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Friday Bolts: 9.14.18

Russell Westbrook came in at number seven in SI’s Top 100 players list: “There remains some debate, however, as to what far-reaching effects Westbrook’s style might have on a roster. For any one player to dominate so many of his team’s possessions must come at a cost. Westbrook is similar to LeBron in that way. Playing alongside either can be a great gig for a specialist. The more narrow your game, the more Westbrook can do for you. Dynamic players, however, don’t always have the easiest time fitting in. Westbrook takes up so much oxygen that he makes it hard for other players to really blossom. It’s not exactly a coincidence that the Thunder never really seem to know how to function without him. Westbrook is such a force of game and personality that he becomes completely integral. If his team struggles without him, it’s in part because he made it that way. The good with Westbrook far outweighs the bad, but with his style comes a certain ceiling.”

Ben Golliver breaks down SI’s top 10 players: “Unlike many of the players above him on this list, Westbrook hasn’t done much to address the longstanding weaknesses in his game as he’s continued through his prime. He’s second to none as an athlete and a competitor, but he still struggles with shot selection, outside shooting, trusting his teammates, contributing without having the ball, and defensive consistency. At 29, Westbrook has a good chance to remain in the Top 10 conversation for the next three years or so. His window as an elite player could be shorter than some other superstars, however, due to his significant reliance on his physical tools and his inefficient habits.”

Erik Horne on the four Thunder players to make SI’s Top 100 list: “Russell Westbrook and Paul George are among the Top 11 players in the NBA heading into this season, according to Sports Illustrated’s annual preseason Top 100 list. George jumped one spot from 12th last season to 11th, while Westbrook ranks seventh compared to sixth last season. You can view that list here. Sports Illustrated released its list in segments throughout the week, culminating in the Top 10 on Thursday. Steven Adams (No. 38) and newly-acquired guard Dennis Schroder (No. 80) were also on the list. Two players jumped Westbrook into the Top 6 (No. 5 Anthony Davis and No. 6 Giannis Antetokounmpo), but Westbrook only dropped one spot from last season with to Kawhi Leonard falling all the way from No. 4 to 12. Westbrook ranked a spot ahead of Chris Paul for the second consecutive season.”

Reid Forgrave (CBS Sports) has Westbrook as a 2018-19 regression candidate: “But for a player like Westbrook, who relies so much on his athletic gifts, it’s fair to assume his regression could come sooner instead of later. It was announced this week that Westbrook underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will be re-evaluated in four weeks, meaning he might miss the preseason. Maybe that means nothing. Or maybe it’s foreshadowing. Westbrook turns 30 in November. As great as he was last season — he finished fifth in MVP voting — his player efficiency rating was the lowest since the 2012-13 season. His true shooting percentage was the lowest since his second season in the NBA. He may still be the same transcendent star for another year, or two, or longer. But by the end of his five-year mega-deal, when he’ll be 34? Yikes. A too-early step back this season from Westbrook, or a rash of age-related injuries, could derail this entire franchise.”

Erik Horne with a timeline of Westbrook’s knee surgeries: “April 27, 2013: Westbrook has his first surgery on his right knee to repair the torn lateral meniscus. Result: Westbrook is ruled out for the rest of the playoffs. The Thunder beats Houston in six games in the first round, but loses to Memphis 4-1 in the second round. Westbrook had started 439 consecutive games in the regular season and playoffs, then the league’s longest active streak.”

Sneaker News on the all-red version of the Jordan Why Not Zer0.1: “Representing Russell Westbrook’s unique flair both on and off the court, the Why Not Zer0.1 by Jordan Brand appears in a bold all-red colorway. Originally appearing as part of Westbrook’s China Tour this past summer, this new colorway is dipped heel to toe in a bold university red, with Westbrook’s crest located in the footbed. His signature mantra of “Why Not?”, which defines how he attacks both the net and life’s daily challenges, is patched just behind the tongue. Although the star player is currently recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, this just-launched colorway retails for $115 and can be found on Nike.com in both men’s and grade school sizes.”

Around the League: Gordon Hayward believes he is 100 percent…. Jabari Bird is a real piece of work…. Kyle Kuzma’s dream of making an impact in Flint, MI…. Dwyane Wade is still undecided on retirement…. A Q-&-A with Pacers’ president Kevin Pritchard…. Tales from advanced scouts around the NBA…. What it’s like to try out for a G-League team.