldwide for their outstanding chemistry -- traded away Jeff Green, a player Kevin Durant, Westbrook and James Harden referred to as a "brother," for Perkins.

The Thunder really we the ideal model of "The Secret," except for one flaw: Jeff Green really isn't good, at least not where the Thunder were playing him. So general manager Sam Presti risked chemistry trading away brother Jeff to bring in a big, burly, scowly center.

With the Perkins/Westbrook supposed scuffle, the fact is, chemistry is important, but really mostly when you're losing. It's easy to stick together when you're winning. But when you lose, things get tested. That's really where it affected the Celtics most. Nothing was wrong with them except their heads were shaken after Perk was dealt. And when they started slipping, they had actual evidence for why they were sulking. See? We need Perk! Maybe with Perk in the locker room, the Celtics would've been able to stay together. Maybe because he was gone, the team went into a funk and stopped trusting each other. Who knows. Chemistry certainly matters, but mostly when times are bad. What happens to the Thunder if they start next season 5-11 or something? Will fingers get pointed? Will Perk and Westbrook clash more? Will Durant have to try and put his foot down? It's all rosy until it's not.

Here's how important Jeff Green was to the Thunder: Presti actually cried during the press conference announcing the deal. If you want to know about team chemistry, the Thunder with Jeff Green were the model. Every player loved each other the same. All that Westbrook vs. Durant stuff was yet to come and honestly, it might've never surfaced if Green had stayed on the roster. He was the most veteran of their young core, the steady, calming influence.

But Presti obviously was ready and willing to risk that chemistry for the sake of bringing in a player that actually strengthened the roster. Not that Perkins was some kind of bad guy that couldn't get along with teammates. In fact, his relationship with the Celtics was almost exactly the same thing as Green in OKC.

The Celtics were shaken when Perkins was traded. Ainge dared to mess with Boston's brotherhood and in the end, paid for it. Was it because the chemistry was shaken or just because the team was kind of a mess, considering Perkins was replaced by Nenad Krstic, a broken Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal. Ask a basketball chemist and it's because Ainge tinkered with the winning locker room formula. Maybe it's a case by case thing, but clearly the Thunder were able to move past it. In the end, it was more about matchups, ability and rosters, not some imaginary force where friendships when games.

It all matters to a degree when you're trying to win, but chemistry alone doesn't win, both on and off the court. Chemistry's just one of the ingredients in the larger recipe for winning.
Posted on: September 25, 2011 10:31 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 1:39 pm
 

Durant says Westbrook is only point guard for him

Posted by Royce Young


You may not have heard, but there has been a lot of talk about Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Not just in the sense that they're both incredible individual talents that can do amazing things on a basketball court. But in the sense that some think there's a chemistry issue there. That Westbrook is trying to assert himself as the team's alpha and take the big shots and big moments from Durant.

Not really true at all, but that's at least the perception. And despite repeated statements from Durant -- and Westbrook -- that that's not at all the case, every time the issue comes up, we all listen real close.

And wouldn't you know it, it came up again. Durant had some serious media availability over the weekend as his movie Switch started principal photography. Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com already posted the meat of what Durant talked about, but for the fun of it, here it is again as Durant defends his relationship with Westbrook:

“We butt heads just like any other players because we are both competitive, we both want to go at it, we both have ideas,” Durant said. “That’s going to happen. But I support him 100 percent. Of course, I hated when people were saying the stuff they were saying, and he hated it as well. I didn’t want it to get to his head. I hate when people try to creep into the group and try to break things up.

“I enjoy playing with Russell so much. I hope he understands that, and I’m sure he does. I’m looking forward to next season already. The last thing I’ve been worrying about is what people say about Russ, and I’m sure that’s the last thing he’s worrying about as well.”

Durant was willing to take that even a little bit further too. Not just that he likes playing with Westbrook, but that he sees Westbrook as his point guard, as his guy.

“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.”

There's been some manufactured chatter about Chris Paul and Westbrook swapping places so this was sort of Durant's way to maybe say he doesn't want that. Sam Presti says it almost daily -- he wants to have a roster that grows, matures and evolves together. And a huge part of that is Westbrook and Durant growing into a tandem that not just is maybe the best in the league, but one that can work in perfect concert.

