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#pounditSaturday, January 16, 2021

Articles tagged: Oklahoma City Thunder

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.

Most disappointing teams of the NBA season so far

“With great power comes great responsibility,” a fictional arachnid man’s uncle once famously said. Personally, I would revise that adage to say, “With great expectations come great responsbility.” Many an NBA team has lived up to said expectations so far this season, and many others have flopped worse than Marcus Smart. Here’s looking at those who fall into the latter category.

*Stats courtesy of NBA.com and ESPN*

Oklahoma City Thunder

Going back to actual team basketball after Russell Westbrook’s “I AM the Senate” season was always going to be difficult, especially with the arrival of glitzy but needy new running mates in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. But the Thunder have been such mayhem that Allstate won’t even touch them. The ball sticks like velcro, weak-side motion is eschewed in favor of a merry-go-round of isolation play, and fourth-quarter crunchtime is where the entire team goes to die.

Rest assured, there’s reason for optimism — Oklahoma City’s hyper-switching defensive scheme ranks second in the league with a smothering 98.5 points allowed per 100 possessions, and they are still a tremendous offensive rebounding team despite the loss of Enes Kanter. A blowout win over Golden State on national television Wednesday was nice too. But 8-10 is not good for a team that had such high expectations heading into the year, and the luxury of time unfortunately doesn’t exist in the abusive Western Conference.

Milwaukee Bucks

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Report: Thunder ownership prepared to pay huge luxury tax bill to retain core

The Oklahoma City Thunder have Russell Westbrook locked down long-term, and they’re ready to pay even more money to keep the core together.

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Oklahoma City ownership is prepared to pay a luxury tax bill higher than $140 million to go all-in with what they have.

We already had a pretty clear idea that the Thunder were all-in given their big acquisitions this summer, and they’d probably like to keep Paul George long-term if they can. The luxury tax bill, for now, seems to be a secondary concern.

10 teams that improved the most this NBA offseason

Jimmy Butler

Though there was no single Kevin-Durant-to-Golden-State-sized splash in the NBA this offseason, teams made move after move to jockey with the Warriors in an attempt to interrupt their reign of terror.

The Rockets took a leap of faith and traded the farm for an aging Chris Paul. The Celtics used their cap space to reunite Gordon Hayward with Brad Stevens, then got rid of an asset in Avery Bradley to balance their checkbook. The Timberwolves suddenly became a legitimate Western Conference contender by ripping off the Bulls.

There were so many moves, in fact — so many trades and so many signings — that, now that the league’s transaction churn and burn has finally calmed, it’s hard to believe all that actually happened. To sum it up:

We’re going to see a lot of familiar faces in new jerseys come this fall (the preseason begins Sept. 30). But which of those players will make the biggest impact, and which teams will look the most improved? Which 2017-18 NBA squad will make the biggest leap?

It’s too early to know, of course, but below is my take on the 10 NBA teams that improved the most this offseason.

10. Denver Nuggets

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Report: Thunder optimistic Russell Westbrook will sign extension

Russell Westbrook is eligible to opt out of his current contract after the 2017-2018 season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder are reportedly confident they can sign him to an extension before he becomes a free agent.

Earlier in the week, Paul George implied that he and Westbrook will make a joint decision at the end of the upcoming season about whether or not they want to remain in OKC. According to Royce Young of ESPN.com, the Thunder are optimistic Westbrook isn’t planning to test free agency like George.

Westbrook showed his commitment to the Thunder after Kevin Durant left last year by signing a three-year, $85.7 million extension. He seemed to embrace being “the man” after Durant skipped town, so there’s no reason to think Westbrook would be influenced by what George does down the road.

The Thunder have openly said they have offered Westbrook a max contract and are simply waiting for his response. The reigning NBA MVP is eligible to add about five years and $207 million to the $28.5 million he is scheduled to make next season, which would be similar to the deal James Harden signed with the Houston Rockets this offseason.

With the way Westbrook has acted toward Durant since K.D. left, it would be a bad look if Russ did the same. The Thunder have already shown they are trying to build a contender around Westbrook by trading for George, and George is already looking forward to competing with his new teammate in one unique category. It wouldn’t be a shock if both decided to stick around.

Paul George says he would be ‘dumb’ to leave Thunder if they can win

Paul George

The Oklahoma City Thunder took a chance on Paul George as a potential one-year rental, but it sounds like it is hardly a guarantee that they will lose the star swingman in free agency next summer.

A lot has been made of George wanting to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, and that is why some teams were unwilling to get into a bidding war to acquire him this offseason. If you ask George, too much has been made of it.

In an interview with Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, George said talk of his desire to play for the Lakers has been “overstated.” He also strongly implied that he will re-sign with the Thunder if they make it to the Western Conference Finals.

“People saying I want to come here, who doesn’t want to play for their hometown? That’s a dream come true, if you’re a kid growing up on the outskirts of L.A., to be the man in your city,” George said. “But it’s definitely been overstated. For me, it’s all about winning. I want to be in a good system, a good team. I want a shot to win it. I’m not a stats guy. I’m playing this game to win and build a legacy of winning.

“I’ve yet to do that. I’m searching for it. If we get a killer season in Oklahoma, we make the conference finals or upset the Warriors or do something crazy, I’d be dumb to want to leave that.”

The Lakers are a young team with a lot to prove. While George still has plenty of good basketball left, he’s 27 and has already suffered one devastating knee injury. His NBA career could very well be more than halfway over, and he’s not going to sign with L.A. based on nostalgia alone.

“It would have to be a situation where the ball gets rolling and guys are hopping on. This guy commits, that guy commits. ‘Oh s—, now there’s a team forming.’ It has to be like that,” George said. “I’m in OKC, so hopefully me and (Russell Westbrook) do a good enough job and make it to the conference finals and love the situation, why not recruit someone to come build it with us? I’m open in this whole process.”

George has a unique opportunity in Oklahoma City, and reports like this make it sound like the Thunder could have robbed the Indiana Pacers. With Kevin Durant having crushed the hopes of fans in OKC, George has a chance to be their savior. The support he would receive during a deep playoff run just might be enough to convince him to stay.

10 winners and losers from the NBA offseason so far

Paul George

Between the NBA Draft and free agency, the first month of the offseason is one of the most exciting times of year for basketball fans. Trades take place pre and post-draft, teams add new players via the draft, and then the wild free agency period begins on July 1.

Many teams have re-shaped their rosters. Some have lost talent, while others have made gains. Some moves have impacted organizations much more than others.

Here’s a look at 10 winners and losers from the NBA offseason so far.

WINNERS

1) Oklahoma City Thunder

Sam Presti strikes again. The Thunder have a rare situation where trading for Paul George, even purely as a rental, makes sense.

In 2017-18, Russell Westbrook will have some actual assistance from a second bonafide star in George, who can at least help Oklahoma City recover some of what they lost when Kevin Durant skipped town. Westbrook being the entire offense was fun, and led to some remarkable stat lines, but it’s not a long-term solution for winning.

What about the future? George will probably leave after the season, but the deal brings two other benefits aside from the obvious. First, Oklahoma City will have some cap flexibility even if he walks. Second, by making a deal like this, Presti and the Thunder have once again demonstrated to Westbrook that they are committed to building a talented group around him — which could help convince him to re-sign for the long haul when his number comes up next summer.

And after trading for George, Presti wasn’t done. He signed Patrick Patterson to a 3-year, $16.4 million deal to help make up for the loss of Taj Gibson. The Thunder are also bringing back defensive stalwart Andre Roberson on a completely reasonable three-year, $30 million contract.

2) Minnesota Timberwolves

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