5 min read

Friday Bolts: 1.25.19

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s win over the Pelicans: “New Orleans Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry is a former disciple and current practitioner of Mike D’Antoni’s old “7 seconds or less” Phoenix Suns philosophy. On Thursday night, against the Pelicans, Russell Westbrook breathed new life into the phrase and exhibited, once again, why he should be an All Star alongside his Thunder teammate Paul George, who was named a Western Conference starter on Thursday evening. Late in the fourth quarter during the midst of a game that felt more like a street race, Westbrook made a game-altering play that caused a four-point swing and ensured an eventual 122-116 victory over New Orleans. In a span of exactly 7 seconds, Westbrook made a chase-down block of a Pelicans’ fast break layup. Westbrook then took the ball 70 feet on the dribble for a viciously quick attacking layup of his own.”

Berry Tramel (Oklahoman) with three quick takeaways from last night’s win: “The Thunder bench struggled again, in a game in which it should have thrived. The Pelicans were using players normally out of their rotation. Or playing reserves longer than normal. Yet the Pelicans constantly took advantage of OKC’s bench, even with Paul George playing with an otherwise all-bench lineup. Patrick Patterson gave the Thunder a fourth-quarter boost with seven points in a six-possession span, helping extend the lead back to 12 after the Pelicans drew within seven. Dennis Schroder hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter to spark a rally. But mostly, the Thunder reserves gave up baskets and didn’t produce many on their own.”

Thunder/Pelicans highlights:

Thunder news release on Paul George being named an All-Star starter: “Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George was named a starter for the 2019 All-Star Game, it was announced today by the NBA. George is slated to make his sixth career All-Star appearance and his third All-Star start. In 46 games this season, George is leading the Thunder in scoring while averaging career-highs in points (27.0), rebounds (7.9), steals (2.33) and made threes (3.4). He currently ranks eighth in the NBA in scoring, second in steals and first in points off turnovers (5.0). He leads the league in loose balls recovered (2.3) while ranking second in deflections (3.8). Since Oct. 28, George has registered the second-best plus-minus rating in the NBA (+9.7) while helping lead the Thunder to a 29-14 record during this span.”

Brett Dawson (Athletic) on the All-Star starter selection being another sign of PG’s comfort with the Thunder: “George typically is on the cutting edge of off-court fashion, showered and styled before he fields questions from reporters. But on Thursday night — fresh off a 122-116 win against the Pelicans — he did his interview pre-shower. It was more casual. More comfortable. That was fitting. There might be no better word than comfortable to sum up George’s season so far. Named an All-Star starter on Thursday — his sixth selection to the team and third as a starter, but his first start in the loaded Western Conference — George has seemed utterly self-assured. “When I got traded here, it was almost (like) people thought it was gonna be the end of me being an All-Star, coming out the West,” he said with a little laugh. “But God is good.” There’s a self-assurance in George that sometimes seemed absent last season, even as he had a strong debut in Thunder blue.”

George celebrated the honor with an Instagram post:

Dan Favale & Adam Fromal (B/R) on the top 100 players of the 2018-19 season thus far: “78. Jerami Grant. Jerami Grant’s defensive portability isn’t new. He’s comfortable in any situation, against any position, from jockeying on the block and rotating around the basket to chasing ball-handlers outside the paint. His offensive performance is a bigger development. Grant’s identity is starting to crystallize. He’s hovering around 34 percent from beyond the arc, the second-highest mark of his career, and shooting better than 60 percent on two-pointers while showing a higher comfort level off the dribble. Playing him with Steven Adams and Paul George has amounted to a two-way cheat code, according to Cleaning the Glass—one that supersedes Oklahoma City’s relative dearth of shooting.” (Adams 27th, Russ 16th, PG 9th)

Paul Centopani (FanSided) proposes an Abrines/TLC/Felton/draft picks for Norman Powell trade with the Raptors: “The Thunder are Sisyphus and a two-way shooting guard is their boulder. If it feels like they’ve been looking for the right backcourt complement for Russell Westbrook in perpetuity, it’s because they have. It takes a particular player type that would succeed in that situation… The ideal backcourt mate for Russy Stardust would be an already-developed, plus-defender, who can shoot. Powell checks all those boxes and would fit seamlessly into a lineup with Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams.”

Rob Perez (Action Network) ranks Russell Westbrook’s NBA beefs: “He is basketball’s version of Maximus from Gladiator — taking on any challenge, any competitor, at any time, and when he’s done he’s going to tomahawk his sword at you and demand to know if you were entertained. He doesn’t care if you respond, as apathy is his arch nemesis. Russ’ relentless, blood-thirsty approach isn’t just a mentality — he never takes a play off. He would posterize a litter of golden retriever puppies if it meant two points for his team. This man has a line of players around the block who would love nothing more than to get him into a steel cage, lock the door, and throw away the key, and while this approach has attracted the loyalty and love of millions, it has simultaneously spawned sentiments of envy, malice, and a lust for retribution against him. He has instigated a multiple war front with some of the league’s biggest names, and as a result: the exacerbated fans of those players/franchises have united under one flag in opposition of their common enemy.”

Ben Mallis (NZ Herald) on a weekend in the life of Steven Adams: “At approximately 7pm local time, a weary Adams stood in the Thunder’s locker room at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to address the media and provided a post mortem of the Embiid encounter. His working day was done but there was more important business to be had. Westbrook knew it and was politely nudging Adams onto the team bus. Oklahoma City’s leader had already forgotten about his personal battle with Embiid and was imploring Adams to do likewise. “Who you picking in the fight tonight?” Westbrook repeatedly barked at Adams. The Thunder had plans for a rare Saturday night off and they had a new city in their sights. By 10pm, Adams was cageside at UFC Fight Night in Brooklyn, along with Westbrook and half the Oklahoma City roster. Thunder players rubbed shoulders with luminaries from the entertainment world. It was Adams’ first time attending a UFC event and this provided another one of those extravagant moments.”

Around the League: What really goes on behind the scenes at the trade deadline…. Victor Oladipo is officially out for the season…. Can James Harden possibly keep this up?…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. The 2019 All-Star jerseys have been unveiled…. Biggest All-Star starter snubs…. Everything you need to know about All-Star 2019.