Melo, Big Three Deliver In Emotional Home Opener

By A. Suave Francisco 

Thursday night in Oklahoma City was just game one of this highly touted Thunder season. Although the New York Knicks aren't considered to be respectable competition for the Thunder, you couldn't help but see how good they can be with just a little effort as a cohesive unit. 

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Specifically, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. All the attention, as it will be all season, was on them. More specifically, on Melo. His first game against the franchise he spent seven seasons with came early in the season and gave him the opportunity to close that chapter for good. 

Melo's cryptic tweet had people speculating a lot, but for him, he said it wasn't pointing a finger directly at the Knicks organization, it was reflective of his previous two years as a whole. Being in OKC simply gives him an opportunity to decompress and focus on basketball. 

As far as the game goes, the big three (especially Anthony) had a problem shooting the ball in the first quarter, where they only shot 35.4 percent as a team, including 1-of-6 from him for only 4 points. It wasn't until the second quarter where things started to take a turn for the better. By the half, Carmelo was up to 15 points, as was Paul, and Russell was well on his way towards his first triple-double of the season with  12 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. OKC led by 11 points due to a late run by the Thunder to end the half. 

The second half is where everyone really started seeing this big three playing better together and its clear that they can do a lot of damage on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Carmelo's defense has been criticized over his 15-year career, but he's seemingly taken on that challenge this year with two other superstars that are proven to be solid defenders. Not to mention, a guy in Andre Roberson who was a top-tier defender last season. Along with Melo's 22 total points, came 2 steals and 2 blocks. 

There used to be a time where defense was a huge question mark for this team, but it appears as if it will be one of their strengths now. A couple specific possessions showed how well this team already communicates on defense and considering this being the first of 82 games, it will only get better. 

OKC's big three showed up through three quarters and thankfully, they were the last three. Combining for 71 points and 17 rebounds on 43.6 percent shooting, in what was an extremely rusty start puts the NBA on notice. This is a recipe that could result in the dethroning of Golden State as the most dominant three-headed monster in the NBA. 
 

O-K-3 Lead Thunder Past Knicks

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Thunder superstar point guard Russell Westbrook set an NBA record for triple-doubles last season as he put the team on his back and carried them to the playoffs.

This season, once the Thunder acquired both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, the conventional wisdom was that would mean the end of Russ’ run of triple-doubles.

So much for conventional wisdom.

Westbrook recorded the 80th triple-double of his career in front of the 300th straight sellout crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists in leading the Thunder to a 105-84 win over the New York Knicks.

“Russell has always tried to figure out what’s best for the group and how to get the group involved,” said head coach Billy Donovan. “And I thought from an orchestrating standpoint he did a terrific job of getting guys involved, creating shots for guys and then also finding ways of getting into the deep paint and getting to the rim.”

Westbrook got to the free throw line 10 times with those deep drives and hit seven of his shots from the line. He was 7-for-12 overall and took only one of OKC’s 38 threes. The Thunder made just 28 of those, Russ missed his lone attempt.

His new superstar running mates had big games too. Paul George led the Thunder with 28 points including six 3-pointers. Carmelo Anthony added 22 and Steven Adams dropped in 12 points and also had five steals.

The Thunder offense, as it has at times during the preseason, scuffled around some, shooting just 36.4 percent in the 1st quarter and 38.6 percent in the 1st half.

They were much more efficient in the 2nd half (47.8 percent) but the defense, like it’s been in the four preseason games was solid.

“The biggest thing for us was our defense,” Donovan said. “I’ve been really pleased with that since the start of training camp. They’ve done a really good job defensively.”

OKC forced New York into a whopping 26 turnovers which led to 38 Thunder points.

The Knicks could never really get anything going consistently because of all those turnovers and when they managed to hold onto the ball long enough to get a shot off it usually missed the mark.

The Knicks shot just 40.5 percent for the game. Kristaps Porzingis had 31 points but former Thunder backup center Enes Kanter was the only other Knick in double figures and he barely got there with 10 points on 5-for-10 shooting.

If the Thunder can continue with that it will provide the offense some time to jell.

“I think by playing great defense, especially this early in the season when most teams are still trying to find their way it gives you at least a little bit of room and you can really fall back to your defense.”

For now the Thunder are more than happy to do just that, knowing that the more Russ and his new teammates play together the better the offense will become and they’ll be spending lots of time together with their first three games coming in the span of just the next four days.

 

A New #35 For Thunder

P.J. Dozier at Tuesday's Thunder practice wearing a familiar number.

P.J. Dozier at Tuesday's Thunder practice wearing a familiar number.

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

I'll admit it was a bit jarring. Seeing someone wearing #35 back on the Thunder practice floor, shooting free throws, running drills, chatting up teammates.

But guard P.J. Dozier, who will spend some time on the Thunder roster and most of his time on the OKC Blue roster in the G-League, wasn't thinking about the last guy to wear #35 in Thunder blue when he chose that number.

He was thinking about family.

"My second cousin, Reggie Lewis, he used to play for the Boston Celtics. It wasn't anything other than that."

Lewis was an All-Star with the Celtics then tragically died of a heart attack in 1993 at the startlingly young age of 27.

"I honestly didn't even think twice about it," Dozier said when reporters asked him about his number of choice.

"I had it in preseason at Dallas," he pointed out. Dozier was a Mavs training camp signee after playing for the Lakers in Summer League and going undrafted out of South Carolina.

"I just saw (the number) was open and I just took advantage of it."

Dozier hadn't been born yet when Lewis died but just knowing a player of that caliber was in his family made an impression on Dozier.

"Just seeing someone in your family do what he did, to open up those doors and make it possible that I could have this dream one day to be able to say that I'm playing in the NBA."

Dozier is one of the new "2-way" players being allowed by the NBA this season. He will play most of his games with the Blue but could be up with the Thunder for as many as 45 days. Most of that time would be practice days because as a third point guard (barring injuries) he won't get much playing time.

Except for the number he chose Dozier's signing would have gone unnoticed around the NBA and as a side note to Thunder stories here in Oklahoma City.

But moments after media members (including me) tweeted out photos of Dozier in his new Thunder 35 jersey came a reaction from the camp of the guy who used to wear the number.

Rich Kleiman, Kevin Durant's agent and business partner for certain ventures, re-tweeted a photo of Dozier and his 35 jersey with the comment "All Class."

