Paul George

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Harris, Dudley

The Thunder have three players who’ve grown used to getting the final shot over the course of long, impressive careers. Now, Royce Young of ESPN writes, they’ll have to figure out who gets the ball when the game is on the line.

While Russell Westbrook was the painfully obvious choice last season, he’s joined on the Thunder by Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Both Anthony and George have traditionally been the focal point of their teams’ offenses and were often the go-to options down the stretch, the latter even going so far as to lambaste former teammate C.J. Miles for taking a last-second shot in the playoffs last spring.

Carmelo’s been a closeout guy the places he’s been, the same thing with Paul. But any time you have a team you have to do it by finding the open man,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “Clearly for us last year, somebody creating and generating a shot for himself or someone else, it was Russell. But obviously now with Carmelo and Paul being here, I think it’s about making the right play and right decision.

One knock on the Thunder in the past has been their reliance on isolation basketball when the game is on the long. Considering the roster balance last season, that style of play was more or less expected. With a number of legitimate offensive threats in 2017/18, however, the expectations for ball movement – and making sound decisions – should rise.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Details on Gary Harris‘ contract have emerged, Bobby Marks of ESPN writes. The cap hit for the Nuggets guard in 2018/19 will be $16.5MM and that mark will rise annually until the deal terminates at $20.5MM in 2021/22. There are also $2.5MM of additional, unlikely, bonuses each year.
  • There’s no clear frontrunner to fill the primary backup power forward role for the Nuggets this offseason. Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports writes about how the changing NBA could impact Denver’s frontcourt depth chart in 2017/18.
  • A prediction that the Timberwolves could send Cole Aldrich and a second-round pick to the Suns for Jared Dudley has legs, Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News tweets. Minnesota has been particularly interested in Dudley’s recovery from offseason toe surgery.

Northwest Notes: George, Nurkic, Nuggets, Wolves

Paul George loves the excitement in Oklahoma City, especially with the reigning Most Valuable Player, Russell Westbrook, and 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony on the same team. Chris Mannix of The Vertical writes that George is optimistic and has found a comfort zone with the Thunder. Yet, the ex-Pacer simultaneously wants head coach Billy Donovan to put him in uncomfortable situations as a challenge.

A Los Angeles native, George has been rumored to join his hometown Lakers for a while. There were rumblings all offseason that George’s goal is to end up home in California — whether it was this season or when he hits free agency next summer. However, George tells Mannix that L.A. isn’t on his mind as he focuses on succeeding with the Thunder.

“I’m committed here, we’re all committed,” George said. “We want this to happen and we want this to work really well. Once we get on the court, it’s been like magic. We understand one another, we have a feel for one another, we know each other’s games so well. We want to make the most out of it, to be in the best position to succeed.”

George and the Thunder may be in a position where they have a one-year window before he departs for his home team. But he has made it clear he wants to win before he makes any long-term decisions.

Below you can check out other news around the Northwest Division:

  • Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic will miss the team’s Wednesday game against Phoenix due to a concussion, and may end up sitting out the rest of the preseason, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian. Nurkic is eligible for an extension up until October 16, so by the time he takes the floor next for Portland, he may have a new deal in hand or be preparing to play out a contract year.
  • ESPN’s Micah Adams writes that the Nuggets‘ blueprint to build a championship contending team is eerily similar to how the Warriors went from Western Conference contender to budding dynasty.
  • Veteran Jameer Nelson is back in the competition for the Nuggets‘ starting point guard job after battling a toe injury, Gina Mizell of The Denver Post writes.
  • Timberwolves‘ head coach Tom Thibodeau has a roster with several players he coached in Chicago with the Bulls, which has made for a comfortable environment, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune writes.

NBA GMs Weigh In On 2017/18 Season

NBA.com has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, with John Schuhmann of NBA.com asking each of the league’s 30 GMs an array of questions about the league’s top teams, players, and coaches. To no one’s surprise, the Warriors are viewed by the NBA’s general managers as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2017/18 championship, with 28 of 30 GMs (93%) picking Golden State to repeat.

While there are many responses in the GM survey worth checking out, we’ll focus on rounding up some of the more interesting ones related to rosters and player movement. Let’s dive in…

  • Although half of the league’s GMs picked LeBron James as the 2017/18 MVP winner, LeBron only finished third in voting for the player GMs would want to start a franchise with today. Karl-Anthony Towns (29%) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (21%) were the top vote-getters for that question.
  • NBA general managers loved the Thunder‘s acquisition of Paul George. George received 59% of the vote for which offseason addition would make the biggest impact, easily beating out Jimmy Butler (17%), Chris Paul (10%), and Kyrie Irving (7%). Additionally, Oklahoma City was chosen as the team that made the best offseason moves, with 43% of the vote. The Celtics (25%), Timberwolves (14%), and Rockets (11%) were runners-up.
  • The Nuggets‘ signing of Paul Millsap (24%) and the Pistons‘ trade for Avery Bradley (17%) were regarded by NBA GMs as the most underrated acquisitions of the summer.
  • The Timberwolves (69%) were the runaway choice for most improved team, beating out the Sixers (17%) and a handful of other clubs. Of course, it’s worth noting that Minnesota was also the GMs’ pick for that question a year ago.
  • While Dennis Smith Jr. of the Mavericks (37%) was voted the biggest steal of the 2017 draft, most GMs expect Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball (62%) to win the Rookie of the Year award.

