Oklahoma City Thunder

Enes Kanter To Return To United States Tomorrow

3:09 pmEnes Kanter provided an update to the situation (link via Twitter), indicating that he will hold a press conference tomorrow in New York City with “crazy stories” about what transpired.

2:30 pm: Enes Kanter has landed in London and he and his representatives are now figuring out the next steps, reports Royce Young of ESPN (link via Twitter). Young also reports that NBA sources say that the league helped facilitate getting Kanter to London.

1:24 pm: Romanian border police say that Enes Kanter has been released from custody and permitted to continue his travels, according to Benjamin Hoffman of The New York Times. The official said that Kanter is now on a plane headed for London. Kanter himself has yet to confirm that he has been released.

11:18 am: Thunder center Enes Kanter is celebrating his 25th birthday being detained in Romania after the Turkish embassy canceled his passport on Saturday morning, he said in a Twitter video.

Kanter, who has been an outspoken critic of Turkey’s regime, claimed that the decision to void his passport was politically motivated.

“The reason behind it is just, of course, my political views,” Kanter said in the video. “And the guy who did it is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey.”

Kanter is currently in the midst of the Enes Kanter Light Foundation tour, which, in addition to Romania, included a visit to Indonesia. Kanter’s website states that the foundation’s objective is to create awareness and provide help to children “education, poverty alleviation and social harmony.” That positive message is the antithesis of Kanter’s view of president Erdogan.

“He’s attacked people in Washington. He’s a bad, bad man,” Kanter added. “He is a dictator, and he’s the Hitler of our century.”

Kanter dealt with issues stemming from his political views last year, when his family severed ties with him. Kanter’s father, Mehment, published a letter through Turkish media disowning his son.

“With a feeling of shame I apologize to our president and the Turkish people for having such a son,” the letter said (via Reuters).

In his own letter published on Twitter, Kanter addressed his family’s decision; a large part of their decisions stemmed from Kanter’s support of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic leader and the face of the “Gulen Movement.”

“Today I lost my mother, father, brothers and sisters, my family and all my relatives,” Kanter wrote in the letter, which was translated to English. “My own father asked me to change my surname. My mother, who has given me life, disowned me. My brothers and sisters, with which we have grown together, ignore me.”

According to ESPN, the Thunder are going through the proper channels to resolve the situation. Kanter posted totals of 14.3 PPG and 6.7 APG in 72 games for Oklahoma City last season.

Westbrook Eligible For DVPE; Collison No Guarantee To Return

  • The Thunder will look to extend point guard Russell Westbrook‘s contract this summer and can do so with the Designated Veteran Player Extension. Per Bobby Marks of the Vertical, even though Westbrook renegotiated his existing contract prior to the new CBA, he’s been deemed eligible by the league to ink a five-year deal worth as much as $207MM this summer.
  • Veteran Nick Collison isn’t finished playing in the NBA and will look to come to terms with the Thunder for 2017/18, Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript writes. Despite the big man’s loyalty to the franchise that drafted him 2003, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be back with Oklahoma City if another organization offers a more appealing role.

No Paul George, Gordon Hayward On All-NBA Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-NBA teams for the 2016/17 season, and neither Paul George nor Gordon Hayward is among the 15 players honored. That’s big news for both players and their teams, since they’ll be ineligible for the Designated Veteran Extension, reducing the amount of money the Pacers and Jazz – respectively – could offer their star forwards in contract extensions this offseason.

Here are this year’s All-NBA teams:

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Based on this year’s All-NBA voting results, Wall is now eligible to sign a Designated Veteran Extension this summer, while Leonard is eligible to sign one next summer. Harden, Westbrook, and Curry are also eligible to sign DVEs this summer, as Bobby Marks of The Vertical notes (via Twitter).

Those Designated Veteran Extensions – which are dependent on a player making an All-NBA team in the year before he signs an extension, or in two of the previous three years – apply to players finishing up their rookie scale extensions. They allow a player re-signing with his own team to earn up to 35% of the salary cap, rather than just 30%. So, if we assume a $101MM salary cap for 2017/18, a player like Curry could sign a new Warriors contract with a starting salary of $35.35MM, instead of $30.3MM.

The Pacers and Jazz will still be able to offer George and Hayward larger and longer contracts than any other team, but the advantage won’t be as significant as it would have been if those players had earned All-NBA spots. Teams can offer their own Bird-rights free agents up to five years (instead of four) and 8% raises (instead of 5%).

Hayward figures to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, while George is expected to reach free agency in 2018. George could still become eligible for the DVE in ’18 if the Pacers hang onto him through next season and he earns All-NBA honors a year from now. However, there’s no guarantee that Indiana will be willing to take that risk.

As for the rest of the All-NBA votes, there weren’t any major surprises, particularly on the first two teams. Perhaps the biggest surprise, in a year which was dominated by four clear-cut MVP candidates, is that Harden was the only player who received 100 out of 100 possible First Team votes. Westbrook and James received 99 apiece, while Leonard received 96.

