HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
Russell Westbrook: The Ultimate X-Factor
By Derek Page
Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook’s ability to single-handedly win or lose a game makes him the biggest X-Factor in the NBA.
Westbrook, as he’s shown so far throughout his young NBA career, has the type of game-changing talent that either propels Oklahoma City to a win or leads to a defeat. So far this season Westbrook has done a better job of keeping his game under control and the Thunder have the best record in the NBA at 17-4 to show for it.
Westbrook gave a nod and a shrug when told the type of effect he has on games – for better or worse.
“I just come out and try to do my job and find a way to get a win and help us close the game out,” Westbrook told HOOPSWORLD. “Whatever is it; it may be defensively or whatever it may be.”
A New All-Star Rising In The East
By Joel Brigham
Roy Hibbert is going to be an All-Star this year. That, at least, is the opinion of an increasing number of Eastern Conference opponents, and if the coaches feel the same way as their players, there’s a strong possibility that Hibbert ends up as the back-up center to Dwight Howard at this winter’s All-Star Sunday.
Hibbert shook off the notion that he’d be given such an honor, but he won’t deny the fact that he’s having a career season. He attributes that success to being one of the few guys in today’s NBA that spent four full years in the NCAA.
“I think me putting in four years at Georgetown really helped me out,” Hibbert told HOOPSWORLD. “There’s nothing wrong with going the one-and-done route, but I was able to mature and I was able to figure out the ins and outs of being able to score with either hand.
New Lakers Understand Urgency
By Stephen Litel
Like all teams in the NBA, players on the Los Angeles Lakers are making significant adjustments during the 2011-12 season. They are playing for a new coach, playing within a new system with new teammates and adjusting to new lives off the court as well. That can be overwhelming to some, but two of the newest Lakers are moving through the mess with an open mind.
“It’s been a quick adjustment with the shortened season and hardly any training camp, so it’s been a different adjustment in that respect than normal,” Troy Murphy told HOOPSWORLD. “Every day is a learning process and I feel more comfortable each day.”
Sometimes fans and media alike forget that NBA players have lives outside of the team and any change to that life can affect their play on the court. With all the change that comes with starting a new life on a team across the country, some players are able to make due and find a way to contribute as professionals are expected to do.
Early Season Statistical Surprises
By Mark Nugent
The NBA season is approximately 1/3 in the books, with most teams having surpassed the 22-game mark. There are teams that are living up to expectations, like the conference leading Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls, and there are teams that are struggling under the weight of enormous pressure, much like the New York Knicks, who if the playoffs started today would be on the outside looking in.
The same thing can be said of players, some are performing as expected, some are struggling; and then there are players who are putting up numbers that are almost too unbelievable to be real. Here is a look at some of the most interesting early season statistical surprises.
Note: all stats are thru games played on 2/2/12
The Point Guard Race for Rookie of the Year
Ricky Rubio of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers are both putting up numbers that are worthy of Rookie of the Year status. Rubio is averaging 8.4 assists per game, good for fourth in the NBA. That puts him ahead of superstar point guards Deron Williams and last year’s MVP Derrick Rose. Even more impressive, Rubio started the season coming off the bench for the ‘Wolves; as a starter he is averaging 9.4 assists per game, which would leave him trailing only Steve Nash among the league leaders. Perhaps even more surprising is Rubio has proven he is an adept defender as well. He is third in the league in steals ahead of 2011 all-defensive players LeBron James and Tony Allen.
Vince Carter Far From Finished
By Derek Page
Injury has thrust Dallas Mavericks guard Vince Carter back into the starting lineup and the 13-year veteran has responded by playing some of his best basketball of the season.
Filling in for Jason Kidd – who’s expected to miss at least a week after pulling his right calf last Friday against the Utah Jazz – Carter has resembled more Half-Man, Half-Amazing than aging veteran during this current three-game stretch.
“I’m starting to feel comfortable,” Carter said. “I take pride in just trying to learn the offense and just learn a couple positions. It’s getting easier and easier and I’m feeling very comfortable.”
After missing time himself due to a left foot sprain that forced him to miss five games, Carter has returned and been reintroduced to the starting five after spending the majority of the young season as a key reserve. The player formerly known as ‘Vinsanity’ has not only done an admirable job holding down one of the starting guard spots, but also providing some much-needed scoring punch while Dirk Nowitzki gets back into the groove offensively.
NBA Draft: The Best From Abroad
By Yannis Koutroupis
When you hear all the talk about how great the 2012 NBA Draft could be, it’s not because it’s overflowing with international talent. In fact, the opposite is the case. It’s the homegrown talent that has this draft class being projected to be one of the deepest and best ever.
After seeing four foreign-born players drafted in the top seven of the 2011 draft, chances are we only see half that many taken in the entire first round this year. The majority will likely be taken in the second round and allowed to stay with their respective clubs overseas. Then, a few years down the line after developing and polishing their games, they may have the opportunity to come stateside. That formula has worked out quite well for Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio, who is a potential Rookie of the Year candidate, and Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, who signed a four-year, $57 million deal this summer.
However, Rubio and Gasol are the best-case scenarios, and somewhat of a rarity, when it comes to drafting an international player and waiting to bring him over. For instance, the Orlando Magic drafted Rubio and Gasol’s Spanish teammate Fran Vasquez 11th overall in 2005. He’s never come close to joining the Magic, enjoying the life of luxury and superstardom overseas as opposed to the 82-game grind and move that comes with playing in the NBA. Then there are guys like Sergey Lishchuk, a 2004 second round selection of the Memphis Grizzlies, whose names are said on draft night and never heard again unless it’s as a filler in a trade, but never in regards to potentially coming to the NBA.