And I think it's a good thing that Durant's being honest about his relationship with Westbrook in saying that they disagree and argue sometimes. We all saw that. But they both want the same thing and they both know it. As long as winning remains the priority and personal achievement stays out of the picture, they'll be fine. Durant even addressed in another interview the supposed Kendrick Perkins-Westbrook rift, and gave the same answer, noting that he's argued with Perkins before too. 

"Yeah, I've had arguments with Kendrick in the locker room. I've had arguments with BJ Mullens in the locker room," Durant told SI.com. "We're not going to agree every time. Russ would've maybe said, 'Perk, you should've ducked inside the lane and I'd have hit you for a better pass,' and Perk was like, 'Maybe I thought about this, maybe I thought about that.' So we're not going to always agree. We're going to always have arguments, but it's nothing to the point of where guys are going to walk out of that locker room and say, 'Nah, I don't like him.' We're all going to get it together and we're all going to figure it out right on the spot. That's what happens in a group. That's what makes a group great. Every team goes through it.

"I forgot all about it. It's over with. It's done. Everybody enjoys each other's company. We enjoy having those disagreements, because we know we're going to get better from it. To be honest with you, I forgot all about it."

Now, of course there's the potential that Durant is just kind of doing the normal Durant thing and saying all the right things. It's not like Durant would ever say, "You know, I don't really like Russ too much. We don't get along and he hogs the ball too much." But we kind of have to take Durant's comments at face value. He's said it more than once -- he wants Westbrook to be his point guard. He likes Westbrook as his point guard. Could he be lying? Sure. I'm taking KD at his word on it. He's never given me a reason to doubt it yet.

Posted on: September 24, 2011 6:39 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 9:16 pm
 

Kevin Durant stands by Russell Westbrook

Posted by Ben Golliver

kevin-durant-russell-westbrook

The Oklahoma City Thunder boast such an immaculately constructed roster and had such a magical run to the Western Conference Finals that it all feels a little too perfect sometimes.

The feeling that "there must be something wrong underneath the surface" really began percolating when the Thunder struggled to dispatch the Memphis Grizzlies and collapsed multiple times down the stretch in games against the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. The situation wound up being painted by some as "Kevin Durant vs. Russell Westbrook," as the Thunder's All-Star guard often found himself taking shots he probably shouldn't have taken while the league's scoring champion watched the action unfold from the perimeter.

The consensus was that Durant emerged as the aggrieved party, the talented scorer who simply couldn't get enough touches because of Westbrook's ferocious, score-first, pass-later focus.

Durant looked to clear up that perception in extended comments made to Yahoo Sports.
“We butt heads just like any other players because we are both competitive, we both want to go at it, we both have ideas,” Durant said in a phone interview with Yahoo! Sports on Saturday while on the movie set of his upcoming Warner Bros. film, “Switch.” “That’s going to happen. But I support him 100 percent. Of course, I hated when people were saying the stuff they were saying, and he hated it as well. I didn’t want it to get to his head. I hate when people try to creep into the group and try to break things up. 

“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.”

A public relations professional couldn't have scripted a better statement from Durant. Importantly, he begins by acknowledging the negative perception and admits that things aren't totally hunky-dory. That's big because it establishes credibility and implies a level of honesty in his later comments. He goes on to back Westbrook with more than the usual lip service, heaping praise, pointing to specific strengths and crediting his teammate for his own development. In doing so, he flips the line of criticism that Westbrook is standing in Durant's path to greatness on its head. 

When it comes to teammate conflicts, both minor and major, actions always speak much louder than words. But, here, Durant spoke in perfect pitch. 

Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:29 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 3:11 pm
 

7 lost stories from canceled NBA preseason

Posted by Ben Golliver

silver-stern-2

On Friday, CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reported the dreadful news that we've all been fearing: the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have failed to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in time, meaning training camp and portions of the preseason schedule have been indefinitely postponed and/or canceled.

Preseason is always a fun time of the NBA calendar, guaranteed to be chockfull of "Player X added 15 pounds of muscle" and "Lottery team Y finally seems poised for a playoff push" stories. Of course, no preseason means no preseason stories. No hype, no hope. More Adam Silver, more David Stern. What a bummer. 

So here's a rundown of seven stories you would have been reading had the NBA and the NBPA gotten their collective act together in time to save the schedule. These stories are lost everywhere, except for here.

