- Last Updated: 4:37 AM, June 17, 2012
- Posted: 2:04 AM, June 17, 2012
HOOP DU JOUR
MIAMI — Welcome to a place made famous by Jackie Gleason, Don Johnson and the Floridians.
We are gathered here for the annual rite of the passage known as the Middle 3, as in Games 3, 4 and 5 of the David Derby.
Jim Rome is standing by to ask commissioner Stern which ones are fixed.
In the previous series against the Spurs after the Thunder dropped the first two games in San Antonio, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks made critically acclaimed adjustments that forced Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to quit trusting numerous players.
As the NBA Finals shift to three rigorous runs here, starting tonight at 8 p.m., the Oklahoma City coach needs to come up with some sand storms.
Principally, Our Mr. Brooks must yank Kendrick Perkins much earlier in the proceedings — if he insists on continuing to start him — or else expect a repeat of the calamitous consequences.
By the time Brooks got around to relieving his stationary bike of a center of duties he’s unable to perform in Games 1 and 2, the Thunder trailed 24-16 and 21-6.
“The Heat are not putting anybody on the block and spreading the floor. This nullifies all Perkins is good for,” column contributor Ricky St. Jean broke it down to me slowly. “He can’t guard anyone on the perimeter, is a poor pick-and-roll defender and is too slow footed to slide and help, which causes everybody else to over-compensate.”
That’s Perkins’ percolating end of the court.
On offense, he has no shot worth guarding and what moves he has are robotic. Overall, he is one of the league’s worst players on the block. In the last three years, he has not improved around the basket and is tortured by hard hands (five turnovers in two games) on minimal touches.
If there is a crooked little finger to be pointed, it should be at Perkins (for that and more) as well as at Serge Ibaka. They’re both getting Fs on their board scores, a category at which they should be excelling with ease.
Ibaka is averaging six rebounds, 3.5 defensive, whereas Perkins is averaging six, 4.5 defensive. That’s a combined 12 and eight for Oklahoma City’s macho starting center and forward.
In case Brooks and their Thundere teammates haven’t mentioned that shortage to them, they’ve just been called out.
It’s not as if Brooks doesn’t have options. Hyperactive, portable and always thinking, Nick Collision is plus 13 and eight in the first two games. He’s ready and able to go out and cover Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier.
Oh, yeah, that guy! Talk about having a sand storm. Brooks might want to tell whoever is supposed to be guarding Battier to stay clamped to him like he stays clamped to his exclusive defensive assignments.
“Like a clever pitcher who develops a career-saving pitch each year, Battier develops a shot,” Del Harris noted, citing Battier’s unorthodox 3-point leaner.
In motion and motionless, Battier’s field goal accuracy is 12-for-19, including 9-for-13 from 3-point range. I personally know drones that aren’t as deadly from long-range.
Another sand storm would be to introduce James Harden into the fray faster than 5:39 left in the third quarter after he lit it up in the first half of Game 2. Something’s screwy when Harden only gets one shot (2:13) in the period. I don’t even need Jeff Van Gundy or Magic Johnson, had they noticed any of this, to point that out to me.
Granted, Russell Westbrook should not be taking more shots (20-for-50) than Kevin Durant (24-for-42). But any move Brooks makes should not include whatsoever impeding or inhibiting Westbrook’s onslaught, though I’m all for using him at the off guard more often — even starting him there — and sticking Harden or Derek Fisher at the point.
Too radical? Then let Durant copy LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — send Westbrook (“A shorter version of Carmelo Anthony,” column contributor Sam Lefkowitz observes) to the corner and have Daddy Long Legs bring up the ball every second or third possession. Let him decide when to shoot and distribute.
In the initial intervening and ultimate analysis, Westbrook is not a true point guard. He wasn’t for UCLA. He isn’t for the Thunder and wouldn’t be for any team. He just happens to be Oklahoma City’s caretaker, in charge of handling and whatever results next while traveling at warp speed.
That’s why Magic Johnson’s Game 2 intermission babble about Westbrook’s first half performance “being the worst” he had ever seen by a point guard in the finals was simple-minded.
Why was it the worst? Because Westbrook shoots first and missed many?
Note to Madge and other harsh critics of Westbrook: He’s a scorer. He’s not a Jason Kidd-type playmaker. Of course, Durant and Ibaka, even Perkins, would profit immensely from feeding off Kidd or Steve Nash or Jamaal Tinsley.
At the same time, Westbrook is averaging nine assists and eight rebounds. Deploy him at the two and opponents will need a restraining order to get him off them.
Hooples need to understand Westbrook’s playmaking shortcomings and get off his case.
Happy Father’s Day and belated birthday greetings to Don Newcombe, who turned 86 on June 14.Follow @NYPostsports