Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider on best trade targets: “Signed to provide veteran leadership and
serve as a bridge at power forward to 2016 lottery picks Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, Dudley moved aside to accommodate the youngsters much earlier than expected. After starting the season’s first seven games, Dudley has played just five total minutes in all of January. (He has been sidelined the past week due to dizziness.) Dudley’s performance hardly merited the benching. He was shooting 44.0 percent from 3-point range and a career-high 56.0 percent beyond the arc. As recently as last season, Dudley was an effective part-time starter for the Washington Wizards. And his three-year, $30 million contract is reasonable for a reserve. (The Wizards would surely love Dudley back, but don’t have any matching contracts that would interest the Suns.)”
Erik Horne on the beard celebration: “Playing in Spain, players on the bench don’t stand up frequently at the risk of getting technical fouls. Abrines and his teammates at FC Barcelona had fun, but never devised anything close to a celebration that had to do with his patchy black beard. So, when Abrines came stateside, there was a slight culture shock. He was apprehensive about celebrating on the sideline. Not anymore. Not after being around Morrow, Cameron Payne and Victor Oladipo.”
Berry Tramel shouting out Scott Brooks: “Since Dec. 4, the Wizards are 17-7. They’ve risen to fifth in the Eastern Conference and are a contender to get homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Injuries played a part in the Wizards’ slow start. Star point guard John Wall missed two winnable road games (Orlando and Chicago) with an injury. Sharpshooter Bradley Beal missed three games (Cleveland, at Chicago, at Philadelphia). Washington also went through the normal new-coach adjustment phase. And the Wizards suffered an abnormal amount of losses in close games. But now Washington is playing well. And Foreman Scotty is coaching just as the Wizards hoped he would.”
Chris Ryan of The Ringer hands midseason MVP to Harden: “The MVP award means different things to different people, but it is ultimately a marriage between numbers and narrative — between who has the best statistical case and who put his stamp on the arc of the season. Nobody’s got numbers like Harden, and most remarkably, nobody has a better story.”
Bill Reiter of CBSSports.com: “I can’t imagine what level of rage is going to be firing inside Westbrook in the days, weeks, months ahead. Durant skipped town and Westbrook became a nightly basketball wrecking ball — tearing down teams with scoring, assists, ball movement, rebounds, huge shots, and a ferocious obsession that has the Thunder at 25-19 despite having its heart ripped out in the offseason. Westbrook, like LeBron James, has long been annoyed by the love, adulation and praise that has been heaped on Curry the past two seasons. A lot of players have, which is one reason they voted Curry lower than the two guards who deserved that All-Star Game starting spots. It’s not hard to have a conversation with a current or former NBA player and have it slide into off-the-record talk that Curry, great and all, gets too much love. I’d usually disagree with them but this year, in relation to Westbrook, there’s no argument to be made.”
Ananth Pandian of CBSSports.com says OKC should buy: “Russell Westbrook is having a MVP-level season yet the rest of the Thunder have largely been so-so as Oklahoma City currently sits 7th in the West. They could use some shooters to help space the floor for Westbrook, so making a move to add a proven three-point shooter will definitely help. There have been rumors in the past about a possible Rudy Gay-for-Cameron Payne swap, which could at the very least add some more firepower to the Thunder.”
A big happy birthday to the First Lady of Daily Thunder.