Westbrook ‘should have gone to Indiana'
Sacramento Kings coach Keith Smart helped Indiana win the 1987 NCAA championship by scoring 17 second-half points and burying a jumper from the left baseline with three seconds left for a 74-73 victory against Syracuse at the Superdome in New Orleans.
While discussing Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook before Friday night's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Smart had a temporary flashback to his playing days.
“The guy is phenomenal from an athletic standpoint,” Smart said of Westbrook. “I remember one of those days I was an athlete, but never like that. That guy's a phenomenal athlete. … Obviously, he has a gear that he can go to that not a lot of players in our league can do.”
Smart playfully was reminded Westbrook didn't win an NCAA title at UCLA, but he did.
“Westbrook was on the wrong team,” Smart said with a smile. “Should have gone to Indiana.”
DURANT EYING MELO
New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, though nursing a sprained ankle at the moment, is considered the front-runner for Most Valuable Player so far this season.
Three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant was playing high school ball in Maryland when he started paying close attention to Anthony, who grew up in Baltimore.
“Melo's like one of my best friends, man,” said the 24-year-old Durant, who was teammates with the 28-year-old Anthony on the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal last summer in London. “People are so excited he's playing so well. I'm like, ‘He's been doing this the last eight years. What's the excitement about? He's scoring 30s and 40s. It's not like he hasn't been doing it before.'
“He's playing well. He's one of the guys that I really looked up to growing up in high school and really got close to him on the USA team.”
Durant said he follows other NBA elite players closely.
“I think I'm the guy that follows everybody,” Durant said with a smile. “I have an ESPN app on my phone I just look at all the scores, especially guys on the USA Team — Melo and LeBron (James) and Kobe (Bryant) and (former OKC teammate) James (Harden) now. I don't watch the games. I just watch the stats.”
‘PERK IS NOT MEAN'?
Nike's new ad campaign with Durant carries the slogan “KD IS NOT NICE,” the intent to let people know that while Durant is nice off the court, his toughness is respected on the court.
The ad would have been a natural fit for surly Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, as in “K-PERK IS NOT NICE.”
Durant playfully was asked which message would be the more difficult ad to sell: “KD IS NOT NICE” or “K-PERK IS NOT MEAN”?
“I think the Perkins one,” Durant said with a smile and chuckle. “That's the tougher one to sell.”
Perkins' thoughts on a possible “K-PERK IS NOT MEAN” campaign for him?
“Nah, ain't none of that happening,” a grinning Perkins said, walking away. “I don't need no help with that.”
RANK AND FILE
The Thunder has the NBA's best record (19-4), best record against Western Conference teams (10-2), best road record (6-2), longest winning streak (10) and third-best home record (13-2) behind New York (9-0) and Utah (9-1).
Entering Saturday night's games, OKC led the league in scoring (105.7), 3-point percentage (.416), free-throw percentage (.839) and point differential (9.3), and was second in field-goal percentage (.489), opponent field-goal percentage (.426), blocks (7.6) and opponent blocks (3.4)
Serge Ibaka ranks second in blocks (3.0) and third in field-goal percentage (.581); Kevin Martin ranks second in free-throw percentage (.933) and sixth in 3-point percentage (.468); Durant ranks third in scoring (27.5) and eighth in free-throw percentage (.897); Westbrook ranks fourth in assists (8.7) and fifth in steals (2.0).
Smart on the importance of point guards in the NBA: “The tone is set by the good point guards in our league. The game starts, those guys have the right bounce to their game, their speed and the pace of the game. They set a tone every night … Westbrook creates that, because his intensity at the beginning of the game is very, very high.”