Are the 2012 NBA finals good versus evil?

LeBron JamesThe annual NBA passion play is about to start. I’m talking, of course, about the NBA Finals. This years version has Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh reprising their role as villains and Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook will step in as the basketball savior.

The story goes something like this: the Heat are the basketball equivalent of the Death Star, wreaking havoc throughout the NBA Universe. If they are allowed to win an NBA title all hell will break loose and their reign of terror will last forever. Everything that is good and holy is at stake.

The Miami Heat has assembled a team of mercenaries with a singular focus: bring a title home to the Evil Empire…I mean South Beach. They have stockpiled a team of supreme talent fragile egos that has been the scourge of the NBA. The OKC Thunder, on the other hand, has quietly built a championship-caliber the old-fashioned way, through the draft and nurturing young talent.

It’s a classic tale of good and evil, right and wrong. Read more here…

Westbrook helps Spurs sweep Thunder

Russell WestbrookFrom NBA Finals lock and the toast of ESPN, to a 0-2 Conference Finals hole against the San Antonio Spurs, what a difference a week makes for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their two road losses featured all the facets of coach Scott Brook’s nightmares: spotty defensive rotations, Westbrook shooting too much, and Harden not playing Ginobli tight enough.

Kevin Durant is the best player in the league. He doesn’t have the body of Zerxys from 300 nor does he have an NBA-champion guard that can take over in the fourth when he isn’t able. Durant’s masterful scoring ability lasts all four quarters, he doesn’t intentionally draw the eye of the entire sports world when he signs a new contract, and he wants to win a championship for the same franchise(sorta) that drafted him.  

Despite all of this, his Floridian foil is closer to hanging a championship banner than he is. While the Miami Heat crunched out to a 2-0 series lead against the ancient Boston Celtics, the Thunder were outwitted by Gregg Popovich and his army of top-tier veterans. Now, the three-year scoring champ must dig deep on the court while utilizing his leadership skills to calm a fellow young superstar.

To avoid beating around the bush, the problem for the Thunder is that Russell Westbrook shoots too much in the playoffs. He upped his field goal percentage this season to a career high of 46 and really made strides to better integrate himself into the offense. His new-found approach on offense pushed the Oklahoma City Thunder into the contender category, but could also be the thing that knocks them right out of it.

Westbrook has taken more shots than Durant in both Game 1 and Game 2, but while shooting a lower percentage. He’s created numerous turnovers that the Spurs have feasted on. The Spurs aren’t beating the Thunder, the Thunder are beating themselves by allowing Westbrook to shoot every time he sees the hoop.

Eric Eulau is an NBA writer for the Sports Blitz.  He can be contacted at

NBA Western Conference Finals: Spurs v Thunder

James Harden

There are several certainties when it comes to this powerhouse matchup in the West. These aren’t only the two most complete teams in the Western Conference, but in the entire league. There are stars all over the floor for both teams, and both squads are coming into this series firing on all cylinders. This matchup will be fascinating to watch, and if it doesn’t go at least six games, I’d be absolutely shocked.

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (2) Oklahoma City Thunder

As far as predictions go, I’ve been thinking about this matchup ever since the Thunder had the Lakers down 3-1 in their series.Not even close. In my mind, one of two outcomes will happen. Either the series goes seven games and because the Spurs will be at home, and are the veteran team, they’ll have the advantage and win in seven. Or, the Thunder steal a game in San Antonio, defend their home court, and win the series in six at home before a daunting game seven can occur. 

Read more here…

Random thoughts on the NBA Playoffs so far, looking ahead

After watching the Clippers outscore the Spurs by 22 points in the first quarter of Game Three of their playoff series, it appeared, if ever so briefly, that San Antonio was not as invincible as everyone thought.  Then we saw them retaliate with a 50-17 run of their own and realized, perhaps they are.

At only 23 years old each, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are disturbingly good.  The Los Angeles Lakers had to play their very best just to be able to stay on the same floor as them.  The future of the league is in good hands.

Read more here…

The next great NBA rivalry may be upon us

Magic versus Bird, Russell versus Chamberlain, Jordan versus everybody else.  These are the rivalries that molded the National Basketball Association into what it is today.  It’s why so many fans resented LeBron when he decided he’d rather play with his best friend instead of eking it out on his own. But fear not, NBA fans.  We may be on the verge of another great rivalry.  If franchise owners play their cards right, these two teams could dominate the league for years to come. I’m not talking LeBron versus Kobe.  That’s a Finals matchup we have yet to see. It can’t be LeBron-Carmelo.  Even though they entered the league in the same year, LeBron is showing us he’s a far more dominant player. Read more here…

Thunder’s success on Westbrook’s head

Russell WestbrookThe NBA Playoffs are in full swing and with it comes the seasonal task of assessing Oklahoma City Thunder Point Guard Russell Westbrook’s impact on the offense side of the ball. To be short, Westbrook did himself few favors with a poor April showing in which he shot only 39 percent from the field and only 27 percent from three-point range while the Thunder struggled to a 8-7 record to close out the season.

