Russell Westbrook

Thunder Notes: Ferguson, Felton, Abrines

Despite Andre Roberson missing the entire season to this point, the Thunder have continued to thrive as Paul George has developed into a serious MVP candidate and other role players have stepped up in their respective roles. The main example of such improvement is Terrance Ferguson, who has maintained his hold on a starting role past the halfway point of the season.

As Maddie Lee details for The Oklahoman, the Thunder put the ball in Ferguson’s hands more during Summer League, which he believes has translated to his improvement and confidence so far this season.

While his statistics suffered during the Summer League experiment, Ferguson is finding open teammates more often and is playing with a confidence that has unlocked more components of his game.

There’s more for the Thunder:

LeBron, Giannis Draft 2019 All-Star Teams

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo drafted their teams for the 2019 All-Star Game on Thursday, officially finalizing the rosters for this year’s contest. James and Antetokounmpo were chosen as captains because they were the All-Star starter from each conference with the most fan votes.

Both James and Antetokounmpo first had to select from a pool of starters, then from a list of reserve players. The starters, which consisted of eight other players, were voted on by the fans, players and media this season. The reserve players were voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches.

James drafted Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden as starters, choosing Durant as his first selection. His reserves were Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Karl-Anthony Towns, Bradley Beal and Dwyane Wade.

Antetokounmpo drafted Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, Paul George and Kemba Walker as his starters, selecting Curry with his first pick. He drafted Khris Middleton, Nikola Jokic, Ben Simmons, Blake Griffin, D’Angelo Russell, Nikola Vucevic, Kyle Lowry and Dirk Nowitzki as his reserves.

James later traded Westbrook to Team Giannis in exchange for Simmons, making an effort to repair the relationship of Westbrook and Embiid.

The 68th NBA All-Star Game is set to commence on February 17 at Spectrum Center, featuring 26 of the best basketball players in the world.

Cavs Notes: Thompson, Osman, Dellavedova, Payne

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson called out the team after suffering a 28-point blowout loss to Houston on Friday, detailing how they failed to execute a defensive game plan centered around James Harden during the contest.

The game plan, Thompson said, was to keep it 2-on-2 on the ball and force Harden and Clint Capela to score. It was designed to make sure other players weren’t effective behind Harden as a passer, which is when the Rockets are at their best.

“Obviously have to give Harden a lot of credit for his scoring ability, but we can live with him scoring all the points as long as other guys are not contributing,” Thompson said, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “We didn’t do that tonight. Didn’t do that at all.”

Instead, the Cavs trailed by as many as 44 points and lost their 12th game in a row. Cleveland’s record now sits at 8-35 on the season, with the patience of Thompson reaching a boiling point after the loss.

“How many games has it been? At this point, we’ve taught everything we can teach,” Thompson said. “Now it’s up to the players to come out there and just do their job. Do your job. Simple. Our players didn’t do their job.”

There’s more out of Cleveland today:

  • Cedi Osman quickly earned the respect of LeBron James last season, Fedor notes in a separate story for Cleveland.com. Osman accidentally injured James during one of his first scrimmages, but James appreciated his effort level and work ethic on the team. “For me, every practice with him, dinner, lunch, being together was special. It was my favorite,” Osman said of James. “I will say I was really proud when he was talking about me to the media. What he was saying about me, all that good stuff, that was really special to me.” Osman and James have remained in touch throughout the 2018/19 season despite mostly being thousands of miles apart, checking in on each other over text.
  • Matthew Dellavedova is focused on a new role in his second stint with the Cavs, Joe Gabriele of Cavs.com writes. Dellavedova joined Cleveland, a much younger team, via trade last month, mentoring Collin Sexton and others this season. “I’m just trying to talk with him about what I’m seeing out there, what he’s seeing out there – and just talk through the game,” Dellavedova said of Sexton. “We’ve watched quite a bit of game-tape together. But he works extremely hard on the court and in the weight room. So, as long as he keeps doing that, he’s going to have a really good chance.”
  • Cameron Payne is fighting to prove himself during his 10-day contract, Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes. Payne, remembered by some fans as Russell Westbrook‘s dance partner during pre-game rituals in Oklahoma City, has averaged 11.7 points in three games with the Cavs. “It’s crazy that that’s what people do remember me for,” Payne said. “Like I really haven’t, I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve had the opportunity, but I started out playing behind Russ and D.J. Augustin, now he’s starting with the Magic. Then I got hurt. Then I’ve been just out. I came back and I’d be able to play and just get sprinkled in, and I never really got back to my full potential.”