1. Security Detains Eddy Curry Outside AmericanAirlines Arena

MIAMI -- It appears that Eddy Curry will not be joining the Miami Heat after all.

Following nearly a year of reports indicating that Curry had lost an NBA-record 468 pounds since he was released by the Minnesota Timberwolves at least year's trade deadline, the free agent center was forcibly removed from AmericanAirlines Arena property by a cadre of four security guards on Tuesday. The use of force was deemed necessary after direct requests to leave from Heat president Pat Riley and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra were not heeded. 

"We didn't want to do it but we really had no choice," said Joseph Watkins, the guard assigned to carry Curry's left leg. "I was just following orders."

"What can I say? I got my hopes up," Curry explained. "I kept reading over and over that Miami was interested in me and I thought I could help LeBron [James] win a ring finally. I thought they would change their mind if I showed I was determined. I guess they wanted to go a different direction."

After the trimmed-down center had been dragged to an auxiliary parking lot, Riley briefly asked a reporter who Curry was before returning to the Heat's training session, which was closed to the media. When practice broke, Spoelstra indicated that the defending Eastern Conference champions were comfortable with their center rotation of Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Dexter Pittman, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, and Bill Wennington, and are not in the market for another big man.

"We like our guys," Spoelstra said.

Curry told the Associated Press that he isn't sure when or where his next basketball opportunity will come but did indicate that he would like to have the plastic handcuffs removed from his wrists, or at least loosened, as soon as possible.

2. Bloody Prank Signals Rift Between Thunder Stars?

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- A severed head was discovered inside a backpack belonging to Kevin Durant on Friday.

The Thunder's All-Star forward pulled the ghoulish, plastic mask -- which bore an uncanny resemblance to coach Scottie Brooks and had been doused in ketchup to simulate the appearance of blood -- out of his signature carry-all following an evening workout. With a look of bewilderment, Durant tossed the mask into a nearby trash can before returning to the team's practice court to work on his free throw shooting.

"I'm just out here trying to get better," Durant said, shrugging off his unsettling discovery.

It's not yet known who placed the mask in Durant's backpack, although suspicion was immediately cast upon Russell Westbrook. The mercurial guard led the NBA in postseason technical fouls in 201, rarely passes the ball because he's so self-involved and sometimes has a "funny look" -- according to multiple teammates -- in his eyes. Center Kendrick Perkins apparently implicated Westbrook in the incident when he stormed out of the practice facility, repeatedly yelling the words, "I told y'all! I told y'all!" 

The incident raises anew the question of whether Oklahoma City's two All-Stars will be capable of coexisting as their careers and games develop.

"Halloween is Monday," Westbrook said, cryptically, before rushing a free-throw extended jump shot and completely hurdling teammate Eric Maynor to claim the offensive rebound.

Thunder president Sam Presti did not offer an alibi for himself, but what else is new?

3. Rivers: More Needed From Rondo For Green To Succeed

BOSTON -- Nine months after the most controversial trade in recent Boston Celtics history, coach Doc Rivers continued to defend forward Jeff Green from media criticism.

A lightly sprained ankle for starting center Jermaine O'Neal caused local sports talk radio hosts and callers to go into hysterics on Monday, rehashing the ill-fated swap that brought Green to Boston in exchange for starting center Kendrick Perkins, who was sent to Oklahoma City.

"Jeff is still getting acclimated, and [president] Danny [Ainge] and I still believe he will be a key piece for us," Rivers said.

During the portion of practice open to the media, Green dribbled the ball off of his foot, missed three three-pointers, was late on two defensive assignments and appeared to frustrate aging forward Kevin Garnett, who was seen shaking his head sadly rather than barking instructions like usual.

When pressed, Rivers said that the eventual solution to what he called Green's "learning curve issues" will have to come from All-Star starting point guard Rajon Rondo.

"Rondo gets him wide open jumpers, wide open lay-ups, makes 10 plays a game defensively, and he leads by example," Rivers said. "But I have eyes, you have eyes. You can see it. It's clearly not enough. We're looking for Rondo to keep leading and to do even more, to carry all of us. [But] especially Jeff."

Pausing for a moment, Rivers, to the surprise of the media present, chose to vividly underscore his previous point.

"I don't care if Rondo dislocates both of his elbows at the same time so his arms are hanging off of his body backwards, he will need to carry Jeff."