The question for the Thunder has never been if Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden can coexist offensively, but rather can Westbrook set-up his teammates for easy buckets when games get tight in the fourth quarter?

His love affair with the quick elbow pull-up jumper and calling solely isolation plays down the stretch greatly minimizes his teammates on-court efforts who aren’t named Durant.

Nobody would argue that the Thunder will lose to the Mavericks because of Westbrook’s lack of floor general skills, but problems could arise against the likes of the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, or Miami Heat in later rounds. The Lakers proved that Kobe can lockdown Westbrook when he needs to, while Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks grind and harass Durant. Westbrook must set-up his perimeter shooters to space the floor and allow for more shots at the rim if the Thunder wish to beat those elite teams in crunch time.

As the New York Knicks have shown, it takes more than two superstars to lift a team to championship contender caliber. Boltsquad have made great leaps to become a cohesive unit and fully developing Westbrook’s leadership skills represents the final hurdle. For a roster that finished dead last in assists per game as a team this year, the onus is firmly on Russell Westbrook to properly distribute as a point guard if the Thunder wish to bring Oklahoma City its first title.

Eric Eulau is an NBA writer for The Sports Blitz.  He can be contacted at

NBA trade rumors: Westbrook for Rondo would benefit Thunder

Russell WestbrookThe Oklahoma City Thunder (12-3) stand atop the Western Conference and should easily win four of their next five games. After having the misfortune of meeting a red-hot Dallas Mavericks team in the conference finals last year, the Thunder have come out looking like a focused veteran team hell-bent on a championship.

However, as the story of the Thunder goes, Russell Westbrook is still causing drama in the locker room that readily gets hyperbolized by the media. Westbrook seems to continually clash with head coach Scott Brooks and subsequently apologize or state that there was not a problem in the first place after the next day’s practice. If it has to be addressed at all, there is a definite problem. It may sound crazy, but there is certainly a more pass-first point guard to compliment the shoot-first Durant. Enter Mr. Rondo.

Rondo has always been the one who has to defer Pierce, Allen, and Garnett. This has been the first season where Rondo has clearly had to step it up on the offensive side of things for the Celtics. Here are the year’s stats, according to Matt Hollinger’s, so far for the two:

Rondo 15.0 9.4 5.1 19.8 1.6 55.5 11.2 54.0
Westbrook 20.5 5.5 5.0 18.9 2.4 52.3 17.3 23.9

Clearly this numbers crystallize the theory that Westbrook shoots too much and Rondo may still shoot too little. Westbrook’s assist to turnover ratio (A:T) is in the bottom half for point guards this year and was last year as well while Rondo’s, although not the best, was much greater. In assist rate(AR),rate of assists against possessions used, Rondo is fourth while Westbrook is twenty-third. Albeit, Westbrook does score by himself frequently due to his speed and driving ability but, even Derrick Rose is in the middle of the pack and he has to carry the Bulls on his back every night. Rondo’s assist per game average trumps Westbrook’s by four good passes a game, passes which Westbrook doesn’t seem to want to make to his teammates.

The Thunder need a true point guard and Rondo passes much more often, doesn’t turn the ball over as much, and shoots better when he does decide to shoot. Rondo’s defense is also comparable to Westbrook on the defensive side of things with the same agility and quickness, if not slightly faster. Like Pau Gasol to Kobe, Rondo would be appreciated, if not celebrated, in Oklahoma City for deferring to their homegrown superstar. Rondo is also learning to be more aggressive on his currently aging team and could certainly ramp up his scoring if need be, but I don’t think he would need to. This deal would make sense for the Celtics as well. Westbrook is looking for a contract extension and the C’s have both Allen and Garnett coming off the books who, even if they resign, won’t be looking for fifteen million dollar a year deals and would sign for cheap out of loyalty. Boston General Manager Danny Ainge already tried to shop Rondo for Paul and potentially other top point guards this summer and is still probably listening to offers. Westbrook would have the opportunity to be the face of the Celtics and lead the offense and would perhaps listen to Doc Rivers, who was a better point guard than Brooks in his day. Russell is a heady young point guard who wants to be the top dog and Rondo wants to win championships and build something with an dominate established superstar.

If it works you’re not supposed to fix it, but a Westbrook contract holdout, a displeased locker room, and selfish play, could be the only thing standing in the Thunder’s championship quest because it’s certainly not experience anymore.

Eric Eulau is an NBA team writer for The Sports Blitz