Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma City Thunder’

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Oklahoma City is one of the smallest cities in America to boast a professional sports team, but it’s clear the Thunder‘s bankroll is anything but tiny. Even after reportedly agreeing to a five-year extension that brings Russell Westbrook‘s outlook to an NBA-record $233 million over the next six seasons, the franchise may have its sights set on new financial stratospheres.

The Thunder’s ownership group is reportedly committed to taking on a massive luxury-tax bill next season, according to former NBA general manager and current ESPN analyst Bobby Marks.

That suggests the Thunder don’t envision recent offseason additions Paul George and Carmelo Anthony as rental players and will attempt to retain their new core past 2017-18. George and Anthony each have player options for the 2018-19 season reportedly valued at $20.7 million and $27.9 million, respectively.

George will almost certainly decline his option, entering unrestricted free agency. The Thunder hold his Bird Rights, allowing them to go over the salary cap to re-sign him, and if he makes an All-NBA Team, he’ll be eligible for the Designated Veteran Player Extension – what Westbrook reportedly agreed to Friday.

Anthony may very well decide to execute his player option, as he’ll be 34 years old next summer and, depending on how this year with the Thunder goes, may not be able to attract a significantly better deal on the open market.

The 2018-19 luxury tax threshold is projected to be $123 million, based on the league reportedly informing teams to budget for a $101-million salary cap. Teams whose salaries exceed the tax limit pay additional fees based on how much they overspend. Unless the Thunder dump about $13 million in salary before the end of this season, they’ll have to pay the even more exorbitant repeater tax, after being a tax-paying franchise in three of the past four seasons.

For instance, the Thunder would pay an additional $2.50 per dollar every dollar over the tax limit, up to $5 million; the taxes become increasingly punitive for each tax bracket, eventually reaching $4.25 per dollar for teams that spend greater than $20 million over the tax limit. If the Thunder entered 2018-19 with a $143-million team salary, they would pay approximately $65 million in luxury taxes.

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NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets

The new-look Houston Rockets have yet to take the floor together as a collective unit, yet James Harden is ready to board the hype train by comparing his current roster to perhaps the best one he’s ever been a part of.

Harden has just one NBA Finals appearance on his resume. It came back in 2012 with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who fell in five games to the Heatles of South Beach. So are this year’s Rockets as good as that Thunder squad?

“Both teams are similar as far as talent and versatility, a mixture of vets and young guys. Both are very, very, very talented,” Harden told Vice Sports’ Michael Pina. “Now, obviously, the difference is we were younger back then, but both are good.”

Harden was in his third season in the Association when Oklahoma City advanced to the Finals, and hadn’t blossomed into the full-fledged megastar he is today. He was, however, honored as the Sixth Man of the Year for his contributions during the 66-game campaign, averaging 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists coming off the bench.

Equipped with a young Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka, as well as established veterans Derek Fisher, Kendrick Perkins, and Nazr Mohammed, the Thunder had the pieces in place to be a mainstay in the Finals picture. Harden, though, was shipped off to Houston that summer after failing to agree to a contract extension.

Bringing in Chris Paul to run the point single-handedly reshaped the Rockets. Not only does it pair Harden with another All-Star in the backcourt, but it also took a bite out of a core that had just increased its season win total from 41 victories to 55, with Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell going to the Los Angeles Clippers.

CP3 is indisputably the best player Harden’s had on his team since his days in OKC, which helps explain why he’s so optimistic about the Rockets’ chances moving forward, and why he’s willing to make such comparisons. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon, sharpshooting forward Ryan Anderson, and big man Nene are at least still around, while Houston added depth at the wing positions by signing both P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute.

Ultimately, the ’12 Thunder will have the edge until Harden’s Rockets compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy themselves.

OKC Thunder Paul George

New team, new jersey, new goals.

He’s been ranked among the top stars in the world for the better part of five seasons now, but Paul George has his sights set on taking his game to another level.

After the launch event for the Thunder‘s new Statement jersey, George was asked by NBA TV’s Dennis Scott whether the thought of winning the MVP Award this coming season had crossed his mind.

“Man, I’m going for it,” George told Scott. “Every summer I train to do it, and it just seems every summer I add something new and I learn something about myself. This summer I really wanted to attack the weight room and strengthen my body, strengthen my core. I can definitely say that was the next step, to be able to sustain the wear and tear throughout the whole season. So, I’m going for it; I’m going for that hardware.”

Of course, George will have some steep internal competition among his new Thunder teammates. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook – fresh off a historic triple-double season in which he averaged a league-high 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game – is still expected to account for much of the Thunder’s scoring and ball handling.

If George is to seriously contend for the highest honor doled out for regular season performance, he’ll have to do so at both ends of the floor, helping Westbrook shoulder the load on offense while routinely locking down the opponents’ best scorers.

 NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Boston Celtics
 

When a beloved, high-profile NBA talent elects to take his talents elsewhere in free agency, they’re mostly met with a barrage of negativity from their former fan base and media for a business decision they had every right to make.

But when management moves a player who had every intention to stay around for the long haul, there’s not nearly as much outrage, if any.

All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas feels as such about his move to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thomas said he hopes his trade from the Boston Celtics will open up eyes about the double standard, while using Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors as a prime example to support the other side.

