Thunder Rumors

Northwest Notes: George, Schedules, Rose

As we’ve already touched upon, fans in Los Angeles who hope to see Paul George don a Lakers uniform next season serenaded the five-time All-Star with chants during this past weekend’s All-Star festivities. And while Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook would obviously like to see George remain in Oklahoma City, the speculation about George’s future likely won’t stop until a decision is made this summer, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman.

George, who is scheduled to make $20.7MM next year on the final season of his current contract, has the ability to opt out and become a free agent this summer. Doing so would afford him the chance to make upwards of $30MM next season in the first year of his new contract, whether it be with the Thunder or another team.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports that while some NBA executives still feel that George is drawn by Los Angeles and will leave unless the Thunder reach the NBA Finals, others have become increasingly skeptical that he’ll depart Oklahoma City. Regardless of what happens, George says he wants wherever he ends up to be a long-term commitment.

“I’m not looking to bounce around and play for multiple teams throughout my career,” George said. “The decision I make will ultimately be to build something. So, this next decision, whatever it is, is to make sure I’m there for a duration.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Some members of the Timberwolves believe that the new NBA schedule, implemented this season to reduce the number of back-to-back games and ensure teams now don’t play four games in five nights, is actually making the season feel longer, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. “You can tell there’s a big difference,” says Taj Gibson. “A lot of guys are getting hurt. The fatigue is there.”
  • The Jazz, on the other hand, have one of the most favorable slates in the whole league going forward after drudging through a 5-10 December that saw them play the toughest schedule in the NBA. And Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News opines that the favorable schedule could see Utah, now 10th in the Western Conference standings, move as high as the No. 5 spot by the time the playoffs roll around.
  • In another article for the Star Tribune, Zgoda writes that Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler, while a fan of free agent guard and former teammate Derrick Rose, will not try to influence the team to sign Rose. “That’s not my job,” Butler said. “Is he a hell of a player? Yeah. But that’s up to Thibs and everybody else to figure if he has a place on this roster and this team. Obviously, I’ve played with him before. I know the talent he has. (But) It’s not my job to say.”

NBA Players Weigh In On 2018 Free Agency

With a big offeason looming once the 2017/18 NBA regular season comes to an end, several ESPN writers spoke to NBA players to get their predictions on where they expect some of this summer’s top free agents to land. In total, 48 players weighed in. Here are some highlights from the results of ESPN’s survey:

  • LeBron James is considered likely to return to the Cavaliers, with 59% of the respondents picking Cleveland as his free agency destination, while 22% chose the Lakers. “He won’t leave after all the moves they made last week,” one Eastern Conference forward said of LeBron, referring to the Cavs’ trade-deadline deals. Asked where James should sign, even more respondents (66%) voted for Cleveland.
  • If James does decide he wants to join the Lakers, the LaVar Ball show won’t be a deterrent, according to 89% of the players surveyed. “If LeBron comes to L.A., then it’s the LeBron show. Not the Ball show,” said one Eastern Conference center.
  • Most of the survey respondents (80%) believe DeMarcus Cousins will re-sign with the Pelicans.
  • Only 33% of the players surveyed expect Paul George to be in the Thunder‘s opening-night lineup for 2018/19.
  • The respondents are slightly in favor (59%) of maximum salary contracts existing in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. “LeBron, Steph and KD, all those guys bring a lot more than what they’re getting paid,” said one Western Conference guard. “But being a lower-tier salary guy myself, if you pay those guys even more, the lower guys on the totem pole don’t really get anything.”
  • Asked which teams make the best pitches to free agents, players chose the Celtics (27%), Heat (15%), Lakers (12%), and Warriors (9%), with nine other clubs receiving votes. One Eastern Conference guard on Boston: “If you bring Tom Brady? That’s pretty damn cool.”

Thunder Notes: Durant, Westbrook, George, Technicals

Kevin Durant is taking the blame for the strained relationship with former teammate Russell Westbrook, according to an article on NBC Sports Bay Area. Since Durant left the Thunder in July of 2016, he and Westbrook have been engaged in a simmering feud, and Durant believes he could have handled the situation better.

“Well I just got outta my own head, got out of my own ways and stopped thinking it was even a thing,” he said when asked about the topic at today’s All-Star Weekend press conference. “… I feel like I made it a thing when it a thing when it shouldn’t have been. It’s cool to kind of get past that and just appreciate these guys for who they are and what they do. And it’s all love at the end of the day.”

