Russell Westbrook

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, George, Hood, Murray

Russell Westbrook and Paul George will be teammates for the first time in the NBA this upcoming season after George was traded to the Thunder earlier this offseason. Just like any other superstar duo in NBA history, it will take time for both players to get acclimated to each other on and off the court. The duo got a head start after having their first workout together on Monday at a UCLA gym with four Oklahoma City teammates, ESPN’s Royce Young writes.

Young noted that Monday’s workout was the second organized by Westbrook this summer but George was unable to attend the first one due to a pre-planned vacation. Monday’s acclimation was the first of many steps for the reigning MVP and George to become comfortable; George addressed the importance of establishing a chemistry with his new teammates during his introductory press conference.

“Right now, it’s taking it as it comes,” George said (via ESPN). “We have a fresh start, and a chance to do something special is really the first thing that comes to mind. I’m not looking past 2017-18, we haven’t accomplished nothing yet. When it comes to that, when I get there, we’ll address that, but right now me and [Westbrook] have something to build now, and we’ll see where it takes us. It could be something that’s special that we build and want to continue on building.”

Read up on other news around the Northwest Division:

Northwest Notes: KAT, Westbrook, Rubio, Jazz

The Timberwolves‘ moves this offseason have drastically improved the team and put the organization in a position to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The acquisition of Jimmy Butler and the free agency signing of Jeff Teague fusing with the current core of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns poses a serious threat to the Western Conference.

Towns spoke to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News to clarify his recent comments in which he referred to the Timberwolves as a budding dynasty. The former Rookie of the Year cited the Warriors, Spurs, and Cavaliers as real dynasties but maintained confidence in winning with Minnesota’s upgraded roster.

“For me, what everyone needs to know is that we’ve made great moves,” Towns said. “We made great moves to make ourselves better. I have been very fortunate to be with such a great franchise and the organization is going to do so well from here on out. I think we are building a team that has a great sense of what it wants to be, and also adding players who ooze greatness and ooze winning, it’s just something that is contagious.”

The team’s quest for improvement has been noticed by other stars, most prominently disgruntled Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, who reportedly listed Minnesota as one of his four preferred destinations if he was traded. Playing in the same conference with the defending champion Warriors and perennial powerhouse Spurs will be difficult but a young, athletic, and hungry Minnesota squad could see a drastic improvement in 2017/18.

Below are additional notes around the Northwest Division:

  • Reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook recently visited Oklahoma City but he is not in the Thunder‘s home city to sign an extension, Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman writes. Westbrook, a Los Angeles native, primarily spends his summers in California but is known to visit OKC periodically during the offseason, Dawson adds.
  • Newest Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio no longer has to worry about trade talk after the deal that brought him Minnesota to Utah. After years of rumors involving Rubio, the six-year NBA veteran tells Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News that he was happy to be dealt to “an organization that really believed in me.”
  • After the losses of Gordon Hayward and George Hill, the Jazz may have an issue with spacing and three-point shooting next season, Benjamin Nehic of The Desert News writes. Utah’s spacing with its current roster is projected to dip and with less effective outside shooters, the team may have to adopt a new primary scoring method.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Wiggins, Irving, Nuggets

Nearly a month has passed since the Thunder offered an extension to Russell Westbrook, writes Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript. Oklahoma City is hoping the reigning MVP will agree to extend his current contract by five years in a deal that would start with the 2018/19 season. Westbrook is eligible to receive 35% of the salary cap — currently projected at $102MM for that season — along with 8% raises each year. The deadline to accept the offer is October 16, the day before the regular season begins. Katz says the organization remains “cautiously optimistic” that Westbrook will agree to the extension.

There’s more news from the Northwest Division:

  • Extension talks continued this morning between the Timberwolves and Andrew Wiggins, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Wolfson doesn’t believe Minnesota would include Wiggins in a trade offer for Kyrie Irving.
  • Former Nuggets forward Mike Miller thinks Irving would be a good fit in Denver, relays Ashish Mathur of Amicohoops. In an appearance Wednesday on Altitude Radio, Miller, who spent a year with Irving in Cleveland, said the point guard is “definitely interested” in being traded to the Nuggets. “I’ve already asked that question,” Miller said. “… I think he will. I really do. Like anything else, when people look at cities, Denver’s an unbelievable city we all know that. And with what the organization has built there, he would be crazy not to and he’s definitely, definitely interested in it and I told him by putting this thing out there he has no choice.” Mathur speculates that Denver would have to offer Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler and a draft pick to make the deal work.
  • Unless they can pull off a trade, the Nuggets are looking at only “minor tweaks” before the season starts, writes Christopher Dempsey of NBA.com. Denver’s roster is virtually filled with not much cap space remaining. Dempsey adds that the team achieved its top offseason priority of signing Paul Millsap.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Crawford, Singler, OKC

Russell Westbrook can sign a supermax Designated Veteran Player Exception deal with the Thunder worth over $235MM over six years, which would make him the highest paid player in NBA history. However, money is not the determining factor over Westbrook’s future, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes.

