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#pounditWednesday, September 23, 2020

Articles tagged: Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant: James Harden could have thrived as a sixth man with Thunder

Kevin Durant briefly allowed himself a look back, and he thinks there were a few chapters left to be written about Oklahoma City’s former Big Three.

Durant told Anthony Slater of the Mercury News that he believes James Harden could have thrived in a sixth man role with the Thunder had he not been traded to Houston.

“I think he’d have stayed in that role. I think so,” Durant said. “He’d have still been a really great player. You look at it, a lot of people wouldn’t have looked at him as a Sixth Man. He’d have been better. I think he’d have been better. Obviously I’m sure he loves what he’s doing now, but if we would’ve won a championship, I think the perception of him would’ve just been as a great player. ‘He’s the heart, he’s what makes us go.’ That’s what his label would’ve been, instead of just Sixth Man. He would’ve probably been the best Sixth Man that ever was.”

That’s all true, but eventually, something probably would have had to break. Harden is a guy who likes the ball and is currently an MVP frontrunner in Houston. Sharing the ball with Durant and Russell Westbrook would have grown old, and he’d have wanted a bigger role.

This may be wishful thinking and reminiscing on Durant’s part. The two are known to be close still and Durant is an avowed fan. The Warriors star would have liked it to work, but finances and roles dictated otherwise.

Report: Thunder talking extension with Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo

Steven Adams

The Oklahoma City Thunder may have lost Kevin Durant in free agency to the Golden State Warriors, but they’re working to keep a new core intact.

According to a report from The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Thunder are talking with Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo about rookie contract extensions.

Adams, 23, was a first-round pick by the Thunder in 2013 and has quickly developed into one of the better big men in the league. He emerged last postseason as he averaged 10.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game for OKC. Adams is under contract for $3.1 million this season and has a $4.3 million qualifying offer for next season, but the Thunder would like to get him under contract for longer.

Oladipo, 24, was the No. 2 overall pick in 2013 and was acquired by the Thunder in the Serge Ibaka trade. He has displayed a strong overall game, including 43 percent shooting, 80.8 percent from the line, and averages of 15.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4 assists per game during his career. Oladipo is making $6.5 million this season and can earn $8.5 million for his qualifying offer next season.

Kevin Durant says he never told Russell Westbrook he was staying in OKC

Kevin-Durant-Russell-Westbrook

Kevin Durant did not appreciate a recent report that said he lied to his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates about his free agency plans, so he decided to respond.

On the TrueHoop podcast this week, ESPN Thunder insider Royce Young said Durant had been telling people he was returning to OKC. That includes point guard Russell Westbrook, whom, in a recent dinner, Durant reportedly told he was staying with the Thunder.

Durant told The Vertical that’s not the case.

“It’s false,” Durant told The Vertical on Thursday. “I didn’t say that – words about me telling Russell or Nick that I would stay or leave never came out of my mouth. We met as teammates, but no promises came out of it. In this day and age, I can’t control anything people claim out there. Someone can go out and say something random right now, and people will believe it.

“I never told Russell or Nick [Collison], ‘All right, guys, I’m coming back to the Thunder’ – and then a week later, I decide not to. Never happened. I don’t operate like that. I heard people say that story, but it’s not the truth.”

Durant is adamant he never told his former teammates he was re-signing with them.

As is the case in most misunderstandings, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Though Durant may not have said the words, “I am going to re-sign with the Thunder, I promise,” to his former teammates, he could have made it seem to them like he was going to. Maybe he told them he’s not planning to go anywhere. That would be slightly different than a concrete promise because it leaves some wiggle room for plans to change.

Given the way Durant likes to please others and the way he has trouble disappointing people, we’re guessing he did make it seem to his former OKC teammates that he was going to stay with them. But when he got a chance to hear the presentations from other teams and sit down with his inner-circle, he probably decided moving on was best for him.

Three years ago Durant made a very serious decision in a capricious manner before walking it back months later (remember this?) The man is very prone to changing his mind on important matters. That could be what happened here.

Report: Thunder players were bothered by Kevin Durant’s relationship with Draymond Green

kevin-durant-draymond-green

Kevin Durant reportedly spoke with Draymond Green and other Golden State Warriors players about joining their team long before free agency began, and that did not sit well with Durant’s former teammates.