Westbrook seemed less open when asked about his feelings toward Durant. “Communicatin’, that’s about it,” he responded. “All the other stuff is kind of irrelevant. Just keeping it cool, talking when we need to and just moving forward.” Durant and Westbrook are All-Star teammates for the second straight year, this time on the squad captained by LeBron James.
There’s more Thunder-related news tonight:
  • Fans in Los Angeles, hoping to see Paul George sign with the Lakers in free agency this summer, serenaded him during the press conference with chants of “We want Paul,” tweets Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript. Westbrook quickly dismissed that possibility, shouting at the crowd, “Paul ain’t goin’ nowhere! It’s over for that,” relays Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (via Twitter).
  • When reporters asked George if he knows what he will do when he becomes a free agent, he responded, “I don’t,” then paused and said, “I know what I feel is best.” (Twitter link)
  • Thunder players understand better than anyone the on-court tensions that led to today’s meeting between representatives of the players’ and referees’ unions, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. OKC leads the NBA in technical fouls with 41 in 59 games. Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams each has seven, with George close behind at six. “The reality is, the officials have a really hard job, and our players have a hard job, and it’s a very, very competitive game,” said coach Billy Donovan, who has seven technicals of his own. “There’s going to be emotions that get in there. The communication part is really important. The officials want that, the players want that. … But the reality is, you have to have a coexisting relationship there. I think it’s important you have to control your emotions and you can deal with them, because again, they do have a hard job.”

Thunder Continue To Tinker With Starting Five

  • The Thunder have yet to establish a permanent starting five since Andre Roberson went down with his season-ending knee injury last month, and it sounds like the lineup tinkering will continue, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. “I don’t want to say it’s going to be different night to night,” said head coach Billy Donovan. “But yeah, it could change in certain situations based on what’s best for our team.”

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots

Now that the dust has settled on last Thursday’s trade-deadline deals and the first round of veteran buyouts and cuts has been completed, it’s worth taking stock of which NBA teams have the flexibility to add a player or two without waivers anyone else.

With the help of our roster counts page, which we update all season, here are the NBA teams with open spots on their 15-man rosters. Open two-way contract slots aren’t included here, since teams are ineligible to sign new two-way contracts at this point in the season.

Teams with a player on a 10-day contract filling their open spot:

  • Phoenix Suns
  • Utah Jazz

Both the Suns and Jazz have 14 players on fully guaranteed NBA contracts, leaving one potential opening. For now, Josh Gray is filling that 15th spot in Phoenix and Naz Mitrou-Long is doing the same in Utah. However, they’re only on 10-day contracts, so both of these teams could soon create an open spot if necessary.

Teams with one open spot:

  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic
  • Sacramento Kings
  • Toronto Raptors

The teams listed above represent a mix of playoff-bound squads and rebuilding non-contenders. Teams like the Bulls, Mavericks, and Knicks could use their open roster spots to take fliers on young players via 10-day contracts, while clubs like the Timberwolves, Thunder, and Raptors may be eyeing the buyout market for veterans who could fortify their respective benches.

Teams with two open spots:

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Washington Wizards

NBA rules generally prohibit teams from carrying fewer than 14 players on their 15-man squads. However, clubs are permitted to dip to 13 – or even 12 – in special circumstances, as long as they get back up to 14 within two weeks. Roster moves made last week by the Hawks, Cavaliers, Trail Blazers, and Wizards left them below the limit, so they’ll each have to add at least one player by the end of the All-Star break.

Note: Roster info current as of Tuesday, February 13 at 2:00pm CT.

Paul George 'Happy' In OKC, Doesn't Shut Door On L.A.

It was overshadowed last week by the excitement of the NBA trade deadline, but Thunder forward Paul George once again addressed his 2018 free agency, this time during a conversation with Sam Amick of USA Today. The last time George weighed in on his upcoming decision, he was telling ESPN that Russell Westbrook‘s advocacy for George’s spot on the All-Star team was making his free agency choice easier.

This time around, George continued to praise the Thunder – an organization he called “smart” and “savvy” – and laid out a strong case for why he might end up re-signing with Oklahoma City. However, he didn’t close the door on heading west to Los Angeles either.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/11/18

Here are Sunday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA.

