Russell Westbrook

NBA Week 11 – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In our new weekly feature John Cronin breaks down what is happening in the NBA world and lets us know what he thinks is good and not so good in the league…

Westbrook Destroying Curry, Or is he?

After game 4 of the Western Conference Finals there has been a lot of talk about how Russell Westbrook is destroying Stephen Curry. Even with the game 2 no-show there is no doubt that Russ has been the best player in this series and perhaps the playoffs as a whole. He takes ‘bad’ shots, plays out of control on occasion and is one of the worst help defenders starting in the playoffs but more than makes up for it with his aggression and physical superiority, best exemplified when he goes on one of his violent one man fast breaks finished with an explosion to the basket.

What’s going to happen in OKC?

The Thunder missed the playoffs.  Not by much, but still missed out for the first time since their first season in Oklahoma.  The Thunder ownership, headed by Clay Bennett, is reportedly considering replacing former Coach of the Year Scott Brooks.  SportsNet New York reported that University of Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie, who played for the Thunder back in 2009-2010, could replace Brooks.

Latest D-Rose Knee Injury Raises Questions

When Chicago Bulls’ star player Derrick Rose injured his right knee a couple days ago, I grimaced. But then I saw that it was a meniscus tear, and I thought, no big deal. He’ll be back on the court in a month. Until ESPN dropped this bombshell: Rose is done for the year, again.

Now anyone who knows me knows I bring a lot of baggage to knee injuries, surgeries, and rehabs. So let’s just get that history out of the way. When I was a young high-school basketball player, I tore my left ACL, while also partially tearing my MCL, my LCL, and the meniscus on the lateral side of my knee. The ACL tear is the injury Rose suffered two seasons ago in the playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers. I had the surgery about a month after my injury and played a baseball season three months after the injury. Then, I played American football in the fall, and a half of a basketball season before tearing more of my meniscus. So I had another surgery and was playing again in a month. Then, I played a season of baseball, a season of soccer, and a season of basketball before injuring the meniscus again in the same knee. Another surgery, played again in a month. Then three straight injury-free seasons of soccer, basketball, and baseball. Then, I played college baseball for about a year-and-a-half before injuring the meniscus again, having a final surgery, and calling it quits on my athletic career.

So at the very least, I do know something about knee injuries and it invokes a little personal passion in me. Some would say my model of consecutive injuries isn’t exactly a model to follow, and that’s a valid point, but it should also be pointed out that I never reinjured my knee immediately after returning. So it’s hard to make the argument that they occurred because I “went back to soon.” It should also be pointed out that the route Rose went with surgery is a little different (and newer) than the route I chose. He is getting his meniscus repaired, whereas I just had mine sort of shaved. In other words, I have less meniscus in my knee now because of it. Rose’s route may pay off in the long-term. Think Russell Westbrook in terms of a previous model to consider. I also realize that Rose’s knee is worth a lot more than mine, but I still think this sequence of events raises several questions, and most of them aren’t good. Keep in mind, too, that even though I was skeptical about his decision not to play in the playoffs last year, I defended him when others criticized him. Here are my concerns this time around:

1. Is Rose simply content earning a high salary without producing all that much on the floor? He chose to sit out longer than necessary last year, and he’s doing it again this year. Can you imagine, for example, Michael Jordan making those same decisions? I think we all know the answer to that question. Rose’s youth cannot be used as an excuse forever. It’s not like he’s going to play into his mid-forties because he sat out two years during his twenties. Our bodies limit us even when we’re careful.

2. Are the Bulls hiding something about the injury? Is there something about it that is more serious than is being advertised?

3. Is this simply a symptom of this generation of athletes? Generation Coddle, we might call them? Maybe it’s not even Rose’s fault, really. There are probably all kinds of people feeding ideas into his head about what he should be doing in situations like these. Dare we mention Stephen Strasburg here, the star pitcher that the Washington Nationals held out of the 2012 playoffs, not so much because he was injured but because he had passed some arbitrary pitch count?

4. Is Rose injury-prone? Does such a thing even exist? Are some athletes, Greg Oden and Rose included, just a bit more brittle than others? Is this latest injury simply the second of many more that we’ll have to painfully witness throughout this gifted player’s career?