On his podcast “The Vertical Pod” this week, Adrian Wojnarowski revealed that Russell Westbrook and other Oklahoma City Thunder players were bothered by Durant’s friendly relationship with Green.

“I know Russell (Westbrook) was bothered by it, and some other teammates were too,” Woj said, as transcribed by Chuck Chaney of Thunder Digest. “There was some knowledge there that Draymond was in contact with Kevin all season long and they’re in a playoff series and I know there was some conversation around the Thunder team of. ‘Hey man, this guy kicked Steven Adams in the nuts twice in this series. What are you doing hanging out with this guy? What’s the relationship? We’re trying to beat these guys.'”

Warriors players reportedly texted Durant all throughout their record-breaking 73-win season, despite one of them — who has now been traded — claiming the team didn’t want Durant. There was a lot of hostility during the Western Conference Finals after Green kicked Adams in the groin (video here), so you can understand why Durant’s former teammates were irritated that K.D. had been buddy-buddy with Green for months.

While fans were shocked when Durant announced he was signing with Golden State, we know the Thunder front office saw it coming. The same is likely true of the players.

Thunder GM: We had ‘pretty good indication’ Kevin Durant was leaving

kevin-durant-press-conference

Oklahoma City Thunder fans may have been shocked on Monday when Kevin Durant announced he is leaving the team, but general manager Sam Presti saw it coming.

Durant personally called Presti minutes before the 27-year-old superstar revealed in a piece for The Players’ Tribune that he is signing with the Golden State Warriors. Presti says he was very prepared for what he was about to hear.

“When you do this long enough, I would say this: I would say we have means known and unknown to try to understand and interpret where things probably are headed, and so we had a pretty good indication, I think, that this was a potential outcome,” the GM said, per Royce Young of ESPN.com.

It’s unclear when Durant made up his mind, but it must have been hard for him to meet with the Thunder twice if he already knew he was joining the Warriors. That would almost be like knowing you’re about break up with your girlfriend the next time you see her but having her call you five times before that to talk about all the fun you’re going to have together this weekend.

To his credit, Presti has had nothing but good things to say about Durant over the past 24 hours.

“I found out a few minutes before the media,” he said. “He called me with his agent and business manager, and we had a conversation. Kevin was great.”

Durant told Presti the same things he wrote when revealing his decision — that he wants to step outside his comfort zone and take on a new challenge. Some would argue that K.D. is doing the opposite of taking on a challenge, and one of Durant’s tweets from several years ago shows how much he has changed.

At the end of the day, Durant went about his decision the right way. There was no special on ESPN and he didn’t have his agent do the dirty work for him by calling his former team. The decision is a tough one for Presti, the Thunder and their fans to swallow, but you can’t blame a guy for chasing a championship when rings have become the measuring stick for success in professional sports.

Report: Thunder may try to extend Russell Westbrook contract, trade possible if he refuses

Russell Westbrook

One of the biggest questions arising from Kevin Durant’s decision to join Golden State: where does that leave Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City?

Westbrook is due to become a free agent next summer, and some would argue that Durant’s departure reduces the chances of him staying in Oklahoma City long-term. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, though, the Thunder are assessing all their options, and may approach Westbrook to try to renegotiate and extend his contract to keep him from getting to free agency in the first place.

NBA executives also told Windhorst, however, that they believe the Thunder will entertain trading Westbrook if he is unwilling to extend his deal.

It’s unlikely that there will be any movement on this front anytime soon, as the Thunder are well within their rights to take some time to assess the state of the roster and make decisions.

The problem for Oklahoma City is that there’s little incentive for Westbrook to sign long-term right now. Another salary cap hike next summer means he’ll stand to earn significantly more if he waits until then to sign a new contract, be it with Oklahoma City or someone else. That lends some credence to the thinking that the Thunder may opt to trade Westbrook now. They have a front office that subscribes to the belief that they’d rather sell their assets and get something for them than lose them for nothing. It’s why they traded Serge Ibaka, though Westbrook is certainly more vital to OKC than Ibaka and we don’t have any reason to believe that Westbrook is unhappy with the state of things like Ibaka apparently was. The Thunder will likely take the temperature of the situation, figure out how Westbrook is feeling and where his ambitions lie, and go from there.

