Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s Thunder @ Clippers matchup: “As of practice on Thursday there is no further update on Russell Westbrook other than he continues to get better and do more and more in practice each day. Check back here on Friday afternoon for further update. Hamidou Diallo suffered a mild ankle injury in practice and sat out the remainder of the session. Everyone else, besides Andre Roberson, practiced fully with the team. It was a spirited, high-paced practice at UCLA’s Mo Ostin Center, on Russell Westbrook court. “In practice, we’re competing. We talk a lot of crap as well, and just try to get better,” Schröder smiled. “Today was probably the most competitive practice. We try to get better as a unit and as individuals.”
Does Doc Rivers know something the rest of us don’t in regard to Westbrook’s health?
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Terrance Ferguson being the no. 1 wing — for now: “For now, coach Billy Donovan trusts Ferguson more than the array of wings at his disposal. Will Ferguson flash against the Clippers on Friday or will the sirens continue to sound for more of his minutes to shift to Hamidou Diallo and Alex Abrines? The shooting guard minutes were always going to be a time share in Andre Roberson’s absence. As Roberson continues to rehab from his left knee surgery, Donovan will have to figure out how to distribute minutes among his wing options — Ferguson, Diallo, Abrines, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Abdel Nader — alongside Paul George. Donovan liked Ferguson enough to start him 12 times last year when Roberson was hurt, and will presumably start him again on Friday.”
Something to look out for tonight:
Clay Horning (Norman Transcript) on the Thunder’s shooting issues: “The numbers are the numbers and given Oklahoma City was without Russell Westbrook, which is a real double whammy because it keeps Dennis Schroder from bolstering the bench as he would otherwise, an eight-point loss to the defending world champions isn’t so bad. Yes, maybe. On the other hand, just who can any team expect to beat on a day it makes barely more than a third of its shots — 36.1 percent; 33 of 91 — 27 percent of its 3-point tries (10 of 37) and only 24 of 37 free throws. Had the Thunder made 32 of 37 from the foul line, they would have reached overtime. Had they hit free throws at the same clip as the Warriors — 94.4 percent; 17 of 18 — they would have won the game. Hard to win when you can’t shoot. Before training camp opened, OKC general manager Sam Presti made a point of explaining the Thunder needed to improve their shooting. Part of the play-faster identity the team has adopted is for the better more frequent looks it ought to create. Still, the Thunder’s general weakness as shooters was on display.”
Haley O’Shaugnessy (Ringer) on the Thunder’s role player problem: “When Westbrook does return, he’ll take some of the defensive pressure off of his teammates, creating open shots. But OKC doesn’t have a standout third scoring option. That won’t change when 2-guard Andre Roberson is healthy again (he’ll be reevaluated in December). He’s a must-start because of defense; Roberson is a career 25.7 percent 3-point shooter. If you were forced to choose between Markelle Fultz and Roberson hitting a 3 with a million dollars on the line, you’d choose Fultz. (You’re probably best off taking it yourself.) Outside of Steven Adams, Westbrook and George are joined by a group of players who could just as believably hit two 3s, not hit any, or go off for four night-to-night. Until they find a reliable third playmaker, their new-season-new-me stability will be an illusion.”
Ben Rohrbach (Yahoo Sports) on the alternate universe where Paul George is a Laker: “According to Spears, the Lakers had the goods to deal for George, with Brandon Ingram already on the roster or the No. 2 pick they used to draft Lonzo Ball as the potential centerpieces of a deal, but Magic Johnson didn’t pull the trigger, opting instead to repeatedly tamper and hope George signed in free agency. There is logic behind that, since the New York Knicks notoriously traded a cache of assets for Carmelo Anthony in February 2011, when they could have just signed him a few months later, and the fallout contributed to years of frustrating attempts to build a competitive roster around him. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Ingram or Ball ever become a player of George’s caliber, and we know teaming George with James would be an awfully good first step toward a competitive roster.”
Brian Batko (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) on Steven Adams’ comments about his time at Pitt:”Sounding strikingly similar to the criticism many fans at the time, and still now, lobbed toward Dixon, Adams tells how he worked for years to expand his skills, only to see them underutilized: “To Coach Dixon, I was a big man for rebounds and dunks and nothing else,” he wrote. “Kenny had spent countless hours drilling into me that no matter what position you play, you should have a full skillset. But pretty quickly I found my skillset diminishing as the bigs only worked on ‘big’ stuff and had no time for shooting or ball handling. If I shot a mid-range floater — my new favorite shot — during a game, I’d be told off and benched. … That wasn’t the game I wanted to play; it was the game I was forced to play.”
The Thunder will celebrate their 11th anniversary at Sunday’s home opener: “Starting at 3 p.m., fans are invited to Thunder Alley, the team’s family-friendly pregame festival on Reno Avenue. King BMX will put on a pregame performance at starting at 4 p.m. Interactive elements will include a rock-climbing wall, inflatable games and the OG&E ThunderBolt. The Thunder merchandise trailer will also be on-site for fans to purchase team gear. Drinks will be available at the Budweiser beer garden and there will be an aerosol artist performing at the graffiti wall. Regardless of whether they have a ticket, all fans are welcome to enjoy Thunder Alley, which will close at tipoff.”
Around the League: The Lakers lost and LeBron isn’t worried…. Markelle Fultz made a three-pointer…. The G-League is offering a $125k option to 1-and-done players…. Inside the G-League’s new plan…. WNBA players are unhappy with what’s developing in the G-League…. How long can Steph Curry keep this up?…. Somebody tell the Raptors that they’re actually pretty good…. The NBA has a new website for officiating questions…. What motivates the Warriors?…. Enes Kanter — the NBA’s man of many faces.