In the wake of a historic regular-season performance that could earn Russell Westbrook an MVP award, Lee Jenkins of SI.com and Royce Young of ESPN.com took deep dives this week into Oklahoma City’s year, providing several interesting tidbits in their pieces. Jenkins, for instance, reports that several high-ranking executives in the Thunder‘s front office rejected job offers from rival teams within the last year, as those clubs anticipated a “post-Durant exodus” that never materialized.
Meanwhile, Young writes that after Durant left for Golden State last July, the Thunder did their due diligence by fielding trade calls on Westbrook from a number of teams, but “never remotely considered” trading their star point guard. If Westbrook had turned down the opportunity to sign an extension with OKC, the Thunder’s stance may have shifted, but the team preferred to lock up Westbrook for multiple years rather than to consider moving him.
Here are a few more notes and rumors from across the Northwest division:
- Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau held his end-of-season press conference today, expressing a desire to bring back potential RFA Shabazz Muhammad, and suggesting that his club’s most pressing offseason needs are defense (specifically on the wing), shot-blocking, and shooting (link via 5 Eyewitness News).
- Asked earlier this week if he wants to remain in Minnesota and win with the Timberwolves, Ricky Rubio said he wants to win, but was noncommittal about whether it will happen with the Wolves, noting that that decision is ultimately up to the team (link via Marca.com; translation via HoopsHype).
- The Trail Blazers will avoid the luxury tax by the slimmest of margins after Maurice Harkless earned a $500K bonus for shooting over 35% on three-pointers. According to Bobby Marks of The Vertical (Twitter link), Portland will finish $4,462 below the tax line. By comparison, the one-day minimum salary for a rookie this season was worth $3,197.
- After being relied on as a top scoring threat for years, Joe Johnson has thrived this year in a reduced role and as a veteran mentor for the Jazz, writes Kareem Copeland of The Associated Press. Johnson remains under contract for one more year.