Report: Kevin Durant likely to return to Thunder, decision ’90 percent made’

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is gearing up for his first free agency, but he reportedly already has his heart set on returning to his current team.

Citing associates close to Durant, The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears reported Thursday that all signs point to the Thunder superstar returning to Oklahoma City on a one-year deal.

“His decision is 90 percent made,” a longtime friend of Durant told Spears. “It would take an amazing sales pitch to change it.”

“It’s going to take some sweet-talking to get him to pass up all the money he can get by staying in OKC,” another person close to Durant said.

Durant will reportedly be open-minded when he meets with other interested parties, with the Warriors in particular viewed as the real threat to Oklahoma City. Spears affirmed, though, that Durant leaving this offseason would be “stunning,” with a potential departure in 2017 once the salary cap rises again viewed as much more possible.

All along, this seemed the most likely scenario. For all the conjecture about other teams and a string of visits, staying in Oklahoma City was always the most obvious solution. He’d still be with a contender, could make the most money staying there, and would be setting himself up for a big payday again in a year’s time. Other teams seem aware of it too, given the speculation that Durant’s upcoming meetings are more of an attempt to plant seeds in his mind for next summer as opposed to any real expectation of luring him away now.

Report: Thunder trying to sign Al Horford

Al Horford

The Oklahoma City Thunder are interested in signing another top free agent to potentially pair with Kevin Durant next season, as they are reportedly looking to make a run at Al Horford.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Thunder have been calling teams around the league in an attempt to clear enough salary cap space with the goal being to sign both Durant and Horford.

That makes perfect sense given that the Thunder just traded power forward Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic. We all know OKC would not have traded Ibaka if Durant didn’t want it to happen, and Durant was said to be “fine” with the deal. There’s a good chance Durant informed the Thunder that he wants to play with Horford. That’s why a team like the Boston Celtics, who have enough cap space to sign both Durant and Horford, are in the running. The Thunder are likely trying to put themselves in the same position.

Durant is reportedly choosing between these six teams, but the Thunder have an obvious advantage. They were just one win away from the NBA Finals last season, and Durant doesn’t have much to lose by signing a two-year extension with an opt-out clause and revisiting free agency next summer. Russell Westbrook will also be a free agent then, so he and K.D. can make a decision together if they want.

If the Thunder find a way to land Horford, they are probably a lock to re-sign Durant.

Thunder reportedly get first meeting with Kevin Durant before free agency opens

kevin-durant-press-conference

Kevin Durant will reportedly give the Oklahoma City Thunder the first opportunity to speak to him before free agency even opens.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, Durant is set to meet with Oklahoma City on Thursday, a day before teams are allowed to discuss contract terms with free agents. The meeting will likely be focused on team direction instead of more specific topics that could violate league rules.

Durant will fly to New York afterwards, with his meeting with Golden State set for Friday. The San Antonio Spurs will follow on Saturday, and the Miami Heat will get their shot on Sunday.

It adds more credence to the theory that Durant is most likely to stay with Oklahoma City. He has said that this will be a “basketball decision” for him, and given his comfort level and the financial implications, the Thunder are likeliest destination for the star.

Agent says Serge Ibaka was promised, not given larger role in Thunder offense

Serge Ibaka

Oklahoma City’s decision to trade Serge Ibaka caught people by surprise, but the more we learn, the more it makes sense why they did what they did.

Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical reported Saturday that Ibaka was unlikely to remain with the Thunder after his contract expired next summer, and that he had damaged his relationship with the team and some players due to his lobbying for a larger role in the offense.

Ibaka’s agent, Andy Miller, confirmed to the Vertical that Ibaka had wanted an advanced role and not been given one, despite assurances otherwise.

“There was an expectation of a larger role,” Miller said. “It was overpromised and under-delivered. Everyone should be held to the same level of accountability across the board.”

It’s quite clear now that Ibaka wasn’t satisfied with his role in Oklahoma City. He’s entering a contract year, there will be a ton of money flying around the NBA in the summer of 2017, and a bigger role would give him more of a chance of getting in on it. He’ll have a better crack at that in Orlando than he would have in Oklahoma City, and once the Thunder heard that Kevin Durant was okay with a deal, it was probably a fairly straightforward decision for the front office.