Thunder Notes: George, Westbrook, Injuries

While Russell Westbrook‘s new extension with the Thunder certainly doesn’t guarantee that new teammate Paul George will also choose to stick around beyond this season, the All-Star forward intends to give Oklahoma City an audience next summer, a source tells TNT’s David Aldridge.

According to Aldridge’s source, George has been impressed by the Thunder’s culture and by Sam Presti‘s approach to roster building. As the source puts it, George was impressed that Presti and the front office had the guts to essentially retool the entire roster in order to land him and Carmelo Anthony this offseason.

Whether that ultimately results in George deciding to stay in Oklahoma City and sign a new deal with the Thunder remains to be seen, but he appears more open to the idea than he would have been a few months ago. Meanwhile, owner Clay Bennett appears more open to being on the hook for a big tax bill to keep his roster together than he was a few years ago.

Here’s more on the Thunder:

  • Speaking on Sunday to reporters, including ESPN’s Royce Young, Westbrook declined to get into specifics on why he waited nearly three months to sign his extension, but said his commitment to Oklahoma City never wavered. “I like where I’m at,” Westbrook said.
  • Westbrook, Patrick Patterson, and Alex Abrines will all miss the Thunder’s preseason opener on Tuesday, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. “For Russell, it’s just a slow progression,” head coach Billy Donovan said of the reigning MVP, who underwent PRP therapy on his left knee. “There’s no reason just to throw him back in so quickly, but he’s doing more and more, and he did everything today at practice.”
  • Addressing the status of Patterson and Abrines, Donovan said that it’s difficult to put a time frame on either player’s return, but he doesn’t view their injuries as long-term issues. Like Westbrook, Patterson and Abrines are dealing with knee issues.
  • Earlier today, we passed along details on Rob Hennigan‘s new role with the Thunder.

Northwest Division: George, Morrow, Plumlee, Burks

Russell Westbrook‘s decision to sign an extension with the Thunder is making it easier for Paul George to decide whether to stay put when he becomes a free agent next summer, as he told ESPN’s Royce Young and other media members (Twitter link). George is impressed by the commitment between the reigning Most Valuable Player and the franchise, as Westbrook decided this week to sign a five-year, $205MM extension. George’s overt desire to leave the Pacers after this season, specifically for the Lakers, led Indiana to trade him to Oklahoma City. It appears George is now seriously interested in re-signing. “Not only in us pairing together but just knowing what type of dude Russ is and his values and his beliefs and him being committed to this organization says a lot,” George said. “And I’m one person that’s enjoying it here, so I think when that time comes the decision will be easier to make for myself.”

In other developments around the Northwest Division:

  • Anthony Morrow has apparently taken an early lead in the fight for the Blazers’ 15th roster spot, Joe Freeman of The Oregonian reports. Morrow received a one-year, non-guaranteed contract prior to training camp and is battling Archie Goodwin and Isaiah Briscoe for a spot on the opening-night roster, Freeman continues. After four days of training camp, he’s already impressed coaches and teammates with his shooting, leadership and positive attitude, Freeman adds.
  • Center Mason Plumlee will be Nikola Jokic‘s backup but he’ll have a big role with the Nuggets, coach Michael Malone told Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. Plumlee was re-signed by Denver to a three-year, $41MM deal this summer after being acquired from the Blazers in February. “He brings us a physicality and presence that, really, none of the other guys really have,” Malone said. “He is a lob threat on offense and he’s a rim protector on defense. On top of that, he’s a very skilled and capable playmaker.”
  • Jazz guard Alec Burks believes he’s finally fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered in December 2015, according to Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News. Burks is looking for a bounce-back season, even though coach Quin Snyder isn’t sure what role Burks will have this season, Sorensen adds. “This summer I felt like I was before I got hurt on that December day two years ago,” Burks told Sorensen. “I felt more explosive, more like myself. As you could tell, last year I wasn’t myself athletically, I wasn’t at all.”

Thunder Notes: Extension, PRP Injection, Recruiting

The Thunder locked down MVP Russell Westbrook through the end of the 2022/23 season and it’s not hard to imagine the impact the deal will have on the franchise as a whole. Erik Horne of The Oklahoman broke down the role the extension might have in shaping the team’s roster in the years to come.

