NBA@2: The Secret To Winning The West?
No summer league, no training camp, no preseason, no problem. That’s the feeling coming out of Oklahoma City, where the Thunder have attacked a lockout-compressed 66-game schedule like Scooby-Doo attacks a four-foot tall sub sandwich . . .devouring it in one gulp.
It helps to have two All-Stars, of course, but it’s not just Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook getting it done night in and night out for the Thunder. Head coach Scott Brooks has his team running like a well-oiled machine on both ends of the floor, taking the intense schedule in stride while many of their peers are still struggling to find some level of consistency. Star power aside, the Thunder have the best record in the Western Conference thanks to the continuity of having the same team in place now that stepped off the court at the end of last season.
“It helps a lot just seeing the same faces for the last two and a half years, to be honest with you, excusing the addition of Perk (Kendrick Perkins),” Durant tells HOOPSWORLD. “We’ve just had to see the same faces, and that just makes it easier for us to come in here with the shorter season and play hard, play together and just build that chemistry because it’s been growing ever since ’08-09. We’re just excited about playing the game, playing together, and every game’s fun for us.”
“It’s very important, coming back two years in a row with the same group of guys and everybody on the same page,” agrees Westbrook. “So it’s definitely important for us to come back and try and do better.”
Kendrick Perkins may be the lone newcomer of the group, but it hasn’t taken him long to settle into the Thunder brotherhood. He believes the Thunder still have plenty of upside, a scary thought for the rest of the NBA.
“We’re on the same page and right now we we’re still trying to work the little kinks out like every other team but at the end of the day we’re a young team that loves winning. I’m not saying that we’re doing everything perfect but we definitely get a win and definitely put our hard hats on every night to go to work. It’s going to be scary once we really get a chemistry chemistry down because it’s not really all the way there yet so it’s going to be crazy when we are really clicking on all cylinders.”
Head coach Scott Brooks agrees that continuity is important, but also emphasizes the importance of players who show up ready to work every day.
“I think you need to have skilled basketball players first and foremost and we have that, guys that work hard, guys that are committed to the team but I think in the history of the league, the best teams are always teams that have been together a while. We have a system that’s been in place for four years now and everybody understands their role. I’m not saying that we can’t improve because we’ve got a lot of areas we can get better at. We have to be a better passing team, better rebounding team, those are areas that we work on, those are areas that we should get better at but I think the stability of being together for multiple years has helped. It’s helped me and it’s helped them.”
The national media seems to spend a great deal of time trying to avoid talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder, and to be honest they aren’t the sexiest team in the league. They don’t have a controversial star, they don’t a villain, and there are no “juicy” stories to tell about dirty things going on behind the scenes. Those are the things that grab the attention of our tabloid-era media. It’s much more interesting to talk about Blake Griffin and new teammate Chris Paul, the ever-popular LA Lakers, the resilient Portland Trail Blazers, or even the surprising Denver Nuggets.
Still, any discussion about which teams might be playing in the 2012 NBA Finals is completely ridiculous if the Thunder aren’t prominently mentioned. It’s possible to win a championship with a humble star and selfless supporting cast – just ask Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. This year Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder are out to prove it again.
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Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love is not a dirty player. Let’s be clear about that. He’s a hard worker, extremely competitive, and can get lost in the heat of a moment, but by not stretch of the imagination is he a dirty player.
Having established that, it has to be said – his face-stomping play in Houston Rockets power forward Luis Scola was about as dirty a play as you’ll see in the NBA. The referees missed it, just as they missed the foul on the other end that got Love all heated up, and then missed the intentional foul he committed on Scola that ultimately lead to the face-stomp. If you haven’t seen the play, you can catch it on YouTube here! As expected, the NBA cleaned up the play after the fact today, announcing a two-game suspension for Love:
Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves has been suspended two games without pay for driving his foot into the upper body and face of the Houston Rockets’ Luis Scola as Scola was lying on the floor, it was announced today by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President Basketball Operations.
The incident, which has been upgraded by the league office to a Flagrant Foul Two on Love, occurred with 8:34 remaining in the third quarter of the Timberwolves’ 100-91 win over the Rockets at Target Center in Minneapolis on Feb. 4.
Love will serve his suspension Tuesday, Feb. 7 when the Timberwolves play the Sacramento Kings at Target Center and Wednesday, Feb. 8 when Minnesota plays the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.
Again, Love is not a dirty player at all, but this particular play had to carry a suspension. The last thing the NBA needs is for more plays like this to happen because one inexplicably slipped under the radar.
Stu Jackson also announced that Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike Brown has been suspended one game without pay and fined $25,000 for making contact with a game official and failure to leave the court in a timely manner following his ejection. The incident occurred with 8:41 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 96-87 loss to the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City on Feb. 4. Brown will serve his suspension Monday when the Lakers play the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.
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