Northwest Notes: Thunder, McCollum, Thibodeau

Though he’s played sparingly for the Thunder since making his return, the addition of Cameron Payne has made head coach Billy Donovan‘s job setting each game’s active lineup that much harder. With Payne in the mix, players like Kyle Singler and Semaj Christon have been inactive, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman.

Horne relays that Thunder coaches generally decide close to the morning shootaround which of their players will be inactive for the upcoming game. In some scenarios, as was recently the case with Victor Oladipo, those decisions are delayed until later in the day to accommodate for the fluctuating status of injured players.

As a coach you always want every guy to dress, for every guy to play and be available, but we can’t do that,” Donovan says. “The decisions are a little bit easier because of the kind of guys we have on our team.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Veteran Brandon Rush didn’t disappoint when called to produce for the Timberwolves, writes Kent Youngblood of the StarTribune. Rush’s ability to knock down threes and stretch the floor did not go unnoticed by his coach and teammates while he filled in for Zach LaVine. “That shows how valuable he is,” Minnesota big man Karl-Anthony Towns said. “And how professional he is, to be ready for the moment he was needed.” With LaVine’s status still uncertain, Rush could be featured prominently once again.
  • The Timberwolves are showing progress on the defensive end of late, Youngblood writes in a separate piece for the StarTribune. Youngblood cites the team’s eighth-best net rating (plus-2.3) since December 13 as a sign that things are turning around. “One game doesn’t solve everything for us,” says Tom Thibodeau, a head coach renowned for his defense. “But I like the direction we’re moving in now.”
  • At the halfway point of the 2016/17 campaign, Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News evaluates the Jazz. The team was considered a potential playoff contender during the offseason and McDonald concludes that thanks in part to the depth of their roster, Utah is not only on track to make the postseason for the first time since 2012, but to potentially claim home-court advantage in the first round.
  • It’s time to seriously consider C.J. McCollum among the league’s best shooters, says Zach Lowe for ESPN. Given McCollum’s first rate pull-up jumper, Lowe is ready to lump the Trail Blazers guard in with the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver.

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