By Henry Abbott
Remember when Greg Oden and Kevin Durant first joined the league? There was a metric ton of hype. Then Oden was out for the year, and that all fizzled. Then last year, they cranked up the excitement machine again. Oden vs. Durant, for real! But Oden was finding his sea legs, and Durant was hot and cold. Neither was must-see TV. The whole showdown has lost a lot of sizzle. But you know what? Now is the time when those two are really starting to matter. If that debate ever mattered, it's now. Both are winning games for their teams. Both are players who matter on teams with potential. If you ever wanted to push that debate to the top of the agenda, the time is now. They're both evolving into special players. Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman on Durant: "Durant hunkered down on defense, playing the passing lanes and pestering his man to come up with steals and deflections. Durant played point forward offensively, controlling the ball and the pace of the Thunder’s offense throughout much of his 36 minutes, 22 seconds. He created for himself and others, refusing to settle but rather weaving his way into the lane for easy baskets or showing off an improved mid-range game with pull-up jumpers. Durant’s first 3-point attempt didn’t come until the opening seconds of the second quarter." BlazersEdge on Oden: "All hail Greg Oden. 18 points, 11 rebounds, and a lot of in-your-face play was what most Blazer fans had in mind when he was drafted. We're seeing the beginnings of him fulfilling that promise. For the first time ever (probably) he had 0 fouls and 0 turnovers, though part of that came from playing Zach Randolph-like defense on Al Jefferson. Good though! He needs to realize that he can't stop every shot, especially from a smaller and offensively potent player."
The Mavericks' defensive prowess, reports Britt Robson on SI.com, started with training: "[Jason] Terry traces the team's new attitude to the start of the preseason, when strength and conditioning coach Robert Hackett began doling out 50- and 100-yard increments of 'the lurch walk' and the 'defensive slide,' which requires that the trunk stays low so the legs and torso are able to sustain constant pivots in any direction. 'It's helped all of us to move our feet quicker and stay down,' Terry said. 'As a shooter, I practice repetition, and this is the same thing; it gives us defensive muscle memory. Has it translated into wins? So far it has.'" (Via the Two Man Game.)
Oh man oh man. In a perfect world, basketball would have, like baseball, a famous historical tale of a player doing something amazing while on drugs. I'm sure it has happened! Why would I want that? Because it would be an excuse to recreate the event in amazing animation, like this.
TrueHoop reader Stephen e-mails: "You made a good point the other day in saying that electronic voting should allow us to vote for anyone in the league, and not just those on the ballot. But I think the bigger question is why are we voting for for all-stars at this point in the year at all? Would you vote for a political candidate before they even had a chance to explain their views or make their case for why they deserve a date? Voting should take place two or three weeks before all star weekend on a special 'All Star Selection night.' ESPN could cover the incoming results and make a whole show out of it, with highlights of the first half of the season. I would watch as the votes came in, wouldn't you? This would also give us a chance to make good, educated choices."
Graydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell: "Keith Bogans. George Hill. Richard Jefferson. DeJuan Blair. Antonio McDyess. ... If, six months ago, you asked me to guess who would be in the Spurs starting five for the seventh game of the 09-10 season, I would have been incorrect about all five."
Rick Morrissey ate the column he wrote calling Joakim Noah a bad draft pick, back when Noah was drafted in 2007. Hope he still has some salsa left, though, because he wrote one earlier this year saying they should ditch Noah, apparently at any cost. That particular column, by the way, was on Noah's Facebook page this summer.
Ron Artest's first report card in L.A.: Straight A's.
Josh Smith on why he hasn't shot a single 3 this season.
Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops on the latest point guard to go through a rough patch under Larry Brown: "[DJ Augustin] hasn't scored more than four points in his last three games and got an extremely quick hook in the 2nd quarter when he missed a rolling Derrick Brown and forced up a shot instead. Larry Brown took him out immediately and he didn't see the light of day until late in the third when Charlotte was down by 25. It's clear he's not certain how to play point guard for Larry Brown yet and his confidence has taken a hit. Somehow he and Larry are going to have to work this out because he is the one Bobcat that can really help ease their offensive woes."
Matt McHale of Bulls by the Horns: "Taj Gibson wowed Bulls fans by shooting 8-for-13 and scoring 18 points. He also had 5 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots. The kid played his butt off. He continues to be everything management and the coaching staff wants Tyrus Thomas to be."
The Nuggets are tired, and it's showing in their defense.
Jeremy from Bucksketball: "[Brandon] Jennings led the Bucks with 32 points, nine assists, four rebounds and one clutch play after the next to keep the Bucks ahead in the fourth. With four minutes to go and the Bucks up one, Jennings hit two threes a minute apart before sinking six free throws in the last 20 seconds to seal the deal for Milwaukee. What was even more impressive was his demeanor at the line. Jennings was laughing and yucking it up … in a two point game! He looked like he was shooting around with his friends!"
Brian Windhorst on Delonte West, LeBron James shutting down talk about the summer of 2010, and Shaquille O'Neal on his wife filing for divorce.