Q&A: Kevin Harlan

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Thursday, February 26, 2015 with No comments
Courtesy of Mel Bracht

What’s your impression of the new-look, post-trade Thunder?
“I think they fared as well, if not the best, of any team in pro basketball. First thing I thought of is Sam Presti again taking a problem, or a potential problem, and spinning it in something very, very tangible. It looks like (Reggie) Jackson wanted to go. It looks like he’s playing well for Detroit. He did not want to back up, and I totally get that and the GM got it. And they waited for a deal that made sense and they got a couple of teams on board. They were able to get some low-post scoring, which they have not had, which is going to help them dramatically. They got a player who is incredibly under their radar in (Enes) Kanter. They got some outside shooting, and they got a guard that can kind of fill in for Reggie Jackson. Sam accomplished everything he wanted to get and he gives kind of a new wind in the sails of this team. They’ve got depth, they’ve got a new way to score. They have definitely enhanced themselves and Sam is right at the core of that. I have just a respect for what he does and how he conducts his business.”
Should Russell Westbrook be in the MVP conversation?
“Absolutely. On top of that, we have got four different candidates that play differently. LeBron (James) is in the conversation just because he’s the guy. But he plays against the Eastern Conference, and what Westbrook and Harden and Curry play against every night in that tough West, to me, the true MVP will come out of the West. I’ve never seen a guard play the way Westbrook plays. I’ve been doing the league since ’82 and, aside from (Derrick) Rose, I don’t remember seeing a guard that plays with the kind of ferocity that he plays with. It’s just a pleasure to watch a guy with a motor who runs so high, plays so hard. I’m just in awe of what he does.
“All three are different. You’ve got Curry with that silky smooth jump shot and the flowing style of play — he glides through sets, finds his open teammate. He’s got the great benefit of Klay Thompson running at his side. I would never minimize that. I think that enhances what Curry can do whereas Russ is a one-man circus, he’s a one-man show. And then Harden, he plays differently than Russ plays. He’s filling up every stat column, but he plays differently. And so that is what’s going to be so fascinating with these three guards and the race they’re going to have for that MVP.
“People will say Russ has missed games. That doesn’t matter. It even enhances what he does even more. And now he’s going to have to play without Kevin (Durant) for awhile, and he’s still playing with these incredible performances night in and night out.”
How do you think the Big 12 will stack up in the NCAA men’s tournament?
“Well there could be as many as seven teams that might get in, six certainly, in a 10-team conference. They obviously got wonderful individual players, but even more this year, I’m sensing teams are more the focus. There doesn’t seem to be the dominant big-time player who just every night captures the headline. I sense this year it’s a lot about good, solid teams, depth and coaching. I’m just in awe of who they have got coaching these teams, anywhere from the guy at Kansas State who has beaten seven ranked teams and yet is still trying to get that team to be relevant and I don’t know if they’ll make the tournament, Bruce Webber, or you’ve got Bill Self, who has the pressure of bringing in one great recruit after another, probably not his best team and his coaching job has just been absolutely terrific. Then there’s what Lon (Kruger) is doing at Oklahoma. I’m just always taken back by the great coaching in this conference.”