Asked to respond to Rivers' comments, Rondo stared ahead blankly, as always.

4. Greg Oden No-Shows At Day One Of Blazers Camp

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Once again, the gym is full of NBA players and hopefuls.  Once again, the biggest one among them is missing.

The Portland Trail Blazers opened training camp to the media for the first time on Monday, only to reveal that center Greg Oden, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, was nowhere to be found. Oden, who signed a 5-year, $70 million extension during the early-October free agency period, has played just 82 games in his 4-year NBA career and has rarely been available to the media since suffering his most recent in Nov. 2010.

Through a spokesperson, Blazers president Larry Miller refused to comment about Oden's status, leaving new GM Brandon Roy -- who was promoted to the position after Miller used the amnesty clause to rid the Blazers of the four years remaining on his contract -- to face the media scrutiny alone. Roy said the team would not rush its center back to the court, noting that Oden's recovery from microfracture knee surgery was still "on schedule," although he did not divulge further specifics.

Blazers coach Nate McMillan looked irritated by the questions. "I've got 18 guys here fighting hard to grab one of our roster spots, let's talk about them," McMillan said.

Mike Conley, Sr., Oden's agent, offered a possible explanation by email. "Rehabilitation has kept Greg off the court for almost a year. During that time, in addition to completing a multi-disciplinary strength and flexibility training program, Greg has worked hard on improving and honing his invisibility. I'm pleased to hear that his work has evidently paid off. How many 7-footers do you know that can literally disappear in the blink of an eye? We feel this will make him even more valuable in the years to come."

Oden's whereabouts are not currently known at this time. His status for Portland's season opener is also up in the air.

"We'll just have to see," said McMillan.

Or not.

5. Kings Guard Completes First Pass

SACRAMENTO -- Kings coach Paul Westphal couldn't help but beam. After all, he had just witnessed an important milestone for his young team.

"I've been preaching unselfishness and ball movement all week and it was great to finally see these guys take that message to heart and execute it," Westphal said, his shirt soaked with sweat.

After back-to-back-back two-a-day practices and a morning session that yielded no progress, Jimmer Fredette became the team's first guard to complete a pass during scrimmage play on Thursday night. Prior to the pass, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons and free agent signing Jamal Crawford had each managed to take a shot, draw a foul or commit a turnover on all of their possessions. Meanwhile, rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas, arguably the team's best playmaker on paper, left the practice facility on Tuesday after being frozen out for 263 straight trips up the court and hasn't been heard from since. A team official assured CBSSports.com that the organization is "not alarmed."

Fredette's pass occurred when he inadvertently took the ball out of bounds following a made basket by Evans. Looking confused, and with no other option other than committing a five-second violation, Fredette reluctantly inbounded the ball to Thornton, who promptly dribbled coast-to-coast, only to have his running lay-up attempt swatted out of bounds by center DeMarcus Cousins. Westphal shouted encouragement -- "That's what I'm talking about!" -- and blew his whistle, briefly stopping practice to single out Fredette for praise.

"It was nothing, really," Fredette said, afterwards, looking a touch sheepish.

6. Adelman Closes Practices To Timberwolves Executives

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- Two hours after a minor shouting match erupted between Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman and president David Kahn on Monday, the two men pledged publicly that they had put the matter behind them.

"Direct communication is integral to creating a winning atmosphere," Kahn told a group of reporters on Monday afternoon. "Rick and I exchanged ideas, as we often do, and we were able to come to a resolution that is amenable to both parties. We thank you for your interest but this matter has been resolved. We look forward to a successful year."

The dispute, two league sources said, began when Adelman chided Kahn for openly cheering for rookie point guard Ricky Rubio, while wearing a Rubio jersey, in front of the entire team. That exchange escalated when Adelman decided to play veteran Luke Ridnour with the starting unit, instead of Rubio, prompting Kahn to yell loudly, "Come on!" 

According to the sources, Adelman then threatened to quit on the spot, issuing a "you go or I go" ultimatum just weeks after formally accepting the position and signing a 4-year contract.

"This is my team and I make the coaching decisions," Adelman told reporters bluntly after practice. "That's it. Any other questions?"

The resolution, according to sources, will keep Kahn and other team executives off the practice court for the rest of training camp, although indications are that Kahn and Adelman have agreed to revisit the matter once the regular season begins.