I fully admit, these questions are all speculative. I have no inside sources here. But I do think they’re valid considerations. I suppose the rest of Rose’s career will provide the answers, one way or another.

Funny Footlock Adds Featuring Harden, Westbrook and Melo

Via Basketball Only Funnier check out these two new adds from Foot Locker. Not too much to be said here, Foot Locker adds, they feature NBA players Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Camrelo Anthony and they are pretty funny, check them out!

UPDATE: Now also featuring new add with Kevin Love and Chris Bosh! Check below for video.

Harden and Westbrook – “Foot Locker – Tear Away”

 

Carmelo Anthony – “Foot Locker – The Melo’s”

 

Kevin Love and Chris Bosh join the fun!

 

 

 

GB v USA Basketball Photo Gallery

GB and USA Basketball put on a show in Manchester and TCC have hundreds of great photos from the event. Check out the first selection of photos with much more to follow! Make sure and let us know which are your favourite snaps!

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Russell Westbrook Anthony Davis Double Dunk!

It’s not often that we put up a blog post just for one picture but check out this great snap our Photographer Marc Mulholland got! Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis both go for the put back slam after James Harden’s miss and they double dunk on FOUR GB players! Insane!

Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook Double Dunk on Four GB players!

Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook Double Dunk on Four GB players!

What the Miami Heat need to do to close out

Tonight is a pivotal game 5 in the 2012 NBA finals.  The Miami Heat stand on the brink of their second title, Lebron stands on the brink of his first title and probably a finals MVP award.  Kevin Durant stands on the brink of becoming the new Lebron (the “he’s good, but he doesn’t have a title…” argument).  Here is my list of what I think the Miami Heat need to do to avoid going back to Oklahoma City for game 6 and perhaps game 7 (let’s not forget that they won the 2006 title in Dallas).

 

1: Put Lebron in the post.

2: that’s it.

Lebron came out at the end of game 4 with what has been described as leg cramps.  Watching him loosely jog after getting up (before the long outlet which got him that bank shot over Westbrook) and limp around the court when he came back on would suggest that this was indeed what had happened.  Scoring a clutch three on guts alone was HUGE.  However, air balling the next three that he took told Erik Spoelstra that he had to take Lebron out of the game.

I’m sure many of us have had leg cramps.  Some perhaps even during a game or training session (anyone who’s been through the Darren O’Neill pre-season will definitely know about this).  It hurts but it’s rare that you end up unable to walk the following day, or even unable to play basketball a couple of days afterwards.  However, those of us who might have suffered cramps at the end of running a marathon might argue otherwise.  Lebron has been sensational all season long.  I can’t even come up with a word to top “sensational” to describe him in the playoffs.  But the chances are that he’s very close to running on fumes by this stage.

He has been guarding the only other legitimate contender for the title of “best player in the league” for the past couple of games and has effectively taken Durant out of the equation.  It took an all-time great finals performance from Russell Westbrook to keep OKC in game 4 because Lebron had made Durant less of a factor.  His intense defense has tired Durant out by the time the fourth quarter rolls around.

But he’s clearly not 100%.  Neither is Dwyane Wade.  Neither is Chris Bosh, although his fitness is improving whilst the others is declining.

Therefore, if Lebron is not completely fit, especially if he is lacking the athletic explosiveness which has defined his play throughout his career, the logical place for him to take up offensive position is in the post.  Nobody in the entire world can guard Lebron in the post.  He’s either too strong or too quick (and at full fitness he would be both too strong AND too quick for most) for every possible defender, particularly those on the OKC roster.

His inside the paint/outside the paint field goal percentage isn’t even close.  The “jab step, jab step, jump shot” offense which still creeps into his game would cost Miami tonight.

 

Key to failure

Commentators argue that Oklahoma City doesn’t understand that they are “beaten”.  Of course its possible that they could win three in a row for what would be an all time great comeback.  It’s just that, in each of their losses, they have looked inexperienced.  Durant, while I’ll grant that he doesn’t get superstar calls, is picking up silly fouls.  Westbrook isn’t a pure point guard and can’t get Durant the ball early enough in the offense BEFORE Lebron pushed him out of position.  Harden has stunk.  Perkins is a liability in this series with his slow defense and non-existent offensive game.  Ibaka is being dragged away from the basket by Bosh’s jump shooting ability.  Sefalosha isn’t really an offensive factor.  Derek Fisher is not going to give them enough to compensate for all of these other deficiencies.

