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Monday Bolts: 4.29.19

Royce Young (ESPN) on Russell Westbrook rejecting his critics after another first round exit: “After a contentious series against the Trail Blazers that ended in another first-round elimination and what some perceive as a dent in his reputation, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook shrugged off criticism Thursday. “If you want to determine my career and what I’ve done over two, three games, you go ahead,” Westbrook said during his end-of-season exit interview with the media. “That don’t mean s— to me. It doesn’t. I’m going to wake up, like I told you before, three beautiful kids, I’m going to wake up and smile, be happy, enjoy my life. Doesn’t change anything about — talk about if I’m playing bad or who’s better, who’s not. I know who I am as a person, and that’s the biggest thing I can say about myself. I know who I am. I know what I’m able to do. I know my capabilities. I know what I’ve done. I know what I can and can’t do. So I’m OK with that. I’m OK with who I am. I’ll just be blessed to wake up every day and enjoy my life. The talk about — I don’t even know what talk you’re talking about, but whatever that is, you guys can keep talking about it, and I’m going to keep living my life.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) with four questions for Sam Presti ahead of the offseason: “The first question to be answered. The Thunder professed belief in Donovan before last season and during it by picking up the fifth-year option on his contract in November. But Donovan’s option getting picked up is irrelevant if Presti and owner Clay Bennett don’t feel Donovan is the right fit following a third-consecutive first-round exit from the postseason. Donovan’s $6 million salary shouldn’t matter, either. Presti did significant work via trades (Carmelo Anthony, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot) to get the Thunder’s luxury tax bill from north of $130 million last summer to less than $60 million to close the season. The Thunder is proud of being able to reinvest those savings into the team. Theoretically, that would apply to a coach as well, even if Presti ends up paying two coaches at once in Donovan and the next hire.”

Brett Dawson (Athletic) on Paul George holding the answer to what’s next for the Thunder: “For all the analysis of Westbrook and his aversion to change, he’s shown a willingness to cede some responsibility. He campaigned for George as the league’s MVP before the Thunder’s late-season swoon, and Westbrook stressed all season his admiration for — and, sometimes his impact on — the more aggressive approach that took George to the next level. If George has it in him to advance again, this season suggests Westbrook will let him level up. At Thursday’s exit interviews, George said he’s “still trying to wrap my head around” the next step for the Thunder after a second straight short postseason. “That’s something I think we’re all trying to work on internally, figure out what can we do, because this is a team that can go far,” George said. “We have pieces in place to have a long postseason run. I am trying to figure out what it is for this group.” George is asking the question. It might just be that he’s the answer.”

Oklahoman staff round table on the future of Billy Donovan, Westbrook’s shooting, and more: “True or false: Andre Roberson has played his last game for the Thunder. True. Until I see otherwise. If healthy, Roberson would be a massive boost to OKC’s defense and wing depth. That’s a big “if.” Even if 100 percent healthy, is the Thunder going to progress offensively with Roberson playing heavy minutes, particularly if Terrance Ferguson can provide some of the defense with better perimeter shooting?”

Thomas Beller (New Yorker) on the shot that stopped basketball: “Yet behind the singularity of Lillard’s shot itself was the endless waterfall of shots taken in practice, chucked up during games, the shots discussed, watched on film, dreamed of with either pleasure or horror—but mostly just shots, “getting up shots,” practicing shots, over and over, endlessly. Repetition as religion. The game continues; the shots go up and splash down like water. But for a moment, after that shot, the waterfall ceased. It was so definitive as to briefly stop basketball time.”