For starters, uncertainty surrounding the Thunder’s roster in future seasons makes Westbrook signing a longterm contract uncertain — despite the Thunder being optimistic it will get done. As Horne explains, Westbrook does not have the option to sign another shorter-term pact like he did last year, signing a three-year, $85.7MM extension. As Horne mentions, under the new collective bargaining agreement, Westbrook cannot extend his current deal unless it’s a five-year max: meaning it’s max or nothing.

The reigning Most Valuable Player has set himself up to be paid handsomely — whether it is this offseason or next, when he can hit free agency and pursue other options. Westbrook will earn $28.5MM in 2017/18 but that could prove to be chump change if and when he signs a longterm max deal.

Below are additional notes surrounding the Northwest Division:

  • In separate piece for The Oklahoman, Horne suggests that Kyle Singler may be an optimal candidate for the stretch provision. The 29-year-old has averaged less than four points per game in Oklahoma City in two seasons and is owed $9.66MM over the next two seasons. To save cap space, the stretch provision could stretch out Singler’s salary over seven seasons and open up a roster spot for the Thunder, Horne notes.
  • Once again for the Oklahoman, Horne answers four key questions surrounding the Thunder. Among the burning questions include when 2017 draft pick Terrance Ferguson will sign, if and when the Thunder hires a new assistant coach, if any additional moves will be made, and Westbrook’s aforementioned contract dilemma.
  • Newest member of the Timberwolves, Jamal Crawford, pursued a deal with an up-and-coming contender rather than a perennial championship contender. The 37-year-old briefly spoke to the Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda about his decision to sign with Minnesota, stating that it “made sense on every level.”
  • Michael Rand of the Star Tribune looks at five potential free agent signings for Minnesota. On the list are three players who have connections to head coach Tom Thibodeau (C.J. Watson, Mike Dunleavy, and Tony Allen) and two productive veterans (Anthony Morrow and Andrew Bogut).
  • Justin Zanik and David Morway are joining the Jazz as high-ranking front office executives, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Ryan McDonald of Deseret News breaks down the move and provides information on both men and their ties to Utah.

Western Rumors: Simmons, T. Chandler, Clippers

Before they renounced Jonathon Simmons‘ rights and made him an unrestricted free agent, the Spurs discussed a sign-and-trade scenario that would have sent Simmons to the Suns in a deal for center Tyson Chandler, writes Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News. It’s not clear if the proposed deal would have been Simmons for Chandler straight up or if other parts would have been involved, but either way, San Antonio backed out of the deal, reluctant to take on Chandler’s contract, per Young.

With Simmons now a UFA, it will be interesting to see if the Suns make a move to land him outright. According to David Aldridge of TNT (Twitter link), there’s “strong” interest in Simmons around the league, with a couple teams apparently in the lead for him. The free agent guard could make a decision by the weekend, says Aldridge.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves are essentially limited to minimum salary contracts at this point, making them an unlikely destination for Jonathon Simmons or any of the other top free agents remaining on the market, says Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link).
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti acknowledged that extension discussions with Russell Westbrook aren’t really “a negotiation,” since a maximum salary offer is on the table for the reigning MVP. Erik Horne and Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman have the details on the story, suggesting that Oklahoma City won’t pressure Westbrook, who may accept the offer on his own timeline.
  • The Clippers worked out a pair of veteran free agent this week, according to Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times, who tweets that the club took a look at Tiago Splitter and Martell Webster. While no deal is imminent, the Clips remain in the market for depth at small forward and center.