An apparent slap at the Thunder for allowing the number to be worn by someone else.

The reaction from Thunder fans back at Kleiman was just as swift.

Tyler Beets (@TylerBeets1) wrote "Do snakes shed their skin bc it's so thin?"

Julian Thompson (@jbug_) replied "Just like kd has soooo much "class" dogging his former teammates on a burner account."

You would think Kleiman (and Durant) would have better things to do than monitor what numbers the Thunder are giving out.

And remember, most of the time P.J. Dozier won't be sporting it in packed NBA arenas in front of national TV audiences, the Thunder figuratively putting it right in Durant's face night after night.

He'll be wearing it in front of sparse crowds, unseen by the national networks as he works hard to make his full time NBA dream come true while at the same time trying to honor a member of his family...not thumb his nose at a guy who loved wearing the same number in Oklahoma City so much he left.

 

Practice Like A Song For Thunder

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By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Just as luck would have it in a year when the Thunder have new players about to launch into critical roles time in training camp is short, preseason games are fewer.

The Thunder might as well be learning the lyrics to one of those catchy Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes from the great musical "The King And I."

"Getting to know you...getting to know all about you...Getting to like you...Getting to hope you like me."

But instead of Julie Andrews or Deborah Kerr it's Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George trying to find perfect harmony.

And with a full week of practice before the Thunder opens the regular season against the New York Knicks the new teammates will try to get to know each other better than ever before.

"I think what makes it fun is you have to appreciate it, the challenge that's in front of us," Anthony said. "Getting to know one another out there on the court, getting to know ( you can hear the music can't you) people's spots, what they like to do, what they don't like to do and it's different playing against these guys than actually being on their team."

When you play against them, like all three of the Thunder's new Big 3 have done, you're trying to figure out the best ways to stop them and disrupt their flow, make them uncomfortable.

But as Anthony points out, now collectively, they're trying to do just the opposite.

"It's like family," he said. "You gotta know what your brothers want, what your family wants. What they like, what don't like and we have to make adjustments."

And just like with family, at some point there's sure to be some sort of disagreement, "I mean when there's family problems you bring the family to the table and you talk about and you discuss it," Anthony said and then chuckled.

"Hopefully we don't have those kinda family problems but it is a long season and we know there's gonna be ups and down and trial and error but I think we're prepared for that. We know what to expect from each other so I think that makes it easier for us."

To help things along Thunder head coach Billy Donovan will get the guys as much up and down work as possible during this next week of practice.

"It's eight days so you gotta make sure we're playing enough that we're fresh enough, execution, situational work so we did a lot of movement and running and going over concepts on offense and defense."

The coach expects to get his players quite a bit more scrimmage work Friday and Saturday and then add a few tweaks to the offense and defense next week.

Donovan wouldn't talk about the possibility if he also might be able to add injured players Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson back into the mix in time to be about to play against the Knicks.

"It's hard for me to speculate where those guys might be a week from now, where Patrick would be or where Raymond would be (health-wise) I just go day-by-day and the reports I get are that both those guys are progressing and getting better."

It's not clear if they've been watching "The King And I" back in the trainers room.

 

What's To Show After OKC's Last Preseason Game?

By: A. Suave Francisco

The Oklahoma City Thunder stepped up in their final preseason game by defeating the Denver Nuggets 96-86 on the road. All things considered, the big three looked as complete as they have all preseason. Josh Huestis displayed another facet of his game that adds more reason behind an increase in playing time this season and the team's defense looked solid as well. 

Photo: OkcThunder.com

Photo: OkcThunder.com

Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George collectively didn't have a great game offensively and honestly got off to a sluggish start in the first half, by only shooting 15-of-31 from the field which was carried mostly by Russ. George and Anthony only shot a combined 7-of-20 from the field. 

George still found a way to be productive by adding 7 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists to even things out a bit. He continued doing the dirty work until his shot started falling in the fourth quarter. He nailed four 3-pointers and ultimately closed the game out after several minutes of struggle from OKC's reserves. He finished the game with a double-double, 19 points, and 11 rebounds to go along with his 5 steals and 4 assists. His 36.8 percent shooting night wasn't as tragic of a statistic after the rest of his game played out. 

Melo struggled shooting as well but did a better job making up for it in the second half. In the first, his shots seemed to be falling short in route to a 4-of-11 shooting effort. In the second, he shot a better 3-of-6 from the field which resulted in a 7-for-17 shooting night. 

There were a few plays that showed a preview of how effective Anthony can be this year from the power forward position. In his later NBA years, playing the stretch-four could be more beneficial for him than it would've been earlier. 

Just like in April, Russell simply appeared to be locked in on the game from the tip to the time he left the court. He simply controlled the offense and it's clear that having two other offensively elite players helps his game in so many areas. His turnovers were down because he wasn't trying to force as much, he shot 9-of-13 for the game and his four misses came from long distance. His shot selection has undoubtedly improved from last season, again, because of his other two weapons. 

Photo: OKCThunder.com

Photo: OKCThunder.com

The Thunder's defense simply looked great. Holding what's expected to be a pretty intriguing offensive team that played their key players for the majority of the game to just 86 points is promising for the season. Denver also shot 34.1 percent for the game and 33.3 percent from long distance. They also compiled 16 turnovers, five of which were forced by George. 

Having two other wing players that can contribute defensively makes Andre Roberson's job immensely easier and allows him more energy on both ends of the floor. More so, having three wings that can play defense will cause a ton of havoc for even the NBA's best offenses. 

For the second straight game, Josh Huestis continued his campaign for playing time in a different way than he did against Melbourne. Instead of being a defensive specialist from the power forward position, he decided to display his multi-faceted talent by stepping out and nailing 3-point shots with consistency. Huestis shot 4-of-9 from three and finished with 15 points to go with 9 rebounds. Once again, Huestis probably isn't the guy to play throughout the game but he has the skill set and the ability to play 12-15 minutes per game either at the small forward or power forward position. 

With the preseason now concluded, the Thunder have eight days until their highly anticipated season opener against the New York Knicks where Melo will return to Madison Square Garden for the first time since being traded. Enes Kanter will also get a chance to play his former team for the first time after an emotional departure. 

Josh Huestis' Two Clutch Blocks Should Lead To More Playing Time

By: A. Suave Francisco

Sunday's matinee game went just as expected, a little sloppy and uninspired early on but the relentless fight from this Thunder team ended up benefitting them enough to pull out an 86-85 victory over Melbourne United, thanks to Josh Huestis. 

Photo: OKCThunder.com.

Photo: OKCThunder.com.

A roster spot isn't sufficient enough for Huestis anymore. He deserves playing time and if Billy Donovan knows what's good for this Thunder team, he'll make that happen. 

Yes, Huestis primarily plays the power forward position and the Thunder are pretty stacked on that front. There's Patrick Patterson who will be the first power forward off the bench, then there's still Jerami Grant who will demand playing time as well and rightfully so. 

The issue seems to be that the Thunder like Grant's upside a little bit more than Huestis. However, there has to be an opening for a Huestis-sighting during some juncture of the game, not including the end of the game when the team is up 30. Even if that means trying him a little at the small forward position or in a smaller lineup, at the post position, he needs to see the floor more frequently.

Him playing at the small forward position could be beneficial but it all depends on if the defensive presence he displays in the post translates over to the perimeter, which could be a struggle for him. 

Photo: OKCThunder.com

Photo: OKCThunder.com

Josh isn't a guy to rack up all the points or get every rebound and that's probably why OKC's fanbase hasn't pushed this agenda as much. He's a guy that does all the things that don't show up on the stat sheet and although that's a cliche, it's a true fact. Against Melbourne, he finished the game with 2 points, 2 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Two of those four blocks happened in the final 10 seconds of the game when Melbourne tried desperately to hit the game-winning shot, right under the basket. Huestis also finished with the highest plus/minus stat off the bench at plus-5. 

After being drafted 29th in 2014 by the Thunder, Huestis went two seasons with the Thunder G-League affiliate, Oklahoma City Blue and last season was his first making the Thunder's regular season roster.

It is time for a change. Huestis has to see the floor a little bit more than he has in the past and it's up to Billy Donovan to figure out how that can be done. Just like a few other former Thunder players, it would be unfortunate to see a talent like this slip away from us and become a productive piece on an opposing team. 

Stout Defense, Buzzer Beater Blocks Save Thunder

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By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

As Thunder coach Billy Donovan and his players have said, the offense will come around. 

The defense appears to already be here, holding Melbourne United to 34.6 percent shooting, forcing them into 17 turnovers and then blocking the last two United shots to secure an 86-85 win.

"I think defensively we continue to get better and improve," Donovan said. "When your offense is not there, if you defend you give yourself every opportunity."

Except for the 1st quarter, when Melbourne shot 54.5 percent, the Thunder created havoc on the defensive end and made sure the Aussies felt the pressure. Melbourne shot 35.7 percent in the 2nd quarter, 21.1 percent in the 3rd and 26.9 percent in the 4th.

The Thunder also blocked 10 shots, half of them coming in the last 4:45 of the game and Josh Huestis had four of those five, the last one coming on Melbourne's last shot with 1.1 to play.

"It's fun to be able to do that," Huestis said after the game, "But it comes down to team defense. We had guys funnel everybody to the right spots and we had the right rotations. I just happened to be in the right spot."

Paul George was credited with a block 3.9 seconds earlier.

He again led Oklahoma City in scoring with 22 points but he struggled at times with his shot going just 5-for-17 and 3-for-10 on threes. It was a common problem for the Thunder who shot 34.6 percent overall and 25 percent from beyond the arc.

"We did not shoot particularly well," Donovan admitted. "I thought we had some good looks and good opportunities. The ball just didn’t go down."

Carmelo Anthony scored 19 points on 6-for-19 shooting (4-for-8 on threes), Russell Westbrook had nine points on 3-for-10 overall (0-for-3 from deep). Steven Adams had another solid game with 12 points (5-for-9), 10 rebounds and two blocks.

Melo also had seven rebounds and a couple of blocks while being aggressive on the defensive end.

“We want to be one of the top teams in the NBA defensively and I think we showed that tonight," Anthony said.

"There were spurts where we were very, very efficient on the defensive end and I think once you look back at the whole game, you will see the numbers and see that it was a very good game for us defensively. Offensively we know that we are going to have bad shooting nights but we don’t really worry about that, we don’t harp on that. We can’t have a bad night defensively if we want to be a great team."

And no question the Thunder want to be a great team but it's just going to take a while to work out some of the kinks and remember neither Patrick Patterson nor Alex Abrines have even been able to practice full contact yet, much less play in any games.

The Thunder close out the preseason in Denver Tuesday then will have eight days to get ready for the regular season opener against the New York Knicks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russ Will Play More Today, Patterson And Abrines Still Out

Russell Westbrook talking with reporters after Saturday's practice at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center.

Russell Westbrook talking with reporters after Saturday's practice at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center.

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

A shorthanded preseason gets a little longer today for the Thunder with key rotation players Patrick Patterson and Alex Abrines still sidelined.

Both men have missed both preseason games so far and will miss today's game against Melbourne and more than likely the upcoming game at Denver too.

They are at least getting closer.

“I think they’re definitely getting closer," head coach Billy Donovan told reporters after Saturday's practice. "The hardest part for me is the time frame for when they’re actually cleared. They’re doing some things in practice, but they have not done anything contact-wise. I don’t know how long that will potentially take.”

Patterson and Abrines were on the court with trainers and assistant coaches for quite a while after practice on Saturday working on drills and putting up a variety of shots.

With a shortened training camp and preseason Donovan will hopefully be able to use the full week of practice the Thunder will have before the season-opener to get those two ready to go, that is IF they're cleared to full participate.

Russell Westbrook is back now from his PRP injection and Donovan figures to increase his minutes today and Carmelo Anthony will likely play more too and those minutes will take another bump up at Denver to finish the preseason slate.

"I wouldn't say necessarily the normal minutes rotation, but they're gonna wanna get extended minutes out there, absolutely," Donovan said.

The second unit will play extensively too and Anthony says right now that's a pretty big focus for the team.

“The second unit is going to be key for us. In order for us to be successful, we’re going to need those guys,” Anthony said. “That’s a unit we’re going to rely on when we come out of the game and need a breather and need to either sustain a lead, close a gap on a lead or we want to take a lead from 5 to 10 or 10 to 15. Those guys are going to be very important.”

Trouble is when Anthony comes out he would ideally be replaced by by Patterson and when George comes out, or Andre Roberson comes out, they would likely be replaced by Abrines and of course those guys are still on the bench because of their health situation.

Those injuries will make the process of this group coming together and fully syncing up take a little longer but Westbrook says it's going to happen.

“We’re still figuring it out,” Westbrook stated. “We’re going to continue to figure it out throughout the season. It’s going to be a season-long process.”

Tipoff is set for 2 o'clock this afternoon. The game can be see on on Fox Sports Oklahoma.

 

 

 

Russ Plays 1st Quarter, Thunder Win

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook was only on the floor for 10 minutes but he and his teammates gave everyone inside Chesapeake Arena a glimpse into what this this team could be.

"Having Russ back, it makes the game easier for myself, Paul (George) and everybody," said Carmelo Anthony. "It was just a matter of him working his way back and getting a feel for a game standpoint and getting a game pace. Other than that, it felt good having him back."

Westbrook is working his way back slowly from a PRP injection he had about two-and-a-half weeks ago. He scored nine points on 3-for-5 shooting and handed out four assists in OKC's 102-91 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night.

“(Russ) has speed that you can’t scout for and can’t plan for,” George said. “It’s definitely a luxury to have a guy like that on the floor with you.”

Anthony and George have seen it in practice the last few days but Friday night was the first time the Thunder's new Big 3 have played in a "regular" game atmosphere.

George lit it up in the 27 minutes he played, scoring 25 points on 7-for-14 shooting (3-for-7 on threes) and 8-for-10 at the free throw line.

“He does well at scoring without the ball, coming off picks, coming off of pindowns,” Anthony said. “We know to go get him. There are going to be nights like tonight where he has it going and we want to go to him.”

“It’s just reading guys,” George said. “I’m going to cut and try to put pressure on the defense at all times, which a lot of times opens up other stuff for guys. It’s always keeping them on their toes.”

Anthony, playing 17 minutes scored nine points on 4-for-10 and Steven Adams, who found the lane open all night when he needed it scored eight points on 4-for-4 shooting and grabbed six rebounds.

The Thunder shot 48.6 percent overall and as George, Anthony and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan have said it's going to take a while for things to mesh on offense. For guys to get used to each other's moves and favorite spots on the floor.

Defensively, OKC had a solid night, limiting the Pels to just 39 percent shooting overall and 31.3 percent from deep.

“Our defense continues to be a focus for us,” Donovan said. “Coming out of this second game I saw improvements in a lot of different areas and still areas where we have to get better.”

“Defensively we picked it up and played at a better pace, a better tempo,” George said. “It allowed us to get out offensively and explore the fast break a little bit. Overall I thought we looked good.”

Next up the Thunder will practice Saturday then play Melbourne, from the Australian league at 2pm on Sunday inside The Peake.

 

 

 

Westbrook Appears Ready To Go For Tonight

Russell Westbrook (background) shoots free throws at the end of Thunder shootaround this morning while head coach Billy Donovan visits with team physician Dr. Donnie Strack at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center.

Russell Westbrook (background) shoots free throws at the end of Thunder shootaround this morning while head coach Billy Donovan visits with team physician Dr. Donnie Strack at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center.

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook did not speak with reporters after this morning's team shootaround, he and head coach Billy Donovan were checking with OKC's medical staff about Westbrook's playing status for tonight's game.

There was no official word from the Thunder after shootaround but the overwhelming feeling was that Westbrook would play.

"I think so," Paul George said when asked if Westbrook would be in the lineup tonight. "You gotta ask Russ that but yeah I think he's playing tonight. I know I would like to be out there playing with Russ tonight."

A final decision may not come until shortly before the game but Westbrook has been fully involved in the team's last three practice sessions so speculation is that he will play though perhaps not much more than 15 to 20 minutes.

The Thunder will play a much different team tonight with the Pelicans coming in with two big men DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis instead of going up against some of Houston's ultra small lineups.

"Yeah it will be (different) we played against a spread team and tonight we'll play against a two big, three out team," George said.

But New Orleans' bigs can still stretch a defense.

"This is still a unique team with the shooting skills of Anthony and DeMarcus they can still spread the defense as well as bang in the post. So it's a different look but we still gotta be prepared for a 3-point shooting team."

Both George and Carmelo Anthony believe the offense will be a bit more in sync tonight than in that first game, especially if Westbrook plays.

"I think we were all excited because it was our first game going up against another team and it took me a few minutes to kinda slow down with the excitement of playing (for a new team)," George said, "and it might be kinda that way tonight in front of our crowd, I might have a little bit of jitters."

But he says he's getting more comfortable with his new teammates and coaches and that will help too.

Donovan said yesterday he wants to see the starting unit together but will stay play some of the younger guys quite a bit.

The Thunder are still expected to be without both Alex Abrines and Patrick Patterson though both are getting closer to returning to practice and then to games.

Tipoff tonight is set for 7:10 and remember OKC's Sunday game with Melbourne, Australia, is an afternoon contest with a 2:10 tipoff time.

 

Christon Deserves A Second Chance And A Roster Spot Over Canaan

By: A. Suave Francisco, via TheSuaveReport.com

 

Finding a legitimate backup and third point guard has been a hot topic for the Thunder dating back to last season. Due to all the hoopla regarding OKC’s new big three and Russell Westbrook’s contract extension, this agenda has been an afterthought during the offseason until now.

Last season, Semaj Christon was thrown into being the MVP’s backup in his rookie NBA season. Obviously, it’s a tall order to expect a rookie to keep up what Westbrook started, but to many fans, it wasn’t an unreasonable thought at all.

Averaging 2.9 points, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 rebounds in 15 minutes per game isn’t an exciting stat-line and definitely not when you look at his 34.5 percent shooting and 54.8 percent shooting from the free throw line. Any and everyone in their right mind knows those aren’t acceptable shooting percentages, but Christon’s fight, relentlessness, and aggressive style of play turned him into a nuisance on the defensive end of the floor.

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With that being said, he deserves a spot on the Thunder roster.

Although Raymond Felton should be the backup point guard for the 2017-2018 season, Christon deserves a roster spot over Isaiah Canaan for multiple reasons. Mostly because of that fight we just mentioned.

Canaan is starting his fifth year in the NBA and seemed to have already reached his full potential a couple of seasons ago. Christon is starting only his second NBA season and clearly hasn’t reached his full potential yet. In layman’s terms, Christon has more upside than Canaan at this point.

Having Isaiah on the roster last year may have benefitted the Thunder more than it would to have him on the team this year. He has a reputation as a 3-point specialist, which last season, on a team that couldn’t seem to get the basketball in the basket, would’ve been a great weapon to have. However this season, the Thunder have three elite scorers on their team, a draft picks that’s expected to be able to shoot the ball well in Terrance Ferguson and a more developed and experienced Alex Abrines who can also shoot the ball.

This would be a premier time for the Thunder to have a player like Semaj on the bench with that pit bull mentality, biting at the bit to get into the game, frustrate the opposing point guard and mess up the flow of the opposing team’s offense. His skill set, just like Andre Roberson, will be more valuable to a team like this where their weakness (shooting) isn’t as highlighted.

Defensively and mentality wise, Christon deeply resembles a young Patrick Beverley. You can’t teach that but you can teach someone techniques on how to improve their shot.

As we’ve all seen during the NBA Summer League and Development League, Christon actually can score. He’s crafty with the ball and does a good job getting his teammates involved too.

Maybe being a backup point guard for a team like the Thunder was too much too soon for Christon, but he’s much better than the numbers he put up last season and that’s obvious. With the proper confidence, he can thrive and with a more experienced and confident basketball team, he’ll have more mentorship needed that will be more beneficial for his development.

Thunder Lose Game And Steven Adams

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Losing the first game of the preseason doesn't really matter but losing Steven Adams does.

Kid Kiwi was pulled to the floor by James Harden in the middle of the 3rd quarter last night as he was going up for a shot. Harden was whistled for a flagrant foul and Adams left the court for the locker room and didn't return to see the end of Oklahoma City's 104-97 loss to Houston.

"I'll be fine mate, they got me on some drugs," Adams joked while talking with reporters after the game. He's had some back issues in the past but this time the Thunder center said the pain seemed to be mostly in his glute rather than his lower back so he's not expected to miss much time.

That would be good news for the the Thunder who haven't been able to see much of Patrick Patterson or Alex Abrines on the practice floor yet and Russell Westbrook also sat out as he recovers from a PRP injection. Patterson is recovering from off-season left knee surgery and Abrines continues to be bothered by a sore left knee. A situation that would seem to be more worrisome the longer it lingers.

In the game the Thunder struggled at times on both ends of the floor as new teammates worked to get accustomed to each other.

Carmelo Anthony got off to a hot start, scoring the first 10 Thunder points. He finished with 19 on 7-for-13 shooting (3-for-5 on threes). Paul George got off to a slow start but finished with 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting (1-for-3 on threes).

"I think sometimes we were overthinking it a little bit and trying to be a little too unselfish out there," Anthony said. 

"One time I had a wide-open shot and I gave it to Paul and he shot it with like three seconds to go and I know how that feel, so felt bad about that but, those are the things we are getting better at and knowing each other’s game and knowing who is on the court, and getting more comfortable and used to the guys out there.”

We’re just working on rhythm" George said.

"Coach is trying to tie myself in, trying to tie Melo in. Even besides us two, there are still a lot of new faces in this crew, so that’s all it is, trying to build on both ends and form a new team. We’re all a team in this and we are trying to figure this out on the fly. Once Russ comes back we will start to trend toward how we are going to look, how we are going to play. It is good for us to get our feet wet and see where we are at.”

The Thunder don't have as much time this season to figure things out in training camp and preseason games. With Opening Night for OKC coming on October 19th the team will have about 10 days less to get ready than in previous seasons.

"Obviously these guys just learning different things, especially with the new guys," Adams said. "Then main thing was just getting the terminology down, because obviously they’re used to… they go into instinct mode and they’re used to certain words.  It just shows what we need to work on."

Overall the Thunder were held to 40.8 percent shooting and 38.5 percent on threes. The Rockets were a bit better at 42.3 percent overall but the big difference in the game was the shear volume of 3-pointers Houston put in the air...55. The Rockets hit 24 of those leading to 72 of their 104 points.

“The game is definitely changing. That’s outrageous. The only way to adjust is more on our end, we have to minimize those opportunities,” Adams said. “It’s running them off properly and making sure they don’t get those attempts.”

And those are things the Thunder can work on but for now it was just a good feeling, especially for Anthony, to get back out on the court.

“That feel is back. That joy,” Melo said. “Being happy out there on the court again. Being excited, being motivated to be out there on the court again. That feeling is back for me.”

The Thunder won't practice Wednesday, using it as a "rest and recovery" day instead. The preseason home opener is Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Westbrook Practices Monday But Won't Play Against Houston Tuesday

Thunder coach Billy Donovan says he's not sure yet when Russell Westbrook, Patrick Patterson and Alex Abrines will return to play...but Russ is getting close.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan says he's not sure yet when Russell Westbrook, Patrick Patterson and Alex Abrines will return to play...but Russ is getting close.

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

After a scrimmage on Sunday and a preseason game coming up on Tuesday the Thunder held a fairly short practice session on Monday but the good news is Russell Westbrook participated in most of it.

"Today was the first day that he did contact so we'll see what (the medical staff says) but he looked fine out there," said head coach Billy Donovan.

"We got up and down and worked in the half court and he was there for every bit of it."

However, Westbrook will not play in Tuesday night's preseason game against the Houston Rockets. Patrick Patterson (knee) and Alex Abrines (knee) are being held out as well.

"Those three guys are definitely out but I think just for Russell it's a slow progression (after the PRP injection) there's no reason just to throw him back in so quickly but he's doing more and more," Donovan said.

Patterson is recovering from off-season knee surgery and Abrines continues to have some knee soreness, similar to what he experienced during the EuroBasket tournament.

"With both of those guys it's really hard to put a time frame on it," Donovan told reporters. "It's not something we think is long term but they're not gonna play (for a while) but I think both those guys continue to make progress towards playing, but when that day will be I don't know. Both guys are getting better."

There's no indication Patterson is having problems with his recovery from a fairly routine knee procedure but the situation with Abrines could be more concerning.

He was being counted on to be a major part of the Thunder's second unit and to likely see some court time with the first team in certain situations.

Abrines broke James Harden's rookie record for most made 3-pointers in a season and has added about 15 pounds to his frame.

With Westbrook out, Raymond Felton will be the starting point guard, joining Andre Roberson, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams as the first five on the floor against Houston.

"After going through five, six days of training camp, the scrimmage yesterday and now going up against another opponent so it's gonna fun," the veteran point guard said after Monday's practice.

And though he'll start against the Rockets and perhaps in Friday's game against New Orleans, Felton's main job will be leading the second unit and he's looking forward to that challenge.

"I got a chance to do a little of that today (with Westbrook practicing again) and I'm having conversations with those guys to let 'em know we gotta push (the starters) and make them better. Just because you got three All-Stars we still gotta push them and make them better."

That kind of buying in really impresses Donovan.

"He's really done an incredible job of investing in the young players. He really has spent time with those guys, he helps those guys. He has a great presence on the court, he has a great presence in the locker room. He's a great guy to talk to. He's really been a great addition to our team."

The Thunder will bus up to Tulsa this evening and have shoot-around Tuesday morning.

Tipoff is set for 7:10 and the game will be televisedby NBA-TV.

 

 

 

 

Thrilling Sunday For Thunder Fans

Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook talks to fans in Edmond during ThunderFest For Russ on Sunday. Photo By; Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com

Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook talks to fans in Edmond during ThunderFest For Russ on Sunday. Photo By; Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Almost 5-thousand Thunder fans showed up at Edmond North High School on Sunday to show their appreciation for Russell Westbrook and he again told all those fans they're the best in all of sports.

A few minutes later he told reporters “I like where I'm at, I like to see the fans, I enjoy where I play basketball, and obviously with the extension, it shows that," he said.

Thunder fans and the organization itself have supported Westbrook through good and great times, bad and terrible times. From missed shots and turnovers to triple-doubles and stunning buzzer beaters they've always had his back.

Westbrook tells reporters about his appreciation of the fans in Oklahoma City.

Westbrook tells reporters about his appreciation of the fans in Oklahoma City.

“It's just unbelievable. I'm truly honored and blessed,” Westbrook smiled. “It's just something that you can't make up. You can't re-enact it. The people here, they're genuine. They truly obviously love me and love the team, and they stay strong to that, and that's something that you don't find many places.”

After what the team called "ThunderFest With Russ" it was time to head into the gym for the annual Blue/White Scrimmage.

About half the crowd had to stay outside in Thunder Alley because they weren't able to get tickets. The Edmond North administration distributed tickets to students, staff and boosters.

Westbrook didn't play because of that platelet rich injection he received a couple of weeks ago in his left knee.

He gave reporters no indication when he will return but head coach Billy Donovan said Westbrook is "fine."

Without "The Brodie" the scrimmage quickly became a showcase for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony and they did not disappoint. George was on fire hitting 12 of his 14 shots for 30 points and going 6-for-8 from beyond the arc. 

Anthony, wearing a sleeveless hoodie...yes a sleeveless hoodie under his practice jersey, scored 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds and handing out five assists.

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Steven Adams, with more room to operate down low scored 13 points on 5-5 shooting and grabbed six rebounds.

"The guys did a really nice job,” Donovan said. “There’s a lot of things that we can learn from and get better from and really take a look at both offensively and defensively. It gives us a little bit more information.”

And Donovan, though he's already been seeing it in practice, was also impressed with how well George and Anthony operated within the offense.

“Those guys really moved the ball very well. They extra passed it and skipped it,” Donovan said.

And finally the coach and the players all seemed to really get a kick out of the packed house at the Edmond North gymnasium as students yelled their support and chanted.

“It’s such a great reflection on the community,” Donovan said. “The people are just incredibly supportive. Our guys really enjoy coming into these venues because it’s intimate and they get a chance to connect with a lot of the fans. We appreciate all the support and people coming out the way we do.”

The Thunder will practice Monday and Tuesday before busing up to Tulsa for Tuesday night's preseason opener against the Houston Rockets. 

 

 

PG Says Westbrook Decision Will "Absolutely" Figure In His Own

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

All is well in Thunderland right now, no fretting among team officials or fans about when, of if, Russell Westbrook will sign his extension.

Westbrook put pen to paper on Friday with no muss and no fuss.

Head coach Billy Donovan found out when Westbrook walked by his office and gave him a thumbs up...

"He came walking by and kinda gave me a thumbs up and he came back in and he told me the deal was signed and I gave him a hug and told him I was happy and congratulations. It was great, I was really, really happy."

Carmelo Anthony got a bunch of text messages and Paul George saw the news go by on the ticker while watching NBATV.

"And then we were all happy, all happy to see him long term here."

Will Westbrook's decision play a role in the decision George has to make next summer?

"Absolutely, absolutely," he said and when was pressed about how it would factor in he said, "For him to be committed here, it says a lot. 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. 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."

Presumably it will be easier for him to stay in Oklahoma City instead of going home to the Los Angeles area to play for a Lakers team that right now is no where close to the Thunder's talent level.

As for Anthony, when he was asked the same question he wanted to deflect any talk about what might happen next summer when he could opt out of his current deal.

"I'm not even answering those questions," Anthony said with a chuckle. "I don't even want to alter my focus and my vision right now, being in training camp and trying to get things rolling."

Anthony said earlier this week he loved being able to just focus on basketball for right now in Oklahoma City instead of being pulled this way and that in New York City.

But you figure having Westbrook committed long-term will influence Melo that same way as George and both have been impressed with what they've seen on and off the court in OKC.

"This is a first class organization," George said. "Just off the charts everywhere across the board. They dedicate really everything to their players. You don't have any distractions and you can come in and just dedicate your time to your craft. That's what you're allowed to do here and you enjoy that."

"I feel like I'm in college again," Anthony said. "Just going around in the city it has that college feel. The energy, the joy I have back with the game of basketball, I can feel it, I can feel it when I'm out and about. The energy is just different."

Anthony told reporters he was "happy" when he heard the news that Westbrook had re-upped.

"He's the cornerstone of this organization, and he's proven that yesterday by agreeing to that deal not only showing this organization his commitment, but showing (Oklahoma City) his commitment to them, too."

Westbrook has not practiced with the group yet and won't play in Sunday's blue-white scrimmage at Edmond North High School. 

He will be there though and will address the crowd during what the team is calling ThunderFest with Russ. 

Here is the media release on that event sent out by the team.

The Oklahoma City Thunder invites fans to join in the festivities as the team holds ThunderFest with Russ on Sunday afternoon. The event, featuring food trucks, a dance troupe, DJ and an appearance from Russell Westbrook, will give fans an opportunity to celebrate Westbrook’s multi-year contract extension and to honor his contributions to the Thunder and to Oklahoma.

ThunderFest will be held outside Edmond North High School, 215 W. Danforth Rd. in Edmond, and will get underway at 1 p.m. Central. The event is free and open to the public.

Fans who plan to attend are strongly encouraged to arrive early. Public parking at the high school is very limited in the east parking lot, off of Thomas Drive. Offsite parking is encouraged.

After that event the blue-white scrimmage will tipoff. There are no public tickets for the scrimmage. Just like past years the school is distributing tickets to its students.

The Thunder's newest stars will really begin to feel the energy  during the next several days and when Melo's old team, the New York Knicks roll in here for Opening Night on October 19th, look out...The Peake will be rockin' like never before.

 

 

Done Deal

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By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

For as long as anyone has been listening Russell Westbrook has been making it clear how he feels about Oklahoma City in general and the Thunder in particular.

Just this past Monday on Thunder media day Westbrook said "this is a place I want to be. I love being here. I love the fans. I love the people here."

As his busy summer was ending he even gave us all a hint that some big news might be about to break.

"I'm back now to get a chance to simmer down and get everything situated."

Get everything situated

Now Westbrook has proved once and for all his commitment to the team and the city isn't just talk. The Thunder have confirmed Westbrook has finally signed his supermax contract extension that will keep him in a Thunder uniform through the peak of his career.

Adding this season to the extension Westbrook has the richest total deal in NBA history, 6-years, for approximately $233 million.

In a statement released by the Thunder, Westbrook again mentioned his love for the City and team.

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there is no place I would rather be than Oklahoma City,” said Westbrook. “I am so honored to have the opportunity to continue my career here with the Thunder. From day one the support that Mr. Bennett, Sam, Troy and the entire organization have given me and my family has been incredible, and we are so grateful. When you play in Oklahoma City you play in front of the best fans in the world, I’m looking forward to bringing everything I’ve got, for them, this city and for this organization. WHY NOT?”

Thunder GM Sam Presti, who's had perhaps the best summer any sports league executive could hope to have said this about his superstar MVP.

“Russell’s commitment to the Thunder organization since its inception in 2008 has helped propel us to great heights and stare down great challenges over our first decade,” said Presti. “We are extremely fortunate to have an athlete, competitor and person such as Russell wear the Thunder uniform. To have him cement his legacy as a leader as we enter into our 10th season in Oklahoma City is extraordinary. I am extremely grateful to Russell, his family and to our ownership for the commitment and support that they have demonstrated in supporting our vision for the Thunder.”

A lot of credit also needs to go to the Thunder ownership group, the guys some members of the national media like to call "cheap."

That group could potentially (if Paul George re-signs and Carmelo Anthony picks up next season's option on his contract) be paying out the most money on salaries and luxury taxes in league history...somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million. That's almost how much it cost to buy the entire Seattle SuperSonics organization.

Clay Bennett, Thunder chairman of the board, released this statement about the Westbrook signing.

“Russell represents everything we could have ever hoped for when building a basketball team for Oklahoma City,” said Thunder Chairman Clayton I. Bennett. “His character, integrity and relentless drive have been a great unifier that has deeply and positively affected the spirit of our fans inside our arena, in our classrooms and in our neighborhoods. We recognize and deeply appreciate Russell’s rare and unique abilities as he leads the Oklahoma City Thunder, but also understand his presence and impact on our community will be felt for decades to come. On behalf of the entire Thunder organization, our ownership group and all of Oklahoma, I want to express my deepest appreciation to Russell and I know that the very best days for the Thunder are yet to come.”

There's no word yet about any sort of public event for Westbrook but the Thunder will have their annual blue-white scrimmage in Edmond on Sunday at North High School and they will open preseason play in Tulsa against the Houston Rockets.

And for what it's worth...Westbrook signed his extention last year one month to the day after Kevin Durant turned his back on Oklahoma City, Westbrook and the Thunder. Now almost 13 months later he signs his new deal on September 29th...Durant's birthday.

Why Not??

Donovan Working To Get "Everybody On The Same Page"

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan talks to reporters after practice at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center.

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan talks to reporters after practice at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center.

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Of all the years to have a short training camp and an abbreviated preseason, the NBA had to pick this one.

It's actually something players have been wanting for a while and some coaches too but THIS year for THIS team, a few more days of practice and a couple more preseason games just might have come in handy.

The Thunder have six players who weren't on the main roster last season, two of them will be starters this season and two others will likely play big minutes.

After Wednesday's practice head coach Billy Donovan went through a long list of what he's trying to get across to the new guys about the Thunder's defensive sets and schemes.

"There's so many things you have to guard and handle, from screening actions to pick and rolls to spacing to teams playing small to switching to showing there's just a lot of different things," Donovan told reporters.

In the first two days of camp Donovan and his coaches have put in the "foundations of how we wanna play," and are branching out from there into a tangled web details.

"Pick and roll coverages change on personnel, screening actions change on personnel, but you want to have clarity on what you're doing and then have the adjustments and the changes be based on scouting relative to personnel."

To get all that to work the way it's supposed to, players have to be talkative, letting teammates know what might be coming their way or if someone needs help as a pick and roll develops.

"From day one you want those guys talking and communicating and they've done a really good job with that," Donovan said.

"Carmelo's a good talker, Paul's a good talker, Russ is the same way and even Steven. He's been very vocal, very helpful defensively and has done a really, really good job and so has Andre. But regardless of who's out there you have to have five guys who are communicating."

Paul George has liked what he's seen so far with his new learning experience.

"The first two days have been really good man," he said. "We've been paired up with multiple different groups and we're growing. I think the best thing about what we're starting with is that we're growing every single day."

And George has been front and center in all of it, along with Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook. Each veteran taking a piece of the team leadership role.

"I think at this point in my career, the battles I've had in post-season, I'm here to help with shouldering this team with Russ and with Melo."

And Donovan appreciates that kind of attitude from his superstars, stepping in with advice and help for younger guys on the team.

We're fortunate here that we have really, really good, quality veteran guys," Donovan said. "What's really impressive to me is the time Raymond Felton has spent with the young guys. Or the fact that Carmelo's on a basket with Paul George and working with Jerami Grant. I think the older guys remember what it was like to be a younger player and what kind of things were helpful to their growth."

Those kinds of attitudes are even more important with this season of transition for the Thunder coming at a time when time is short.

Melo Buys In On Playing Power Forward

Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony talks to reporters after practice on Tuesday. Photo By: Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com

Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony talks to reporters after practice on Tuesday. Photo By: Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Carmelo Anthony has a history of not particularly wanting to play the power forward position mostly because he believes his natural position is small forward.

The Knicks wanted to switch and he did at times but usually ended up going back to power forward.

So when he came to the Thunder naturally a lot of folks wondered if Melo would truly consider playing the four instead of the three, after all OKC already has an All-Star at small forward and Paul George would be truly out of position trying to bang around with the big boys.

But at Monday's media day Anthony seemed ready to make the switch without much (if any) grumbling.

"I feel like there have been times where I've been my strongest at that position (power forward) and like I said earlier, I can adjust. If you need me to play the three, which is my natural position, I would do that. You need me to play the four, which I think I could actually be a lot better at the four with this team, then I'll do that."

And head coach Billy Donovan left no doubt after Tuesday's practice that Melo would indeed be playing power forward.

"He's going to start at the power forward spot for us," Donovan declared. "That's what he's going to do."

On this Thunder team, like with Team USA and even some of the Denver Nuggets teams Anthony was a part of, the fit will be best by far at the four. Melo is stout enough to bang with the big boys down low but as everyone knows he can stretch defenses out beyond the 3-point line and create mismatches.

"I have no problem with playing the four," Anthony said. "None at all. I actually like that. I actually embrace that. I think for this team it would be better for me to play the four and more beneficial to everybody."

These first few days of training camp will be mostly for the new guys (Anthony, Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton) to learn the Thunder's system and for everyone to learn about each other.

“We have to become a team. It’s a collection of all of us,” Donovan said. "We still have to be a team if we want to achieve the things we’re trying to achieve.”

“Chemistry doesn’t just happen overnight,” Anthony added, “You have to work towards that. You have to stay in the gym and build that bond between the guys. It’s not just about me, Russ and PG. It’s everybody.”

 

 

Hello Melo And Other Moments From Media Day

New Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony posing for photos and videos at at Chesapeake Arena during Thunder Media Day. Photo By: Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com

New Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony posing for photos and videos at at Chesapeake Arena during Thunder Media Day. Photo By: Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Thunder Media Day tends to take up a lot of time and space and story lines. This year it was overflowing on all counts.

First we may have misjudged Carmelo Anthony, turns out he may not be a seeker of bright lights and big cities, at least not anymore.

The first question he was asked was about the assumption most everyone had...that the 10-time All-Star wouldn't want to play in a place like OKC, right smack in the middle of "fly-over" country. But before Berry Tramel could even finish setting up his question Anthony had an answer for him.

"That's because nobody really knew me."

He ended up sounding like someone who could be VERY happy in this neck of the woods and had in fact been thinking about it for a while as his friendship with Russell Westbrook grew.

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook answers questions from reporters during Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City. Photo By: Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook answers questions from reporters during Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City. Photo By: Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com

Second Westbrook says he still loves Oklahoma City, "this is a place I want to be," he said Monday afternoon. "I love being here."

So why hasn't he signed that long term extension?

Well he said he's been busy with family, especially that brand new baby boy. 

"You know having a new son can be a little difficult, you know what I mean?"

But now that training camp has arrived and Westbrook can focus in on basketball he may decide to pick up a pen and sign his name.

And third the Thunder's new Big 3 (Westbrook, Anthony and Paul George) could end up being a Big 4.

"It would be great to get D-Wade," George said when asked about the All-Star shooting guard bought out over the weekend by Chicago. "I got a chance to work out with him a little bit ago late in the summer, and, man, he looks really good. So, it would be great to get D-Wade here."

Wade is being pursued by at least three other teams, the Cavaliers, Spurs and Heat. It could come down to which of his close buddies Wade would prefer, Lebron James or Anthony and Melo is already recruiting Wade.

When asked about the possibility of convincing his friend to join him Melo said "I'd love to have him here in Oklahoma City," then he looked right into a TV camera lens as if he was looking Wade right in his eyes and said "D...c'mon...c'mon D, you know you belong here."

 

 

 

 

 

'Melo To OKC' Proves Many Critics Wrong

By A. Suave Francisco

Last year was Russell Westbrook's "Prove Them Wrong" year and he succeeded. If there were any doubts regarding his ability as a teammate, they were taken care of last season. 

There have been two narratives revolving around the Thunder organization since they relocated to Oklahoma City: No big-name players choose to play professional basketball in Oklahoma City and definitely, not to play with a "selfish" Westbrook. 

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That may have been true in the past but after Carmelo Anthony chose to be traded to the Thunder specifically to play with Westbrook and Paul George, that isn't the case anymore. 

Anthony is known for being a big city type of player based on his personality, history, and lifestyle but he's chosen to sacrifice that in order to win a championship in the late stages of his career. 

He's never played alongside another superstar unless it was during Olympic play. There's a peculiar coincidence there as well. He's had some of his best performances during the Olympics. He's actually arguably the greatest Olympic men's basketball player to ever play and the most obvious reason is that of the talent that's been around him. 

That's exactly why 'Hoodie Melo' will be a great fit in Oklahoma City. There's not as much pressure to be THE guy, with no real help. With the NBA's reigning MVP that averaged a triple-double last season and a player in Paul George that averaged 23.7 points per game last season, one can only imagine how Anthony's 22.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists will translate for the Thunder. 

There are three distinctlively different dominant personality types on this team now. How will that work? That's the biggest question. Well, at least for Melo, he wanted to come here and the two other teams he listed as possible destinations had an alpha, so that alone shows that he's willing to take a backseat role in his 14th season. 

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Westbrook has been connecting all summer. Don't think those pickup games over the offseason we've all seen on video are a coincidence. Russell has been talking. He knew Melo's predicament and lured him right into Oklahoma City and apparently, so did Paul George. All three of these guys want to be in this situation, so it's hard to confidently say there will be a chemistry issue on this team.

Sam Presti continues to amaze the NBA with his mysterious work over this summer and with the season less than a month away, his work stil may not be done. He's placed the Thunder right back to big three status and now they are a direct threat to the Golden State Warriors and their crown.