Golden State coach Mark Jackson has long been a strong supporter of Russell Westbrook and frequently has said the Thunder's three-time All-Star point guard does not warrant all the criticism he receives.
It's a stance Jackson often took on national broadcasts while analyzing games for ABC and ESPN alongside Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen, and Jackson reiterated his position before Wednesday night's 119-98 loss to OKC at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“Man, the guy's a great player,” Jackson said. “And I knew that even when I wasn't a coach, covering the Thunder. I didn't understand the nitpicking about shooting too much. No, the guy's a heck of a basketball player. Kevin Durant is a superstar. Russell Westbrook completes this team and makes it tough for an opposing team's coach or design to be simply on Kevin Durant. Those are two guys with their foot on the gas pedal. It's an extremely well-coached basketball team and once again has a legitimate chance.”
Jackson is viewed by many as the leading contender for NBA Coach of the Year, and Durant said the Warriors have taken on Jackson's determination.
“He's a New York guy. That's how they are up there in New York — tough-minded, never get rattled,” Durant said. “I always had so much respect for Mark Jackson and everything he stood for, as a man first off. He's bringing a new identity there to Golden State. The guys are playing hard for him, they love playing for him. I know a few guys on the team who say he's a player's coach.”
Some of that tough-mindedness might have been interpreted otherwise when rookie Draymond Green shoved Thunder sixth man Kevin Martin hard out of bounds late in the third quarter. Martin took exception and scored 10 points in less than four minutes at the start of the fourth quarter.
ON YOUR MARK
The previous two weeks, Durant was quick to remind Martin of the updated NBA free-throw percentage standings.
“I let him know every day,” Durant said. “I didn't say nothing (Wednesday) because I was down. I missed five free throws in two games, so I've got to get back on track. I'm going to get him. I'm going to catch him.”
Durant (.902) previously occupied the top spot, but has since slipped to No. 3 after going 28 for 36 (.777) the last four games. Martin (.905) now sits atop the league and is followed by Golden State's Stephen Curry (.903).