Russell Westbrook made his preseason debut on Friday night in Oklahoma City — his first appearance in a Thunder uniform since signing the richest contract in NBA history. Fans inside Chesapeake Energy Arena got their first look at the newly formed “OK3,” and didn’t leave disappointed, as the Thunder cruised down the stretch to a 102-91 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Westbrook logged just 10 minutes in the contest, but showed no signs of slowing after a PRP injection in his left knee cost him most of training camp and the preseason opener. He finished with 9 points and 4 assists on 3/5 shooting, but more importantly looked like the same player that won MVP a season ago. His presence — even in very limited action — opened up the Thunder offense and completely changed an attack that often stalled on Tuesday night against Houston. It’s clear Oklahoma City will look to play fast, and Westbrook already looks comfortable using the weaponry surrounding him.
Paul George led the way for the Thunder with 25 points in 27 minutes. Carmelo Anthony added 9 points of his own, logging 17 minutes and again sitting for the entire second half. Oklahoma City now moves to 1-1 in preseason play, and will be back in action on Sunday against Melbourne United of Australia’s National Basketball League. Tip-off is at 2 PM CST in OKC.
Below are some thoughts and notes.
Paul George is good
I’m pushing the limits with a hot take like “Paul George is good,” but Thunder fans in general are still learning the scope of what he can do on a basketball court. Despite everything already known about the guy, there are moments you find yourself watching him, and thinking — “OK, yeah. He’s good.”
George finished with 25 points and 4 rebounds, shooting 7/14 in the process. He also got to the foul line frequently, wrapping up the night shooting 8/10 from the stripe.
His highlights via the NBA:
Like Tuesday night against Houston, he looked most comfortable in the second half, shooting 3/4 from the field after the break. His effectiveness moving without the basketball will prove invaluable for the Thunder, and his knack for hitting open shots should quickly build a solid rapport with his superstar point guard.
George’s ability to play off the ball is a large part of why many consider him the perfect complement to Westbrook. They shared the court for roughly 10 minutes against the Pelicans, but the early returns are promising.
Terrance Ferguson could be a thing
In the 2016-17 preseason, Kyle Singler averaged 10.8 points per game and shot 60 percent from downtown. He even had a three game stretch where he averaged 14.3 points on 75 percent shooting from beyond the arc. It totally looked like a thing, but ultimately became nothing at all. It’s easy to fall into traps set by preseason standouts.
That being said, Terrance Ferguson is on a heater right now.
The 19-year-old rookie logged 24 minutes against the Pelicans, scoring 9 points, adding 3 rebounds and a block. He’s making a name for himself through his energy and defense, and even got some early run alongside Westbrook, George and Anthony.
Speaking after the game, George and Anthony made it clear they’re big fans of what he’s doing. Melo said, “Love him. He’s a guy that comes in and works hard. Do the things we ask him to do.” George later added, “Terrance is going to be special.”
It isn’t time to go buy up all the Terrance Ferguson stock, but he’s turning heads early. I wouldn’t expect there to be many meaningful regular season minutes available, but he’s certainly no lock to spend his entire rookie season in the G-League. Could be a thing, who knows?
–Steven Adams bounced back nicely from his injury scare on Tuesday night. He scored 8 points on 4/4 shooting, grabbed 6 boards and played 20 minutes.
–Semaj Christon received 21 minutes on Friday, 14 more than Isaiah Canaan. He pitched in 7 points and 3 rebounds, finishing at a +10 for the contest. This is where it starts..
–Josh Huestis is a talented guy. One of those players you just pray never ends up in San Antonio and exacts revenge on the Thunder for years to come.
–Anthony Davis (17 min.) and DeMarcus Cousins (14 min.) saw limited action for the Pelicans. They combined for 27 points and 11 rebounds, but the rest of their starters struggled to get much going.
–Perry Jones dropped 10 points and 7 rebounds off the New Orleans bench. I’ll never forget that week in 2014 where he seemed like our best hope.
–Full Westbrook highlights: