Author: D.J. Foster

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder – Game Two

The Extra Pass: The biggest deadline acquisition? Russell Westbrook.


In just a few short hours, the NBA trade deadline will pass. If history is any indicator, we’ll see somewhere in the range of eight trades go through.

Some will be big, and some will be small…and none will have as big of an impact on the title picture as the return of Russell Westbrook will.

Whether Westbrook returns from knee surgery and plays in the marquee matchup against the Miami Heat remains to be seen, but let this sink in: the team with the best record in the league will welcome back one of the best players in the league. Every other addition has no chance to be anything but overshadowed. We know the level Westbrook is capable of playing at.

It’s just been a while since we’ve seen it. Westbrook rattled off a triple-double in his last game on Christmas day before going under the knife again, and plenty has changed since.

Kevin Durant, improbably, got even more effective and more efficient. Jeremy Lamb stepped up as a viable option on the wing. Reggie Jackson showed he’s more than capable of stepping in when needed. Scott Brooks even took out Kendrick Perkins at the right time. No, really.

If the Thunder looked better, it’s because, well, they got better. That makes sense, as the improvements just didn’t stop while Westbrook was away. Bigger roles and responsibilities were thrust upon the whole team, and the response was certainly encouraging.

But it was also a bit misleading. Not in the sense that Oklahoma City’s success was a fluke, or that Durant couldn’t sustain this type of performance, but rather in the sense that Westbrook should be viewed as anything but completely essential to the Thunder’s title hopes.

There’s a tendency to think that sort of thing when a team succeeds without a player. Call it the Ewing Theory or whatever you will, but it’s common place in the NBA.

You can hear the murmurs already. Every pull-up jumper that clanks off the rim with 18 seconds left on the shot clock will feel like lost money more than ever before. Every 4-for-16 game will be met with more disapproval than ever before. Every face Durant makes after a Westbrook shot will be over-analyzed. You’re crazy if you don’t think most people want to see Westbrook fail.

If it were any other player, you might be worried about the pressure or the scrutiny bleeding over to on-court performance. It could certainly cause someone to be less assertive, and to maybe deviate from the way they once played. We’ve seen that happen.

The chances that happens with Westbrook, though? Slim to none. More than ever before, he’ll need that confidence and aggressiveness he’s displayed throughout his career, primarily because he’s coming off multiple surgeries. There is very little room for doubt in the mind of a professional athlete, and Westbrook has never exhibited anything but the utmost confidence in his abilities. He’s equipped perfectly to handle these current circumstances.

Ultimately, that’s good for Oklahoma City. It may cost them a few wins in the short-term as Westbrook shakes off the rust and everyone readjusts, but make no mistake: the Thunder are undoubtedly a much better team with Westbrook back in the lineup.

It’s just something to keep in mind during deadline day. The bar is about rise, and fellow title competitors may want to act accordingly.

Report: Lamar Odom has verbal agreement to sign with Spanish team

Lamar Odom

Many wondered if 34-year-old forward Lamar Odom would ever play basketball again after an offseason that included rumors of drug abuse and a DUI charge.

Now we have our answer.

After temporarily drawing interest from teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers earlier this season, Odom has decided to continue his basketball career in Spain, according to European basketball correspondent David Pick and Marc Stein of

Sources with knowledge of Odom’s thinking told that the 34-year-old has reached an agreement in principle to sign a deal with Laboral Kutxa in Spain’s top league.

Such deals typically contain out clauses that allow established veterans such as Odom to return to the NBA if the opportunity arises, but sources said Monday that Odom’s plan is to play out the rest of this season in Spain before determining whether to attempt an NBA comeback.

We’ll see if Odom follows through and ends up actually playing in Spain, but this is certainly a positive step if his goal is to return to the NBA.

Odom last played with the Clippers during the 2012-13 season, where he averaged 4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 19.7 minutes. Although he was a shell of his former self, Odom provided the Clippers with pretty solid defense and rebounding once he was able to work his way into shape.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers had shown optimism about signing Odom at some point this year, but perhaps the Clippers are looking in a different direction to fill their need for a third big man off the bench.

The biggest concerns with Odom have always been his mental health and fitness level, and he can address a lot of those issues by performing consistently at a high level overseas.

Regardless of what happens in Spain, here’s wishing Odom the best. He’s suffered through multiple tragedies throughout his life and has plenty of his own personal demons, and if playing basketball professionally again provides him with the stability he needs, here’s hoping he finds it, wherever that may be.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert says he doesn’t regret “The Letter”

Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown

When LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami nearly four years ago, emotions were obviously running pretty high. A lot of things that probably shouldn’t have been said were said. Media, fans, LeBron — it wasn’t handled all that well by anyone.

But let’s make one thing clear: no one handled himself as poorly as Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

Here’s a refresher on some of the more pointed comments Gilbert made in an open letter (that was written, quite famously, in Comic Sans font) to fans following LeBron’s departure:

You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.


I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.

Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.

The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma. Just watch.

So, obviously, Gilbert was wrong. He behaved like a petulant child that just lost “his” toy, and he threw a temper tantrum in an idiotic and completely regrettable letter where nothing he said came true.

