Kevin O’Connor (Ringer) on the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook problem: “Donovan could be at fault for not pushing the boundaries for his point guard. It could also be Donovan’s fault for not effectively integrating his two new All-Stars. But Westbrook hasn’t moved for any coach he’s ever had. It’s unfair to expect Westbrook, or any player, to undergo an extreme makeover, but is it too much to ask for a few tweaks from an already proven player? He often gets compared to the modern Allen Iverson, but unlike Iverson, Westbrook is a gym rat. It’s reasonable to expect even more from him by committing to playing off-ball and improving his passing.”
Erik Horne on OKC’s questionable shot selection: “While lack of free throws shot draws attention to the long jump shots missed, Donovan’s acceptance of the frequency of those shots is troubling. “That’s not something you want to take away from those guys,” Donovan said of Russell Westbrook, Anthony and George. “We have guys on our team that, when they get to certain areas and spots on the floor, they’re good from those areas.”
Fred Katz on the Thunder shooting too many midrange jumpers to succeed: “Some teams, as Donovan alluded, have baited OKC ball-handlers into mid-range pull-ups by dropping big men back to the paint while guarding pick-and-rolls. Some have goaded the Thunder into poor choices by switching defenders and then watching Westbrook or George or Anthony go to work immediately. It turns pick-and-rolls into those ineffective isolation moments. The Thunder end the NBA’s highest percentage of their possessions on a pass or shot out of isolation, per Synergy Sports. They’re the NBA’s 17th-most efficient team on those plays. In the simplest terms, they’re below average at the least-effective form of offense, yet it remains one of their principles.”
Chris Thompson (Deadspin) on crunch time no longer being Westbrook time: “Remember last season, when Russell Westbrook was an incredible monster, and his clutch performance was the stuff of legend? Remember how the Thunder outperformed their point differential by dominating those clutch situations? Remember how they went a shocking 26-16 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes? Well, yeah, that’s all gone now.”
The Thunder has slipped to number 15 in ESPN’s latest power rankings: “The Thunder snapped a seven-game head-to-head losing streak against the Warriors, but have since lost two straight — one perpetuating their clutch time failures this season in a loss to the Pistons and their worst loss of the season by 16 points to a Mavericks team that entered tied for the second-worst record in the league. Oklahoma City is 0-9 in games decided by eight points or fewer and 0-8 in road games against the West.”
Brett Dawson on Terrance Ferguson’s sudden increase in playing time: “Ferguson played 14 first-half minutes Saturday at American Airlines Center. He entered the game having played 14 first-half minutes all season. He finished with season highs in minutes (21) and points (seven), making 3 of 5 shots. Ferguson’s first-quarter appearance was surprising given his limited first-half action, but not shocking from Thunder coach Billy Donovan, who’s known to tinker with his rotations. He stuck with Ferguson in the second half, inserting him with 5:17 to play in the third quarter. Ferguson’s minutes against the Mavericks came at the expense of slumping Alex Abrines, who didn’t play in the first half.”
Chris Haynes (ESPN) on KD and his mom saying the Russell Westbrook drama has gone too far: “Kevin Durant and his mother, Wanda, believe the hype surrounding Durant and Russell Westbrook has gone too far. “It’s not about me and Russ,” the small forward told ESPN after the Golden State Warriors lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-91 on Wednesday. “It’s about the Thunder and the Warriors. Myself and Russ are competing out there. That’s part of the game. It’s basketball. It’s not about us. We’re just playing the game, and trash talking is part of it. That’s all it is.”
Around the League: Tony Parker will make his season debut tonight…. Derrick Rose has left the Cavs to mull his NBA future…. Marc Gasol is unhappy with his playing time in the Grizzlies’ eighth straight loss…. Giannis Antetokounmpo had an altercation with a Bucks assistant coach…. John Wall is out for at least two weeks.