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Friday Bolts: 10.12.18

Royce Young (ESPN) with a Russell Westbrook injury update: “Russell Westbrook is “progressing” and getting nearer to a return, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan said Thursday, but has not been cleared for full-contact practice yet, leaving the All-Star point guard’s status for the season opener in question. “Every day for him, he feels better and better,” said Donovan, whose team will visit the Golden State Warriors next Tuesday. “I don’t want to say [if he’ll be ready]. I know you guys want to know that, but that’s too far out and there will be a lot of things that will go into that decision. There’s certain things he’ll have to go through to get himself fully cleared to play, but he’s certainly moving in the right direction and he’s worked really hard at his rehab to get himself back.”

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) with a statistical wrap-up of the Thunder preseason: “In three preseason games, All-Star forward Paul George played just 23.4 minutes per game, but he was wildly productive during that time on the floor. Per-36 minutes statistics are a valuable way to project a players’ productivity into a typical starters’ workload. In the preseason, George’s Per-36 minutes numbers looked like this: 36.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.6 steals and 3.1 assists, with 42.1 percent three-point shooting to boot… Likewise, the Thunder’s other primary playmaker Dennis Schröder has also lit up the stat sheet. The speedy German is the Thunder’s starting point guard while Russell Westbrook remains out, and was extremely productive in the preseason, putting up stat-lines that paid homage to the 2017 NBA MVP. Per-36 minutes, Schroder averaged. 22.5 points, 8.1 assists and 6.3 rebounds.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on if Westbrook & Dennis Schroder can form a dynamic duo: “The challenge is playing Schroder and Westbrook — two players with similar gifts and flaws — together to maximize the Thunder’s potential. There’s a faction which believes the potential pitfalls of Schroder and Westbrook playing together aren’t worth worrying about. Yes, Schroder was brought in to back up Westbrook, and the 24-year-old who averaged 19.4 points and 6.3 assists per game for Atlanta as a starter last season projects to be a nightmare for second units around the NBA. Schroder is a clear starting point guard who happens to be behind one of the best point guards in the world. It’s a great problem for the Thunder to have. But on top of Schroder’s salary ($15.5 million, fourth on the Thunder behind Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams), his talent begs for the Thunder to deploy him in lineups with Westbrook. At their best, they could overwhelm opponents with speed, ballhandling, the ability to get to the rim, and the quickness and length to be defensive disruptors.”

Jenni Carlson (Oklahoman) on why this season will define Billy Donovan’s future in OKC: “Believed to be the last guaranteed year on the Thunder coach’s five-year contract, Donovan holds his own future in his hands. There’s little reason to think Presti and Co. will push him out before his contract ends in 2020 — the Thunder Way has never included knee-jerk reactions — but Donovan needs to build some momentum. Have a good year, and the case will be strong to extend his contract. Have a bad year, and next season becomes tricky at best, lame duck at worst. The good news for Donovan is that the core of this roster has the most continuity of any team that he has coached in Oklahoma City. The most similarities to his best seasons, too. That means this is his best chance to truly mold a team. The bad news is, excuses are gone.”

Sports Illustrated spoke about every NBA team with anonymous scouts: “I likeJerami Grant alright. Asking him to be a full-time starter is asking a lot. They just don’t have a great option at the four. Grant brings athleticism and energy to the floor so I can see starting with him, but I don’t love it. . . . Everywhere Patrick Patterson has been, he’s always kind of disappointed. He used to have a better reputation before every team had stretch forwards, but now he’s just another guy. He can’t exploit match-up issues as much as he could a few years ago. He’s just a minute-filler. He can add some shooting and toughness but he’s a journeyman for a reason.”

Ti Windisch (FanSided) on the 2018-19 Thunder: “Waiting until the very end of the offseason to do team rankings does have its benefits, such as knowing that Russell Westbrook will be entering the 2018-19 NBA season banged up at best after getting knee surgery in early September. With a healthy Russ, the Thunder probably would’ve been the third seed. Without him at full strength for all of the season, the Utah Jazz should be able to wrestle that spot away. The Jazz didn’t make any huge additions, but Grayson Allen will help, and Donovan Mitchell should only get better in his second season. The Thunder’s biggest strength is defense, which the Jazz can say as well. Utah handled Oklahoma City pretty easily in the playoffs last season, and if Rudy Gobert and Ricky Rubio can be healthier this year the Jazz will make it tough for bad teams to score 100 points on any given night. That will get Utah a lot of wins, and as high as third in the conference.”

Mitch English (KTUL Tulsa) on Russell Westbrook treating kids to dinner and unlimited games at Dave & Busters last night in OKC: “Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook has teamed up with lifelong friend and renown comedian Demetrius “Juice” Deason for a unique event benefiting kids who take part in the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s (RFBO) “Food for Kids Backpack program.” Westbrook and Deason have sponsored kids that will be provided three meals a day with the program. They also treated the kids to a dinner and a night of unlimited games at Oklahoma City’s Dave and Buster’s. This is not the only event that will benefit the RFBO. Their upcoming fundraising comedy show called “Why Not??” will be at the Tower Theatre on Oct. 26.”

Westbrook playing Dance Dance Revolution last night in OKC:

Paul Lukas (ESPN) looks at uniform changes around the NBA: “The Thunder have added a Native American-themed alternate uniform. The turquoise color is in keeping with Nike’s longstanding N7 uniforms for college teams, which encourage Native American participation in sports while celebrating Native culture.”

Around the League: Jimmy Butler met with his Minnesota teammates yesterday…. The Warriors hope five of their players make Team USA…. The Spurs have waived Josh Huestis…. ESPN experts predict how this season will play out…. How two-way contracts have changed the lives of fringe NBA players…. The NBA is still growing internationally…. How social media turned the NBA into made-for-tv drama…. How Jeanie Buss created a new golden era in Lakers basketball…. Why would KD leave Oakland for NYC?