Northwest Notes: Roberson, Nuggets, Saric, Thunder

Thunder swingman Andre Roberson is on “a really good track” in his rehab from left knee surgery, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. Roberson underwent the arthroscopic surgery in May to relieve inflammation.

“I’m sure for him there are some days he’s sorer than others,” coach Billy Donovan said on Roberson’s rehab. “But overall, he just continues to progress and get better.

“You guys have seen him out here. He’s cutting, he’s moving. He’s been on a really good track.”

Roberson participated in defensive drills on Thursday, according to Horne, and his conditioning drills have been ramped up in the past month. He’s expected to be re-evaluated in the coming weeks for a potential return.

When healthy, Roberson is a top-tier defensive wing with years of experience playing alongside All-Star Russell Westbrook. The Thunder hold a 13-7 record and the No. 4 seed in the West this season without Roberson, who’s expected to return to the starting lineup at some point this year.

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • The Nuggets have a look of a dangerous team this season, Mike Singer of The Denver Post writes. Denver has a 14-7 record just six weeks into the 2017/18 season, playing solid basketball on both ends of the floor. The team has yet to play with Isaiah Thomas, who was signed to a free-agent contract last summer. “It’s one of the deepest and youngest teams that I’ve ever had, and that’s what I like about our team,” coach Mike Malone said.
  • New Timberwolves forward Dario Saric revealed what it’s like to be traded in the NBA with CBS Sports’ James Herbert, just weeks after he was moved from Philadelphia: “It’s just different,” Saric said. “You don’t have time to prepare, or somebody asks you, like, ‘What do you think?’ Normal people, somebody calls them and says, ‘Do you want to accept the job, yes or no?’ You have maybe two days or one day to decide. But here, they just trade you. You are like a bag, you know? Like some bucket, you know? And they just move you around. But that’s life. What can you do?”
  • The addition of Dennis Schroder and subtraction of Carmelo Anthony has played a role in the Thunder‘s early season success, Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes. Oklahoma City traded for Schroder this past offseason, with the 25-year-old averaging 16.8 points in 20 games so far.

Northwest Notes: Grant, Westbrook, Mitchell

A nice surprise for the Thunder during their recent stretch of strong play has been the development from Jerami Grant, especially as he entered a new role in the starting lineup. As Maddie Lee writes for NewsOK, Grant is thriving as a starter and the team has benefited from his presence in the lineup.

Lee points out that Grant is shooting 52.7% as a starter, as opposed to 26.1% coming off the bench this season, which makes sense considering the offensive talent he is surrounded with in the starting lineup. Grant is having a career year across the board, posting career-highs in scoring (11.6 PPG), rebounding (5.2 RPG) and 3-point shooting (36.8% on three attempts per game).

It will be interesting to see if Grant can keep shooting at this level, especially when Andre Roberson returns, which would further cramp the floor-spacing in the starting lineup.

There’s more from the Northwest division:

Northwest Notes: Tolliver, Murray, Blazers, Westbrook

Timberwolves power forward Anthony Tolliver is disappointed about getting benched but vows not to be a distraction, he told Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Tolliver, who signed a one-year, $5MM+ contract to essentially replace Nemanja Bjelica in the rotation, had his first DNP of the season on Wednesday against New Orleans.

“Obviously it’s not what I came here for, but it’s been one game,” the Timberwolves forward said. “It’s a long season. Just figuring out where my value lies and go from there.”

Tolliver wasn’t notified by Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau that he would sit out. But he added that “you won’t see me complaining about anything.” Tolliver is averaging just 5.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 19.1 MPG, though he hasn’t gotten a lot of shots up (Twitter links here).

