Game 5 of the Thunder-Spurs series is set for 9PM ET tonight. In the meantime, check out some of the news around the league on Monday from possible player movements, game evaluations, and off-season activity from players that are in full vacation mode.
- Is the criticism on Russell Westbrook being selfish warranted? Darnell Mayberry discusses why it is not warranted: The point guard who continues to be a lightening rod for criticism for everything from his shot selection to his body language has undoubtedly made questionable choices throughout the first four years of his career. But the more you listen to Westbrook off the court, and compare what you hear to what you see on it, you soon understand that most of Westbrook’s mistakes are born out of a burning desire to just make his team better.
- Mayberry also helps us understand the meaning behind Kevin Durant’s pregame rituals. Here is a quote from Durant: I tie my shoes. I point to the sky for all my fallen soldiers. I tap my chest for my grandma and my mom. I tap my back for Maryland. And I point in the crowd to my brother.
- Heading into Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Spurs looked like the most indestructible team the league has seen in a long, long time. Two games later, they were on the brink of trailing the Thunder, writes Jeff McDonald of San Antonio Express-News: In a blink, a 20-game winning streak became a two-game losing streak. As a result, the Spurs come home to find themselves, for the first time this postseason, in clear and present danger of falling behind in a series.
- Like it or not, LeBron James is held to a different standard. He may or may not come through in the clutch, but if there is something he never does, it’s fouling out of a playoff game. As Marc J. Spears wrote, Game 4 marked the first time James has ever fouled out of a playoff game in his career: “I don’t foul out,” James said after scoring a game-high 29 points. “If I’m going to foul out, that sixth foul, I wish I would have earned it [and it] had actually been a foul on me. Whatever.”
- If you missed how James and Paul Pierce accumulated all of their fouls in Game 4, watch this video.
- With James out of the picture in overtime, it was up to Dwyane Wade to save the day. How did he do? Sebastian Pruiti of Grantland has the breakdown for you: With LeBron James on the bench after fouling out, Dwyane Wade took the final shot. Make no mistake though: This was not a designed isolation play. Coach Erik Spoelstra drew up a great misdirection play to get an open 3-point shot for Mario Chalmers, but because of Wade’s poor execution, they settled for their second option and Wade missed the 3.
- Early reports indicated that Chris Bosh would be ready for Game 5, but he has been officially listed as day-to-day, according to Tom Haberstroh: “It’s premature to say he’ll definitively play,” Spoelstra said. “The reality is that this is not a normal situation. (The situation) is heightened and it is extreme. We have to be judicious in our evaluations.”
- Last week, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Washington Wizards were on the verge of signing Randy Wittman to a contract. That report came to fruition today, from SI.com: In fact, the Washington Wizards didn’t really conduct a search. Randy Wittman was the choice all along for team President Ernie Grunfeld, who announced Monday that the early-season replacement for Flip Saunders has signed a new deal.
- Michael Jordan used to hire assistants to make sure that no one touched anything in his cooler. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop quoted the book Larry Bird published, detailing the hilarity of the situation Bird witnessed: There was this girl there, and her only job was to make sure everything was just right for Michael Jordan, and she starts yelling at me, “Larry, you can’t go in there!” I said, “What are you talking about? That’s bull. Everyone here is family.” She was getting all nervous and said,”No, no. Those are all the things Michael told me he wanted, and if you take something out of there, Michael won’t be able to have it, and we just can’t let that happen!”
- Possible player movements through free agencies and trades are starting to buzz around the league, and the following players’ names came up today in various reports today: Roy Hibbert, Steve Nash, Alonzo Gee, Andre Miller and Rudy Gay.
- Some former champions that are out of the playoff picture have gone on vacation, but it isn’t on a fishing trip. Dirk Nowitzki joined The Avett Brothers in a concert, while Kobe Bryant went to Disneyland with his family.
- Speaking of Bryant, he received a report card today from Dave McMenamin, and he may not like the result: The guy who used to play for the Lower Merion Aces isn’t satisfied with anything less than an A, but it just didn’t all come together this year for Kobe.
- LeRoy Ellis passed away over the weekend, according to The New York Times: LeRoy Ellis, a star center at St. John’s University who went on to a long N.B.A. career and played for the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakerschampionship team that won a record 33 straight games, died on Saturday in Scappoose, Ore., a suburb of Portland. He was 72.
- Amare Stoudemire has had a rough year both on and off the basketball court. Things got much brighter for him, though, when he got engaged to Alexis Welch: “I have been planning my proposal for a while and overlooking the entire Paris skyline seemed like a perfect place. I am so happy she said ‘yes,’ and now we can continue to build our life together as husband and wife,” Stoudemire told PEOPLE from Paris.
- John Wall is in full off-season mode, which means he is playing in a Drew League, with Chris Brown as his teammate, as you will see in this video.
For Rajon Rondo calling out the Heat, click here.
For Serge Ibaka’s cuff dunk, click here.
James Park is a regular contributor and blogger for SheridanHoops.com. You can follow him on twitter @nbatupark.