We at Bulls by the Horns realize that you’re busy and don’t have the time to go searching through website after website for some interesting, NBA related reads. So, every Saturday, we’ll gather the articles we’ve found interesting and put them together for you in one place.
We’ll start in Oklahoma City as Kevin Durant scored a career-high 54 points (on only 28 shots!) Friday night in the Thunder’s 127-121 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Earlier in the week, Kevin Arnovitz profiled the Thunder’s new starting lineup without Russell Westbrook and why it has been so effective. Though Durant has been putting up monster numbers offensively, the new starting lineup has been effective because what it does on the defensive side of the ball. While Westbrook tends to gamble on steals, Jackson simply plays within his responsibilities defensively and it has led the Thunder to be much more stingy on defense.
Another title contender making changes on the defensive end is, surprisingly, the Miami Heat. While the Thunder’s changes defensively came because of an injury, the Heat’s changes are because of Greg Oden’s return to the floor for the first time in three seasons. Couper Moorhead of Heat.com wrote about the happy feelings abundant in Miami with Oden’s return, but also took a look at Oden’s pick and roll defense with the help of a few .gifs. Though it is a minuscule sample size, Oden’s return could lead to Miami completely changing their defense strategy with him in the game.
This week, Oden’s teammate LeBron James made some interesting comments and Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports thinks he knows why. Before their game in Washington, James told reporters that he gets “jealous” at times with how many shots Durant gets to put up in Oklahoma City. Doyel believes that James’ comments were nothing more than James angling for another MVP award. He believes that James’ comments were calculated and a ploy to keep him in the discussion for MVP rather than let Durant run away with his first MVP trophy.
Earlier in the season, it looked as though James’ major challenger for the MVP award would not be Durant, but rather Paul George of the Indiana Pacers. George looked like the second best player in the league in the month of November and while many were ready to anoint him a superstar, few looked at how he was putting up his impressive numbers. Over at Hardwood Paroxysm, Jack Winter took a look at George’s numbers as part of his Open Shots column and detailed why George’s shooting has declined so much since his hot start in the first month. Winter found that George was shooting at near “Nowitzkian” levels from the mid-range and that it was just not sustainable from George for an entire season.
While George has regressed in recent months, Rudy Gay has moved in the opposite direction and become a very effective mid-range shooter as a member of the Sacramento Kings. Kirk Goldsberry at Grantland compiled the numbers and showed that when looking at the usage of certain players it may be necessary to enact “The Rudy Gay Principle”. In his piece, Goldsberry mentioned that years ago Dean Oliver theorized that every player can be an effective player up to a certain usage point and once they exceeded that usage point, they would regress. Goldsberry believes this is exactly what happened to Gay in Toronto as he was simply asked to do too much.
In Minnesota, Ricky Rubio has really struggled this season and many people are trying to figure out why. Dan Devine of Yahoo! Sports took a closer look and mentioned that Rubio may want to be a little less hard on himself. In comments from Rubio and Adelman earlier in the week, Devine detailed the fact that Rubio might just be struggling because he’s dwelling too much on his mistakes and simply not allowing himself to be the normal joyful and fun Rubio we’ve seen in recent years.
Rubio has really struggled this season, but not nearly as bad as Anthony Bennett has struggled in Cleveland. Drew Garrison of SB Nation took a closer look at just how ugly this season has been for Bennett. Many people know that Bennett has struggled, but most have likely not realized just how terrible this season has been for Bennett and Garrison did a phenomenal job showing just how bad it has been. If he continues at his current level of play, Bennett will own the worst season by a player selected first overall by a wide margin. Yikes.
While some don’t comprehend how bad Bennett has been, many fans just don’t understand how good Dwight Howard has been this season. Ricky O’Donnell at SB Nation examined how Howard’s actions in the last couple years has negatively affected the way most fans perceive him as a player. Most people didn’t realize just how good Howard was in Los Angeles last season and how much better he’s been in Houston this season. O’Donnell argues that Howard is undoubtedly the best center in the league and it’s not particularly close because of the profound impact Howard has on both ends of the floor.
Another player dominating the league this season is Portland’s Damian Lillard. At Sports Illustrated, Lee Jenkins wrote a great profile on Lillard and how Lillard is carrying on the proud tradition of Oakland point guards. Jenkins looked at how the tradition of strong point guard play started with Brian Shaw, then passed to both Jason Kidd and Gary Payton and now lives on through Lillard. Lillard credits Oakland for making him the player he is today and for showing him what should be expected of a point guard every game.
We’ll end today with another player who has been shaped by his hometown. Lance Stephenson is having a great season and looking for a little help from voters to get himself to the All-Star Game in New Orleans. Sir Lancealot is looking for your help!
That’s all for this week. Remember…reading is FUNdamental.