Russell Westbrook took 22 shots last night. He missed 15, which means he only made seven. Most of the successful ones came next to the basket, most of the missed were far away. This math typically doesn’t foreshadow pleasant comings for the Thunder, but last night they more than weathered the storm…with Russell Westbrook steering the ship.
The elite guard showed why Oklahoma City still believes he’s best suited to run the point, finishing with 12 assists, two turnovers, and a gritty road victory against a blood thirsty Chicago Bulls team fighting for both a statement win and their own wounded pride.
I was honestly beginning to doubt if he could help Oklahoma City win basketball games when he wasn’t scoring in a variety of athletically marvelous ways, but tonight he proved me wrong. Is Russell Westbrook an elite player when it comes to elevating those around him? On Thursday, the answer was an emphatic yes.
This wasn’t a good game from Westbrook, it was great. I’ve re-lived a few sequences in my mind several times since the final buzzer, and—just, wow—the vision, the precision, the patience; these are the plays Westbrook makes that nobody wants, nor is able, to remember when the Thunder lose and he attempts more shots than Kevin Durant.
This week I’ll be ranking who I believe deserves to be a reserve in the 2012 All-Star game. All 14 players, from both conferences, will be lumped together and placed in order—from “totally obvious” (1) to “I guess he could maybe be an All-Star?” (14). Read more…
After posting a so-so outing on Christmas Day, Russell Westbrook had a blast going against Minnesota’s really small/really inexperienced/really old point guard trio, with a 28 point, 6 rebound, 6 assist performance. When you throw in the 7 turnovers, this feels like the type of line that seems to fit in with what we’ve come to expect from the Thunder point guard. As is proven true with this filthy crossover, the sky is Russell’s playground, but only when he’s able to taper his freakish athleticism down a bit will we be able to say he’s become one of the two or three most complete conductors in the game.
Video via DailyThunder
Okay, so the move is just alright—Westbrook’s fall has more to do with him playing like a coked out hedgehog than TA’s behind the back dribble. Then why was it worth a post? Well, to be frank, Tony’s decision making process with the ball in his hands, which is more or less regarded as one of the worst in professional basketball history, is shockingly rational here, and what’s better than a basketball player going outside of what we expect from him?
Most, Tony included, would react to Westbrook’s embarrassment by taking it a step further and knocking down a jumper, but after roughly missing 82% of attempted jump shots in his career to that point, he thinks better of this and instead decides to hit a leaping Sam Young for the high percentage alley-oop. If someone told me Tony Allen made Russell Westbrook fall over I wouldn’t accuse you of outright lying to my face, but I’d have to check up on it. If you supplemented the story by saying Allen then displayed tolerance, remained calm, and patiently delivered a nice assist, your word would forever be devalued. Thank God for Youtube.
A couple weeks ago, at this time, everyone was crying about BRI splits and mid-level exception particulars. Once that ended, and an agreement was made, floodgates were opened, allowing unexpected rumors involving high profile players switching cities to smack us all in the face. The most prominent and reputable rumor so far has Rajon Rondo headed to New Orleans in exchange for Chris Paul. The deal would create ripples throughout the league for obvious reasons, but before it was even made a reality, an obscene number of questions were spawned: Who is the better point guard? Who is the better player? Whose fan base would be happier if it happened? Which team would be more improved? Which GM would come to regret it more? Who would win the deal?
This all appears for naught now, as Paul appears to have his sites set on New York, and would reportedly (I’m beginning to hate this word) refuse to resign in Boston after this season.
What happens if Chris Paul goes to the Celtics? For starters, the way defenses have long challenged a sometimes stagnant Boston offense would no longer work. The basic strategy employed by teams with the proper personnel was to sag off of Rondo, pack the paint, and force him to shoot. Chris Paul’s shot isn’t like Rondo’s in that once the ball is released, people expect it to go in.
It got me thinking about what would happen if some of the league’s great players happened to trade places. Would there be a clear winner or clear loser in each instance? Superstars like these are usually acquired in one of two ways: the draft and free agency. For several key reasons, superstars are rarely, if ever, traded for one another.The primary one being no GM wants to be known as the person who traded Future Hall of Fame member X, no matter what they’re getting in return. (In the case of Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks chose to place all their eggs in one man’s basket, and throw half their roster on a plane to Denver. It’s a prayer that could either end in a championship or a disheveled front office, axed head coach, and all-time fed up fan base.) Superstars are so rare in this league that once a GM has one, he’s probably already begun building around that player’s strengths. A great example here is the Orlando Magic. They acquired three-point shooters, a couple guys who could beat their man off the dribble, and didn’t worry about defense (knowing good ol’ Dwight would act as their very own Beware of Dog sign hanging from the rim). That was their model to win basketball games, and if they dealt him for an elite shooting guard, the kingdom would crumble.
Here are six very intriguing, straight up trades that will probably never happen, but would stop beating hearts if they did. In these hypothetical situations, we’re strictly talking about a one year swap. Pretend these deals were made in a lockout free offseason, obliging the players with plenty of time to blend beside their new teammates with a full, intensive training camp. To halt any confusion regarding what would happen after that one season we’re also looking at this under the assumption that after this year, an ACTUAL nuclear winter captures the NBA and there are no professional basketball games for the next five seasons.
If your enjoyment of basketball as a game runs deep into the whys and hows which explain the tendencies of every player, then you probably love advanced statistics. They exist to explain what’s unexplainable (at first) to the naked eye. They’re both fun to pour over when you’re bored and crucial instruments in deciding the limits of million dollar contract extensions.
The statistic being put under the microscope right now is one rarely—if ever—mentioned on television broadcasts or highlight reels. It’s awkward from the tongue and slightly confusing as to what it specifically constitutes, being that it’s so based on the subjective, but “percent of field goals assisted” (%ast) is underrated in its importance. Read more…
In the grand scheme of what’s altruistically important in life, I believe it’s fair to suggest all teachers, doctors, surgeons, and members of the armed forces should be given financial compensation of equal or greater value to that of which is awarded professional athletes. Their actual impact on human life is indisputably greater, more important, and further reaching. Of course, they don’t (and never will) because the businesses they’re in don’t create the billions upon billions of dollars in gross revenue that the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL produce on an annual basis. They also have an uncountable number of members in their labor force, making each worker’s slice of pie much smaller than that of the athlete. Call it sad. Call it unfair. Call it horribly disproportionate. Call it the real world. Read more…
In the NBA playoffs, basketball heroes are given brand new birth certificates. It’s a two month period where lives change: Money is earned or lost, reputations are rearranged or firmly etched in stone, and legacies become real, almost tangible things. It’s where games matter. Where rookies like Paul George and Gary Neal can poke their heads through the soil, take a look around, and realize they belong. Where those who thought they were in the league’s mythical Supreme Court of lifetime membership are first humbled, then relegated. In the playoffs, great players don’t always come through with special performances; big shots are missed—or worse, passed up—and perceptions take 180 degree turns on a night to night basis. Here’s a group of guys from the first round who most likely wish they had a redo.