Coinciding with Russell Westbrook’s return to the lineup, the Thunder has hit its roughest patch of the season.
Some are panicking. Don’t count former coach and current ESPN analyst George Karl among them.
“It happens a lot, when a great player comes back into a roster, it kind of confuses people,” Karl said on SportsCenter. “Coaches talk about confidence and chemistry all the time. These are words that are intangibles to the game of basketball, which are difficult to define. But this is what’s happening right now.”
Regardless, Karl said the Thunder remains the slight favorite in a loaded Western Conference.
“The defensive end is what’s scary to me,” Karl explained. “Giving up 114 a game, it might be in that period of the season where they are a little bit in a funk, a little bit sleepy. They have 20, 25 games to wake up. But I still think Oklahoma City is the best team in the Western Conference, (even if) they are not playing that way right now.”
Kevin Durant adds the hook shot
In Sunday’s game against the Clippers, during his ninth 40-point game of the season, Kevin Durant busted out his newest offensive move — the running hook.
It’s a move that immediately elicits flashbacks to Magic Johnson in the 1987 Finals, firing in a game-winner on the Boston Celtics.
But it’s something Durant has been working on over the past year. He even showed it off during the preseason, in an untelevised intrasquad scrimmage at a Moore High School, when he tossed one in over Andre Roberson.
But on Sunday, on a national stage, he finally brought it to the public, tossing one in over the outstretched arms of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.
“Finally I hit one,” Durant said. “Just wished it could have been a swish. But I’ll take a make.”
Durant said the move is something he would feel comfortable using in the future, but it has to come within the flow of the game.
“That was a perfect time for me to bust it out,” Durant said. “If I would have laid it up, he would have blocked it. He’s a long athletic guy. I practice it all the time, it’s just a matter of me finding the right time to shoot it. Hopefully I bust it out again.”
“It’s something I’ve been working on,” Durant continued. “I told myself I’m going to shoot that shot at some point during the season, I don’t know when. Basketball is played off instincts and it was just an instinct of mine to go up and shoot it.”
Thunder reportedly interested in Caron Butler
The Thunder is interested in signing soon-to-be free agent forward Caron Butler, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports.
Butler was recently bought out by the Bucks and must clear waivers before he can sign elsewhere but, according to Yahoo!, the Thunder and Heat have surfaced as the two favorites to land him.
Butler is averaging 11 points in 34 games this season. He’s an 11-year veteran.
Kevin Durant, good Samaritan
On Wednesday night against Cleveland, Durant had nine assists.
But he saved his best for after the game. Here’s a story, as posted on the NBA’s reddit page, by user mathan1234:
“I was working for Fox at the OKC Thunder game last night. After the game, one of our camera operators slipped and fell on the stairs last night. KD is about to walk his mother out, but sees this happen. He said to his mom, ‘Hold on a minute.’
“He walks up to our cameraman says ‘Hey are you alright?’, he then walks our cameraman back to the production truck. On the way, they talk and decide that his finger might be broken, so they go to the arena's X-ray machine and KD arranges for our guy to get an x-ray right there.
“And to top it off, he waited there with him. Turns out the finger was broken. And once it was over, he walked our guy back to the truck and got him some ice.
Thunder center Steven Adams on the team’s recent film studies, which have been tough to watch for a defensive minded team: “When you’re playing, you’re trying to envision what you look like. And then there’s a big reality check when you see yourself.”