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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Articles tagged: Russell Westbrook

Each NBA team’s most important player

Kawhi Leonard

The mother of all NBA seasons is almost here. So as you finalize your League Pass subscriptions, complete your fantasy drafts, and prepare the guacamole for your watch parties, take some time to ponder the true meaning of the season — specifically, the benevolent stars who make such a joyous holiday possible with their prodigious athletic talents.

Here I present, each NBA team’s most important player heading into 2017-18:

Atlanta Hawks — Dennis Schroder, PG

“All my friends are dead,” said Schroder in his best Lil Uzi Vert voice as he gazed upon his roster following the respective exits of his last remaining All-Star teammates in Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard this summer. Yes, the Hawks are now as thin as a toothpick, and the incentive for them to “Do Badly for Bagley” or “Make The Fans Puka for Luka” will be enormous. But someone has to lead this JV squad, and their resident German is as good of an option as any. Perhaps we will see Dennis the Menace gun for 20 and 10. Maybe he develops some nice pick-and-roll chemistry with new additions Dewayne Dedmon and rookie John Collins. Perhaps he finally bleaches his entire head blonde. Anything to give this team a modicum of watchability this season.

Boston Celtics — Kyrie Irving

After selling an arm, a leg, and a hip for him this summer, the Celtics will hope that Irving’s performance in his first season with them does not fall flat. The outside noise in Uncle Drew’s ear will be deafening — mockery of his decision to ditch LeBron James and go off in search of his own empire, jeers at the perceived stagnation of his playmaking skills, pervasive meme treatments of his unorthodox views on astronomy. But Irving is here for one reason and one reason only: to ball out. And that’s what he’s gonna do. Just remember kids, there’s no such thing as distractions when you’re very much woke. [mic drop]

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Report: Warriors find Russell Westbrook easy to guard

Russell Westbrook

The Oklahoma City Thunder have improved this offseason, but the Golden State Warriors might have a good reason for not being too concerned.

According to two reports, the Warriors find reigning MVP Russell Westbrook easy to defend. ESPN’s Zach Lowe talked about that with Ryen Russillo on ESPN Radio “The Lowe Post Show.”

“Jack McCallum’s new book about the Warriors has a bunch of kind of anonymous Warriors talking about Russ and how they don’t fear Russ. How KD left partly cause of Russ. How Russ’s style of play is so easy for them to defend it’s like cake to them,” Lowe said.

“I’ve talked to the Warriors about his kind of stuff. What’s in Jack’s book is 100 percent what they say when you ask them about Russ.”

This does not come as a surprise. The Thunder lost all four games they played against the Warriors during the regular season — the first since Kevin Durant switched teams. After games, they’ve boasted about how Westbrook played right into their hands.

Things should be different when the teams meet this season now that the Thunder also have Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And we’re looking forward to the response from Westbrook about this, as you know he’ll have one.

Ranking the 20 best players in the Western Conference

Let’s just go right ahead and state the obvious here: this is not your father’s Western Conference. Not anymore. Gone are the days of sophisticated battles of equal parts brains and brawn. Dead and buried are the cordial, gentlemanly competitions of X’s and O’s that generations prior enjoyed and romanticized. With the defection of no fewer than four current or former Eastern All-Stars this summer to what was already the NBA’s far superior conference, the era of all-out war is officially upon us. Blitzkrieg strikes will illuminate the heavens, campaigns of attrition will be waged, and rivers everywhere will run red with blood as what had previously been known as the West now makes way for the Wild Wild West. But instead of Buffalo Bill Cody and Wyatt Earp, this battle will be fought be a more familiar cast of characters. And what a privilege you and I will have to enjoy front row seats as hostilities commence in 2017-18.

Ladies and germs, may I present a comprehensive ranking of the 20 best players in the Western Conference (with sincerest apologies and honorable mentions to DeAndre Jordan, C.J. McCollum, Andrew Wiggins, and newly-christened Westerner Carmelo Anthony, all of whose respective nits proved impossible not to pick when wading through a talent pool this deep). This is part of a series, as we also ranked the 20 best players in the Eastern Conference previously.

20. Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies

When he’s not sashaying like Conor McGregor or slinging shade in Catalan, Gasol continues to further his standing as one of the more undervalued bigs in the NBA. The former Defensive Player of the Year quietly posted career-highs in points (19.5) and assists per game (4.6) last season while playing his usual stout D. Yes, Father Time’s kiss may not be far off with Gasol set to turn 33 in January. But for now, I say long live those paint-protecting fundamentals and them elegant sweeping hooks from the mid-post. Me encanta la Gasol-ina.

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Paul George: Russell Westbrook extension ‘absolutely’ factors into future

Paul George

Paul George continues to share signals that he may be happy to extend his stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder beyond this season.

George said Saturday that Russell Westbrook’s decision to ink a 5-year, $205 million extension with the Thunder would “absolutely” impact his own decision on his future.

“We’ve been on an unbelievable start right now, and for him to be committed here, it says a lot,” George said, via Royce Young of ESPN. “Not only us pairing together, but just knowing what type of dude Russ is, and his values, and his beliefs, and him being committed to this organization says a lot.

“I think when that time comes, the decision will be easier to make.”

George is a free agent at the end of the season. He has said that winning will take priority over all else, and if the Thunder have a successful season, they will certainly provide an intriguing option for the star forward next summer.

Russell Westbrook agrees to $205 million contract extension

Russell Westbrook appears to be committing himself to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the foreseeable future.

Westbrook has agreed to a five-year, $205 million contract extension with the Thunder, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported on Fridday.

Westbrook is under contract for $28.5 million this season and then had a player option for next season, which he could have declined in order to become a free agent. The five-year extension will be tacked onto his current deal, ensuring he makes $233 million over the next six seasons, including the upcoming season.

There were lingering questions about whether Westbrook would commit to the Thunder long term after Kevin Durant left for the Golden State Warriors. Westbrook stepped up without Durant last season, becoming the league MVP while helping the Thunder to a 47-35 record, giving them the sixth spot in the Western Conference.

Since the end of the season, the Thunder have pulled off trades for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, which should have them in an even better position to contend next season. Perhaps those deals gave the Brodie the confidence to commit to OKC long term.

Report: Westbrook, George played ‘immense part’ in getting Carmelo Anthony to Thunder

If you’re wondering how involved Russell Westbrook and Paul George were in getting Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City, we have a clear answer.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Westbrook and George were instrumental in convincing Anthony to approve a trade to the Thunder once it became clear that his preferred definition in Houston was no longer a likely outcome.

If you go solely based on teammates, the Thunder probably would not have led Anthony’s list. In Houston, he could have played with close friend Chris Paul, while another player Anthony has a great relationship with, LeBron James, was waiting in Cleveland. Anthony has little previous with Westbrook or George, but it sounds like their intervention was enough to convince him.

The trade was reportedly agreed upon on Saturday, and will make the Thunder quite formidable in a loaded Western Conference.

Could Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Paul George form superteam with Lakers?

The only way LeBron James is going to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for a Western Conference team is if said Western Conference team would have an immediate shot at competing with the Golden State Warriors. As rumors continue to pile up, it sounds like the Los Angeles Lakers have an outside chance to be that team.

Speculation has existed for a while that LeBron could sign with the Lakers when he becomes a free agent next summer. Many believe Paul George is destined to wind up in purple and gold, which would certainly help L.A. sign James. But if George and Westbrook both decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Lakers together, would that seal the deal for King James?

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said recently that the Lakers will be a possible landing spot for Westbrook if he does not sign the contract extension the Thunder have offered him.

“Paul George is from L.A. Russell Westbrook’s from L.A. They’re going to be playing together. If they want to stay together, they could just come to the Lakers or Clippers,” Shelburne said. “The what-ifs — the dominos that start falling if (Westbrook) does not sign that contract extension by the start of the regular season…”

On paper, a Lakers team comprised of LeBron, Westbrook, George, Lonzo Ball and some other young up-and-coming players would obviously sound like enough to contend with Golden State. It would also require some serious salary cap gymnastics, but that’s something Magic Johnson would make sure his team figured out if all of the aforementioned superstars were interested in playing together in L.A.

James would supposedly love to team up with Westbrook, and one reporter went out on a limb last week with a prediction about LeBron’s future.

We’ve seen enough crazy things happen in the NBA recently to know nothing should be ruled out, but Westbrook would look like quite the hypocrite if he left OKC for the same reasons Kevin Durant did. That said, the Thunder have to prove they are committed to competing. There must be a reason Westbrook hasn’t signed his extension yet.

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