Thunder's Westbrook insists he won't change style of play
Russell Westbrook leads the NBA Finals with 18 assists, which is a great sign for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He also leads the finals in shot attempts. That might not be such a great sign.
Oklahoma City's point guard has fired off 50 shots so far in the finals, which are knotted at a game apiece and resume with Game 3 in Miami on Sunday night. Westbrook's shot total is four more than LeBron James has attempted for the Heat, eight more than three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant has tried for the Thunder and just two fewer than James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha and Derek Fisher have gotten for Oklahoma City combined.
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Think Westbrook is apologizing for that? Think again.
"I'm not making no adjustments," Westbrook said. "Regardless of what anybody says or regardless of what you guys say about how I play, it doesn't matter. You know, I'm going to play my game regardless of what happens. I'm going to go out and give 110 percent, and try to find a way to help us win the game."
When Westbrook takes 25 shots in a game — what he's averaging in this series — the Thunder are 7-7 this season, including playoffs. When he takes fewer than 25, the Thunder are 53-16.
That stat isn't necessarily one that the Thunder are concerned about. They just say that when Westbrook is producing, they're better, plain and simple.
So far against the Heat, his game has been decidedly up and down.
Miami has outscored Oklahoma City 56-37 in first quarters of the two finals games. Westbrook is shooting 17 percent (2-for-12) in that quarter. In the final three quarters, the Thunder have outscored the Heat by 26 points. And in those quarters, Westbrook is shooting 47 percent (18-for-38).
"We need Russell to score," Thunder Coach Scott Brooks said. "I know some of you don't like that, but Russell is a very, very gifted, talented player, and we would not be in this position without Russell Westbrook."
Kurt Busch's team comes to his defense
When Phoenix Racing owner James Finch announced he would retain Kurt Busch as the team's driver, he said he did so because the team's crew members voted to keep Busch. The crew backed a driver who has become more known for his tirades, meltdowns and tantrums than for winning the 2004 Cup championship.
"There are only a couple of guys that even come close to his talent, to what he can do in a race car," Phoenix Racing crew chief Nick Harrison told ESPN. "And half of Kurt's talent is that kick-ass personality. Half of why he's so good is that attitude.
"It's a whole different feeling when he's with us, man. It's extra inspiration for us. I'd hate for that to go away, just hate it. We didn't have the same feeling about ourselves at Pocono (when Busch was suspended for the weekend)."
More support for Busch came from car chief Lee Dodson, who has been with the underfunded team for three years.
"He's a cool guy who dies to win every lap," Dodson told ESPN. "He's all passion, really. That's what we see — the passion. Does he get mad? Yes. But we can handle that. He's really old-school. ... Most drivers want stuff done for them. Kurt doesn't. He just wants to drive the hell out of our race car, and he's a champion and he expects to be up front. He'll get in that thing at any moment and own it. We love that."
Harrison said that the way Busch has been depicted in the media isn't he way the team sees him.
"That Kurt Busch isn't with us," Harrison said. "He looks like a villain to people, but not to us. He's elite. No matter what he says to me, it feels good to know from the word 'go' that you have a shot. Without him we have no shot."
Ambrose tops 203 mph at Michigan
The last time anyone was this fast in qualifying in NASCAR's top series, Richard Petty was still driving.
He's an owner now, but when Marcos Ambrose won the Sprint Cup pole at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday for Richard Petty Motorsports, the Hall of Famer was on hand to put the accomplishment in perspective. Ambrose posted a speed of 203.241 mph, the first time since 1987 the 200 mph mark was broken during Sprint Cup qualifying.
"I can't hardly remember that far back," Petty said. "To be able to do it on a flatter racetrack, not Daytona or Talladega, that is unheard of."
Ambrose made his first Sprint Cup pole a memorable one on a day 19 drivers surpassed 200 mph on the newly paved surface.
■ Joey Logano followed up his Sprint Cup victory at Pocono last weekend with a win on the Nationwide Series on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. Logano held off James Buescher for his fifth Nationwide win of the year and 14th of his career.
Kurt Busch, back from a one-week suspension, finished third.
Morehead's Woods announces 1st signees
New Morehead State men's basketball coach Sean Woods announced the signings of his first three recruits on Saturday — Taariq Muhammad of Atlanta, Chad Posthumus of Winnipeg, Canada, and Cordell James of Chattanooga.
Muhammad, a 6-foot-2 point guard, has two years of eligibility remaining after playing two junior-college seasons. Muhammad, listed by Rivals.com as the country's 90th-best player during his final prep season, was also being recruited by Auburn, Clemson, Memphis, Miami (Fla.), Minnesota, Oregon, Penn State, South Carolina, Southern California, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.
Posthumus, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound center, also has two years of eligibility left. He was also being recruited by Loyola (Ill.), San Francisco, South Dakota State, Washington State and Wichita State.
James, a 6-foot-1 combo guard who played at McCallie Prep School, canceled an official visit to Penn State after committing during his visit to MSU. He was also being recruited by UAB.
4 U.S. cyclists opt out of London Games
Four top U.S. cyclists — all former teammates of Lance Armstrong — removed their names from consideration for spots on the Olympic team before its announcement this week. Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie asked that they be taken out of the running for places on the road cycling team for the Summer Games, USA Cycling announced in a brief statement Saturday.
"USA Cycling will not speculate on the reasoning behind their requests and will not have further comment," the statement said.
College World Series
Arkansas spoils Kent State's CWS debut
DJ Baxendale and Brandon Moore combined on a four-hitter, Jake Wise homered for the first time since February and Arkansas defeated Kent State 8-1 on Saturday in the Golden Flashes' first appearance in the College World Series.
Poland, Russia eliminated from Euro 2012
Co-host Poland and Group A favorite Russia crashed out of the European Championship on Saturday, as the Czech Republic and Greece scored 1-0 wins to advance to the quarterfinals.
The last word
NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose said he isn't worried about the speeds being too fast in Sunday's race in Brooklyn, Mich."
"We're racecar drivers. That's what we do. We're going to get on the starting line, we're going to put the pedal to the metal, and we're going to go."