August 7, 2016, 12:25 am
One Big Thing: Thank you Russell
The news of the week is obviously Russell Westbrook re-upping with Oklahoma City on a three year deal worth $85 million.
Westbrook received a hero’s welcome when he touched ground in the Oklahoma capital to put pen to paper and talk to the press. It was a sight to behold; seeing a fanbase and organization come back together and rejoice after coming oh so close before the foundation of the team was ripped away by the lure of Golden State.
They had just had their hearts yanked out and stepped on; left to pick up the pieces and consider what the future would hold if Westbrook decided to jump ship too. If they couldn’t win with one of the game’s best scorers in the fold why would Westbrook want to stick around without him?
The rumors swirled about the next move. Sam Presti and the Thunder would have to move quickly. If there was no actual extension being worked on they had to at least take all calls.
Boston certainly could put together a compelling package if Danny Ainge felt like being reasonable. The Lakers had some interesting pieces to put together and inject the Thunder with some youth in the first steps of an accelerated rebuild.
If Westbrook’s availability became an open secret you could’ve bet on a line that’s 29 teams long.
If he hit free agency how would the landscape shift?
Would the Lakers’ pitch of being the Lakers finally work? Could the Thunder lure him back by going after someone like Blake Griffin? What sort of crazy pitch meeting details would leak?
But no, that’s all for naught. The sense of foreboding that surrounded Oklahoma City is gone. For now they celebrate.
There’s questions left to answer, namely how the Thunder can realistically expect to top last season.
Westbrook in the fold obviously gives them a good start. The most electrifying man in the game is the human embodiment of unabashed fun and will make things exciting even if there’s less winning than there was last season.
With Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka out and Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis in it’ll be a fun discovery process for the Thunder. They’re definitely not as good as they were in 2015-16 but the fit is interesting.
Oladipo’s athleticism and cutting ability should give Westbrook another path to boatloads of assists and might even allow him to play off the ball if coach Billy Donovan sees fit. Oladipo, like a young Westbrook, fits into the mold of a combo guard who can really do whatever you ask of him.
There’s a huge chunk of touches that just opened up for anyone who cares to take them. Oladipo, Enes Kanter and Steven Adams will soak up a lot of those but it’s now unmistakably Westbrook’s team.
For all the x’s and o’s basketball talk that will happen, it’s a pretty simple situation. There’s a top level player who just got spurned by a longtime friend who now has a California-sized chip on his shoulder. They won’t hit the same heights as last year but make no mistake: Westbrook will go bananas.
For all the consideration that his free agency was starting to receive, it never really felt like Westbrook was going to leave. Any sort of talk about him heading off to join forces with other stars was speculation that never fit given what we know about Westbrook.
He’s not buddy-buddy when the game is on. He’s the guy that squeezed Charlie Villanueva out to get through his intricate handshake. If you’re not on the Thunder, he’s going to do his best to dissect you or go right through you.
In a different jersey? You’re just in his way.
Even his snapchat this summer has been nothing but him, his family and his basketball camp. There’s no hanging out with other players. Russell has been doing Russell just like he always has.
Westbrook looks like a straight shooter. He doesn’t like doing the media thing, so he doesn’t talk to them that much. There’s no A to D by way of B and C. With Westbrook it seems like he’s going to find the path of least resistance whether that’s barreling through the lane or telling ownership what he’s thinking. It’s simple with him.
Fittingly enough, the Thunder have gone from major turmoil to a simple reality. It’s not KD and Russ anymore. It’s just Russ. He could’ve orchestrated his way out like we all expected but that’s just not his style.
He’s the lead dog and the face of the franchise now.
The Thunder, and the entire NBA, are better for it.
April 20, 2019, 6:22 pmSpencer Dinwiddie - G - Brooklyn Nets
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 18 points with four boards and one steal in Saturday's 112-108 loss to the Sixers.
Dinwiddie continues to play well off the bench along with his fellow guards Caris LeVert and D'Angelo Russell. The Nets let this one slip away and will now have to win in Philly to keep their season alive.