Note: Hoops Rumors readers voted last month on All-NBA teams, and our squads looked awfully close to the official ones, with a couple notable exceptions. You can check out the results of our voting right here.

Thunder To Work Out Tony Bradley

  • Like Swanigan and Diallo, UNC’s Tony Bradley continues to test the draft waters and has a full workout schedule before next Wednesday’s decision deadline. Per Jeff Goodman, Bradley will work out for the Lakers (Friday), Spurs (Sunday), Bucks (Tuesday), and Thunder (Wednesday) within the next week, after auditioning for New York today.

Northwest Notes: Hayward, Jazz, OKC, Gibson

Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward has earned a max contract, according to Randy Hollis of The Deseret News. Hollis admits that he had been wrong about Hayward and hopes that Hayward elects to return to the Jazz in free agency in a fascinating piece that touts the budding star’s basketball brilliance.

Let’s round up a few more notes from around the Northwest…

  • Alec Burks has had a difficult past few years as a result of injury, but he’s poised for a comeback, reports Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News. “It’s frustrating,” Burke said to Sorensen. “My (latest) injury was way more serious than I thought. But I’m a soldier and I learned a lot about my body and the game of basketball during the time out.”
  • While Trey Lyles suffered through a disappointing sophomore campaign, Jazz coach Quin Snyder is certainly not giving up on his forward, per Randy Hollis of The Deseret News. “I think, for Trey, like a lot of young players, it’s more about him taking stock and looking at the year, figuring out he can use it to improve,” Snyder said. “Sometimes you have to go through some things like that in order to get a good gauge on where you are. I expect Trey to have a terrific summer and look forward to him leveraging some of that adversity to make himself a better player.”
  • Taj Gibson would love to return to the Thunder, but he will have many suitors, writes Erik Horne of NewsOK.com. Horne’s piece discusses Gibson’s success in Oklahoma City after being traded from Chicago and names the power forward as likely the team’s best option in free agency.
  • Although the Thunder are locked into the 21st overall pick in the draft, Tuesday night’s lottery may very well have implications for the team, as the draft ordering could affect which players are available on the trade market, writes Brett Dawson of NewsOK.com.
  • Marcus Smart, who played his college ball at Oklahoma State, would fit in very well with the Thunder, writes Berry Tramel of NewsOK.com. Smart remains under contract with Boston for one more year.

Five Key Offseason Questions: Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook received an opportunity to be the clear leader of a team for the first time in his career this past season and he delivered one of the greatest statistical seasons in recent memory. He averaged a triple-double, something that hasn’t been done since Oscar Robinson accomplished the feat in 1962, and he’s likely to take home the MVP award as a result.

The Thunder remained a major story this season because of the milestone, but they were clearly not legitimate title contenders; Kevin Durant‘s departure removed them from that elite class. Westbrook was able to put up numbers post-Durant, but he was unable to elevate the team beyond the first round of the NBA playoffs. His season ended at the hands of the Rockets in a series that highlighted team play over individualism.

Here are five questions facing the Thunder as they enter the offseason…

1. How will the front office upgrade the roster around Westbrook?NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets

A lack of flexibility plagues GM Sam Presti, and the roster is filled with over-priced ancillary parts.

Extensions for Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo kick in this summer and for the next four years, the team will pay on average $46MM per season for two players who are unlikely to ever make an All-Star team. Enes Kanter, who saw a total of 45 minutes of playing time this postseason, will take home nearly $18MM during the 2017/18 campaign and Kyle Singler, who owned a paltry 5.9 player efficiency rating this season, will eat up nearly $4.7MM.

In all, the Thunder have roughly $110MM in guaranteed salaries on the books for the 2017/18 season against an estimated $101MM salary cap. The team owns the No. 21 overall pick in the upcoming draft and it will have the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions, as well as a trade exception worth approximately $4.9MM, available for use. Those tools don’t inspire much hope for an improved roster and with the team’s lack of flexibility, making substantial changes will require Presti to perform some wizardry.

2. Which of their own free agents will the Thunder retain?

Read more

Northwest Notes: Oladipo, Christon, Hayward

Victor Oladipo signed an extension with the Thunder last fall and as a result, he’ll go from making slightly over $6.55MM this season to $21.0MM next year. GM Sam Presti is confident that the shooting guard will take the necessary steps to justify that contract, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman relays.

“[Oladipo has] improved every single year he’s been in the league, and I would expect him to continue to do that,” Presti said. “I really don’t have a concern that they will continue to, but there’s no question, Victor, Steven (Adams), those guys have to get better for us to continue to get where we want to go, and I think they are going to work to get to that point. I think he really showed a level of efficiency as a two-way player that’s really hard to find.”

