Morning Shootaround (Dec. 10): Westbrook's triple-double streak continues
Westbrook continues triple-double streak | Anthony responds to Jackson | Love, Irving shining | Van Gundy shoots down George trade rumors
No. 1: Westbrook continues triple-double streak — The Oklahoma City Thunder lost last night to the Houston Rockets, 102-99, ending OKC’s six-game win streak. But the bigger story there, at least for stat nerds and hoops historians, is that another streak continued: With 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook posted his seventh consecutive triple-double. Westbrook’s streak is the longest in almost three decades, when Michael Jordan had seven consecutive triple-doubles in 1989. As ESPN’s Royce Young writes, Westbrook didn’t really want to talk about the streak following the loss…
Afterward, Westbrook was in no mood to discuss the achievement, flashing only a cold glare coupled with awkward silence when he was asked about it.
Westbrook got deep into the paint twice in the closing minutes with a chance to put the Thunder ahead but missed two left-handed layups. He also set up Victor Oladipo on a three-on-two fast break with 29 seconds left, but Oladipo was unable to finish the layup.
“Just missing,” Westbrook said. “Missing easy layups.”
After picking up the triple-double, his 12th of the season and 49th of his career, Westbrook didn’t have another rebound or assist for the final 7:41 of the game. He did score 12 of the Thunder’s final 18 points.
Westbrook was just 8-of-25 from the floor and turned it over eight times while being hounded by nemesis Patrick Beverley, although he was unwilling to credit Beverley’s defense on him.
“I missed a lot of easy shots, man. Honestly, brother,” Westbrook said. “I haven’t made no shots in the last month. S—, so, just gotta get my mind right.”
Beverley, though, had no problem praising Westbrook.
“He’s a really good,” Beverley said, pausing. “He’s a really, really, really, really, really, really, really good player.
“You got to think I got all my friends telling me, ‘Don’t let him get a triple-double. Don’t let him get a triple-double,'” Beverley said. “Like I said, he’s one of the best players in the league. I’m just happy we were fortunate to get a win today.”
According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, Westbrook is now 4-of-27 in his career on potential go-ahead shots in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime. He has missed 10 of his past 11 such attempts.
“I thought we got the ball where we wanted to,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “The last two possessions, in particular the underneath, out-of-bounds play with 16 seconds left, I think we got the ball where we wanted to for Russell. … I felt like we got Russell the ball in a pretty good spot for himself where he can play and create and make things happen. Unfortunately, he lost control of the ball a little bit, but I think we had him right where we wanted him to catch it.”
The Thunder are now 9-3 this season when Westbrook has a triple-double, with the three losses coming by a combined nine points.
Westbrook is one of only four players to register at least seven consecutive triple-doubles, joining Jordan, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain. He can pass Jordan on Sunday against the Boston Celtics and move within one of the longest streak ever, set by Chamberlain in 1968.
No. 2: Anthony responds to Jackson — If you’re a New York Knicks fan, the good news is that the Knicks began their West Coast trip last night with a win over the Sacramento Kings, 103-100. The bad news? Carmelo Anthony and team president Phil Jackson aren’t getting along. On a television show on Tuesday, Jackson said ‘Melo can hold the ball too long and bog down the offense. ‘Melo then made a few posts on Instagram that seemed aimed at Jackson. On Friday, ‘Melo confirmed that he was referring to Jackson, and said he would have preferred if Jackson had come directly to him, as Ian Begley writes for ESPN.com…
“I just feel if it was something he wanted to address and had a stance on something, the door has always been open both ways,” Anthony told reporters Friday after the Knicks’ shootaround in Sacramento, California. “He always sends me a text or talks to me if it was any type of problem that was going on. I always welcome the conversation with open arms.”
Anthony also confirmed that his Instagram posts Thursday about ego and relationships and slings and arrows were a reference to Jackson’s critique that he holds on to the ball for too long.
“I think I said my part of it,” Anthony said of the Instagram posts. “I’m a big quote guy. Got a million quotes on my phone. Sometimes they come up at the right time.”
In an interview with CBS Sports Network that aired Tuesday, Jackson said Anthony can play the “role that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant played” in their teams’ triangle offenses, but he said Anthony sometimes breaks a team rule by holding on to the ball too long.
“Carmelo a lot of times wants to hold the ball longer than — we have a rule: If you hold a pass two seconds, you benefit the defense. So he has a little bit of a tendency to hold it for three, four, five seconds, and then everybody comes to a stop,” Jackson said. “That is one of the things we work with. But he’s adjusted to [the triangle], he knows what he can do and he’s willing to see its success.”
Jackson’s comments were prompted by a question about whether Anthony can fit in the triangle offense. Jackson made it clear that he believes Anthony can.
“It’s a perfect spot for him to be in that isolated position on the weak side because it’s an overload offense and there’s a weakside man that always has an advantage if the ball is swung.”
Anthony didn’t want to discuss Jackson’s comments after Wednesday’s game.
“I was caught off-guard, not really knowing what was going on,” Anthony said.
But the veteran forward addressed the matter Friday after reading Jackson’s comments. He said that he understands criticism will come from fans and media but was surprised that this most recent critique came from within the team.
“I know it happens — it’s New York. It happens, and it’s something I know,” Anthony said.
But he said it wasn’t something he expected from within the team.
“Like I said, I didn’t talk to him,” Anthony said. “I really don’t know, kind of, where he was coming from with those comments. He wants to talk about it, cool. If he doesn’t, cool. In my eyes, it’s over to me.”
Anthony added: “At the end of the day we’re playing good basketball. That’s the only thing that matters at this point. So any negativity that’s coming towards me or towards the team, I don’t think we need it at this point.”
No. 3: Love, Irving shining — Perhaps LeBron James listens to podcasts? Just days after ESPN’s Dave McMenamin appeared on the NBA.com Hang Time Podcast and declared that Kevin Love was playing the best basketball of his career, King James said the same thing last night following Cleveland’s win over Miami, and even included Kyrie Irving in his compliments. As McMenamin himself writes…
LeBron James moved up the basketball ranks again Friday, passing Elvin Hayes for ninth on the all-time scoring list, but it was the play of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving that he had something to say about.
“They’ve been playing probably the best basketball of their careers thus far,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 114-84 win over the Miami Heat.
Love posted 28 points and 15 rebounds against the Heat, upping his season averages to 21.7 points on 45.6 percent shooting (41.9 percent from 3) and 10.5 rebounds. All of those numbers are up from his previous two seasons with Cleveland.
“He’s the Kevin Love of old, and this is everything we expected out of him,” James said. “That’s what we want out of him. But there’s no added pressure for him. He’s going out and just playing his game right now. He’s shooting the ball extremely well. He’s rebounding at a high clip, and he’s at a point where he’s just comfortable with everything, and it’s great to have him.”
In his last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Love averaged 26.1 points on 45.7 percent shooting (37.6 percent from 3) and 12.5 rebounds, but that Wolves team finished just 40-42. The Cavs are 16-5 after Friday’s win, giving them the third-best record in the NBA.
“I think just the difference is that we’re winning,” Love said when told of James’ compliment. “I think I’ve played a very high level of basketball before. I don’t know if better than right now, but I know I’ve played at a very, very high level — even at points through the last two years. It’s not like I forgot how to play. I just think I just feel comfortable with this team. (Coach) Ty Lue has me in a lot of great spots, and I’m just playing with a lot of confidence. But the difference is, back 4-5 years ago, we weren’t finishing out games, making it to the playoffs, that sort of thing. So I think the fact that we’re winning games, and Ky is playing at such a high level, Bron is playing at such a high level, that it’s making everybody — all 15 of these guys and the coaching staff — look good.”
Irving had 23 points and three assists against the Heat, slightly lower than his season averages of 24.6 points and 4.8 assists coming into the night. His scoring average and efficiency (48.7 percent from the floor and 42.4 percent from 3) are career highs.
“I just think every year you get more and more comfortable with the system,” James said. “You get more and more comfortable with the play, and we all get more and more comfortable with our role. And it all started from the beginning with Kyrie and Kev just feeling like they wanted to be much better, they wanted to bring a little bit more to the team. Not just scoring, but more just leadership. And they’ve both done that.”
Irving said James’ assessment was obvious.
“I mean, it kind of goes without saying,” Irving said. “Coming off a year like we had last year … it was a load for our confidence. Coming into this season, we knew what to expect. The trust factor is there. There are really no more questions in terms of what level we have to play at in order to be great every single night. We don’t have the kind of the miscues and the unknowns. The questions are answered, and we’re just straight up with one another, earnest all the time, and if there’s a problem we fix it right away. It’s a tell-tale sign of a maturing, great basketball team.”
No. 4: Van Gundy shoots down George trade rumors — The Detroit Pistons are hovering around the .500 mark early this season, and with a plethora of young talent, it’s perhaps natural to think they may be active in the trade market. Unless you’re team president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy, the person who actually have to be involved in making a trade. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Van Gundy debunked a rumored Pistons trade with the Pacers, as the Detroit News explains…
Internet reports circulating Friday had the Pistons getting Paul George and Monta Ellis from the Indiana Pacers for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson and an array of draft picks.
Though the unsourced trade rumor drew some buzz on social media, Van Gundy shot down any notion that there had even been discussions.
“We’re going to get Shaq or Hakeem Olajuwon to add to the fake news that’s out there,” Van Gundy said sarcastically — and unprompted — in his pregame remarks. “This whole fake news thing, sports started it.”
Taking the whole rumor mill and made-up news in stride, Van Gundy played along:
“We were right on the verge and then it (collapsed),” he joked. “It’s amazing how those people find out before it even comes to our minds.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Ricky Rubio thinks the Wolves need to start playing with some heart. Doc Rivers disagrees with Marresse Speights that the Clippers disagree with the referees too much. Dirk Nowitzki may be able to return to practice as early as next week. Mark Cuban says Russell Westbrook has to win to be a superstar. Patrick Beverley’s postgame celebration with Mike D’Antoni got a little too physical.