At halftime of Wednesday night’s Western Conference semifinal Game 2 between the Thunder and Clippers, TNT studio analyst Kenny Smith went out on a limb and predicted another Thunder player besides Kevin Durant could win an MVP award: Russell Westbrook.
“I’m going to make a bold statement,” said Smith, noting he had predicted Durant’s MVP award a few years back. “In two years, Russell Westbrook is going to win an MVP, if…”
That if, Smith said, depended on Westbrook realizing he could maximize his ability to thrive in two roles, as a point guard and No. 2 guard. He noted Clippers star guard Chris Paul didn’t have that same ability.
“The difference is Chris Paul doesn’t have the explosivenss or the ability to go into a 2 guard situation like he does. He one day will be getting the MVP award, I think,” Smith said.
TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley laughed the prediction off, noting that Westbrook hasn’t changed his game in three years and was a No. 2 guard playing the point.
“He just hasn’t crossed the bridge where he learned to make the players around him better,” Barkley said. “He still has the mind-set that I can get my shot anytime I want to.”
Westbrook finished with a triple-double, his third of the playoffs, although the TNT game and studio announcers thought his 10th assist on Thabo Sefolosha’s drive to the basket was generously credited by the Thunder stat crew.
“If that’s an assist, I broke John Stockton’s record,” studio analyst Shaquille O’Neal said.
“That’s home cooking if I’ve ever seen it,” Smith said.
Durant’s fast start
Game analyst Steve Kerr raved about KD’s 17-point first quarter as the Thunder took a 37-28 lead.
“There is a reason he got that trophy before the game. The guy is a spectacular player,” Kerr said.
Kerr noted that Durant is particularly effective racing down the lane.
“That’s Oklahoma City’s best weapon when they can get him on the run toward the hoop with just a little space. At that point, he becomes unstoppable,” Kerr said.
KD’s speech discussed
Durant’s speech on Tuesday upon receiving the MVP award was widely discussed. Barkley didn’t think it necessarily would inspire the Thunder. He said the most interesting part was Durant’s show of support for Westbrook.
“When you’re the leader of the team, you’re kind of an amateur psychologist,” Barkley said.
Both play-by-play announcer Marv Albert and Kerr complimented Durant for his speech.
Albert: “That was the most heart-felt, gracious, touching response to an MVP announcement that I’ve ever seen from a sports figure of his stature.”
Kerr, who admitted to tearing up when Durant mentioned his mother, said it helped inspire Durant’s teammates for Game 2.
“It was just a fantastic scene. I thought his speech helped get them ready for tonight’s game,” Kerr said.
•Kerr complimented Derek Fisher’s hustling ability after he left with an injury. “You should have a floor meter for Derek Fisher. … He’d have at least nine or 10 tonight. It takes a lot longer for him to recover from now…”
•Referring to the limited blackout late in the first half, Albert noted, “In effect, both teams shot the lights out.” Kerr retorted, “That’s horrible.”