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#pounditWednesday, September 23, 2020

Articles tagged: Oklahoma City Thunder

OKC Thunder could have record luxury tax bill

The Oklahoma City Thunder are paying dearly to put the best product on the court that they can.

The Thunder have 11 players under contract for 2018-19 now that they’ve agreed to deals with Paul George and Jerami Grant. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, their payroll is projected to be $156 million. Their luxury tax bill would be at least $130 million due to their status as a multiple repeat violator.

What really kills the Thunder is the Carmelo Anthony contract. Melo was a bust for them last season and opted into his contract for just under $28 million this year. The team could significantly reduce their tax bill if they waive him via the stretch provision.

You have to wonder whether the Thunder will consider this option.

Between George and Russell Westbrook, they will be paying around $70 million. Add in Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Grant, and you’re at around $110 million, which pushes them well over the salary cap. They’ll have to seriously weigh keeping Melo.

Paul George reportedly ‘seriously interested’ in re-signing with Thunder

Paul George

With Friday’s deadline looming, Paul George is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. That does not, however, mean he has ruled out returning to the team next season.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that George has informed Thunder officials he will opt out, but the star swingman is “seriously interested” in re-signing with the team. George is also planning to strongly consider the Los Angeles Lakers.

While it seems like a two-horse race for George, Wojnarowski notes that the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets also have interest in him. George is eligible to sign a five-year, $176 million contract with the Thunder, but he may prefer a short-term deal that would allow him to opt out after next season. In 2020, George will have 10 years of service in the NBA and be eligible for a four-year, $169 million deal.

The Thunder knew they were taking a risk by trading for George last offseason, as the 28-year-old grew up in L.A. and told the Indiana Pacers he planned to sign with the Lakers during the 2018 offseason. However, some recent comments George made indicate he could be leaning toward remaining in OKC for at least another year.

Paul George indicates he feels obligation to Thunder

Paul George

Many have assumed for years that Paul George is destined to end up with the Los Angeles Lakers, and that could very well come to fruition this summer. But based on everything George has said to this point, Oklahoma City Thunder fans should not give up hope.

ESPN aired Part 1 of a three-part documentary series entitled “Paul George: My Journey” on Tuesday, and in it George made it clear that he intends to opt out of the final year of his contract. He also spoke very highly of the Thunder and their front office group, and at one point he indicated he feels inclined to reward them for taking a chance by trading for him.

“Here they have made a huge risk in trading for me, knowing I have one year on my deal,” George said, as transcribed by Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. “But I felt I didn’t finish as strong as I could have. Just knowing you left something on the table, even to this point now, it weighs on me.”

George did not make as big of an impact as expected in his first season with the Thunder, and his last game of the year was arguably his worst. George scored just five points on 2-of-16 shooting in a Game 6 playoff loss to the Utah Jazz, and OKC failed to advance past the first round for the second straight season.

George’s sister, Teiosha George, said the Thunder “really wowed us” when Paul arrived in Oklahoma City. George said he is considering a lot of factors in making his free agency decision, describing the process as “overwhelming.”

“It’s a lot of things that go into it — trying to find the right fit, what’s the best place for me to raise my kids,” he said. “A lot is playing into this, so it’s a bit overwhelming.”

It seems fairly obvious that George’s decision has come down to staying in OKC or signing with the Lakers. Perhaps he is waiting for the biggest story of the NBA offseason to unfold, as it could be the deciding factor in which team he chooses.

Thunder GM ‘really encouraged’ by conversations with Paul George

Paul George

Paul George said after he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder that he would be dumb to not consider re-signing with the team if they were a contender, which is why it makes sense that he is leaning toward leaving after a first-round playoff exit. However, you wouldn’t know that by listening to general manager Sam Presti.

In his end-of-season news conference on Wednesday, Presti said he has had an open dialogue with George and has been “really encouraged” by their conversations.

According to a report from earlier in the week, George is expected to leave OKC for another team this summer. Perhaps he will change his mind and want to continue playing with Russell Westbrook, but the way the season ended does not help the Thunder’s chances.

George, 28, averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game in his first season with Oklahoma City. The Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs in six games by the Utah Jazz, and Carmelo Anthony is already questioning his role with the team going forward. Of the three big stars, it’s a definite possibility that Westbrook will be the only one returning next year.

Thunder take advantage of Rudy Gobert’s foul trouble in comeback win

Rudy Gobert Jazz

Wednesday night’s comeback by the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Utah Jazz was more proof of how impactful Rudy Gobert is on defense.

The Jazz were up by as much as 25 points (71-56) in the third quarter of Game 5 against the Thunder. Just when it looked like Utah would end the series in five games and advance to the second round, everything changed.

The Thunder put up 37 points in the third quarter and tied things up at 78 entering the final period. Most of their comeback was mounted when Gobert was out of the game due to foul trouble.