Of course, someone capable of making comments like that in the first place probably isn’t capable of showing humility, apologizing, or even saying he regrets what he said. Here’s what Gilbert told Jason Lloyd of the Beacon Journal when he was asked if he regretted “The Letter”:

I would’ve reworded the language in The Letter, but I don’t regret sending a letter out to our fan base. People forget the letter was not to LeBron, it was to our fan base. If I had to do it again, for sure, I would’ve reworded several parts of it. But I think it definitely needed a strong statement from me at that time. I keep a couple binders on my desk and I have a binder of the responses to The Letter from the people of Cleveland. For some reason, it appealed to this generational Cleveland thing. If you want to talk about books, someone should publish all the responses to The Letter. It was like, ‘We’re from Cleveland and we’ve been rejected.”

The Cavs will have max cap space this season. LeBron James could enter free agency. Not that I think LeBron is basing the future of his career on things Gilbert says in interviews, but wouldn’t fully apologizing when given the opportunity at least help a tiny smidge? Is there any scenario where Gilbert admitting what we all know to be true wouldn’t be better than him saying they should make a book based on the responses to his embarrassing letter?

The damage has already been done, of course, but Gilbert doesn’t get enough blame for slamming the door shut on a potential return. If he had just behaved like a rational adult, perhaps it would be possible (or even likely) at some point that LeBron would play for the Cavs once again.

Instead, Gilbert continues to be oblivious at best and delusional at worst. When asked by Lloyd if his letter had a negative impact on the organization over the last four years, Gilbert used third person to make his point, because of course he did:

You never know for sure, but I haven’t felt it or been aware of it. People said nobody would come here, that’s not true. Do I think any players are going to not come here because Dan wrote a letter three or four years ago? I don’t think so.

Maybe he’s right. Non-LeBron free agents might not care about the actual letter, but that’s missing the forest for the trees.

Free agents, at least guys better than Jarrett Jack, might not come to Cleveland because the owner’s ego clouds any rational judgment. Cleveland was supposed to win a title before LeBron. That was wrong. Cleveland was supposed to “not come back” to the lottery. That looks like it will be wrong, too.

Bottom line, Gilbert lets his mouth write checks that his brain can’t cash. That’s a problem if you’re picking your employer.

If Gilbert doesn’t care about the impact his words have on the organization, maybe this will get through instead. Stop talking, Dan — for your own sake.

Report: OKC hopeful Russell Westbrook will play in Feb. 20 matchup with Miami

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook takes a break on the court against the Houston Rockets in the second half of their Game 2 NBA Playoffs basketball game in Oklahoma City.

And the rich stand to get much, much richer.

The Oklahoma City Thunder already own the league’s best record, and if you had to call it right now, they have the league MVP in Kevin Durant as well. Most thought the Thunder could reasonably stay afloat during this time, but few expected them to thrive without point guard Russell Westbrook.

Oklahoma City has gone 22-8 in Westbrook’s absence, rebounding nicely from the bumpy beginnings without their star to hit a groove going into the All-Star break.

Let’s not forget how much better the Thunder is at full-strength, though. OKC is 21-4 on the season with Westbrook in the lineup. When healthy, this team is a juggernaut.

But you know who else is a juggernaut? The Miami Heat. Oklahoma City already took down Miami once without Westbrook this season, but asking them to do it a second time might be pushing it.

According to sources of Marc J. Spears at Yahoo! Sports, the Thunder might not have to worry about that, though.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are hopeful that injured guard Russell Westbrook will return for Thursday’s game against the Miami Heat, a source said to Yahoo Sports.

The Thunder announced on Dec. 27 that Westbrook had surgery on his right knee for the second time since late October. He was projected to be out until after the NBA All-Star break without a specific return game. The source said Westbrook will be re-evaluated on Tuesday in Oklahoma City, which could open the door for a return against the visiting Heat.

If Westbrook had a target date to return after his knee  surgery, this wasn’t a bad game to choose. He’ll need to pass all his tests and get medically cleared, but you know a competitor like that is chomping at the bit to play against a team as great as the Heat. If he can go, I’d hate to see anyone try and stand in his way.

That being said, the Thunder would be wise to take things slow with Westbrook if at all possible. Two knee surgeries in such a short time span is no joke, and ultimately, this upcoming battle with the Heat doesn’t mean a great deal. It’s a marathon and not a sprint, even if Westbrook is the kind of guy who usually sprints the entire marathon.

In these situations, asking “what would Gregg Popovich do?” is never a bad idea. Westbrook will of course want to play as much as he possibly can, but Scott Brooks should and  likely will put a heavy minutes restrictions on him, at least initially. It’s a big game against the Heat, to be sure, but there should be many more big games awaiting the Thunder in the near future.

Phantom cam captures the best of the 2014 dunk contest (VIDEO)

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We all know that slow-motion makes everything much more dramatic and generally way cooler. It’s science.

That’s a good thing, because last night’s dunk contest was all sort of a weird blur.

Harrison Barnes attempted a layup (no, seriously) in the freestyle dunk period. Paul George did some cool stuff we couldn’t properly react to. I’m fairly sure Nelly dunked while babysitting, but I could be fuzzy on a few details.

Really though, the whole contest went by pretty fast since there was no second-round in this year’s new format, and since Ben McLemore took up most of the time being introduced.

Luckily, though, the NBA’s phantom cam was there to catch it all for us and weed out the premature coronations and doinked dunk attempts.

Here are a few different angles of “Dunker of the Night” John Wall’s reverse jam in glorious phantom cam, as well as the other best jams from the 2014 dunk contest.