5 min read

Monday Bolts – 5.15.11

Monday Bolts – 5.15.11

Just a tremendous piece on from one of my very favorite writers, Tom Friend: “They don’t grow superstars like this anymore. On the team bus, his phone will ring and he’ll say, “Hi Mommy.” His teammate, Royal Ivey, will elbow him and say, “You could be a little smoother with it. Or at least whisper.” But that’s the one of the most revealing parts about him: He hasn’t changed since he was 8 years old. You’d think leading the NBA in scoring twice by 22 would have gone to his head. You’d think leading Team USA to last summer’s FIBA World Championship would have had him sleeping in. You’d think taking the NBA’s youngest playoff team to the conference semifinals would have lengthened his Q-rating. But half the time on the road, he’s “what’s-his-name.”

Love this note from Darnell Mayberry: “Expect a lot of the national talking heads to say this is the way Westbrook needs to play. Do yourselves a favor and ignore them. No way Westbrook  needs to take just 12 shots and try to get 14 assists every night.  Should he look for his teammates more? No question. But he’s one of the  best scorers in the league and, on this team, he needs to score.  Period.”

There’s a lot of talk about a quote KD had in it about being intrigued with LeBron’s free agency. Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com looks at that: “Obviously, it’s way, way too early for Thunder fans to panic at Durant’s honesty. Five years is five years. Earlier this week, we noted an SI.com report that the NBA owners and the Players Association are considering adding a franchise tag to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement to give additional advantages to incumbent teams to help them keep their star players. Durant is the quintessential example of the type of player on whom a franchise tag would be used. If and when he reaches the end of his current extension, he will be 27 years old and just entering his prime. His market value and league-wide interest will never be greater. But he’ll also have established a nine-year relationship with the Thunder organization and an eight-year relationship with small-market Oklahoma City and its fans.”

KD had the fourth most points in a Game 7 debut.

John Hollinger of ESPN.com: “Not only are they in the conference finals, but the expectation is that they’ll be coming back here for a quite a while. Sure, they have nothing to lose against the veteran Dallas Mavericks in this round, but as heavy favorites in coming seasons they’ll be facing a much different kind of pressure and adversity than they’ve dealt with so far. But look where they’ve come from. For half a season these guys lost as much as any team in history, and it didn’t break them. Whatever happens next, they can handle it.”

My column for CBSSports.com looking ahead to the Mavs series.

Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News: “A year ahead of schedule, maybe even two, the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook show has arrived in the Western Conference finals. Dallas, get ready. The I-35 rivalry is here.”

Chris Mannix of SI: “No player has taken more of a public flogging this series then Westbrook, his every errant shot scrutinized, his every awkward interaction with Durant dissected. But Westbrook is a dangerous player when he makes facilitating his top objective. And in Game 7 Westbrook was locked in. He made a conscious effort to find Durant, hitting him on drive-and-kicks and seeking him out in transition. His game wasn’t flawless (five turnovers and 4-of-12 shooting) but for one of the few times this series, his positive play was the story. The Thunder will need Westbrook — this Westbrook — against Dallas. Jason Kidd has turned back the clock this postseason, averaging 10.2 points and 7.2 assists. But at 38, he is no longer equipped with the foot speed to handle a player like Westbrook, who has that rare blend of free-safety size and blurring speed.”

Series grades.

Fran Blinebury of NBA.com: “The future was supposed to come soaring in with robots and jet packs and extraterrestrials. Instead it arrived on the wings of 3-pointers and slam dunks and a pair of other-worldly 22-year-olds. The future was supposed to be out there somewhere, around a distant corner, over the next mountain, occupying a still-fuzzy corner of our imaginations. But here it was, right now, like a ray gun blast in our face. Kevin Durant lifted off the surface of the planet as if on an un-tethered space walk and Russell Westbrook fired a meteor pass that he plucked somewhere out of the ionosphere and, in that instant, anything became possible — flying cars, world peace, time travel. Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.”

TGR’s recap of Game 7.

Good stuff from Tom Ziller about Tyreke Evans and Russell Westbrook: “Westbrook is taking heat, basically, because instead of forcing it to Durant in difficult (if not impossible, in some cases) positions and methods, he is taking shots. He can do the “point guard thing” and set up teammates the opposing defense is guarding closely, or he can take the shot. He’s taking the shots. Many of them are falling.”

KD did an interview about his faith: “It’s tough man. I can’t lie. I can’t lie about that. But I always kind of pinch myself and say that any day this can be gone. In the Bible, (it says) the Lord exalts humility and that’s one thing I try to be all the time—when I’m talking in front of people or when people tell me I’m great, I (remind myself that I) can always be better. I always work on what I have now. I’ve just got to be thankful to the Lord for what the gifts He’s given me. My gift back to Him is to always be humble and to always try to work as hard as I can. I’ve got to continue to be that way. I know that if I try to get a big head, my mom is going to do a great job of bringing me back down to size. I have the best of both worlds with the coaches we have here and my parents and my family doing it back at home. I’m in pretty good hands.”

Johnny Ludden of Yahoo! Sports: “Durant smiled, but offered no confirmation. “I always gotta have my backpack,” he said before walking out the locker room doors. Watching Durant in moments like this – long-sleeved shirt buttoned to his chin, book bag on his back – it’s easy to wonder: Is he going to the Western Conference finals or social studies class? This is part of Durant’s charm. He’s the assassin who walks away from his kill sipping a carton of chocolate milk. He’d just scored 39 points to end the Memphis Grizzlies’ season in a Game 7 performance so smooth he probably didn’t need a shower … and 30 minutes later he’s dressed like a sixth-grader.”