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Thursday, December 29, 2011
Pregame Buzz: Mavs had own bench bruhaha

By Jeff Caplan

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Much of the attention prior to Thursday's game focused on the relationship between the Oklahoma City Thunder's two All-Stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

The two got into a heated "debate" as coach Scott Brooks put it, during Wednesday's win against the Memphis Grizzlies. Westbrook was initially peeved at shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha for passing up an open 3-point look off a drive-and-dish from Westbrook. The 23-year-old point guard didn't let it die and during a timout a minute later, he and Durant were exchanging words, and by the end of the night it was national news.

Both players blew it off and said the incident should not be used to scrutinize their relationship, but rather taken for what it really was: emotions on high during a frustrating portion of the game when the Thunder allowed an 11-point lead to slip three in a three-minute span.

"It’s a part of the game. It never was meant to spill over so it wasn’t like I did it on purpose to spill over," Westbrook said. "I was just telling my guy to shoot the ball when he was open. It wasn’t like I was telling him something  wrong to do, I’m telling my guy to shoot the ball and then the rest of what was happening had nothing to do with that play. But you never get the full story unless you were there to see exactly what happened."

Just three games into the season, the spotlight is definitely turned up on the young Thunder, a team many predict to win the West.

The Mavs had an overheated bench incident last April when Jason Terry and J.J. Barea started jawing on the court after a turnover and bucket the other way. The barking spilled over on the bench during a timeout and coach Rick Carlisle ejected Terry to the end of the bench and then right out of the game. Terry did not return for the second half.

Carlisle wasn't willing to get into the dynamics of another team or how such incidents can affect a squad. But he did offer this:

"Whatever it was last year worked because we won the championship," he said.

So take heart, Oklahoma City.