Utah was up 65-46 when Gobert exited the game after picking up his fourth foul with 9:23 left in the third quarter. He sat for about four minutes and when he re-entered, the score was 73-60. He picked up his fifth foul a little over a minute later. Utah was up 74-64 at that point.

Gobert finally returned with just under eight minutes left in that game, but by that point, the Thunder had claimed an 88-87 lead.

With Gobert spending so much time on the bench due to foul trouble, the Thunder ended up leading the Jazz in points in the paint (44 to 32). Just in case you weren’t convinced about his defensive impact before, you should be now. This is exactly why the NBA’s block leader last year was voted first-team All-Defense.

Referees escorted off floor after controversial Raptors-Thunder ending

Officiating controversies continue to be a black eye for the NBA this season.

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Toronto Raptors on Sunday 132-125, but the end of the game was marred by some questionable refereeing decisions. A series of perceived no-calls down the stretch of the contest caused Toronto’s frustration to boil over, and Serge Ibaka, DeMar DeRozan, and coach Dwane Casey were all ejected in quick succession in the last ten seconds. Casey’s tossing (the final one of the three) seemed particularly egregious, as the referees appeared to eject him when it was actually a fan who yelled at them.

As the game went final, the officiating crew of Marc Davis, Brent Barnaky, and Haywoode Workman had to be escorted off the floor by security amidst the jeers of an angered home crowd at the Air Canada Centre.

DeRozan and Casey had this to say after, per TSN Sports’ Josh Lewenberg.

The loss snapped an 11-game winning streak for the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors. They are also not the first team to express issues with the referees just this past weekend alone.

Grizzlies send funny tweets to Thunder during hot first quarter

Memphis Grizzlies

The Oklahoma City Thunder came out hot against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, and that wasn’t lost on the Grizzlies’ Twitter account.

Memphis’ Twitter account sent the following tweets in response to the Thunder connecting on several long balls.

The Thunder made seven 3-pointers during the first quarter, which helped them build a 35-18 lead.

As of halftime, the Thunder had made 12 of 17 threes (70.6 percent!!) and led 74-54. Guess OKC was trying to prove a point without Russell Westbrook or Carmelo Anthony in the lineup.

Paul George reveals what could sway him to stay with Thunder long term

Paul George

Paul George will have a big decision to make after the season regarding his future, and the Thunder star insists it will not take a championship ring to convince him to stay in Oklahoma City.

Russell Westbrook said earlier in the week that winning a title this year is going to be all the sales pitch George needs. But prior to Wednesday’s 133-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, George said the biggest factor in his free agency decision will be signing with a team that is in position to contend.

“I’ve got a lot to think about,” George told ESPN. “This summer will be huge. I’ve got a lot to think about. If we’re trending, if we’re going in the right direction, if I feel there is something that we’re building, and there’s a foundation — it would be kind of clueless, just stupid on my behalf to up and leave.”

The Thunder were expected to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference after they acquired George and Carmelo Anthony this past offseason, but they have experienced some growing pains. They’ve looked better as of late, winning nine of their last 12 games.

George understands that developing championship chemistry takes time.

“I’m very conscious that we’re only together for a year so far, and we continue to go in an upward trend. It’s best to stick with what we have and work on building,” he said. “So, I wouldn’t say it’s championship or bust, or championship and I’m out. It’s all about building. If I like where we’re building or the level that we’re going at, it would be stupid to walk away from that.”

One of the biggest things working in the Thunder’s favor could be how unimpressive the Lakers have looked. George is from L.A., and the Lakers have long been considered the favorite to land him. While there’s still a chance they could sign George and another star player (LeBron James, perhaps?), they’re just 11-26 this year and Lonzo Ball has not been a huge difference-maker in his rookie season.

There have been rumors that teams will look to acquire George at the trade deadline, but OKC would probably rather ride it out if George if undecided about his future. At this point, it sounds like he genuinely is.

Thunder upset over referees missing call on final play

Giannis Antetokounmpo baseline

Several members of the Oklahoma City Thunder were upset after the officiating crew blew a call on the play that gave the Milwaukee Bucks a 97-95 victory against them on Friday night.

With the game tied at 95 in the final seconds, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo drove baseline for the winning basket. However, replay showed that he stepped on the baseline and was out of bounds.

That should have resulted in a turnover with the ball going to OKC.

Referee Derrick Stafford explained after the game why the play wasn’t reviewed so they could have changed the call.

That was no less comforting for the Thunder. Ray Felton, Paul George and Billy Donovan all vented about the missed call after the game.

That’s a really tough break for the Thunder. The game probably would have gone to overtime had the correct call been made.

Paul George admits struggling Thunder are frustrated

Paul George

The Oklahoma City Thunder are 8-11 after losing by double digits to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, and the frustration is starting to show.

Hopes were high when the team brought in Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to complement Russell Westbrook, but the team has had serious issues, particularly in crunch time. George admitted after the latest loss that the frustration is real.

There’s a case to be made that the Thunder have been frustrated with at least some aspects of their season for a while now. It is indisputable, however, that they are not where they want to be right now.