Reaction To The Paul George Trade

After weeks of negotiations and rumors involving Paul George, the Pacers surprised NBA insiders and fans alike by agreeing to trade the All-Star forward to the Thunder tonight in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Shock waves are still echoing from the deal that upstaged the first night of free agency:

  • Even today, the Celtics believed they were in a good position to acquire George, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. The Celtics made several attempts to work out a deal with Indiana, a source tells Himmelsbach, including an offer at the February deadline that entailed this year’s first-round pick from the Nets, which wound up No. 1 overall, along with three future first-rounders. Boston was confident that two years of playoffs with George would have been enough to change his mind about joining the Lakers. Talks resumed just before the draft, and the Celtics’ offer was changed to three starters and two first-rounders, but not this year’s pick from the Nets or next year’s from the Lakers. The offer evolved into two starters and three picks, but it wasn’t enough to convince the Pacers.
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti had quietly been trying to acquire George for several weeks, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com. The Pacers wanted players and picks, which Oklahoma City didn’t have, and Presti wasn’t able to find a third team willing to facilitate the deal. However, Indiana’s asking price dropped Friday and Presti was ready to pounce. One danger to the deal, Young notes, is that George and Russell Westbrook can both become free agents next summer and both hail from southern California, creating the possibility that George may try to recruit his new teammate to join him on the Lakers.
  • There was “genuine surprise” in Boston that the Pacers accepted Oklahoma City’s deal, tweets Chris Mannix of The Vertical. The Celtics believed their offer gave Indiana a better path toward rebuilding.
  • The Thunder had nothing to lose in gambling on George, claims Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. They had to show Westbrook that he has a chance to win a title before his option decision next year. Bontemps says the deal instantly makes OKC one of the top four teams in the West next season along with the Warriors, Rockets and Spurs.
  • The Trail Blazers made a strong play for George this week, according to Jason Quick of CSNNW (Twitter link). Portland submitted an offer on Monday that Quick contends was better than what the Pacers accepted from the Thunder.
  • Patience helped Oklahoma City seal the trade, assesses David Aldridge of TNT (Twitter link). He notes that Presti didn’t pressure the Pacers to make the deal, but he knew they were fond of both Oladipo and Sabonis. Aldridge adds that George’s departure to the Western Conference instead of Cleveland lessens the pressure on Boston to make a panic move in response (Twitter link).
  • The trade leaves Oklahoma City with about $108MM in guaranteed contracts for next season, tweets Bobby Marks of The Vertical. That figure is roughly $9MM over the salary cap and $8MM under the luxury tax.

Thunder Notes: Westbrook, Draft, Roberson

Russell Westbrook was honored as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player on Monday after a historic season in which he averaged a triple-double, the first player to do since Oscar Robertson in 1961/62. Royce Young of ESPN writes that Westbrook’s crowning moment was the crescendo of a complete change in his on and off-court demeanor.

A lot changed from 2016 to 2017: Westbrook’s co-star Kevin Durant departed for Golden State, Westbrook became the team’s go-to player, and rumors surrounding his possible departure became hot topic in the NBA and a possible nightmare for Thunder fans. The Thunder now have the option of offering Westbrook a mega deal for five years worth over $200MM. The outspoken Westbrook told reporters, including Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman, after receiving his award that his contractual situation was the last thing on his mind.

“Man, tonight is so important for me, and obviously with the contract and stuff coming up, it’s not really on my mind at the moment honestly,” Westbrook said. “I’m just overwhelmed with a tremendous amount of blessings I’ve been able to get to be able to get this award. Man, I’m just thinking about tonight, and then after that, I’ll move on.”

However, as Young mentioned, Westbrook needing to average a triple-double, while impressive, is not conducive to advancing younger talent or keeping Westbrook sharp. If the mercurial star stays in Oklahoma City, it will need to facilitate a culture where the entire team — not one player — are a part of the offense.

Here are some more notes surrounding the Thunder:

  • Although Westbrook wasn’t eager to discuss a potential extension after winning the MVP, Young writes in his piece that those close to the star point guard expect him to accept an extension offer from the Thunder. That offer may come right when the clock strikes midnight on the morning of July 1, according to Young.
  • Thunder general manager Sam Presti told Dawson (via Twitter) that the team tried to trade into the second round of last week’s draft, but nothing materialized.
  • It’s been a big week for Andre Roberson, who was named to the All-Defensive team on Monday and also received a qualifying offer that will make him a restricted free agent this summer. Having heard from some critics who questioned his spot on the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team, Roberson took to Twitter on Tuesday to tell those critics to “check the numbers.”

Russell Westbrook Named Most Valuable Player

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was named the league’s Most Valuable Player, as was announced on TNT’s awards show Monday night. He was selected ahead of the other finalists, Rockets guard James Harden and Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard.

Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961/62 to average a triple-double for a season. He posted an NBA-leading 31.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG and 10.4 APG while carrying the Thunder to the postseason.

