Author: Kurt Helin

Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers

Thursday night NBA Winners/Losers: The injury gods show Thunder no mercy


Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while watching Kendrick Lamar perform before the Cavs game…

source:  Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City Thunder. I don’t know what the Thunder players did in their past lives to bring this kind of injury Karma with them this season, but it must have been nasty. They key for the Thunder is they are now 0-2 on the young season and the next month or so is going to be rough. Russell Westbrook hurt his right hand in the second quarter, going up for a rebound he seemed to catch his hand in the jersey of Kendrick Perkins (or somehow make contact) and after that he took himself out of the game not to return. Not sure how long he’ll be out but with Kevin Durant, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb among others the Thunder are getting short of bodies. Bottom line if you have to play Sebastian Telfair 37 minutes you are in trouble in the NBA (although to their credit the Thunder fought hard to stay in it and were not blown out).

source:  The New York Knicks. I’ll take some crow. Thursday afternoon I wrote the Knicks were the sacrificial lamb to the LeBron James homecoming show. New York was simply a role player. Except they refused to be. Carmelo Anthony led the way with an efficient night on the second game of a back-to-back — 26 points with a true shooting percentage of 62 percent (he was 7-of-10 on uncontested looks, that he got 10 clean shots speaks to the Cavs defense), plus ‘Melo dished out 6 assists, and he hit the dagger with LeBron James in his face. They moved the ball, with assists on 3o of their 37 buckets. The Knicks as a team had an offensive rating of 110.6 on the night. Give credit where it’s due, the Knicks refused to play the role of patsy and picked up a nice win.

source:  LeBron James. He was tight. He clearly felt the expectations and the hype in Cleveland — they had street parties going on in downtown, there were concerts, the stars were out, Nike had a new ad, and the city was there for a coronation. LeBron clearly felt the weight of all of it. He was 5-of-15 shooting, he had four assists and eight turnovers. Look at this shot chart:


It doesn’t mean anything going forward. He’s still the best player on the planet, the Cavaliers are still title contenders. But for one night, a big night, LeBron simply was not good.

source:  City of Cleveland. Sure, the Cavaliers lost when nobody expected them to. So what? Good teams lose to bad teams (remember the second game of last season the Heat lost to the 76ers). The fact of the matter is Cleveland is back — on the court and off. Thursday was more than a celebration of LeBron, it was a celebration of home. Of Cleveland. LeBron returned and brought energy and excitement with him. This is going to be a great season and this one game means nothing in the grand scheme of things.

source:  John Wall, Washington Wizards. While everyone else was watching Cleveland, Wall went out and put up elite point guard numbers — 30 points on 21 shots, with 11 of those points coming in a strong third quarter for Washington (one where Wall was active on defense and took a charge). Down the stretch is was Wall and Paul Pierce making plays to get Washington another win. If Wall keeps playing like this they will pick up a lot of them.

No Durant, Westbrook goes down, Thunder still make it interesting but fall to Clippers

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers

Doc Rivers will take the win.

But he’s got a lot of fodder for the team’s next film session.

The Oklahoma City Thunder should have gotten blown out this game. Kevin Durant is out and then Russell Westbrook broke his hand in the first half and had to leave for the night. By the time the final buzzer sounded the Thunder were down to eight players.

Yet they were a close Serge Ibaka three at the buzzer away from sending the game to overtime.  The shot was just short.

With that the Clippers escaped with a 93-90 win in their home and season opener. But neither team looked anything like the contenders they aspire to be. Sure, it’s just one of 82, but these teams have some work to do.

The Thunder are now off to an 0-2 start and have a rough month ahead of them without their stars (there is no timetable for Westbrook officially, but broken hands take time).

The Clippers came out flat — OKC started the game off on an 8-0 run — and just could not make shots. They shot 39.1 percent as a team and were 7-of-30 from three — and just 2-of-10 on corner threes. Sharpshooter J.J. Redick was 1-of-10, Jamal Crawford was 5-of-15, Chris Douglas-Roberts 0-4.

But it was more than just an off night shooting — the Clippers had the best offense in the NBA last year because of their ball movement and player movement, particularly in transition. Not Thursday, the ball stuck. Players stood.

Meanwhile the Thunder just kept grinding. Perry Jones stepped up in a big way with 32 points on just 17 shots, while Serge Ibaka added 17 points an 9 rebounds. It’s not that the Thunder were sharp — they shot 43.1 percent as a team — but they would not give up and they kept making plays.

A couple of times in the second half the Clippers would pull away — for example the Clippers lead got up to 10 with 5:30 left in the game, but the Thunder responded. Sebastian Telfair made it a one-point game with 1:44 when he scored to cap a 14-5 run.

What did the Thunder in was turnovers — 27 of them. Without Westbrook they shot themselves in the foot.

But the Clippers settled for jumpers and didn’t take advantage. Then in the final minute Chris Paul bricked a couple free throws. It was just that kind of night, but the Thunder lacked the guys to create the offense to make the Clippers pay.

Blake Griffin finished with 23 points, Chris Paul had 22.

It was a sloppy game. Steve Ballmer got an exciting one for his first as the LA owner, but mostly the Clippers will just take the win and try to move on.

The Thunder are going to have a rough month ahead of them.

Thunder’s Russell Westbrook fractures hand, likely out 4-6 weeks

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers

UPDATE 10:45 am: We have a rough timetable now, courtesy the always on it Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman — 4-6 weeks. That’s an estimate based on previous injuries and talking to officials, but the Thunder have yet to release anything officially.

If accurate, that means Westbrook and Kevin Durant (foot) will likely be out the same amount of time, into early December.