April 20, 2019, 6:17 pmJarrett Allen - C - Brooklyn Nets
Jarrett Allen scored 21 points with seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block in Saturday's Game 4 loss to the Sixers.
Allen had a nice final stat line, but he was getting worked by Joel Embiid all game. He also had a costly turnover at the end of the game when Tobias Harris, Embiid and Ben Simmons trapped in on the block – Harris may have gotten away with a foul.
April 20, 2019, 6:10 pmD'Angelo Russell - G - Brooklyn Nets
D'Angelo Russell scored 21 points with six assists, seven boards, two steals, one block and four 3-pointers in Saturday's loss to the Sixers.
Russell played well in this game outside of his 2-for-10 shooting on two-pointers, and even hit a few clutch shots down the stretch. He continues to give the Sixers fits on offense, but the Nets came up just short in this one.
April 20, 2019, 6:04 pmCaris LeVert - G - Brooklyn Nets
Caris LeVert played 42 minutes in Saturday's Game 4 loss scoring 25 points with five rebounds, six assists, one setal and three 3-pointers.
LeVert was expected to play more in this game after only logging 23.7 minutes per game over the first three. He once again looked healthy and commanded the game at times. After watching today's game you could not have guessed he suffered a gruesome injury earlier this season.
April 20, 2019, 5:53 pmJoel Embiid - F/C - Philadelphia Sixers
Joel Embiid was unstoppable in the Sixers' Game 4 win posting 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and six blocks on Saturday.
Jarrett Allen had absolutely no chance against a one-legged Embiid. He's clearly the best player on the floor in this series and the Nets will have to get creative in defending him, or hope for an injury, if they want any chance at coming down from a 3-1 deficit.
April 20, 2019, 5:49 pmTobias Harris - F - Philadelphia Sixers
Tobias Harris tallied 24 points, eight boards, six dimes, one block and one steal in 43 minutes of work in Saturday's win against the Nets in Game 4.
Harris seemed fairly quiet in this one but he still managed to come away with a great line, as he does sometimes. We'll see if he's tired for Game 5, but they will get an extra day of rest for travel.
April 20, 2019, 5:41 pmMike Scott - F - Philadelphia Sixers
Mike Scott logged 27 minutes and hit a go-ahead three with 19.7 seconds left in the game and the Sixers held the lead to take a 3-1 series lead.
Scott also grabbed eight boards in this one and played a lot down the stretch with Jimmy Butler out due to ejection. The Sixers could not get past the four or six point mark for most of the game but finally closed the gap and took the lead towards the end. This game was surely the most exciting of the playoffs so far.
April 20, 2019, 5:00 pmJimmy Butler - G/F - Philadelphia Sixers
Jimmy Butler was ejected in Game 4 in the third quarter for escalating a fight started by Jared Dudley, who was also ejected.
Butler was protecting Joel Embiid after Dudley shoved Embiid following a foul on Jarrett Allen. Butler was 4-for-6 from the field with 11 points, four boards, four assists and two steals and the Sixers will certainly miss him as they try to come back against the Nets in this one.
April 20, 2019, 4:55 pmTorrey Craig - F - Denver Nuggets
Torrey Craig will start Saturday's Game 4 over Will Barton.
This was somewhat expected as Barton has disappeared so far in the playoffs. Craig will give the Nuggets a lot of defense in the starting lineup and will hopefully let Barton do his thing off the bench.
Source: Harrison Wind on Twitter
April 20, 2019, 4:42 pmJared Dudley - F - Brooklyn Nets
Jared Dudley and Jimmy Butler have been ejected from Saturday's game after instigating and escalating a fight in the third quarter.
Joel Embiid blocked Jarrett Allen and form Dudley's angle it appeared Embiid whacked Allen's head. He got mostly ball, but Dudley pushed Embiid after the play, which led Butler to push Dudley, which led to a full on fracas that bled into the front row on the baseline. If Embiid had not gotten a flagrant foul on Allen earlier in the series, this whole ordeal likely doesn't happen. Dudley finished the day with eight points in 20 minutes after drawing the start.