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Monday, June 17, 2019

Articles tagged: Oklahoma City Thunder

Thunder GM indicates head coach Billy Donovan’s job is safe

Billy Donovan

The Oklahoma City Thunder saw their season end on a disappointing note last week when they lost four out of five games against the Portland Trail Blazers, but it appears head coach Billy Donovan does not have to worry about his job status heading into next year.

While speaking with the media on Monday, Thunder general manager Sam Presti said he envisions Donovan being back with the team next season.

Donovan has a record of 199-129 in four seasons with the Thunder, but they have lost in the opening round of the playoffs the past three years. While a lot of that had to do with losing Kevin Durant in free agency, Paul George had an outstanding regular season this year and expectations were high with him and Russell Westbrook leading the way entering OKC’s series against Portland.

Of course, we all know how that worked out. The Thunder were embarrassed both with their play and by what Damian Lillard did to them to close out the series. While they weren’t expected to get past teams like the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, a lot of people picked them to pull the upset over Portland.

The Thunder picked up the fifth-year option on Donovan’s contract earlier in the season, and there had been talk that he could earn an extension with a strong showing in the postseason. He may have to enter next year as a lame duck, but it appears he will be keeping his job in the short-term.

Damian Lillard acknowledges tension between Blazers and Thunder

Damian Lillard

The first round of the NBA playoffs has been set, and one of the more intriguing matchups will be the one between the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder. There is not a lot of love lost between the two Western Conference teams, and Damian Lillard is making no effort to hide that.

When it became official that the No. 3 Blazers will take on the No. 6 Thunder, Lillard admitted to reporters that there is “something there” in terms of tension between the two teams.

That isn’t exactly a secret. Earlier this season, Lillard and Russell Westbrook had some heated moments and traded words during a game. Westbrook got physical with Jusuf Nurkic during the same game, and Nurkic trolled him on Twitter after Westbrook called the Blazers big man a “clown.”

The rivalry didn’t end there, as Westbrook also committed a foul on Nurkic last month that many felt was dirty and intentional.

If you like storylines in the playoffs, the Oklahoma City-Portland series will be one to watch.

Ranking the top 10 NBA contenders post-trade deadline

Joel Embiid 76ers

The NBA trade deadline has passed, which means we more or less know what teams will look like in the NBA playoffs. There will be a few new faces who join playoff teams, but the bulk of these rosters are in place. With most of the season behind us, we also know who will likely be making the playoffs and seeded highly for a Finals run.

Keeping in mind the trade deadline activity, here are the top ten contenders to take home the title in June.

10. Utah Jazz

The Jazz were ultimately quiet at the trade deadline despite being linked to Memphis guard Mike Conley. In the end, they will go with what they had, which isn’t bad. Donovan Mitchell is a star, and Rudy Gobert is playing with a point to prove after being a quite egregious All-Star snub. They’re not really deep enough to challenge the best of the West, and they don’t really have enough in the way of top-level talent, but they’re good enough to cause a few headaches.

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Nick Collison to be first Oklahoma City Thunder player with jersey retired

OKC Thunder logo

The Oklahoma City Thunder are giving the ultimate honor to a player who was mostly a reserve for the team.

OKC announced on Saturday that Nick Collison will have his jersey retired, becoming the first member of the Oklahoma City Thunder to receive that honor.

You’re probably wondering why a player who averaged 5.9 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game during his entire career is getting his jersey retired. Thunder GM Sam Presti shared their reasoning in a statement, lauding Collison for his work ethic and instilling a professional culture within the organization upon its move to a new city.

The ceremony will take place on March 20. Here’s a video the Thunder shared about the move:

Collison began his career with the Seattle SuperSonics in 2004. He remained with the organization through last season, helping the transition from Seattle to Oklahoma City.

Watch: Bulls, Thunder scuffle leads to double-technical fouls

Thunder Bulls scrap

Several players were hit with technical fouls for their roles in a third quarter scuffle between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls on Monday night.

Kris Dunn shoved Russell Westbrook with under five minutes remaining the quarter. Westbrook shoved him back. Then Jerami Grant came in to interfere, and Chicago’s Robin Lopez got in the middle and was the most heated of all.

Dunn, Westbrook, Grant and Lopez all received technical fouls for their actions.

A few minutes later, Lopez was ejected from the game after being called for a tech for dropping the ball onto Grant.

Lopez had it coming.

Billy Donovan could earn contract extension with strong playoff performance

Billy Donovan

The Oklahoma City Thunder appear to be committed to Billy Donovan at least into next season, but the head coach could earn even more job security if his team impresses in the postseason this year.

Donovan had the fifth-year option on his contract picked up by the Thunder on Monday, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski noted that Thunder Executive VP and GM Sam Presti considered the decision “largely a formality.” The real goal for Donovan will be to get more years tacked onto his contract, which is something that could happen if OKC has a strong showing in the playoffs.

The Thunder are off to an 18-10 start this year despite Russell Westbrook missing the start of the season with an injury, and they have reached the playoffs in each of Donovan’s first three seasons with the team. However, they were bounced in the first round the last two years, so they may need to advance beyond that for Donovan to convince the team he is worthy of an extension.

Donovan was criticized by Kevin Durant on social media last year, though the Golden State Warriors star later apologized. If Durant does have a negative opinion of his former coach, it does not sound like it is shared among the team’s executives.

Report: Nerlens Noel took less money to sign with Thunder

The Philadelphia 76ers were hoping Nerlens Noel would become a max contract player when they drafted him with the No. 6 overall pick back in 2013, but the 24-year-old big man signed a veteran minimum contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder this offseason. If Noel wanted more money, the offers were apparently out there.

According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, Noel had bigger offers than the two-year, $3.75 million deal he agreed to with the Thunder. The contract includes a player option for the second year, and Kyler notes that Noel believes in the situation in OKC and is betting on himself.

In other words, Noel is taking a similar approach to the one DeMarcus Cousins took when he agreed to sign a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors. Both players are hoping they will have successful seasons on quality teams and be able to sign bigger free agent deals next summer.

Noel averaged just 15.7 minutes with the Dallas Mavericks last season, and his career has not taken off due to injuries and some off-court issues. If he can prove himself with the Thunder, there will be plenty of teams willing to give him big money because of his age and potential.