Here’s more from the Northwest division:

  • Olapido didn’t look comfortable running the point this season, Horne writes in the same piece. The shooting guard said he’ll work hard to improve this summer and he hopes to have more opportunities with the Thunder next season. “I like handling the ball. I like making decisions, and I know I can,” Oladipo said. “Now it’s a matter of doing it on a consistent basis.”
  • Semaj Christon received backup point guard minutes, but he wasn’t much of a play-maker, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman notes. Christon was simply trying to avoid mistakes as a rookie and it held the team back. The guard remains under team control through the 2019/20 campaign, though I’d speculate that the Thunder won’t go into next season with Christon directly behind Russell Westbrook on the depth chart.
  • The Jazz would like to re-sign Gordon Hayward as well as George Hill and Joe Ingles, but it may be difficult to retain all three, Jody Genessy of the Deseret News writes. Genessy believes the team may have to decide between Hill and Ingles assuming it brings Hayward back.

Cavaliers Notes: Lue, Brown, Blatt, Defense

A broken hand suffered by reserve center Edy Tavares has reinforced Tyronn Lue’s decision not to scrimmage during the Cavaliers’ long break, writes Marla Ridenour of The Akron Beacon Journal. Lue is working to keep the Cavs focused during a nine-day layoff as they await the winner of the Celtics-Wizards series. Lue admits the team is “itching to play” as he guides the players through walkthroughs, but he won’t consider scrimmages because of the injury risk. Point guard Kyrie Irving supports the decision. “An incident happened in practice where somebody got hit in the hand and it just wasn’t good,” Irving said. “I was about to come out and play five-on-five and the incident happened three seconds later as T-Lue comes out of the door. Naw, I’m not for scrimmaging right now until the game.”

There’s more news today as the wait continues in Cleveland:

  • Mike Brown and David Blatt have both prospered since being fired by the Cavaliers, notes Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. Brown took two years off after his dismissal, passing on chances to become a lead assistant with the Thunder and head coach at Nevada-Las Vegas. Last summer, he became the Warriors’ top assistant and has assumed head coaching duties with Steve Kerr sidelined for health reasons. Brown could wind up coaching against the Cavs in the NBA Finals. Blatt, who was fired midway through last year’s championship season, is the highest-paid coach in Europe, guiding Darussafaka Dogus in the Turkish League. He led the club to its first-ever Euroleague playoff berth.
  • After struggling on defense all season, the Cavaliers have improved on that end in the playoffs, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. The Cavs ranked 22nd in defensive efficiency during the season, but are fourth since the postseason began. Still, Lue jokes that he wishes the players could remember their defensive assignments as well as they remember their pre-game handshake routines.
  • The Cavaliers are among the teams showing interest in Arizona shooting guard Rawle Alkins, according to Sam Amico of Amicohoops. Cleveland doesn’t have a pick in this year’s draft, but could buy a late selection like it did last year to obtain Kay Felder. The Cavaliers, Thunder, Pelicans and Heat have all contacted Alkins’ high school coach to get more information, according to Adam Zagoria of Fanrag Sports (Twitter link).

Does Kyle Singler Have Future With Thunder?

  • Kyle Singler has two more fully guaranteed years left on his contract with the Thunder, but his future with the franchise remains unclear, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. As Dawson notes, Singler was virtually non-existent for Oklahoma City this past season, and will be a candidate to be traded or waived.

Thunder Notes: Durant, Kanter, Alkins

The Thunder are unlikely to add another star via free agency, Jon Hamm of Daily Thunder explains. High-priced extensions for Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams will kick in this summer and the duo will go from making a combined $9,693,477 this year to earning a combined $43,471,911 next season.

The team will have approximately $110MM in guaranteed salary on the book next season, as our Cap Digest page indicates. With the salary cap expected to come in around $101MM, it appears Oklahoma City will have to use the trade market if it intends to add a major piece.

Here’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • Kendrick Perkins, who played with both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant for four-plus seasons, said the two All-Stars are “back on talking terms.”  He believes there’s a chance that Durant will head back to OKC at some point in the future, as ESPN.com relays. “I wouldn’t be surprised — if KD makes a little run, I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes back to Oklahoma,” Perkins said. “Because in my opinion, I don’t think Russ is going anywhere. He’s that type of guy. He just wants to stick it out, and he just wants you to give him those pieces and he just wants to roll with it. He’s not going and trying to run and chase [titles]. And one thing about it, he’s not begging nobody to come play with him.”
  • Erik Horne of The Oklahoman wonders if the Thunder will trade Enes Kanter this summer. The center didn’t have a strong defensive performance in the postseason and Horne notes that during the team’s playoff series against the Rockets, coach Billy Donovan appeared to say “Can’t play Kanter” to assistant coach Maurice Cheeks. Kanter only played a total of 45 minutes during OKC’s five playoff games.
  • Arizona’s Rawle Alkins worked out for the Thunder last weekend, Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog tweets. Jonathan Givony of Draft Express has Alkins as the 78th-best prospect in the upcoming draft.
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