5 min read

Friday Bolts: 7.27.18

Marc J. Spears (ESPN) on Paul George saying it was wise for the Thunder to gamble on him: “Paul George, just down the street from the casinos on the strip, said the Oklahoma City Thunder made the right decision to gamble for him. “It was an awesome gamble. They went all-in and went blackjack,” George said after USA Basketball’s minicamp practice Thursday. George told the Indiana Pacers during the 2016-17 season that he preferred to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in hopes of playing in his native Southern California. The Pacers, however, announced a deal to send the five-time All-Star to the gambling Thunder for guard Victor Oladipo and forward Domantas Sabonis on July 6, 2017. Despite the fact that George had interest in the Lakers, the Palmdale, California, native recently signed a four-year, $137 million contract to remain with the Thunder without taking a meeting from any other team. George said he privately decided to return to the Thunder several weeks before free agency began on July 1. He also acknowledged having an expectation that NBA star LeBron James would sign with the Lakers as a free agent.”

Ben Golliver (SI) sat down with Paul George to discuss staying in OKC: “I’m a family man now,” the 28-year-old George said of his decision. “I don’t need no distractions, I don’t need no big cities, no big lights, at this point in my career. For as beautiful as Oklahoma is, it doesn’t have big lights and none of that. But that’s fine. … I’m a low-maintenance, low-key, chill guy. I’m not out in the streets, I’m not out in the club, at parties, I’m not really at movie premieres. After games, after practice, I’m home, I’m with my kids, I’m with my girl, and I’m chilling.” Central to his decision-making, George said, was Thunder GM Sam Presti’s aggressiveness. Last summer, Presti traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana without knowing whether George would re-sign in Oklahoma City. The initial trade was supplemented by a welcome party and a sustained recruitment. Everyone wants to be loved, but George sounded impressed that Presti is “still being aggressive in trades, still pulling strings, still making deals happen” this summer. Last week, Oklahoma City traded Anthony, who was unhappy with his offensive role, to Atlanta for point guard Dennis Schroder.”

Erik Horne on Paul George saying Dennis Schroder the ‘best backup point guard in the league’: “On Thursday, Russell Westbrook and Paul George joined numerous other NBA stars in Las Vegas for the first of three days of USA Basketball minicamp meetings and practice. Westbrook did not speak to the media, but George did for the first time since signing a four-year contract with the Thunder in free agency. But much of the talk outside of George’s return was about the newest Thunder player, Dennis Schroder, who was traded to Oklahoma City for Carmelo Anthony this week. “He’s not going to start, but hands down the best backup point guard in the league,” George said. “He’s that mid-tier star in our league, one of the best point guards in the league in general. I’m excited. We’ve got another scorer, another playmaker and just another savvy guy in the locker room that can help us win ball games.”

Sporting News on whether or not the trade can help unleash Dennis Schroder’s full potential: “From a skill perspective, it’s easy to see why the Thunder are drawn to Schroder. While he’s only 6-1, he makes up for being slightly undersized with his blazing speed and a massive 6-7 wingspan. Few players are as quick as he is with the ball in his hands, both from a standstill and in the open court, which will give a team that is already one of the more athletic in the league a dynamic piece off the bench. Schroder puts that speed to far more use in pick-and-rolls and isolation than he does in transition. He averaged 9.2 points per game as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls last season — the four-highest rate in the league behind Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker and James Harden — and 3.5 points per game in isolation — the 11th-highest rate in the league behind the likes of LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving. He scored those points at a decent rate, ranking in the 68.8 percentile in pick-and-roll efficiency and the 90.1 percentile in isolation efficiency.”

Jemele Hill (ESPN) spoke with a very angry Carmelo Anthony: “Anthony is adamant that falling below expectations and the awkwardness of their union never created any issues among him, George and Westbrook. “Honestly, it was never any tension,” Anthony said. “We did everything together. We sat down every single game and talked. Before games, we talked. Our relationship went deeper than anybody would ever know.” One of the moments that stood out from the Thunder’s tumultuous season was Anthony laughing when he was asked if he’d ever consider coming off the bench. For some, that was just the latest evidence of Melo’s selfishness. But Pissed Off Melo has a message for you. “I know how to play this game of basketball,” he said. “I’ve been playing it for a long time. When I feel like I’m ready to take that role, then I’ll take that role. Only I know when it’s best for me to take that role. I’m not going to do that in a situation where I still know my capabilities and what I can do. And at the end of the day, the people who really matter know my capabilities and what I can still do. You start getting to the media and debates, it’s going to always be kind of back-and-forth.”

Jonathan Feigen (Houston Chronicle) has the Thunder fourth in the West after free agency: “The Thunder off-season would have been considered a success no matter what happened after Paul George chose to stick around. General manager Sam Presti gambled that a year in Oklahoma City would be enough for George to want to sign on for three or four more. He won the bet, with George not even meeting with suitors before he and Russell Westbrook were celebrating the new deal. The Thunder did not stop there. Besides bringing back Jerami Grant in an underappreciated move, when they found a deal to move Anthony to save on heavy luxury tax penalties, they actually brought back help. Schroder’s time in Atlanta was running out after the Hawks’ draft-night move to get Trae Young and the trade for Jeremy Lin. But with the Thunder, he could provide a backup for Westbrook that could prevent the usual collapse when Westbrook heads to the bench. The Thunder believes Noel will help that bench at center after a terribly disappointing, injury-filled season in Dallas.”

Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) on KD referring to OKC as “home” on a recent podcast: “While the tweets between Durant and McCollum have dominated the headlines, the podcast covered a wide range of topics from Durant joining the Warriors to the battles between the Warriors and Trail Blazers. In a word association game, McCollum asked Durant to say the first thing that came mind for topics like Jay Z, Beyonce, Drake, Michael Jordan and … Oklahoma City. Durant’s response: “That’s home.”

Around the League: KD thinks the media is trying to make him look crazy…. Kyrie Irving believes he’ll be ready for training camp…. Team USA minicamp superlatives…. LeBron regrets giving his son his name…. Clint Capela is the wild card in the Rockets’ championship blueprint.