10:04pm: 

  • The Warriors have assigned Patrick McCaw to their affiliate in Santa Cruz, the team announced (Twitter link).

2:52pm:

  • The Grizzlies have assigned forward Brice Johnson to their G League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle, the team announced in a press release. Johnson was acquired by the Grizzlies prior to the trade deadline on Thursday. In 24 G League games this season, Johnson has averaged 13.4 PPG and 9.5 RPG.
  • The Thunder have recalled guard Terrance Ferguson and center Dakari Johnson from their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, the team announced in a press release. Ferguson has appeared in 41 games with the Thunder this season while Johnson has racked up 24 appearances.
  • The Pacers recalled center Ike Anigbogu from their G League affiliate in Fort Wayne, the team announced on its website. While the rookie has played sparingly with the big league club, he’s averaged 6.3 PPG, 6.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in 12 games with the Mad Ants this season.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/10/18

Here are Thursday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA.

10:26pm: 

  • The Warriors recalled Patrick McCaw from their Santa Cruz affiliate, the team announced in an email. The second-year guard has played 49 NBA games this season and averages 3.7 points and 1.4 assists per night.

8:12pm:

  • The Thunder have assigned Terrance Ferguson and Dakari Johnson to OKC Blue, tweets Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. The G League squad plays tonight, and both are expected to be recalled for Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies.
  • The Bucks recalled rookie power forward D.J. Wilson from the Wisconsin Herd, the team announced on its website. The first-round pick is averaging 14.9 PPG and 5.2 RPG in nine G League games.

Thunder, Rockets Emerge As Suitors For Tony Allen

A week after having been shipped out of New Orleans, veteran wing Tony Allen has been waived by the Bulls. If the 36-year-old shooting guard clears waivers on Sunday, TNT’s David Aldridge says the Thunder and Rockets will be among the teams bidding for his services.

While Allen had been used marginally for the Pelicans through the first half of the season, he’s a famously effective perimeter defender, perfect for a Houston team in need of defensive depth on their second unit or a Thunder squad desperate to fill the vacancy left by Andre Roberson.

In 12.4 minutes of action for the Pelicans this season, Allen averaged 4.7 points per game. In 27.0 minutes per game during the 2016/17 campaign with the Grizzlies, however, The Grindfather put forth a respectable 9.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per.

Allen figures to be one of several big name players on the buyout market this season, so committing a roster spot now isn’t without its drawbacks, but Allen’s skill set will be an indisputably enticing one for team’s looking for depth on their bench.

Kings Willing To Buy Out Johnson, Prefer To Keep Carter

Joe Johnson, acquired from the Jazz by the Kings in one of Thursday’s three-team trades, will “definitely” get a buyout if he wants one from Sacramento, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. However, according to Stein, the Kings would love to hang onto another veteran – Vince Carter – for the rest of the season.

There’s a sense that the Kings would be open to working with Carter on a buyout if an intriguing landing spot surfaces for him in the weeks leading up to March 1, Stein reports (via Twitter). Still, Sacramento is hoping that he elects to stick around and act as a veteran mentor to the team’s young core.

Carter is on a one-year, $8MM deal with the Kings, and has played a limited role for the club this season. In 34 games, the 41-year-old has averaged 5.0 PPG and 2.1 RPG with a shooting line of .385/.367/.667 in 16.6 minutes per contest. His locker room presence has been important though, as the Kings’ in-season goals have transitioned — the club initially hoped to compete for a playoff spot, but now is focused on developing young players.

If the Kings were to grant Carter a buyout, one scenario could involve a return to his old team in Toronto. Multiple sources tell Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca that the Raptors front office has internally discussed the possibility of signing Carter if he reaches free agency, though he’s just one of several possible targets Toronto is keeping an eye on, Grange notes.

As for Johnson, we heard shortly after Thursday’s trade that he was expected to seek a buyout from the Kings, and that Sacramento was expected to be amenable to one. The Warriors and Celtics were mentioned as a pair of early frontrunners for the veteran forward, with the Thunder cited as a potential suitor too, per Kelly Iko of ESPN 97.5 Houston (Twitter link). The Rockets would also have interest in Johnson, according to David Aldridge of TNT (Twitter link).

There’s no deadline for teams to finalize buyouts with players, but they have to happen by March 1 in order for those players to retain their postseason eligibility. Players waived after March 1 can’t participate in the playoffs if they sign with a new team.

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