OKC will of course have other opportunities.  The squad they have COULD end up contending for NBA titles for the next decade.  Of course that won’t happen because at least two out of Ibaka, Harden and Sefalosha will have had their heads turned and demand more money than they are realistically worth.  Ibaka in particular will have a short shelf life as his game is the most sensitive to injury, given his athleticism.

Sorry Lebron haters.

In defence of Russell Westbrook

At half time during Game 2 of the NBA finals Magic Johnson stated, without a hint of hyperbole, that what he had seen from Russell Westbrook was the worst performance by a point guard in NBA finals history, wow. Strong words, but of course this comment was just as ridiculous as it is incorrect. (For a start Westbrook wasn’t even the worst point guard in that game – Mario Chalmers had 3 points, 3 steals, 4 rebounds, and 3 turnovers while shooting a terrible 14% – Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal and 2 turnovers while shooting a not great 39%, close one Magic. . .)

Magic wasn’t just talking about the stats though; he was implying it is Russell’s job, as a point guard, to get the team going and to get everyone, especially Kevin Durant, involved. (Not many mentions that Durant is being denied the ball by arguably the best perimeter defender in the game in LeBron James, not so easy to get him “involved” in that circumstance.) These types of opinions are now widely expressed as the media have created a common theme of the Westbrook/Durant good cop/bad cop double act. We have the humble superstar, Kevin Durant, taking all of the plaudits while the selfish, angry and reckless Russell Westbrook bearing the brunt of the negativity when things don’t go well, or sometimes even when they do

Russell Westbrook - An angry young man!

Magic Johnson is considered one of the greatest players of all time and maybe the best point guard to ever play the game so it comes as somewhat of a surprise that he is so completely and utterly wrong on this issue. There is no right or wrong way to play the game of basketball, there are as many different styles of play as there is coaches teaching the game, and every team is constituted differently. In order for the Thunder to be successful Russell has to be aggressive or as Stephen A. Smith puts it “horrible, pathetic, egregious and selfish”.

The Thunder start games with three players on the court that are considered defensive specialists, little or no offensive production is expected from Perkins, Ibaka and Sefolosha. That leaves the burden of putting the ball through the hoop on the shoulders of Durant and Westbrook and this often involves them breaking their men down and making tough shots. I don’t particularly like the style of ball that the Thunder play, too many isolation’s in the half court, not enough movement off the ball. I would much rather watch the brand of basketball that the San Antonio Spurs played this season, the best team in basketball, right? The same San Antonio Spurs that lost four straight to the Thunder after OKC had easily finished off two other previous championship teams in rounds one and two. This Thunder team are the second youngest team to ever make it to the NBA finals and they have made it this far on the shoulders of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook carrying the offensive load, it would be crazy to try and mess with that winning formula at this stage.

The good news is that Russell Westbrook doesn’t care what you think, he doesn’t care what Magic thinks and he certainly doesn’t care what Stephen A.Smith or Skip Bayless think. This Thunder team show no respect for their opponents, are loyal to their coach and have ultra confidence in their abilities. While I don’t like the X and O’s of their basketball strategy I love their aggression and attitude when they are playing the game. Westbrook embodies these characteristics and I have no doubt as soon as game 4 tips off he will be in attack mode once again.

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One Jerry Springer style final thought of the day; these are the statistics for the 2010-2011 NBA regular season MVP, Derrick Rose, followed by the statistics for a greedy ball hog with a poor shot selection and who has never been in a realistic MVP conversation, interesting.

GP

Min

FG%

3P%

FT%

Reb

Ass

TO

St

Blk

PPG

81

37.4

45%

33%

86%

4.1

7.7

3.4

1.0

0.6

25.0

82

37.7

43%

32%

79%

5.4

5.9

2.2

1.6

0.4

22.2

 

 

 

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