Rubio, who competed for the Spanish national team at this summer's EuroBasket tournament, finished Monday's scrimmage with 0 points and two assists in 37 minutes.

7. Thibodeau Thanks Fans, Admits They Could Be Right

CHICAGO -- The Bulls held an intra-squad scrimmage at the United Center on Friday, allowing fans and season ticket holders the rare opportunity to watch the team go through its paces free of charge.

NBA MVP Derrick Rose drew the loudest cheers and the longest line of pre-game admirers, Luol Deng pledged $10,000 to charity at halftime, and new free agent signing J.R. Smith, who bought his own way out of a one-year contract he signed to play in China, autographed a diehard fan's neck with a tattoo gun. But the clear highlight of the festivities came when the NBA's reigning Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau, took a microphone at center court just before tipoff to thank Bulls fans for their loyal support during the team's run to the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.

"You guys are the best fans in the league," Thibodeau said, to wild applause. "We hear you loud and clear every night. You give us a true home court advantage and we, all of us, from me to the players, appreciate it."

Seemingly overwhelmed by the extended standing ovation he received, Thibodeau shuffled quickly to the sideline before catching himself and returning to the microphone to offer a final thought.

"Just to let you know," the defensive mastermind continued, "We also hear you loud and clear about Carlos Boozer."

The simple mention of the power forward's name elicited instinctive and ravenous booing from the fans, who were in no mood to forgive Boozer's disappointing showing in the 2011 NBA Playoffs and the team's controversial decision not to use the Amnesty Clause to shed his massive contract during free agency.

"Yes, we've received thousands of letters, text messages, phone calls and emails. For the sanity of Illinois' hard-working postal workers, please stop sending them. We understand that you think he is soft, that he isn't good enough to be a No. 2 guy, and that he isn't clutch enough to put us over the top against Miami."

Here, the second-year head coach drew a breath and exhaled, the long, lonely nights in his office preparing schemes and reading the fan correspondence clearly weighing upon his heart.

"Look, you're probably right about all of it. But how the hell are we going to trade him?"

Boozer, who mysteriously broke his hand for the second consecutive offseason, was not medically cleared to play in the scrimmage and was not available to provide a statement. Nobody noticed or cared.

Posted on: September 18, 2011 2:40 pm
 

Kendrick Perkins clashed with Russell Westbrook?

Posted by Royce Young

A lot was made of the supposed bubbling conflict on the tight-knit Thunder last season. Everyone got all huffy when Russell Westbrook took a bunch of shots and kind of just assumed that it made Kevin Durant real mad.

But the Thunder's well-known chemistry was put to the test well before that. Not only did the trade that sent Jeff Green to Boston for Kendrick Perkins send one of their closest friends to another team -- Green called his fellow Thunder players his brothers -- but evidently there were a few hiccups with Perk when he got to town too. Via the New York Daily News, which admittedly, is a pretty weird source for this, but here it is:

As much as coach Scott Brooks chafes at GM Sam Presti’s meddling, his presence in the locker room, and his demands that the Thunder continue to improve from within, the organization is a lot more concerned with how Kendrick Perkins treats Russell Westbrook.

After arriving from the Celtics last season and being looked at as the veteran leader Oklahoma City needed to take the next step to compete for a title, Perkins went hard at Westbrook with his verbal criticisms, often saying that the Thunder’s playmaker couldn’t match Rajon Rondo as a playmaker. Those words didn’t sit well with Westbrook, who already had been criticized for shooting too much and was the subject of a benching heard-round-the-NBA when the Thunder played the Mavs in June.

(The writer, Mitch Lawrence, was also the one who reported that a Thunder veteran said that Westbrook thinks he's better than Durant. Also, I guess he's got someone telling him about a little friction between the Thunder's front office and Scott Brooks. I don't really know how accurate that is, but that's twice it's been mentioned.)

There's no doubt Perkins let people hear his voice early and often when he got to Oklahoma City. Everyone talked about what a vocal leader he was as soon as he stepped off the plane and that he led by keeping everyone accountable. A lot of players appreciated that approach, most notably Serge Ibaka who blossomed alongside Perkins.

But Westbrook, as he admits himself, is an emotional player that has a chip so big on his shoulder that it's more like a chunk. So when (or if) the new guy comes strolling in with his big mean scowl and starts barking at him over a turnover, I'm sure he wasn't a fan. I remember a game early on where Perk was talking to Westbrook on the bench during a timeout and Westbrook very clearly tuned him out. There was another time where I remember Westbrook responding and there was a mini-argument on the bench.