“I actually think this was a good lesson,” Thomas wrote in The Players’ Tribune. “Not only for me, but for the league as a whole. And for the fans and the media, too, you know, just in terms of how they talk about guys changing teams.

“I was thinking about that last year with KD and his free agency – about how people gave him such a hard time for doing what he felt was best for him and his future. How they turned him into a villain, just for doing what was his right to do as a free agent in this league. Suddenly, it was, ‘Oh, he’s selfish,’ or, ‘Oh, he’s a coward.’ Suddenly, just for doing business on his end, and doing right by himself, he was portrayed as this bad guy.”

Thomas added that the pain of being shipped off by the Celtics still lingers to this day, and that loyalty is really “just a word” if players who displayed his level of commitment can be sent packing.

“I want them to see how my getting traded – just like that, without any warning – by the franchise that I scratched and clawed for, and bled for, and put my everything on the line for? That’s why people need to fix their perspective,” Thomas wrote.

“It’s like, man – with a few exceptions, unless we’re free agents, 99 times out of 100, it’s the owners with the power. So when players are getting moved left and right, and having their lives changed without any say-so, and it’s no big deal … but then the handful of times it flips, and the player has control … then it’s some scandal? Just being honest, but – to me, that says a lot about where we are as a league, and even as a society. And it says a lot about how far we still have to go.”

Nonetheless, Thomas says there’s “no hard feelings” with Boston, although he’s still hopeful the basketball world will look at what happened to him and perhaps think twice the next time it wants to pile on a departing free agent.

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Kevin Durant thinks his apparent beef with Russell Westbrook is overblown.

The Golden State Warriors forward revealed that while he and Westbrook no longer talk, he doesn’t believe their friendship has taken a huge hit over the last year.

“I don’t think we ever stopped being friends,” Durant said on “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” “We just stopped talking – but I don’t think we stopped being friends.”

Durant’s relationship with Westbrook reportedly took a turn for the worse after he signed with the Golden State Warriors last summer. Westbrook reportedly responded to the move by deleting the 6-foot-9 forward’s goodbye text, leading Durant to admit their relationship would never “be the same again.”

Despite what the rest of the NBA world may think, Durant doesn’t believe there’s any animosity between him and his former teammate at the moment.

“(We’re) not talking, nah, but I mean, I don’t think any … there’s no problems,” Durant said. “But I don’t think we ever stopped being friends.”

Durant did his best to squash the supposed beef earlier this offseason, congratulating Westbrook after the 6-foot-3 guard took home MVP honors.

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Led by Russell Westbrook‘s triple-double tear for the ages, the Oklahoma City Thunder fared quite well in their first season without former NBA MVP Kevin Durant, winning 47 games and advancing to the playoffs, though they did get bounced in the opening round.

Nonetheless, the Thunder are well equipped to return to prominence in the Western Conference in 2017-18 after acquiring Paul George. Along with Westbrook and center Steven Adams, Oklahoma City has an elite Big 3 at its disposal that Durant isn’t exactly looking forward to battling with the Golden State Warriors.

“But they got Russ and PG and Steven Adams to be their Big 3. I think if they feed off each other, it could be great,” Durant told The Athletic’s Anthony Slater. “I’m a fan of the game. So I can see if something is going to work or not and I think that’s going to be a really, really great pairing. It’s going to suck for us and the rest of the league. But as a fan of the game, it’s going to be tight to see how they work that thing out.”

The West in general has undergone a major transformation in a short period of time. The Houston Rockets landed Chris Paul to play alongside James Harden, the Minnesota Timberwolves made a huge splash to acquire Jimmy Butler, and Paul Millsap signed with the rising Denver Nuggets. That doesn’t even take into account the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers, and Los Angeles Clippers, who won’t be easy outs themselves.

Golden State won 67 games in 2016-17, and lost just once en route to its second title in three years. Durant realizes it’s going to be much more difficult to replicate that level of success in the revamped West, yet he’s ready to face that challenge head on.

“It is a new landscape. And I like it. I don’t know how it’s going to work together, but I can’t wait to see it all. It’s going to be fun every night,” he added. “You’re going to see what you’re supposed to be seeing, not a bunch of dudes you know aren’t good on the court. There’s going to be a bunch of talent on the floor, top to bottom.”

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Giannis Antetokounmpo may have “loyalty inside his DNA,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean the 22-year-old phenom will remain in Milwaukee for the entirety of his career.

The Bucks forward was non-committal when asked about his future in Milwaukee, saying that many players have expressed their desire to stay in a particular city before bolting for greener pastures.

“A lot of people say they’re going to stay on a team and decide to move to a different team,” Giannis said at a recent event in Manila, Philippines. “But you guys got to remember: A guy might want to stay on a team, but the team doesn’t do the right things and the right moves for the player to become great.”

The 2017 All-Star added that Kevin Durant gave every indication that he planned to stay with the Thunder, but ultimately left Oklahoma City after the team failed to win a title.

“KD, the reason he wanted to stay in OKC was to win, right? So, they didn’t win the championship,” Giannis said. “That’s why he decided to leave. So do not hate only the player, because sometimes it’s not up to the player.”

While Giannis’ comments may be a little unsettling for Bucks fans, the 6-foot-11 forward still has four years remaining on his contract, and he won’t become an unrestricted free agent until the summer of 2021.