First and foremost, the fact that Westbrook will be under Oklahoma City control for the next half-decade could entice Carmelo Anthony to stay with the club after the 2017/18 campaign. Even in a scenario where Paul George could choose to opt out via his player option, Anthony may be inclined to stay in order to continue playing alongside the perennial All-Star.

The move also serves as a message, loud and clear, that the Thunder aren’t afraid to flirt with the luxury tax if the team stands a legitimate chance of being competitive.

Finally, the extension changes the perception that small market teams can’t be a destination for big name players. Anthony’s decision to accept a trade to the Thunder could inspire other players – perhaps during buyout season next February – to consider signing with Oklahoma City.

There’s more from the Thunder:

  • Days before signing his historic contract extension, Russell Westbrook underwent a standard platelet rich plasma injection in his left knee, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes.
  • While there has been some resolution in regards to Russell Westbrook’s future, there’s no guarantee that this super-team-ified version of the Thunder will exist for long considering that both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony could conceivably exit next summer. Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes that fans ought to embrace it while it’s here.
  • He may still be settling into life in Oklahoma City but Paul George is a passionate enough member of the Thunder to recruit for the franchise. “My job is to make this team as good as possible, elevate this team as much as possible. Whatever I can do I will do, and that’s whether I’m on the court or off the court. My job is to try to make things happen,” George told the media, including Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. The forward played a role in recruiting Carmelo Anthony and he tried to convince Dwyane Wade to sign with the team as well.

Lakers Notes: Bogut, Blue, Ball, George

Lakers coach Luke Walton will have the final say on who wins the 15th roster spot in training camp, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet tweets. GM Rob Pelinka made the comment during the team’s media day. Bresnahan hints that it could come down to center Andrew Bogut or guard Vander Blue. Bogut signed a one-year, $2.3MM contract but only $50K is guaranteed. Blue hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since the 2014/15 season. Pelinka added that the team isn’t actively seeking another veteran player, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times tweets.

In other news regarding the Lakers:

  • President of basketball operations Magic Johnson isn’t concerned about LaVar Ball’s antics or comments unless it impacts the on-court effectiveness of son and rookie point guard Lonzo Ball,  he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN and other media members. “Only time I am going to concern myself with what [Lonzo] does off the court is if it is affecting his play on the court,” Johnson said.  The Hall of Famer already considers the rookie as the team’s leader heading into his first season. “We needed a leader on this team,” Johnson said. “And we have one now.”
  • Johnson is mainly concerned that the team displays improvement this season and demonstrates to future free agents that the franchise is once again an attractive destination, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Johnson does believe this season’s group is talented enough to make the playoffs, Ganguli adds. LeBron James and Paul George, among others, are expected to seriously consider the Lakers next summer.
  • George said he’s more concerned with winning than joining his hometown team, Sam Amick of USA Today relays. George believes he can win a championship with the Thunder“You ask anybody, and who wouldn’t want to play for their hometown team?” George said. “Who wouldn’t want to go home and win a championship for their home? So yeah, a lot of me wanted to be a Laker. Even in the draft, coming out of the draft, I wanted to be a Clipper, to have a chance to play at home…(But) I’m not solely tied to LA. This feels like a championship team. Like I said, man, I’m in a good place.”

Northwest Notes: Wade, Westbrook, Anthony, Favors

Paul George has launched an electronic full-court press to try to convince Dwyane Wade to come to Oklahoma City, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today. Wade has become the hottest free agent on the market since agreeing to a buyout with the Bulls Sunday night. “I’m in his phone text, his DMs, Snapchat,” George said, “whatever it takes to get this dude here.”

Thunder GM Sam Presti is a little more reserved in his pursuit of Wade, but he would definitely like to have him as part of a Big Four with George, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. OKC finalized its camp roster earlier today with the signing of Markel Brown, but a move would certainly be made to accommodate Wade. “He’ll go through the process and we’ll be in touch,” said Presti, who adds Wade may have already decided where he will sign next (Twitter link).