Harden averaged 29.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG and an NBA-best 11.2 APG. Leonard averaged 25.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 3.5 APG and was also a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award while averaging 1.8 SPG.

Four of five members of the Hoops Rumors staff chose Westbrook.

Related stories:

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Jazz, Karnišovas

While Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the Warriors in pursuit of a championship, Enes Kanter does not believe Russell Westbrook will do the same, the Turkish big man said to Sports Illustrated. Durant’s move proved wise as he captured his first NBA championship this season, leaving behind a legacy in Oklahoma City.

Westbrook enjoyed a historic season in 2016/17, averaging a triple-double (the first since Oscar Robertson in 1962) and is possibly the Most Valuable Player Award winner. Statistics and accomplishments aside, Kanter feels Westbrook best quality is loyalty.

“One thing I saw about him is he’s a loyal guy,” Kanter said. “I understand he’s from L.A., he loves L.A., he goes to L.A. every summer, but he’s a loyal player. I think he’s gonna finish his career in Oklahoma City.”

Westbrook signed an extension with OKC for three-years, $85.7MM last August, so his immediate future remains with the Thunder. However, the Los Angeles native still has strong ties to his hometown and that could be a factor in his NBA future.

Below are additional notes around the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz were swept by the Warriors in the postseason and none of the games were particularly close. However, Durant joined The Bill Simmons’ Podcast and talked about the series being a difficult because of the team’s interior defense and athleticism. “They are going to be really good,” Durant said of the Jazz. “I like them if they keep everything, that’s the thing.”
  • Artūras Karnišovas remained with the Nuggets and was promoted to general manager and he’s happy to stay, per Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports (links via Twitter). Karnišovas shared an amusing story of not being allowed in the Nuggets draft room while the Bucks were courting him for their GM opening.
  • Former Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns spoke to USA Today’s Alysha Tsuji and discussed his prior comments of the Timberwolves “coming soon.” Towns feels his young team is on the verge of breaking out as a viable contender in the NBA that can compete for success.
  • Speaking of Minnesota, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen has visited with the T’Wolves for a pre-draft workout, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (via Twitter).

Northwest Notes: Kanter, Chandler, Hayward, NBA Draft

Enes Kanter‘s current situation with Turkey makes the Thunder center a problematic asset to trade, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. Kanter returned to the United States earlier this week after he was detained in Romania following the revocation of his passport by his native country.

Kanter has been outspoken against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and earlier today, it was announced that a warrant for his arrest was issued in his homeland. Kanter was accused of belonging to a “terror group” which could be related to his past support of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

This is all part of Tramel’s point: Kanter — while not ideal for today’s style of play — is still a capable player who can help a team but his political issues make him a potential liability. The 6’11”, 245-pound Kanter posted serviceable totals of 14.3 PPG and 6.7 RPG in 72 games on a Thunder team that was led by possible 2016/17 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook.

Yet, an arrest warrant in a country considered a U.S. ally off the court and an unconventional skill set on the court could make Kanter a tough sell this offseason.

Here are additional notes around the Northwest Division:

  • Also from The Oklahoman, Brett Dawson examines the Thunder’s options as the NBA Draft approaches next month. Oklahoma City owns the No.21 overall pick in a deep draft class but will have several options; with Westbrook on board, Dawson says one direction team could go in is acquiring a talented veteran to pair with the Thunder superstar.
  • Jazz forward Gordon Hayward will have a big choice this offseason: re-sign with the Jazz or pursue his self-admitted goal of winning a championship elsewhere. As Kincade Upstill of Deseret News writes, Hayward has been a fixture of Utah’s success and a huge reason why the team reached the second round of the playoffs this season. His teammates, the team, and the fans want him to return — and the Jazz can offer him the most significant dollars. However, it will ultimately be up to Hayward where he wants to be next season.
  • Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler has parted ways with the Jay-Z-led Roc Nation and will be represented by Excel Sports moving forward, according to ESPN’s Chris Haynes (link via Twitter).
  • Trail Blazers reserve Pat Connaughton may be hanging up sneakers for cleats as the former fourth round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft could pursue a professional baseball career, Molly Blue of The Oregonian writes. Connaughton averaged 2.5 PPG as a backup point guard last season and if his NBA dream doesn’t show promise, he could change professions. The 24-year-old has been clocked at 90 mph on the diamond and the Orioles, the team that drafted him, would be happy to help him with the transition.
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