Dave Zirin (The Nation) on Russell Westbrook standing with Oklahoma teachers: “These teachers also have an ally in the state’s most famous athlete, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook. The reigning NBA MVP was asked for his opinion about the state-wide strike and he did not mince words, saying, “Education is very, very important to me. The teachers are standing up for something that obviously they believe in—that’s helping the kids get a better education—obviously them getting paid more. More funding for the schools is very, very important. I’m definitely all in for that because I believe education is key for a lot of things going on in society.”
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Tim McMahon (ESPN) on Russell Westbrook praising James Harden, but not making an MVP endorsement: “I’m not sure,” Westbrook said when asked if it was Harden’s turn to win MVP. “Obviously he’s having a good year, a great year. Their team has the best record in the NBA. I’m not sure.”
What to watch for in Monday’s slate of games.
Gideon Lim (Thunderous Intentions) gives a detailed breakdown on the defensive clinic Westbrook put on in the 4th quarter of the Rockets game: “Late into the game, the Thunder needed a stop. Westbrook bodies up James Harden four feet from the line, locked in his defensive stance. Harden somehow still manages to beat Westbrook and makes it all the way to the cup. In most games, Westbrook would have sagged off and looked for his help defender. But, not today. Russell Westbrook nips at Harden’s heels all the way to the cup, before dishing out the massive swat on his former running mate.”
Erik Horne (NewsOK) on Westbrook and Paul George being selected for the US Men’s National Team: “The announcement of the pool is the first step toward selection for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China and the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan in which 12-man teams will be selected for each competition. The team will be coached by San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. Westbrook and George won Olympic gold medals with USA Basketball in 2012 and 2016, respectively.”
Berry Tramel (NewsOK) on if the Thunder have finally been scared straight: “Of course, resolve and commitment have been in short supply this season. So it’s anybody’s guess how the Thunder will do Monday night in Miami, much less in a seven-game series against Utah or Portland. We can always hope that the Thunder was sufficiently scared straight. If the Thunder had lost in Houston, OKC would be in ninth place in the West and likely would need to beat both Miami and Memphis to make the playoffs. Sometimes, standing on the edge of a cliff can straighten out your priorities. No way did the Thunder want a must-win game against the capable Heat.”
David Woods (Indianapolis Star) on Paul George keeping Gordon Hayward upbeat during his rehab: “Hayward reminds himself what he can now do that would have been impossible a few months ago. He said George, who came back from a gruesome 2014 injury to become an Olympic gold medalist and All-Star, is part of his support system. George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the offseason.”
Fred Katz (Norman Transcript) on how big the game against the Heat is: “This game was important, but Monday’s game is just as important as this game,” he said. “Because if we don’t take care of business Monday, then this game doesn’t really mean anything.”