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray didn’t start Thursday’s game against Atlanta because he was late for the team’s shootaround, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. Murray only played 23 minutes, contributing 14 points and five assists in the blowout victory. Murray, who is averaging 17.5 PPG and 3.9 APG for Denver, will return to the starting lineup on Saturday against New Orleans.
  • Multiple sources believe the Trail Blazers will likely be sold during the next three years, says John Canzano of The Oregonian. Speculation has been rampant about the future of the organization in the aftermath of owner Paul Allen’s death. The timeline for the sale of the franchise, according to Canzano, would be in the 18-36-month window. The most likely buyer would be a syndicate headed by Merritt Paulson, who owns the Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers.
  • The Thunder’s offensive numbers suffer greatly with Russell Westbrook out of action but they’re posting strong defensive stats when he sits, Rob Searles of DailyThunder.com notes. OKC is scoring at a 118.1 points per game clip and shooting 47.4% in the games he’s played, compared to 103.9 PPG and 42.5% without him. However, opponents are averaging 112.3 PPG on 46.5% shooting when Westbrook is in the lineup, compared to 99.6 PPG and 44.2% when he’s in street clothes.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Barton, Jokic, Westbrook

The Timberwolves are back to where they started before the first Jimmy Butler trade with a young nucleus built around Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, writes Chip Scoggins of The Star-Tribune. Coach/executive Tom Thibodeau changed the blueprint in Minnesota last year when he acquired Butler from the Bulls in hopes of finding a veteran leader who could vault the team to the top of the West. Now the Wolves are back to square one, only instead of having Zach LaVine, who was sent to Chicago in the Butler deal along with a draft pick that became Lauri Markkanen, their core will include Dario Saric and Robert Covington.

Thibodeau has reduced job security after the Butler incident, and Scoggins suggests his first move should be to try to repair relationships within the organization. He let Butler virtually run the team over the past two months — catering to his outrageous behavior in an effort to convince him to stay —  which created dissension in the locker room that won’t be easy to erase.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets guard Will Barton is making progress in his rehab after surgery to repair core and hip muscle injuries, according to an Associated Press story. There’s still no timetable for his return, but Barton said he’s “getting stronger every day.” Team doctors planned to re-evaluate his progress six weeks after the October 23 procedure, so his comeback could start in early December. Barton said strengthening core muscles is the focus of his rehab work.
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone defended center Nikola Jokic, who was fined $25K this week for using “derogatory and offensive language” in a postgame interview, relays Mike Singer of The Denver Post“There’s so many things being said about this poor kid, and I understand some of it, but those of us who know him, like most people in this hallway, give the kid a break,” Malone said. “He made a mistake, he’s paying for it, get off his back a little bit. He’s a great kid. He loves everybody, and he meant no offense to anybody.”
  • The Thunder are citing progress for Russell Westbrook, who is recovering a a sprained left ankle he suffered in Monday’s game, writes Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman. With a packed schedule this week, OKC hasn’t had time to fit in a practice to fully evaluate Westbrook’s condition. “He’s got to get out there, he’s got to practice, move and cut and do those things, so that’s going to take a little bit of time,” coach Billy Donovan said at Saturday’s shootaround.

Russell Westbrook Suffers Left Ankle Sprain

2:01pm: Further tests and evaluation on Westbrook’s ankle confirmed that it’s just a sprain, tweets Young. Before determining a timeline for Westbrook’s return, the team wants to see how he responds to treatment, according to Young, who notes that the point guard will miss the Thunder’s game against Cleveland on Wednesday.

8:45am: The Thunder defeated the Pelicans on Monday night for their fifth consecutive win, moving above .500 for the first time this season. However, they also lost their star player in the process. As Royce Young of ESPN.com details, Russell Westbrook left in the third quarter with what the team is calling a left ankle sprain.

Westbrook figures to undergo further tests today to assess the severity of the sprain and determine a potential recovery timetable. According to Young, X-rays on Monday night were negative. Still, the former MVP was in a good deal of pain when he went down with the injury, and his absence will likely be measured in weeks rather than days if the sprain is severe.

