Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma City Thunder’

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant took some time to reflect on leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder, and then he let everything out.

Durant admitted he was upset by how OKC fans turned on him after he chose to sign with Golden State, but he’ll ultimately look back fondly on his eight seasons with the Thunder.

“That stuff right there is going to last forever,” Durant told Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report. “That stuff is way, way more important than a championship. Me and my family didn’t just erase those eight years in OKC. D.C. and OKC is where we grew up – my mom, my brother, me.

“I am OKC. I’m still OKC. That blue is going to be in my blood forever. That place raised me. I have people there who would take a bullet for me and vice versa. But there’s a point in a young man’s life, just like when he goes off to college, or when he moves to another city to get a job, he’s got to make a decision for himself. You’ve got to make a decision that’s best for yourself and you would expect the people that love you the most to say they understand.”

The response from Thunder fans was similar to that of Cleveland when LeBron James left for Miami in 2010, after Durant’s announcement on The Players’ Tribune that he would take his talents to the 73-win team that eliminated the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. Durant instantly went from being their favorite son to being hated, as fans responded by burning his jersey, flooding his social media mentions, and one person went so far as to fire an automatic rifle at his old uniform.

His former Thunder teammates followed suit. Russell Westbrook, who Durant once called his brother, played up the rivalry at every possible opportunity, which further endeared him to Thunder fans and made his bitterness toward Durant into a national storyline.

For better or for worse, these are people in his life that he’ll cherish, regardless of whether he gets the same love in return, or not.

“Those people really mean a lot to me to this day. No matter if they talk to me or they’re mad at me. Whether it’s Sam Presti or Troy Weaver or Russell Westbrook or Nick Collison. Whether it’s Wilson Taylor or Clay Bennett and his family, I love them from the bottom of my heart. We’re not talking, but eventually we will,” Durant said.

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Russell Westbrook might be the most aggressive basketball player on the planet.

That approach to the game had Jason Kidd comparing the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard to one of the most feared boxers ever.

“He is the (Mike) Tyson of basketball,” the Milwaukee Bucks coach said Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell.

“When the jump ball (goes up), he is coming as Tyson did (in getting) off the stool. When the bell rings, he’s coming for you. Whenever he’s on the floor, he plays at one speed and that’s fast and hard.”

Kidd, who had a Hall of Fame-worthy career as an NBA guard, wasn’t done praising Westbrook.

“He’s the best in the game,” the 10-time All-Star said. “Puts a lot of pressure on your defense, offensively and defensively.”

Those words rang true later Tuesday, as the reigning league MVP registered 12 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists in 26 minutes as OKC stomped the Bucks 110-91 at Bradley Center.

No matter what Phil Jackson or the New York Knicks threw at him last season, Carmelo Anthony remained professional and committed to the club.

That didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates, who voted him 2017 Teammate of the Year.

Kristaps Porzingis praised the manner in which Anthony handled off-court drama, including Jackson’s public and relentless efforts to get rid of him.

“You could never tell that something was going on,” Porzingis told ESPN’s Ian Begley.

“He was always calm, collected – every day. It was no big deal for him, all the off-court stuff. And that’s one thing I can learn from him – ‘don’t give a sh–‘ (about the drama). He was just doing his thing and focusing on things he needs to focus on and not letting anything else come in his way.”

Other teammates echoed that sentiment, saying the 10-time All-Star stayed positive, supportive, and helpful despite everything he was going through.

“He was getting it from every angle,” Courtney Lee said. “So for him to be that mentally tough and still show up and still come to work and fight with us, our level of respect grew for him.”

Following months of trade rumors, Anthony was dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder in September. Jackson – who was also willing to trade Porzingis after he skipped the team’s exit meeting – was canned in late June.

Having outlasted both, Porzingis has become the new face of the Knicks. The 22-year-old power forward averaged 18 points, 7.2 rebounds, two blocks, and 1.5 assists as a sophomore last season. He’ll try his best to step up and lead the team to the playoffs for the first time in five years.

Should he struggle, the New York media will not go easy on him. Luckily, Melo taught him not to give a damn.

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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.

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.