Tag: Russell Westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors

Kevin Durant held out of practice, timetable for return to Thunder lineup in question


Kevin Durant was practicing with the Thunder, and a return to the lineup seemed somewhat imminent, considering the team’s timetable that was set eight days ago at one-to-two weeks.

But that’s in some jeopardy now, as Durant was held out of practice on Thursday after experiencing some additional soreness.

From Royce Young of Daily Thunder:

“Experiencing a little bit of soreness,” Brooks said. “That’s expected. We have some peaks and valleys, and we always have a cautious approach, so today he didn’t do anything.” …

Asked if he’d classify Durant’s soreness as a setback, or how he’d classify it, Brooks worked around the edges of answering that.

“Just he experienced some soreness,” Brooks said. “I think when you go through rehab, we all know through the rehab process you’re going to have some peaks and valleys, and you just have to adjust accordingly. That’s why he was off today, and he’s definitely not playing tomorrow. That’s all part of the process with his rehab.” …

Again, Durant was given a timetable of “a week or two” eight days ago, which suggested he would be back soon. Him not practicing today is certainly a step in the wrong direction of returning, and it certainly appears he’s not on track.

This is one reason I don’t think it matters at all for the Thunder exactly when Durant returns, or whether he does at all this season.

Oklahoma City is battling just to make the playoffs as an eight-seed, and if the team achieves its goal, the reward is a first round date with the Warriors — a team that’s been a cohesive unit since the season began, and has looked like world-beaters more nights than they haven’t.

The Thunder, meanwhile, are cobbling together lineups and barely hanging on. They made a midseason trade to send Reggie Jackson packing, and brought in both Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter as a way to fortify the roster. Those moves have worked to varying degrees, but what’s important is just how disjointed the team has been for the bulk of the second half of the season.

Even if Durant comes back and is 100 percent, he still has to find a way to coexist with Russell Westbrook — who’s been playing fantastically, but also has been using a ton of the Thunder’s offensive possessions.

There will be an adjustment period, and should the Thunder be fortunate enough to figure things out in time to string together some regular season wins and sneak into the playoffs, there’s absolutely no chance they beat the Warriors four times in a seven game series.

Best wishes and godspeed to Durant on his overall health and return to the lineup. I just don’t see it making one bit of difference for the Thunder’s chances this season.

Allen Iverson wants to work for 76ers front office

2014 Tribeca Film Festival - "Iverson"

Allen Iverson once said he’d never want to coach, and whether or not he was just setting up a punch line – “We’d never practice” – he wants to work again in the NBA in another capacity.

Appearing on the CSN Philly telecast of last night’s 76ers-Pistons game, Iverson was asked about joining the team’s front office.


I would like to be even in that war room. Even if they don’t go with my decision or whatever, just to have an opinion and putting out what I think and trusting the organization to do what’s right.

What does he look for in a player that others might miss?

Their fight. Their fight. The fight in a guy. I’m the biggest Westbrook fan I think there is. You know what I mean? Because he reminds me so much of myself as far as his heart and laying it on the line night in and night out. This is a guy who’s going to bring it every single night.

Can you imagine Iverson working with Sam Hinkie?

Iverson played with tremendous heart, and that propelled him to NBA stardom. But I’m not sure that translates to a quality talent evaluator. Iverson is obviously not the only one to identify Russell Westbrook as a star.

Despite being undersized, Iverson willed himself to success. His inner drive was historically strong – but emphasis on inner. Just because Iverson possessed that trait doesn’t mean he can see it in others before it manifests during an  NBA career.

NBA prospects in NCAA Tournament: Seven guys to watch Thursday/Saturday


The NCAA Tournament, with its orgy of games the first weekend, is a hoops junkie’s dream. It is also when a lot of fans of an NBA team — particularly lottery-bound NBA teams — fall in love with a particular player they hope their team can draft come June. NBA scouts and GMs already have far more formulated opinions on players by this point; they want to see how players react to better competition, and under the pressure of a lose-and-go-home situation.

