Is Westbrook’s perceived ‘selfishness’ a result of Brooks?

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Russell Westbrook has caught a lot of heat over the past couple weeks for his perceived “selfish” play, with many Twitter commenters suggesting the best defense against Kevin Durant is the fact he plays with Westbrook.  And while Tuesday’s 3-for-15 shooting performance isn’t going to help Westbrook’s cause, Durant’s struggles against Memphis, or the fact he took fewer shots than Westbrook did, were necessarily the result of Westbrook being a selfish, uncontrollable gunner.  

Scott Brooks was an NBA point guard and said recently that when a team struggles, the point guard and coach will inevitably take the blame.  And while the Thunder escaped an incredibly tough series against the Grizzlies, the point guard and coach for the Thunder have indeed been under a microscope.  I am a known Westbrook apologist and predicted a Thunder vs. Heat Finals at the start of the playoffs, but even so, was irritated watching him dribble around for 20 seconds and then forcing a shot up as his four teammates stood in their designated corners and watched him work.  But was that style of play really on Westbrook, or was Brooks to blame?

After watching Durant fight like hell on defense, and then stand in a corner, literally not moving, on offensive posession after posession against Memphis, it appears that he and Westbrook were just carrying out Brooks’ orders, or ‘master plan,’ if you will.  Brooks assumed that Durant wasn’t going to be able to create or be effective on offense with Tony Allen and Shane Battier draped over him, and thought that moving him out to the boonies would clear space for Westbrook to drive and create his own shots.  So while Westbrook was looking like the most selfish gunner of all time, I feel fairly confident that he was just carrying out orders from his coach.  In other words, Brooks thought his best chance to win was to with the ball in Westbrook’s hands at all times.

And now that Durant is free from the restraints of Allen and the Memphis D, maybe things will return to normal for the Thunder. Which means Westbrook will take his standard 17 shots per game, Durant will get his 20 shots, and the Thunder will give the Mavericks all they can handle.  Dirk Nowitzki gave the Thunder all they could handle in Game 1, putting on one of the great all-time individual playoff performances we’ve ever seen, yet the Thunder were still hanging around at the end – despite all of Westbrook’s misfiring.  And you have to give Brooks some credit for throwing his whole team, as well as the kitchen sink, at Dirk last night.  Durant, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins and James Harden all tried (and failed) to stop Dirk, while I think I might have even seen Shawn Kemp and Jack Sikma out there at one point trying to slow him down. 

I didn’t necessarily appreciate the coaching job Brooks did against the Grizzlies, and am not sure anyone did, but I think I at least understand it (although Harden should have started over Sefolosha that entire series, which is probably a topic for another time).  Now he’s got a whole new set of problems on his hands, starting with stopping Dirk.  The Twitter world might say that it’s too bad Westbrook doesn’t play alongside Dirk, or maybe all of Brooks’ problems would be solved.  But one thing is clear after Game 1.  Rick Carlisle is going to make sure that his best player is option No. 1 (and 2), regardless of who is trying to guard him.  And we can only hope that Brooks makes sure that Durant, and not Westbrook, is his No. 1 option going forward.

LeBron James finishes left-handed alley-oop with head behind backboard

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We have reached the point with LeBron James and his legendary career that the incredible almost seems ordinary — he has made our jaws drop so many times it’s hard for him to clear the bar of amazing anymore.

He did Saturday night against Utah.

In transition, LeBron gave up the ball to Jeff Green, who returned the favor with an alley-oop pass. Just not a particularly good one, it was behind James.

So he reaches back with his left hand and throws it down as he ducks his head under the backboard. Then LeBron stops and stares at his left hand, like he can’t believe what he just did.

We can’t either.

Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.

Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will not travel with team for 25 days due to legal issue

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The Lakers’Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his new team’s first two games this season due to a suspension for a DUI case in Michigan.

But that was not all. Caldwell-Pope’s came with probation, and to get out of it early the Lakers’ forward has to go through an intensive rehab program — one that does not allow him to leave California with the team for 25 days. He did not play against the Cavaliers and that is just the first of multiple games he will miss, a story broken by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Caldwell-Pope was originally cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded guilty in May to the lesser charge of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence, which carried a 12-month probation.

On Thursday, Caldwell-Pope had to return to California to begin an intensive program over the next 25 days that will result in some travel restrictions and could cause him to miss additional games but will end his probation early.

The Lakers are in a home heavy part of their schedule, and by my calculations KCP would only miss one or two games (for sure against Houston Dec. 20, then maybe against Golden State Dec. 22, but that is in California). The Lakers next road game after that is Dec. 31 in Houston again.

Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers last offseason, and he has gone on to become one of the few reliable three-point shooters on the team, hitting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, taking 6.1 shots from there a game. He’s been solid on defense and a player the Lakers’ need, although his overall efficiency is closer to average.

If the Lakers are successful with their big game hunting during free agency next summer, Caldwell-Pope will not return to the team. In a tight free agent market, he may once again not see offers near what he sees himself worth next summer. That said, his play in Los Angeles has been good. And now he will not have this legal issue hanging over his head during free agency.

LeBron James is good with televising All-Star team selections

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From the moment the NBA announced changes to the All-Star Game team selection format for this season, most NBA fans — as well as most media members I know — have wanted a live team selection show.

As a reminder, this year (as in past years) fans will vote for their favorite All-Stars, and those votes will be combined with media and player votes to name the five starters from each conference. Then the coaches will vote to select the teams.

What’s different is the top vote-getters from each conference — let’s be honest, it will be LeBron James in the East and Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant in the West — will be named captains and they will then pick their teams from the pool of other selected players. No East vs. West. If LeBron gets to choose first and he picks James Harden, then Harden is on that team. Curry can go second and select Giannis Antetokounmpo or whoever he wants from the starters pool, then the captains move into the reserves pool. Old-school playground style team picking.

Who wouldn’t tune it to watch that selection show?

The NBA officially has not decided yet if the selection process will be broadcast, but it probably won’t be. The reason is some player is not going to like being picked last (or next to last) and his agent will like it less. It gets political (would Curry have to choose Durant or Draymond Green first to keep his teammates happy?).

LeBron basically said Saturday why not televise it? From Nick Friedell of ESPN, when LeBron was asked if it would bother him to go against teammates in the All-Star Game:

“I hope not,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “We’re all grown men. It doesn’t stop their paycheck from coming. It won’t stop you from playing time once the season starts.”

And is he good with the pick order being made public or done live.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if I’m rewarded to be a part of the All-Star Game again, that’s cool for me. It doesn’t matter. All that other stuff is extracurricular.”

That’s the right attitude, and whoever got picked last would say that publicly. But privately… who knows? Depends on the guy.

That selection show would be must-watch television. The NBA needs to broadcast this. But it won’t. Politics will win out.