Is it a big deal? Not really, as long as you win. Chemistry is a great thing and the Thunder had it as well as anyone with Jeff Green. But that wasn't enough for the Thunder to win. They needed that big presence in the middle. They needed the defensive accountability that Perk brought. If that means they don't always get along, so be it. Sometimes you don't like your teammates. Sometimes you really don't like your teammates. You think Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant have always gotten along? What matters most is playing well and winning together.

Now what you run the risk of is when things start going bad and the team starts losing, that little tiff can turn into a time bomb that blows up in everyone's face. When you have a locker room that's not getting along, a team can survive as long as it's playing well. When it doesn't, then fingers start getting point and people start getting angry. Of course that would be if there is an actual upset of feelings within the Thunder with Westbrook and Perk. It's very likely this is nothing more than just a little misunderstanding. I never personally saw anything that would make me think that the team -- or Westbrook and Perk specifically -- weren't getting along.

A concerning trend could be starting up though. Perk seems to be popular with everyone and if he's clashing with Westbrook combined with all the other noise, it could just be another issue with the hot-headed point guard. Hard not to notice that Westbrook often seems to be on an island while everyone else is pretty tight knit on and off the court. Then again, we don't see everything.

I guess it's just one more thing to talk about with the Thunder though. So be it.
Posted on: September 2, 2011 3:57 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 10:23 pm
 

Westbrook: I'd be a 'really nice' football safety

Posted by Ben Golliver

russell-westbrook-rawr

With Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, the questions are never about his physical tools. Boasting a virtually unmatched combination of size, strength, speed, quickness and leaping ability, Westbrook is a futuristic phenom, a Heat-seeking missile who can beat your fastest player end-to-end and fly over the top of your bigs to snare rebounds in traffic.

Criticism for Westbrook, of course, centers around his mental intangibles. Is he wired to be a distributor first? Why does he commit so many turnovers? How come the ball is in his hands so often late in games while the NBA's leading scorer, Kevin Durant, watches him operate one-on-one? Why does he get so many technical fouls?

Given that backdrop, it's interesting to hear Westbrook explain his interest in a more bloodthirsty sport: football.

Westbrook joined the Dan Patrick Show on Friday and was told that Maurice Jones-Drew, running back for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, thought Westbrook would make a good receiver if the NBA lockout drags on. 

"Actually, I was thinking about that," Westbrook said. "I might play football. I was pretty good [in high school]."

Interestingly, he then went on to suggest that he would excel at a slightly more violent position. 

"I could make a solid receiver," he said. "But I could make a really nice safety." 

Westbrook added that he would play for the Dallas Cowboys, if he was given his druthers, and that his favorite football player growing up was Emmitt Smith, the Hall of Fame running back.

"I played running back when I was younger, until I grew," Westbrook, who stands 6-foot-3, explained.

What's interesting here is that the words and phrases Westbrook's detractors would use to describe him negatively -- impulsive, impatient, hot-headed, too locked into one thing to see the bigger picture -- are the exact attributes that make the NFL's best safeties the most feared players in any sport. Safety is all about instincts, physical tools and fearlessness.

Westbrook is correct: he would be an excellent safety. He probably has a room full of broken X-Box controllers from abusing his "hit stick" on Madden and he likely would rank No. 1 on a list of "NBA players least afraid of concussions" power rankings list.

Safety and point guard are two very different jobs and require two very different approaches to the world, at least in theory. Sure, safeties often serve as leaders of the defense, but point guards orchestrate rather than detonate. They specialize in maintaining calm rather than making waves. The mentalities required to succeed at these positions would seem to be mutually exclusive. Point guards are quarterbacks, at least conventionally. Jason Kidd has a lot more in common with Peyton Manning than he does with Roy Williams, right?

Despite that, Westbrook didn't waver when asked whether he should be referred to as a "point guard" or "guard." 

"You'd say at point guard," Westbrook said. "That's my natural position. I've been playing that all my life. I really don't know [why people question my position]. That comes along with playing in this league. The good thing about it is that my teammate and my family had my back and that's all that matters."

Can he have his cake and eat it too?  
 
 
 
 
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