The scary part for the Thunder is this could cost them home court in the first round of the playoffs, knocking their win total down and dropping them to a 5-6-7 seed. Just about the most dangerous lower seed ever, but it makes the road to the Finals much more difficult.

2:14 am: The injury gods have it in for Oklahoma City.

Already without Kevin Durant until December, Russell Westbrook fractured his hand in the first half of the Thunder’s loss to the Clippers Thursday night, coach Scott Brooks announced after the game to reporters, including Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman.

The injury occured as Westbrook went up for a rebound, reaching up with his left hand while his right seems to get caught in the jersey of or come in contact with Kendrick Perkins, who was also looking for a board. The injury was a complete fluke.

The metacarpal is the bone that connects your wrist area to your fingers, running through the bulk of the hand. There are variables (like where the fracture is on the bone) but this injury often takes 6-8 weeks to heal. The Thunder say they will give a timetable after getting a better look at the injury on Friday (if it really is small he could be back sooner than most).

Still, this means the Thunder will be without Westbrook and Kevin Durant — two top 10 NBA players — until December. The Thunder have had a rash of other injuries including Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, and Anthony Morrow. This is a team that may be a contender but in the brutal Western Conference they are going to have to fight for  playoff spot and decent seed after the injuries to open the season.

Larry Brown on Sixers tanking/rebuilding: “It makes me sick”

Larry Brown

Larry Brown is the coach that got a Philadelphia team playing good defense and turning Allen Inversion loose all the way to the NBA Finals. He’s won almost everywhere he’s coached — he’s the one guy who has won an NBA and NCAA title (2004 Pistons, 1988 Kansas Jayhawks).

And he’s no fan of what is happening in Philadelphia now. At all. The Philadelphia Inquirer asked Brown about the tanking Sixers trying to rebuild through the draft by being terrible in the short-term, and let’s just say Brown isn’t on board.

“I hate what’s going on in Philly,” the Hall of Fame coach said Wednesday. “They don’t have a basketball person in the organization. It makes me sick to my stomach….

“No, I wouldn’t do it. We wouldn’t lose. Brett (Brown, Sixers head coach) can coach, he’s one of Pop’s guys,” Brown said, referring to San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. “But what they are doing to that city to me is mind-boggling. That’s the greatest basketball city in the world with its fans and you want them to sit back and watch you lose.”

Sixers CEO Sam Harris fired back at Brown, now the coach at SMU in Dallas, via

“You know, after seeing Larry Brown’s SMU team in the Final Four this year it was tough to hear those kind of comments,” O’Neil said on the radio show. “Was he in the Final Four this year?…

“How are they doing? How are they gonna be this year?” O’Neil said. “Nah, you know, I think it’s hard for people not in the market to understand what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. I think the good thing about Philadelphia is that the fans certainly get it.”

Actually, SMU was going to be very interesting with Emmanuel Muddily at the point — DraftExpress has him as the No. 2 pick in the next draft, he’s in everyone’s top three — but Muddily decided to get paid and after committing to SMU changed his mind and is playing for Guangdong in China. The Mustangs are still a good team.

Brown was willing to play the back-and-forth game and said this about O’Neill, again from

“Well, ask Scott where SMU was when I took the job. We were 315th and two years later, we’re a top-25 team. And who is Scott O’Neil by the way? I mean, what is his basketball background? And he ought to look at how I care about the team rather than criticize my job and what I’ve done.”

O’Neill, this is not a good fight to pick. Walk away.

Brown — and other NBA owners, and some fans around the league — may not like what the Sixers are doing, but the financial and basketball realities of the NBA make it a viable strategy. You need talent and if you’re not the Lakers or the Knicks the only way you get talent is the draft. The Sixers have taken the strategy to an extreme, but they are within the rules and thinking long-term.

Come 2018, there are going to be a lot of fans jumping on the Sixers bandwagon as all these players mature and start to form a very interesting core. Brown might even be one of them.

J.R. Smith hints Knicks quit vs. Bulls, Phil Jackson says team not ready for “Showtime”

Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks

The reviews are coming in on the Knicks opening night loss to the Bulls and if this were a Broadway show it could be closed within a week.

The Bulls routed the Knicks Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, showing the difference between a contender and where New York is right now. The Bulls took control of the game when the teams went to their benches near the end of the first quarter (a 25-10 Chicago run) and sealed it by pulling away in the third.

It took the fight out of the Knicks, something J.R. Smith owned up to after the game, as reported by Ian Begley at Iman Shumpert concurred.

“When we stopped competing the end of the third quarter, fourth quarter, we could all tell,” Smith said. “I think they looked at it as if they felt they smelled blood in the water. We just couldn’t do anything about it. We put our heads down and tucked our tails. We can’t do that at home.”

“We never recovered,” Iman Shumpert said. “We can’t die like that. I think our energy died and we can’t do that.”

Phil Jackson put it this way.

“Not ready for showtime, were we guys?” the Knicks president said to reporters before getting into the passenger seat of his SUV.

Things are not going to be better Thursday night when the Knicks are the sacrificial offering for LeBron James’ homecoming in Cleveland.

It’s going to be a rough transition in New York. Phil Jackson is trying to bring a system and a way of doing things to the organization and the current roster is a terrible fit for that system (save for Carmelo Anthony and a couple others). Plus the triangle itself really takes teams a season to really start to use properly even when they have the right style of players.

It’s going to take time (like a couple seasons), but New Yorkers have to be patient (not always their strong suit) and trust Jackson. Just having a direction for this team and everyone rowing in the same direction is a good first step, but results on the court remain a ways away.