DONUT 1: THUNDER ROLLS IN
The Oklahoma City Thunder, featuring undeniable superstar Russell Westbrook, is 41-31 but has as of late experienced struggles against marquee foes. Tonight’s visit to the Dallas Mavericks (see the GameThread here on DBcom Boards) will be OKC’s second night of a B-2-B, Sunday seeing the Thunder lose 137-125 in Houston.
The stumbles there were similar to OKC’s problems a few days ago, when the Golden State Warriors rolled into Oklahoma City and blew out the Thunder.
And heck, there are some similarities to Dallas’ recent upset of the Thunder, a 15-point win earlier this month.
But let’s not be fooled.
DONUT 2: A WIDE MARGIN
There remains an obvious difference, a wide margin, between Oklahoma City and Dallas, two teams that once bordered on “rivalry’’ in part due to the proximity to the two cities and in part because both programs excelled.
But today? Westbrook gives the Thunder a shot at beating anybody in the playoffs, and with 10 games left in their season, they can still be a 50-win team.
Dallas, meanwhile, is trying to both “experiment’’ and “win,’’ though at 31-41 the reasons to bother prioritizing the latter are fading.
DONUT 3: NERLENS NOEL NOW, NO DOUBT
The “experiment’’ with Nerlens Noel as a starter is a no-doubt, no-brainer. You can limit his minutes if you wish, due to his balky knee. You can limit his “menu,’’ as coach Rick Carlisle puts it, because the BBIQ comes when it comes.
But there is no reason to limit his starts.
The Mavs talk about how much better everything will be once Noel — a restricted free agent who Dallas is committed to retaining — gets a training camp under his belt. In my column here, I insist that Noel’s training camp should basically start now — complete with the starting 5 job.
DONUT 4: SETH CURRY NOW, MAYBE
The concept of Seth Curry as a starting point guard is a different situation entirely.
Seth scored 23 points in that role in last week’s win over the Clippers and had 11 points, two assists and one steal in Saturday’s 94-86 loss to Toronto. (See our "Work-in-Progress" game coverage here.) Rookie Yogi Ferrell, playing behind Seth, recorded 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and one steal in 18 minutes.
Carlisle is honest about where Yogi is, saying he's not sure he's a "starter,'' terming him a "utility player.''
Carlisle is unsure about what Seth is. ... so we find out.
And it’s a perfect way to serve two masters here. Those of us who see value in losing valiantly (ping-ping balls valued as they are) want experimentation, and the tweener Seth at PG is that. (Personally, I wish that experimentation included more minutes for AJ Hammons, Jarrod Uthoff and Manny Harris, but until a full give up gets The Dirk Seal Of Approval, it ain’t happening.) Those of us who see value in winning for winning’s sake?
Seth is proving to be good enough to help you do that, too.
Curry isn’t the classic distributor point guard. But his brother isn’t, either, and that’s kind of worked out OK. Jason Terry, same thing, and that worked out pretty OK, too.
Seth’s success here shouldn’t keep Dallas from drafting a point guard in June, assuming the point guard is B.A.A. If this works out, it’s simply another arrow in the quiver … an addition to a Dallas young-talent cupboard that is now more full than its been in a half-decade.
DONUT 6: QUOTABLE
“I don’t really look at it as if I’m starting or coming off the bench. My mindset is going to be the same — just trying to bring energy on the defensive end and offensively, just get in the paint and find guys.” - Yogi Ferrell.
DONUT 7: THE SUNS PHILOSOPHY
I wrote about Tyson Chandler's involvement in the Phoenix Suns' efforts to "Organically Tank'' ... and I did so before the Suns' loss to Boston, in which Devin Booker, age 20, s scored 70 points. Read my review of TY's approach and tell me again that Dirk shouldn't consider doing the same, and that Phoenix is suddenly poisoned because its losing, and that having Booker and the third-overall pick in the draft isn't an efficient way to turn around a losing program.
I mean, does it look like the Suns are "poisoned'' and not having any fun along the hopeful path back off the Treadmill of Medocrity?
DONUT 8: MEANWHILE, THE QB TRYOUTS
Dirk is Dirk.
Basketball is Jazz. Football is Rock-n-Roll, maybe.
DONUT 9: BY THE NUMBERS
In the loss to Toronto, Harrison Barnes totaled a game-high 23 points (along with seven rebounds and a team-high three steals). This marks HB's 36th game with at least 20 points -- something he did just 19 times in his first four seasons combined with Golden State.
DONUT 10: WESTY'S READINESS
In the loss to Houston, Russell Westbrook had game-highs of 39 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, marking his 36th triple-double of the season. Only Oscar Robertson had more in a single season, posting 41 in 1961-62.
Not insignificantly, OKC almost always wins when he puts up such a crazy number. But the Thunder saw that 11-game winning streak end on Sunday.
“I just play, man,” Westbrook said. “I go out and play every night and play at a high level like I do every single night and try to help us win. It just didn’t work out that way (Sunday), so I have to get ready for (tonight’s) game.”
Given that Westy is acutely aware of Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s oddball “Westbrook’s-not-a-superstar’’ bit, yeah … he’ll be “ready’’ for tonight’s game.
DONUT 11: RESTING SUPERSTARS
It was an issue before LeBron James got involved, whether LeBron knows that or not. And now the issue of resting players is on commissioner Adam Silver’s frontburner. So we put it on ours.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD
The Mavericks enter the week trailing Denver (35-38) and Portland (35-38) — tied for the eighth spot — by 3.5 games with 10 games left in their regular season. Do the math; with 41 losses, Dallas is also one loss away from being unable to get to a winning season. The last time Dallas had a losing season? Way back in 1999-2000. ... with the turnaround beginning in the next year, Cuban's first full season as owner.
“It doesn’t make me happy,'' Cuban said, noting that this will be his "first losing season since grade school.”