While watching your bracket disintegrate (you know it will), here seven NBA prospects to keep an eye on from the Thursday/Saturday games. We reached out for some expert opinions from Ed Isaacson of Rotoworld and NBADraftBlog, as well as Rob Dauster of our NBC sister site CollegeBasketballTalk.

Of course, any tour of potential draft picks starts in Kentucky.

1) Karl Towns, Kentucky: Half of the most-watched front line in college ball, Towns is a potential No. 1 pick (depending on who lands the top spot in the lottery). He’s got an NBA body, and defensively is solid on-ball, plus can block shots and protect the rim. Offensively he knows how to score in the post, but also he shoots 82 percent from the free throw line and shows that he could have an impressive midrange game (or beyond) game as well. He could take a couple years to develop but in three to five years could be the best player out of this class.

From Ed Isaacson: “He can move. In a lot of ways, he moves like a wing when he gets the ball in his hands. And he’s skilled. He’s a very skilled player, especially on the offensive end. When he gets the ball, he has a lot of options. He can back you down, he can face you up.”

2) Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: It’s hard not to love his athleticism and defense — he’s a 7-footer who can show out off a pick and switch onto a guard without losing a beat. He is the key reason Kentucky’s defense is fearsome, plus he can get back and block shots. His offense is raw, but think of Cauley-Stein like a more athletic Nerlens Noel.

From Ed Isaacson: “If you’re going to have him on the floor at the NBA level you’re going to have some things you have to work around. But in terms of a raw, long, athletic big guy it doesn’t get any better than him in this draft.”

3) Devin Booker, Kentucky: This is a 6’5” two guard who could slip down draft boards after the combine — he’s not long, he’s not mind-blowingly athletic. But the name of the game is getting the leather ball through the metal ring, and that Booker can do that — he is a pure shooter. He provides the floor spacing that the Wildcats need with those bigs.

From Ed Isaacson: “He’s probably a better athlete than people give him credit for. He’s a very good defender, especially out on the perimeter he can contain…. What makes Booker so attractive is the guy can shoot. There are very few shooters like him in this draft. Whether it’s off the dribble, off the catch, coming off screens, he’s as competent a shooter as you’re going to see in this group.”

4) D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State: He is a guy who can score — 19.3 points a game, shoots 41 percent from three — but also is a gifted passer with great court vision. He’s also a big guard at 6’5” and it’s easy to put him in the Russell Westbrook mold of combo guards (although he’s not Westbrook athletic).

From Ed Isaacson: “I’m not as high on him as a lot of people. A lot of teams have found ways to be successful in pretty much stopping him — in all aspects, whether it be distributing the ball or scoring…. In games against the top 60 we’re talking about a guy who was shooting 36-37 percent, even less from three, was getting his assists but also was turning the ball over a lot more…. On the bright side, in a big spot he wants the ball, very aggressive, always looking to make something happen.”

5) Jerian Grant, Notre Dame. He’s one of the top two seniors in this NBA draft (along with Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin), and his game seems to have matured after missing the end of last season due to academic issues. At ND, he has shown both the ability to score and set up teammates.

From Ed Isaacson: “The Notre Dame offense runs through him, and after he had to leave for a year he definitely came back with a different mindset, becoming more aggressive. He’s done very well in pick-and-roll situations, especially finding guys — although it helps a lot when you have the shooters Notre Dame has on the perimeter… The problem with Grant is there is still a lot of that dribbling around, waiting to make something happen, which you see more in younger point guards. The thing that separates Grant though is you can move him over to the two — he’s a very good perimeter shooter, he can attack from the wing… the problem is he doesn’t have a lot of those natural point guard skills.”

6) Stanley Johnson, Arizona: At 6’8”, 240 he comes with an NBA body, and that plus his defensive skill set will make him a Top 10 pick for sure (DraftExpress has him No. 5 currently). This is not a guy with the perimeter shot or finishing skills to come in and put up numbers immediately in the NBA, but he has the potential to get there.