With no practice scheduled for Tuesday, the Thunder may not provide an update Westbrook’s status until Wednesday, Young writes.

If Westbrook is forced out of action for the foreseeable future, Dennis Schroder would almost certainly return to the Thunder’s starting lineup, with Raymond Felton backing him up. While Schroder is one of the NBA’s best backup point guards, Oklahoma City would miss Westbrook — the club is 5-2 with him in the lineup and 0-2 without him so far this season.

Thunder Notes: Westbrook, George, Grant, Patterson

The Thunder remain the only winless team in the Western Conference but Russell Westbrook said it’s far too early to push the panic button, Royce Young of ESPN reports. Oklahoma City is 0-4 after blowing a 16-point halftime lead against the Celtics on Thursday. Westbrook had a brutal fourth quarter, missing all seven of his shots while making three turnovers. “We’re OK. We’ll be all right,” Westbrook said. “It’s early. I’m confident in my guys in this locker room, I’m confident in myself and my abilities to make sure that we have an opportunity to win a ballgame. There’s no need to panic. Obviously we’re not starting the way we wanted to, but we’ll be OK and I will make sure of that. So, not worried.”

We have more from Oklahoma City:

  • While Westbrook rubs some people the wrong way, he was an integral reason why Paul George decided to stay instead of joining one of the Los Angeles teams in free agency. “A lot of it was I liked our chemistry,” George told Young in a detailed piece on OKC’s year-long recruitment of George. “I liked what he brings to the table, I liked his competitiveness and I loved him as a teammate, as a friend, as a brother, as a dude in the locker room. He had a lot to do with me coming back here.”
  • Jerami Grant and Patrick Patterson continue to share starting duties at the power forward spot, Thunder digital reporter Nick Gallo relays. Grant got the nod against Boston because coach Billy Donovan wanted to play a smaller, quicker unit. Against a more rugged frontcourt, Donovan will go with Patterson. “For us, it’s going to be game-to-game in terms of the roster and having a plan of how to utilize those guys,” Donovan said.
  • What can the Thunder do to fix their issues? Erik Horne of The Oklahoman takes a closer look.
  • The Thunder have until the end of the month to decide whether to pick up the rookie scale options on Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Terrance Ferguson. Find out more here.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Bird, Okogie, Reed

Thunder star Russell Westbrook is nearing his return after missing the team’s first week of action, targeting Sunday’s home game against the Kings, according to ESPN’s Royce Young.

The team currently lists him as out for the game, but cautioned that his status is always subject to change. Should Westbrook miss the game against Sacramento, it’s possible that he makes his return on Thursday against the Celtics.

“A lot of it is him and the medical staff talking to each other and him giving feedback,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “In my conversations with him, it’s always how he’s feeling the next day. And I think for him, he needs to be right because you don’t want to have something lingering. And he knows his body better than anybody else.”

Westbrook underwent a preemptive arthroscopy surgery on his right knee last month, the fifth knee operation of his 10-year NBA career. He held per-game averages of 25.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 10.3 assists last season, and has played in at least 80 games throughout the past three seasons.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • WNBA star Sue Bird is meeting with the Nuggets executive staff this week, which could turn into a job with the team, Chris Dempsey of Nuggets.com reports (Twitter link). Bird is still an active WNBA player, meaning she cannot work full-time with the organization.
  • Timberwolves rookie Josh Okogie played a solid role in the team’s game against Dallas on Saturday, filling in for Jimmy Butler at small forward and showing flashes of potential on both ends of the floor. “I knew where to pick my spots and what my role is when I’m on the court with them,” Okogie said, as relayed by Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I came in the game ready to make an impact. I knew I just had to come to the game, rebound, do the dirty stuff, let the others shine.”
  • The Salt Lake City Stars drafted former NBA center Willie Reed with the No. 1 pick in this year’s G League draft, banking on his experience and close ties to the organization, as written by Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News. The Stars are the G League affiliate of the Jazz, a team that features the likes of Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Ekpe Udoh at center.