HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
OKC Thunder Finds Success On Own Terms
By Susan Bible
As the Oklahoma City Thunder prepares to battle the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, the “up-and-coming”-type labels tagged to this young team are long gone.
The Thunder has reached success on its own terms. Despite the criticism – and the organization has weathered a considerable amount – the team’s pseudo-mission statements remain unchanged.
Their desires are not ground-breaking revelations or held under lock and key; they are recited ad nauseam to those who inquire. Executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti is focused on building an identity for the team that sustains success. He seeks to maintain a roster full of motivated, high-character players. Head coach Scott Brooks wants defense and more defense, and his mantra “play hard and play for each other” is surely forever etched in the minds of his players.
Deron Williams Or Bust For Mavericks?
By Derek Page
The 2012 Dallas Mavericks title defense was doomed from the start.
When Mark Cuban decided not to bring back Tyson Chandler, among other key contributors, Dallas took a different route this season in pursuing back-to-back NBA Titles.
According to Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler was the team’s “MVP” last postseason and without the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year – among others – Dallas lacked the personnel necessary to adequately compete for a title. It’s evident that Cuban was wrong in his assessment that bargain players on one-year deals could compete for a championship.
That being said, Dallas didn’t simply give up this season in the pursuit of Deron Williams. The Mavericks still brought in players who contributed in 2012 (Brandan Wright, Delonte West and even Vince Carter all showed flashes) and, if Lamar Odom hadn’t been a complete bust, this team would’ve assuredly gone deeper into this postseason.
Where Do The Nuggets Go From Here?
By Yannis Koutroupis
Other than the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics, there may not be a team that epitomizes resilience more than the Denver Nuggets. No matter what kind of obstacles they encounter, they find a way to be successful and win games.
They were one of the biggest surprises in the first round of the playoffs as they pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games. They once again found a way to exceed expectations, but moving forward they are going to be much higher. So, we take a look at where the Nuggets should go from here in order to build on their stellar 2011-2012 campaign.
Coaching and Management
The Nuggets are secure on the sideline and in the front office with George Karl and Masai Ujiri. The two worked together through the extremely difficult Carmelo Anthony saga a year ago and have kept the Nuggets competitive when it looked like taking a major step backwards was inevitable.
Where Do The Memphis Grizzlies Go From Here?
By Stephen Litel
The Memphis Grizzlies had a great season, but their 2011-12 campaign ended in disappointment.
When Zach Randolph was lost for a majority of the season early on, there was a feeling that the Grizzlies would not be able to achieve the same magic they had in the 2010-11 playoffs. Yet, with Randolph only playing in 28 games—and only starting in 8—his teammates banded together and Memphis was the fourth seed in this year’s postseason. In a tough Western Conference, only the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers finished the regular season with a better record.
That can be considered a great season—certainly an exceptional regular season—for Memphis. They are a young team and accomplishing that without Randolph was impressive.
However, to lose in the first round of the playoffs this year when they had home-court advantage against the Los Angeles Clippers—and losing a Game 7 in Memphis—the Grizzlies did not fulfill their preseason expectations or the heightened expectations created because of their play without Randolph.
Coach: Western Conference Finals Breakdown
By Anthony Macri
Thunder’s Test of Discipline
The NBA world is now gearing up for the Western Conference Finals matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. A contrast of styles and experience make this one of the most eagerly anticipated series in quite some time. For a team with the youthful exuberance and energy of the Thunder, the biggest challenge will be channeling that enthusiasm into smart, tough, disciplined play on the defensive end.
San Antonio does as good a job spreading apart opposing defenses as any team of the last fifteen years, even when you include Mike D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns’ squads. They consistently find open teammates, take only high quality shots, and Parker’s penetration off the ball screen is nearly impossible to guard. Add in the fact that opposing bigs must stay glued to Tim Duncan, and you have a recipe for efficient and productive offense.
One of OKC’s great strengths throughout the year is creating transition opportunities by generating turnovers and steals. As a unit, they tend to gamble, particularly the “big three” of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Their defensive philosophy features this as a strength, allowing those players to pick their spots in the passing lanes. In most cases, this is a sound approach, and the kind of fullcourt action they are able to generate makes up for the times when their opponent is able to find an easy score.
2012 NBA All-Playoff Team
By Mark Nugent
The 2012 NBA Playoffs are heading towards the Conference Finals and already some of the league’s best players have stepped up and helped their teams advance. Here is a look at the players who have separated themselves from the rest of the league during the 2012 playoffs.
All-Playoff First Team
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
No point guard has done more for their team than Rondo. He leads all players in assists in the playoffs at more than 13 per game and is second in steals. He’s also averaging almost 16 points per game, more than six rebounds and he’s shooting 47% from the field. Rondo has been controlling the pace for the Celtics and is arguably the biggest reason why Boston is on the verge of the Conference Finals for the third time during the ‘Big Three’ era.
Rondo’s improved play has energized the aging Celtics and his ability to get into the paint has opened up the perimeter for Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. If Rondo can continue his torrid pace during the playoffs, the Celtics could be looking at their third trip to the NBA Finals in the last five years.