From Rob Dauster: “Stanley is a tough, versatile and physical wing. I think he has he potential to be an excellent defender at the NBA level, and his perimeter stroke has looked better as the season has progressed. He had a bit of an attitude issue early in the year, but he’s seemed to embrace the role he’s been asked to play now. My biggest concern with Johnson is his ability to finish around the rim. He tends to struggle finishing against length.”

7) Myles Turner, Texas: This guy passes the eye test as an NBA big at 6’11” and with a solid frame. He has a good shooting touch and plays a very high IQ game — he reads plays well. What holds him back is a lack of athleticism that could be exposed at the next level.

From Rob Dauster: “I love Turner’s skill set. He’s 6-foot-11 with long arms and solid timing when it comes to blocking shots, but he also has a nice stroke for someone his size. He hits three at the college level and can probably extend that range to the NBA line. He’s never going to be a bruising low post player, but he’s got a good feel for where he is around the paint and has shown off a nice turnaround/faceup jumper. But the concern with Turner is that he just doesn’t move all that well. He runs like it’s painful, and that’s never a good thing to hear about a freshman you’re going to invest millions into.”

Russell Westbrook does not want to talk about MVP

Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving

Stephen Curry said he’d choose himself.

LeBron James reportedly wondered why he doesn’t get more consideration.

James Harden has a general manager campaigning on his behalf (to the bemusement of Steve Kerr).

But don’t try roping Russell Westbrook into the MVP discussion.

Royce Young of ESPN:

That last answer is a gem.

Westbrook has soared with Kevin Durant sidelined, seemingly posting triple-doubles on a nightly basis.

But the Thunder point guard has already missed 15 games. If he plays the rest of the season and wins MVP, Westbrook would have played a lower percentage of games than any winner aside from Bill Walton in 1978.

It’s understandable why Westbrook’s priorities would lie elsewhere. Oklahoma City is just a half game ahead of the Pelicans and 2.5 games ahead of the Suns for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With Durant still out and Serge Ibaka also sidelined, Westbrook must do even more to keep the Thunder afloat – which should only strengthen his MVP case.

Thunder’s Serge Ibaka out 4-6 weeks after surgery, could miss start of playoffs

Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs - Game Five

In a season racked by injuries in Oklahoma City, this latest one could severely damage their playoff chances — if they even make it.

Serge Ibaka’s knee surgery on Tuesday went well, according to the team, and he will be out 4-6 weeks. That would have him back right as the playoffs start at the earliest (April 19), or he could miss the start of the first round series (should the Thunder hold on to the eight seed).

“After monitoring the soreness in Serge’s knee and having taken several intermediate steps to assess and manage the discomfort, it was determined that the necessary next step in the evaluation was to see a specialist to discuss options to help alleviate the soreness and swelling he had been experiencing,” said Thunder GM Sam Presti in a statement. “During the consultation with Dr. David Altchek, his recommendation, in agreement with Thunder medical personnel, Serge and his representatives, was for Serge to have arthroscopic surgery to remedy the problematic area.”

Long term there is no cause for concern,  is pretty common and Ibaka should bounce back to his old self. The only question is will he do it in time to help the Thunder.

Oklahoma City has already beeen trying to get by without Kevin Durant (who is due back from a sore foot in the next week or so) but have gone 8-5 in their last 13 and been able to get and hold on to the eighth seed in the West, half a game up on New Orleans (and they are tied in the loss column as of Tuesday).

They have done that with a heaping dose of Russell Westbrook, who has injected himself into the MVP conversation with his play. The Thunder also have gotten a boost from Enes Kanter, picked up at the trade deadline from Utah and scoring 19.8 points a game in his last five.

However, coach Scott Brooks — clearly concerned about Kanter at the defensive end — has almost always paired the young big with Ibaka. The idea was that the shot-blocking Ibaka could cover up any mistakes. Now that duty will fall to Steven Adams, who is not a bad defender but his far from a high-flying shot blocker.

Oklahoma City has its work cut out to finish ahead of Anthony Davis and New Orleans for that final playoff spot (the Pelicans are not just going to roll over). If they do, Golden State will be waiting for them and without Ibaka for even a few games that could be a real problem for OKC.