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.
May 25, 2020, 3:16 pmTerry RozierPG, Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are the latest team to re-open their facilities, with the Novant Health Training Center set to open up on Tuesday.
With this, there are only eight teams left to open their practice courts back up, though nobody has been able to engage in any sort of team work yet. Individual workouts are better than no workouts, however, and the league appears to be getting its ducks in a row in terms of returning to play. There's still no firm timelines but things do appear to be heading in the right direction.
Source: Charlotte Hornets
May 25, 2020, 3:13 pmJon LeuerPF, Milwaukee Bucks
Jon Leuer has announced his retirement from basketball.
Injuries completely destroyed Leuer's career, as he played in a combined 49 games over the previous two seasons with zero appearances in the 2019-20 campaign. Leuer's high point came with the Suns, where he averaged 8.5 points to go with 5.6 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and a 38.2 mark from deep. His eight-year career comes to an end, with Leuer saying that his body simply won't let him play at a high level anymore.
Source: Jon Leuer on Instagram
May 24, 2020, 9:20 pmKyrie IrvingPG, Brooklyn Nets
Following Governor Andrew Cuomo's greenlight from earlier on Sunday, the Nets will reopen their practice facilities on Tuesday.
The team will open its doors to voluntary player workouts. The team's statement went on to elaborate that they would strictly follow NBA and infectious disease expert protocols as they resume activities. It's another small step in the right direction as the NBA continues its climb towards trying to play actual games.
Source: Malika Andrews on Twitter
May 24, 2020, 8:03 pmKemba WalkerPG, Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker feels that his left knee hampered him earlier this year because of all of the basketball he's played over the course of his career.
The knee pain has been a constant this season, and Walker has missed eight games due to the injury overall. He should be fully recovered for when the season does resume at this point, and if he is able to get enough practice reps in he'll be able to avoid any restrictions whenever the league-wide shutdown is lifted.
Source: The Athletic
May 24, 2020, 7:56 pmAnte ZizicPF, Cleveland Cavaliers
If Ante Zizic chooses to leave the NBA when he hits free agency this offseason, he could draw interest from Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Zizic had a lot of success in 2016-17 when he was last in the Euro League with Darussafaka, averaging 9 points and 6.7 rebounds in under 21 minutes per game. In comparison, he's been an afterthought for the Cavs this season, only averaging 10 minutes per game. Moreover, the Cavs declined to pick up his player option for next season, and they already have plenty of options for the frontcourt between Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., and possibly DeAndre Drummond (player option). Maccabi will have to see how much salary flexibility they have this offseason as ticket sales are likely to take a hit in Israel next year.
Source: Euro Hoops
May 24, 2020, 7:33 pmKevin DurantSF, Brooklyn Nets
On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that professional sports teams based in New York may resume operations immediately.
With Governor Cuomo's green light in place the Knicks and Nets are now just waiting for Adam Silver's seal of approval on getting back into there facilities. The majority of the league now has state approval to access their practice facilities and the NBA is slowly ramping up activities in hopes of resuming games in July.
Source: Andrew Cuomo on Twitter
May 23, 2020, 9:43 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that the NBA has entered "exploratory conversations" with Disney on restarting the season at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said the NBA and NBPA have discussed with Disney on restarting the season in late July. Marc Stein reported on Friday that it is looking increasingly likely that games will resume in July, and it appears that the stage for the rest of the 2019-20 season is likely to be Orlando.
May 23, 2020, 9:32 pmLaMelo BallPG, International
The Knicks have LaMelo Ball as their top-rated point guard for the 2020 NBA Draft.
The Knicks have a need at point guard and Ball is considered the point guard with the highest upside in this draft. He had poor shooting numbers in his 12 games in the NBL this past season, shooting .250 from deep and .375 from the field. He is a gifted passer though and averaged 6.8 assists per game in 31.3 minutes, adding 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals. If Ball was drafted by the Knicks, he could help younger players RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson get easier looks. Ball will likely be given an opportunity to run the offense by the team that drafts him and he could put up big assists numbers. He also has an impressive steal rate in limited play in Australia, but his shooting percentages are a big concern.
May 23, 2020, 9:15 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said “There are no Beal Sweepstakes and that’s why he re-signed with the Wizards.”
Bartelstein continued to say “Brad re-signed with the Wizards because he wanted to stay in Washington and the Wizards wanted to keep him there.” Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported earlier in the week that the Nets had internal discussions with the Wizards for Beal. A trade out of Washington would likely hurt Beal’s fantasy value, but it’s not worth putting too much stock into trade rumors for Beal in dynasty leagues.
May 22, 2020, 9:13 pmJonathan IsaacPF, Orlando Magic
Jonathan Isaac, who sustained a serious left knee injury in January, said his knee is "feeling strong" and that he has been squatting increasingly more weight recently.
Isaac also said recently that he's open to returning if and when the NBA season is resumed and as long as the Magic organization is on-board with it. He has been running on an anti-gravity treadmill and indicated that his knee feels "110 percent" after more than four months of rehab. Isaac is a huge part of the Magic's future and it remains to be seen whether or not they will take the risk.
Source: John Denton on Twitter