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Cavaliers, Thunder and Heat were consider the early favorites to sign Wade, but the competition may be more intense than originally believed, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link), who adds that “many more teams” are pursuing him.
  • Westbrook declined to give a direct answer to questions today about the five-year, $207MM extension the Thunder have offered him, posts Royce Young on ESPN Now. “Man, it’s been a long, long summer,” Westbrook responded. “Had a baby. Been working on a little fatherhood. But like I’ve said before, this is a place I want to be.” Westbrook has an October 16 deadline to accept the deal, and former Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter believes he is leaning toward taking it. “I feel like he’s going to sign (the extension)” Kanter told reporters today in New York (Twitter link).
  • The Nuggets considered trying to bring Anthony back to Denver before the trade with the Thunder was announced, tweets Eric Goodman of Mile High Sports Radio. Although they weren’t among the teams Anthony said he would waive his no-trade clause to join, the Nuggets were interested in trying because the price for Anthony kept falling.
  • Jazz forward Derrick Favors has a chance to rebuild his reputation before heading into free agency next summer, relays the Associated Press. Favors says he has overcome the knee and back injuries that plagued him over the past two seasons and dropped 15 to 20 pounds during the summer. Utah needs to replace about 40 points per game with the loss of free agents Gordon Hayward and George Hill, and Favors is a prime candidate to increase his production. Favors will be an unrestricted free agent in July after making $12MM this season.
  • Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey isn’t concerned that his team is headed into a difficult Western Conference playoff race with one of the youngest rosters in the league, tweets Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. Recently signed free agent Anthony Morrow is Portland’s only player older than 30. “It’s a roster that still has some upside to it, because of its age,” Olshey said. “We’re expecting a lot of internal growth.”

Thunder Notes: George, Anthony, Westbrook, Kanter

Paul George says the Thunder feel like a “championship team” after Saturday’s blockbuster deal that brought Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City, relays Sam Amick of USA Today. The Thunder now have last season’s scoring champ in Russell Westbrook [31.6 points per game], along with No. 15 in George [23.7] and No. 22 in Anthony [22.4].

“You put us three together, who all have something to prove still, [and] we’re going to be a special team,” said George, who was acquired from Indiana in OKC’s other major offseason move. “We have a young group, a lot of talent here, an unbelievable coach [in Billy Donovan], [and] as you see, a front office that’s willing to do whatever it takes to improve the team. It just has all the makeups to be a great organization and a chance to put championships together.”

There’s more news out of Oklahoma City:

  • Anthony’s college coach, Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, believes he is headed to a much better situation with the Thunder, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Boeheim says the 33-year-old Anthony improved his conditioning this summer and probably has three to four good years left in the league. “Melo had to work so hard in the triangle,” Boeheim added. “It’s a good offense, but not what he does best. He had to work so hard to get his shot, and get a shot at the end of clock, and he’d have seven seconds. He’s much better when he plays with good players, gets open shots, opportunities to post up and do things, post up as well. It’ll just be a lot easier. I think he’s anxious to prove he’s still [a star].”
  • If the Thunder are the NBA’s newest superteam, Westbrook’s decision to accept an extension after Kevin Durant left for Golden State last summer made it possible, writes Royce Young of ESPN. Without that commitment, Oklahoma City may have explored a trade to avoid losing superstars in back-to-back years with no compensation. And without Westbrook, the team never would have dealt for George or Anthony. Westbrook is facing an October 16 deadline to decide on a new extension offer that would pay him $207MM over five years.
  • Anthony will continue to wear No. 7 with the Thunder, Young tweets.
  • Enes Kanter, who was shipped to New York in the trade, was part of the effort to convince Anthony to waive his no-trade clause for Oklahoma City, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman (Twitter link). This summer, Kanter spoke with a coach who works with Anthony and put in a good word for the Thunder.

More Notes On Tampering Investigation

As we discussed yesterday, the Lakers were fined $500K by the NBA for tampering with 2018 free agent Paul George. Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann quickly explored the penalty in detail, noting that the league in general has a “decidedly low-bar” for the prohibited act.

Considering the wording of the league’s constitution, there is no specific means of contact that’s permissible or not. Teams are, the constitution says, “forbidden from any kind of attempt to persuade” either individuals or team personnel, emphasis mine.

Another troublesome point of ambiguity McMann highlights is the fact that there need not be any proof that the tampering attempt actually swayed the individual, it’s solely the attempt that the league is concerned about.

All told, the Lakers have little choice but to pony up the cash for the fine but McMann doesn’t think that the penalty will dissuade teams from repeating the behavior in the future.

That’s not all we have about tampering this evening:

  • If you’ve heard the Pat Riley Heat/Knicks tampering example offered up as a precedent for the Lakers’ recent situation, note that there is one critical difference. Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets that the $1MM the Heat paid the Knicks in 1995 was a settlement and not a league-enforced penalty.
  • The Lakers may have bought themselves a year of contact with LeBron James‘s agent ahead of the 2018 free agency period, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes, and all it cost them was the $18MM they committed to another Rich Paul client, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
  • Don’t expect Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard to put up a fuss about the league’s ruling on the tampering investigation. “We accept the league’s findings,” he told Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times.
  • …do expect the Indiana media. Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star suggests that the relatively small fine is but a slap on the wrist for a Lakers franchise worth $3B. The scribe offers alternative penalties that he says would have had more of an impact.
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