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Thunder Notebook: Tuesday, December 18

Thunder Notebook: Tuesday, December 18

The “Fight”

As everyone here already knows, the third quarter of last night’s Thunder/Bulls match-up was quite exciting.

While there’s not much else to say about the commotion itself, there were some interesting post-game comments from those involved.

But first, a quick recap for context:

  • Kris Dunn shoves Russell Westbrook
  • Jerami Grant confronts Dunn
  • Robin Lopez confronts Grant
  • Grant tosses Lopez into the first row
  • Lopez quickly loses his mind and appears ready to fight everyone
  • Bulls head coach Jim Boylen puts Grant in a headlock
  • Steven Adams subdues Lopez with an incredibly powerful grab of the wrist
  • Everyone is broken up. Technicals on Dunn, Westbrook, Lopez, and Grant.
  • Lopez was ejected roughly 60 seconds later for continued acts of wild’n out

Now, the quotes:

Bulls Coach Jim Boylen on grabbing Grant: “I’m just trying to get people out of the way. I saw him come across the court into the pile. I have nothing against Grant. I could tell he was upset. Just trying to help guys. As a coach, you’re kind of looking out for everybody.”

Helping a guy by forcefully wrapping an arm around his neck? God, Boylen is soooo old school. *eye roll*

Grant on Boylen’s headlock: “Trying to protect his team. Yeah. Pretty much it… it’s a scuffle. Stuff is going to happen.”

You can tell Grant is a role player because any star/superstar would have needed a stretcher to get off the floor AND a neck brace for the post-game interview. James Harden may have even faked his own death, idk.

Billy Donovan: “I thought our guys were trying to restrain themselves but also protect one another.”

This is fine but Billy D has to fade Jim Boylen on sight next time he sees him. Rules are rules.

In terms of punishment, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Westbrook’s technical rescinded. There’s also the possibility of fines/suspensions that we should keep an eye out for. Hopefully not much becomes of it, though. No one got hurt and it was entertaining to watch.

Until any potential punishments are handed out, just enjoy this video of a Thunder FAN somehow winning the entire situation:

Simple, devastating savagery.

He Said It

There’s a guy in the Thunder Twitterverse named Addam M. Francisco. After each game, he releases a new Suave Report Rant — a short video breakdown of what just happened. He successfully caught my eye last night by tweeting it with a caption that read *Paul George is the go-to guy on the Thunder. I’ll bite on that.

Like he’d finally lived long enough to see himself become the villain, Francisco opened his argument with “I’ll say it” — which, by law, immediately alerted Westbrook Police everywhere. You only say “I’ll say it” if you’re actually going to say it.

Then Francisco said it.

“I know a lot of Oklahoma City fans don’t want to say it. But I’ll say it. