May 19, 2019

Best Playoff Atmosphere ever for Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center; Nets played with urgency, but lack of experience got in the Way of Nets Advancement

Just like the Philadelphia 76ers last season was a young and inexperienced team and couldn’t advance as far as they would have liked in the NBA Playoffs, the Brooklyn Nets are finding themselves in a similar predicament. The Nets took Game 1 of this first-round NBA Playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers and lost Games 2, 3, and 4. This is not uncharacteristic for a young NBA team. They made a ton of mistakes like other young teams primarily because of lack of experience. Yesterday, the lack of experience was glaring. The Nets played 3.5 quarters in stellar fashion and looked like they were on the brink of tying the series by winning Game 4. We should be going to Philadelphia with a 2-2 series. However, between 4:11 and 2:09 of the fourth quarter, the Nets turned the ball over four times and the Sixers took advantage of those mistakes, just like the Boston Celtics took advantage of the Philadelphia 76er’s mistakes last season.

Similarly, if the Nets can’t win Game 5 in Philadelphia, it will be a wrap for them this season, but not a lost season. In the last two seasons, the Nets only managed to win 20 and 27 games. This season, the Nets won 42 games and made it to the playoffs and for all tense and purposes did not get swept. The Brooklyn Nets were able to accomplish this feat because the new management under Sean Marks is focused on player development and culture, and to a man, the team is all in. And, Sean Marks has been able to do this with no top draft picks and a first-time coach in Kenny Atkinson. The Nets have taken in guys who many considered to be castaways and because of the culture surrounding the Nets, they have managed to shine quickly.

Last season, Spencer Dinwiddie was selected to participate in the NBA All-Star Skills Challenge. This season, Joe Harris beat out Stephen Curry and won the NBA All-Star 3-Point Shooting Contest, and D’Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft was cast out of the Los Angeles Lakers by Magic Johnson in 2017. This season, Russell participated in the NBA All-Star Game 2019 and lately is the talk of the “NBA Town” and looked upon by some as the leader of the Nets team. As the regular NBA season was winding down and Russell was tearing up the scoreboard, the “Brooklyn Brigade/Block” consistently chanted, “Thank You, Magic.”

At the end of the day, the Nets should not feel ashamed about this season. It’s their lack of experience, not heart, that is putting them behind the eight ball.

At the end of yesterday’s playoff game against Philadelphia, Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson summed up the outcome: “I think a little bit of our experience, (a) little bit of their length and activity. I think it’s one of their strengths and I thought we got a little out of sorts, had a few turnovers that we didn’t need. We also had a bunch of good looks. I thought we had a bunch of good looks, and they didn’t go down.”

So, what did yesterday’s box score tell us about the Brooklyn Nets top scorers?

Caris LeVert, who was among the Nets starting five in Game 4, scored a team-high 25 points with five rebounds, a team-high-tying six assists and a steal in 42 minutes. D’Angelo Russell posted 21 points, seven rebounds, a team-high-tying six assists, two steals and a block in 37 minutes. Jarrett Allen also recorded 21 points and added a team-high eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 32 minutes to his point total. A good game for Allen by the numbers; he recorded his fifth-career game of 20+ points and his first in the postseason. He also turns 21 today. Spencer Dinwiddie totaled 18 points (7-of-12 FG) with four rebounds and a steal in 27 minutes off the bench. Joe Harris, who is usually the Nets best 3-point shooter was 0-for-6 from the 3-point line but chipped in 10 points, six rebounds, and two steals.

How are Nets players feeling about last night’s game, going back to Philadelphia for Game 5, and down 3-1?

“There’s a disappointment losing any game – whether it be home or on the road – especially, when you’re up, five minutes left to go in the game,” Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert responded. “That’s disappointing in itself. But obviously, with the great crowd, we had tonight, we like to protect our home court. So, it was frustrating. But we’ve got another game.”

D’Angelo Russell sounding a bit more optimistic is looking forward to Game 5 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

“You see two teams out there hungry, trying to compete,’ Russell said. “They sure as hell don’t want to lose to the Brooklyn Nets, and I think we’ve got a chance to beat the Sixers, so it’s just a high-intensity game and that’s what it’s going to look like. It’s going to be hard for all. Bodies are going to be flying. Give each other what we want.”

And, Russell has a game plan, particularly adjusting to Joel Embiid down low clogging the lane.

“I think that’s part of the game plan,” Russell continued. “When these big guys are clogging the lane like that, we’re able to throw over the top and get in and kick it out. When there’s three guys in there, it works in our favor. Like I said, we’ll look at the film, see where the help’s coming from, see where their scouting help is coming from and we capitalize on that. Simple as that.”

LeBron James makes his teammates better;…but…They don't want to have that scrutiny

KEISHA: Welcome back to What's The 411Sports? I'm going to start off this segment by just asking a simple question. Why don't people want to play with LeBron James?

Mike.

MIKE: Well, I think there's a few reasons. I mean, you know. One reason is that LeBron James has made the NBA finals every season since 2011 and I feel like when you're on a team where it's NBA finals or bust, it almost takes some of the fun out of playing, right, because you have this high-pressure mentality. So there's no question that the, you know, the pressure is always on when you're playing with LeBron James.

The other thing is that LeBron James has never been one to shy away from throwing his teammates and coaches under the bus, right? He's had a history of doing this throughout his whole career and the evidence is it's proven. But I think that it's easy to say people don't necessarily like playing with LeBron James, but what about like you go ask a guy like Mike Miller who really resurrected his career by playing with the Miami Heat where they won those two championships. I guarantee you that if you were to ask him. Did you enjoy playing with LeBron James? Of course, the big thing with LeBron James is he makes his teammates better? I think that's the number one reason why he's the top player in the NBA, is because the other four guys that are on the court with him automatically become better players because LeBron can hit them when they're open. LeBron plays such good defense that he's going to find the open man when he makes a steal. He's very good on the fast break despite the fact that he's getting up there in years.

But I think also, you know LeBron has never one to shy away from controversy. So there's always some drama that surrounds him. But I think it's easy to jump on him and say people don't like LeBron people don't want to necessarily play with LeBron but that isn't the case.

Remember how excited the Cleveland Cavs were specifically Kevin Love when he found out that he was going to be teaming up with LeBron James and I know that kind of played out a little bit differently. They did wind up winning a championship together, but I think it's a mixed bag. I think that there are some players that would not want to play with LeBron.

They don't want to have that scrutiny, but then I think that there are guys that would definitely salivate at the idea of teaming up with one of the greatest players of all time.

KEISHA: LeBron is such a presence. I mean, he just, just because of who he is. He's just otherworldly talented and he is a superstar and uber superstar. If you just want to put it even higher and in a League that is driven by stars, what he wants he's going to get, people are going to cater to him. Even Magic Johnson and company at the Lakers they're going to make sure that LeBron James is happy. When they were courting him, Magic Johnson showed up I mean, at least I think an hour earlier, or so before he was going to meet LeBron James because he knew it was that important that he didn't miss that opportunity to meet with him and talk to him and convince him to join the Lakers.

Now. I think that if you are a star and a superstar in your own right, it becomes difficult to play with LeBron because it's not going to be your team. And, you know, there's ego involved. There's machismo, like I'm just as good as you, in theory. Why can't I get this? Why can't this be my team? Why am I automatically pushed aside? So I think that's why you have people like Kyrie Irving and maybe Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, stars and superstars in their own right who don't want to be part of the LeBron James Show.

MIKE: Right.

KEISHA: Because they're going to be the supporting cast. When I was reading some articles the one thing that somebody said was that in order to play with LeBron James you have to specialize in something. You have to suppress some parts of your game to fit in with him and what that does for you long-term, who knows, you know, if you don't use it, you lose it I guess.

Brooklyn Nets snatch a win and force Game 6 vs. Chicago Bulls in NBA Playoffs

Deron Williams needed to have a perfect game last night against the Chicago Bulls to force a Game 6, and he nearly did that, as the Nets overcame the Bulls in a 110-91 home win Monday night at the Barclays Center.

Williams scored 23 points and 10 assists and Brook Lopez added 28 points for the Nets, who blew a 14-point lead in the three-overtime loss in Game 4 on Saturday in Chicago.

Reggie Evans grabbed 12 rebounds and Gerald Wallace scored 12 points which contributed to Brooklyn's miracle comeback on Monday. Andray Blatche was clutch in the fourth quarter scoring 10 of his 13 points in the last 12 minutes of the game that potentially would've been his team's last game of the season.

Nate Robinson started Monday night for Chicago in place of Kirk Hinrich who suffered from a bruised left calf. He added 20 points and eight assists for the Bulls.

Before the game, Bulls' head coach Tom Thibodeau said that he wasn't worried about Robinson's behavior in Game 4 that resulted in a scuffle between the 5-foot-9 point guard and Nets' guard C.J. Watson. Both guards, who have developed a hate relationship throughout their careers received technical fouls. After Saturday's game, the NBA reviewed the fouls and league revoked Watson's call.

"Nate Robinson is never going to change," Thibodeau said. "He makes things happen."

The talk of the night centered also around Jason Collins, the free agent now known for becoming the first active NBA player to come out as gay. Many of the NBA players sent messages to Collins after the story broke Monday, with most sending supportive tweets through social media.

"Jason Collins has announced that he is gay. I know Jason and his family well and I support him 100%," NBA Legend Magic Johnson tweeted. "Jason can feel good in knowing that the NBA will support him."

P.J. Carlesimo expressed his support for Collins and said the center is reflective of what the NBA stands for. The Nets coach also reminisced on how the NBA was 10 years ago and said that the league wasn't ready for Collins' sexuality back in 2003.

He also added that he wasn't worried about any same-sex issue in the Nets' locker room.

For now, the only thing Carlesimo is worried about is winning Game 6, as Brooklyn will travel to Chicago to revive their season.

The Nets take on the Bulls on May 2 and Nets fans will be watching!

VIDEO DISCUSSION: Lonzo Ball drew crowds during NBA Summer League, is this a prelude of things to come in L.A.?

Lavar Ball must be something of a Nostradamus. He predicted that his son, Lonzo Ball, would make it to the NBA and play for the Los Angeles Lakers, check and check, his son Lonzo is in the NBA, playing for the Lakers. Currently, Lonzo is playing in NBA Summer League and, of course, is under scrutiny by media, NBA pundits, and Lakers fans.

Although his father, LaVar Ball, has been his one-man promotions team, many who are seeing Lonzo play for the first time are concerned for the Los Angeles Lakers. No need to worry about the Lakers’ management on this one. The Lakers did their due diligence before signing Lonzo, so there’s no nervousness on their part. In fact, Magic Johnson isn’t nervous; he’s confident that Lonzo will live up to the hoopla. Magic told Lonzo that he fully expected that his jersey would one day hang from the rafters next to his, but just save him some records.

So, the pressure is on Lonzo. He's from Los Angeles, he went to UCLA, and he and his family had the Lakers in clear sight. So, now his dream has come true. However, Lonzo’s first game in NBA Summer League didn’t go as planned. He kind of laid an egg. But not to worry, Lonzo bounced back very nicely in the next game and had a triple-double with flashes of that court vision that had been reported about by those who covered his college game. If there is one knock on Lonzo, it is that he is a little scrawny and needs to bulk up.

Only time will tell if Lonzo will be a superstar. But right now, Lakers’ fans are very excited about what the future holds for Los Angeles and Lakers’ summer league ticket sales are a good indication of things to come. Hopefully, Lonzo will live up to his father’s hype. But with Magic Johnson in the front office, who better to mentor him.

VIDEO: Brooklyn Nets introduce D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to New York media; questions about Russell maturity still abound

The Brooklyn Nets introduced D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the New York media. Again, Nets general manager Sean Marks, and head coach Kenny Atkinson prefaced their remarks by giving kudos to Brook Lopez and thanking him for his service to the Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets acquired D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov through a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Brook Lopez and a first round draft pick. The Nets had Boston’s first-round pick (Boston has Brooklyn’s), which gave the Nets a second first round pick at No. 27, which it turned over to the Lakers to complete the deal.

Much of the reporters’ questions focused on Russell’s maturity level and will Russell be a good fit within the Nets’ culture. Marks stands firmly behind his decision to acquire Russell and Atkinson believes contrary to public opinion, Mozgov will be motivated to work hard to quiet his critics.

Mozgov is one of two Russians to have won an NBA Championship. Mozgov won with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.

The Lakers trade of Russell and Mozgov was Magic Johnson’s first big move to make room to bring “show time” back to the Los Angeles Lakers. Russell is a good player, but if Lonzo Ball, who the Lakers drafted in the NBA Draft turns out to be as good a player as his father touts him to be, it will be the beginning of show time in L.A.

Acquiring Russell and Mozgov could prove to be better than a draft pick for the Nets, as both players have tremendous upsides. Russell does look at his trade to Nets as an opportunity to hit the reset button and prove the naysayers wrong. Russell wants to be a respected player in the NBA. Mozgov believes that Russell could be an elite player in the NBA because he has the talent, he just has to put in the work.

LaVar Ball tells Kristine Leahy to stay in her lane; media nixes Paul George for All-NBA team; Will the Nets fate be determined by a health Jeremy Lin?

New England Patriots’ Concussion-gate?

During an interview with CBS This Morning, Gisele Bundchen, wife of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, stated that her husband has suffered concussions over the years as recently as 2016. Eyebrows were raised after this declaration because Tom Brady was never listed on any of the injury reports as having any type of head trauma. The NFL confirmed this and planned to contact the Players Association to collect more information. Did the Patriots cover up injuries to Tom Brady, their star quarterback? Could we find more cases like this in the NFL?

Landing spot for Kaepernick?

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll publicly stated that Colin Kaepernick is being considered as an option for a backup quarterback to Russell Wilson. While no final decision has been made, Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett said that Seattle would be the perfect place for Kaepernick. Would Seattle be an ideal place for Kaepernick? Still, without a football home and in lieu of the recent signings of other quarterbacks, does this further the notion that Kaepernick is being blackballed?

Will the Golden State Warriors Suit up for Court?

A Spurs fan is suing the Golden State Warriors' center Zaza Pachulia and the Warriors organization alleging that Pachulia's play against San Antonio Spur star Kawhi Leonard which caused an ankle injury that left the Spurs without their star for the remainder of the game. Some believe the injury allowed the Warriors to mount a comeback which propelled them to victory. The suit states that Pachulia's play “devastated the quality of the Spurs' chances of being competitive" and diminished "the value of the tickets purchased by plaintiff subsequent to their purchase." Does this fan have a point and do you think this case would move forward?

Paul George not worthy of All-NBA Team Designation

Certain members of the media have responsibility for selecting the All-NBA teams and the NBA MVP selection. Indiana Pacers guard Paul George was left off all of the All-NBA team designation and LeBron James is number four on the MVP list. Who are these media people and what are they thinking? Should decisions related to players’ compensation be in the hands of the media?

Is Lonzo Ball a Slam Dunk for the Los Angeles Lakers?

Will the Los Angeles Lakers and Magic Johnson have the magic to get the second pick in the 2017 NBA Draft? Is it a given that the Lakers will select Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick?

Kristine Leahy, stay in your lane!

LaVar Ball vs Kristine Leahy- Never one to shy away from controversy, LaVar Ball, father of NBA prospect Lonzo Ball, once again finds himself in the middle of a media firestorm after an appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd. During the interview, Ball refused to speak to Cowherd's cohost Kristine Leahy except to tell her to stay in her lane and to reiterate that he would only address Colin Cowherd. Leahy has since gone on record to state that she has received death threats as a result of the on-air altercation. Do you believe Cowherd’s reason for not addressing Lavar Ball’s sexist behavior?

Combat Crossover Alert: Mayweather - McGregor

We are another step closer to a Mayweather/McGregor fight. UFC President Dana White declared that UFC fighter Conor McGregor's side of the deal is done and White is currently working with Mayweather's team on the remaining terms. Is this fight going to happen?

New York Basketball: Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks

Congratulations to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson; his alma mater The Chester Community Charter School, named its gym The Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Gymnasium in his honor. Speaking of the Nets, what can the team do to upgrade its roster for next season? Meanwhile, what are some names or positions that Phil Jackson should be thinking about as the Knicks prepare for the draft?

On the Bench: Kevin Pillar

Nearly every week, we put someone on the bench, and this week, Mike McDonald puts Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar on the bench for using a homophobic slur against Atlanta Braves pitcher Jason Motte. Pillar apologized profusely, but the Blue Jays still suspended Pillar for two games. Pillar will forfeit approximately $6,066 of his $555,000 salary, with the money donated to charity.

He's the reason why I started to watch basketball and became interested in the sport. He's the reason why at an undersized height of 5'8, I thought I had a chance at organized basketball, at least in my thoughts. The generations before mine grew up watching greats like Jerry West, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.

I had Allen Iverson.

I still remember the day I purchased his #3 Jersey, the home all white Jersey representing the Philadelphia 76ers logo and uniforms from 1997-2009.

On Saturday night March 1, 2014, the 76ers organization during a home game hosting the Washington Wizards, honored its former franchise player by retiring his jersey during halftime.

His Jersey was hoisted up to the rafters joining the likes of other retired numbers of #6 Julius Erving, #34 Charles Barkley, and #13 Wilt Chamberlain. It was a heart-warming ceremony in which past 76ers greats and some of Iverson's teammates, including Dikembe Mutumbo and Julius Erving among others, were in attendance on the floor to celebrate with him.

It's actually not ludicrous to mention his name among those greats. He was that good.

Iverson received an MVP award in 200. He made 11 All-Star appearances (2000-2010); he's a 2-time All-Star game MVP awards winner (2001-2005), a 4-time scoring champ (1999, 2001-2001, 2005) and a 3-time All-NBA First team member (1999, 2001, 2005). But, wait, there's more!! Iverson was All-NBA Second Team for three years (2000, 2002-2003); an All-NBA Third Team member (2006); the NBA Rookie of the Year for 1997; All-Rookie NBA First Team also in 1997, and a 3-Time NBA Steals leader three years in a row from 2000-2003.

An Olympian, Iverson was selected to be a part of Team USA for the 2003 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament which was held in Puerto Rico. Iverson averaged 14.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game while helping the USA Team finish with a perfect 10-0 record.

Other than never taking a night off from stepping foot on the hardwood, Iverson's retirement resonates with me because of the cultural and revolutionary impact he has made as a professional athlete. The NBA's dress code from dress-down to casual and formal is a result of Allen Iverson.

The cross-over dribble becoming as popular as it is today, was a torch passed down from Pearl Washington to Tim Hardaway and then to Iverson who modernized it and elevated its variations to his own style. He incorporated the moves of the pickup games of the playgrounds into NBA arenas which made him box office. His clothing choices off the court prompted the general public to question his character which in result compelled Iverson to attach the famed metaphorical phrase to himself of "don't judge a book by its cover".

He was also a trendsetter, making the cornrows hairstyle a global necessity as everyone had to have it. A hairstyle mostly sported by criminals became accepted by the general public as Iverson stated in one of the best interviews conducted by sports journalist Stephen A. Smith of ESPN once upon a time on his show, "Quite Frankly," "I made it Alright." Iverson inspired a generation of people, specifically targeting the children, to not just play basketball, but to be themselves.

In a post-retirement interview, Iverson, regarding his on-court attire and gear which included a headband and an arm sleeve throughout the better part of his playing days, stated that I wanted to look like a superhero. Sporting the arm sleeve began during the 2000-01 regular season. Iverson wore the right arm sleeve recovering from an injury that affected his right elbow. If that's the case who's to say that same attire and compilation of on-court gear hasn't inspired the likes of Miami Heat F Lebron James and New York Knicks F Carmelo Anthony, two players known for sporting the headband and arm sleeve combo. He tried his crossover on a Hall-Of-Famer in Michael Jordan successful in his attempt as Jordan bit on Iverson's change of direction as he drifted to his right off the hesitation crossover pulling up for a jump-shot which was all net.

One of my favorite Iverson moves was a sequence of events where Iverson was draped all over by then Kings Forward Peja Stojakovic at the corner of the three-point line in which Peja's defense was so compressing, that Iverson dribbled the ball from his right hand to the other behind Peja's back to free himself off the corner.

It was plays like that one that drew me to Iverson as a player. I marveled at the fact that someone of such a small stature could dominate a game single-handedly to his advantage causing numerous problems for the opposing team's defensive alignments and strategies. I remember how tough Iverson was, relentless in attacking the basket despite the punishment he received in return resulting in several injuries occurring throughout his career. It didn't matter who suited up for the other team assigned to protect the rim, Iverson penetrated and more times than not, you can count two in. Fans root for their teams with all their energy, but when Iverson came to town, it was hard to send negative resentment in the form of boos his way because we all knew we were in attendance to see what he would do next.

There was no answer for "The Answer", a name given to Iverson by Shaquille O'Neal, an All-Time great as a center acknowledging Iverson's greatness.

Iverson has totaled a career of 79, 40-point games for the regular season, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 271, Michael Jordan's 173, Kobe Bryant's 117, and Elgin Baylor's 88. Iverson also had 11, 50-point games following Wilts 118, Jordan's 31, Bryant's 24, Baylor's 14 and Rick Barry's 13.

Sounds like pretty good company to me.

Although Iverson's career has featured incredible highs, trouble was not too far behind as Iverson experienced his share of public controversy and legal problems.

Iverson made national headlines for feuding with coaches he has played for because he disagreed with their principles and methods. A disappointing season due to the team's overall success in the mid-2000s called for an ugly divorce, as management and A.I. had a falling out which led to Iverson's departure from the Sixers.

This then started an NBA tour as Iverson made short stints with the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, and Memphis Grizzlies from 2006-2010. Iverson played three games with the Grizzlies until his contract was terminated by both parties, Iverson and the Grizzlies management, came to an agreement to part ways.

With Iverson facing thoughts of retirement, an opportunity for one last stand to validate his value in the latter stages of his career arrived with the 76ers who offered Iverson a one-year deal for the duration of the 2009-10 NBA regular season on December 2.

Complications to his daughter's health halted Iverson's progress from completing the season as he attended to his daughter's aid.

After a brief stint in the Turkish Basketball League and declining an offer to play in the NBA's development league, Iverson's officially called it quits, retiring from professional basketball entirely on October 30, 2013.

The final chapters of an excellent career had finally closed which led us to the celebration of Iverson's career with his Jersey retirement ceremony on March 1.

Fans, basketball enthusiasts, and sports analysts would all agree that maybe if Iverson accepted a lesser role towards the tail end of his career, he could have achieved the most coveted award of being granted a chance at an NBA title.

But he didn't. He believed he was too great to come off the bench, a role that would hurt his pride in admitting along with the general public that he no longer was the player he once was. He had other ideas.

Because that alternate ending was not a reality let's just reflect on what was and is a Hall-of-Fame career.

Allen Iverson is one of the best little "big" men to ever play the game.

An all-time great.

".. I still feel in my heart and everything I believe that I'm the best Basketball Player in the World and the Best Basketball Player to Eva play this Game," Iverson once expressed.

Long live the Legend of "The Answer", Allen Iverson.

I feel like the good life lived is one where you take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves as well as making sure that you are doing what you love to do. Last night in Oklahoma City, there was evidence of that theme exuding from one particular individual who happens to play professional basketball at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, returned to his habitat, his environment, and the place he feels most comfortable, helping his teammates on the basketball court at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. And, last night, he aided his OKC teammates in a 103-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns, recording 21 points and 7 dimes. If his performance didn't inform you that he was elated to be back on the basketball court, then his postgame interview was the answer as he was all smiles conversing with a Fox Sports media correspondent.

"Good," says Westbrook referring to playing his first game of the season this year. "It was tough but we won and that's all that matters, I found my rhythm and continued to play."

For those unaware, Westbrook suffered a slight tear in his right meniscus due to a steal attempt by Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley who collided with him during Game 2 of the Thunder's first-round playoff series against the Rockets in the 2013 postseason. Although Westbrook continued to play periodically throughout the duration of that game, the seriousness of his injury resulted in a technical knockout removing him from participating indefinitely. Without a healthy Westbrook, fellow star and teammate Kevin Durant experienced life without his trusty sidekick, fending for himself to no avail. In Westbrook's absence, Durant became the center of attention receiving double teams, dealing with constant pressure and having the responsibility to be the offense with little to minimal contribution from his teammates who have yet to garner that respect from defenses as Durant's talent is superior to most.

The reason why Westbrook is essential to the overall makeup of the Thunder's appearance is because of what he is. Westbrook, this early into his career is a complete player. Standing at 6'3, Westbrook is taller than most guards and maintains an attacking mentality, believing that he can take almost every point guard off the dribble in penetrating the paint and converting. Westbrook's athleticism and leaping ability help him keep most point guards honest, restricting them from the paint and keeping them on the perimeter. Westbrook continues to improve on the offensive prowess, continuing to develop a mid-range game among the best in the League. These skills provide the evidence as to why Westbrook has already been selected to three all-star games all before the age of 25.

In the premier basketball league in the world, it is exceedingly exhausting to pin the hopes of an entire franchise's fortune on the accomplishments of one individual. Now, to win it all, every franchise's strategy is to produce "Super Teams." A "Super Team" is the pairing of two or more stars or superstars with intention of winning an NBA Championship in my best explanation. Throughout the history of the NBA, almost every "Super Team" was able to deliver the goods. The Chicago Bulls boasted guard Michael Jordan and forward Scottie Pippen. They held the league for ransom during the 90s, as they successfully captured six world titles in two three-peats. Los Angeles Lakers icons guard Magic Johnson and forward Kareem Abdul Jabaar, along with a more than capable supporting cast helped seize five world titles for the shooting stars of Hollywood in the 80s. The Boston Celtics sustained a similar formula. They were fortunate enough to have the services of forwards Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. They teamed up to nab three titles, also in the 80's.

All of these players are acknowledged on the list of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

I say all this to highlight the importance of Westbrook and what he means to Oklahoma City because with him they are a title threat and without him, they are just another team awaiting elimination from the postseason competition.

Westbrook and Durant, together form one of the leagues most feared scoring tandems, as they combined for 54 points against the Suns in their most recent matchup.

Westbrook's return is not just an upgrade to the Thunder's first unit; it provides us with the opportunity to watch.

Sunday was just the beginning and I expect a lot more Thunderstorms in the weeks and months to come.

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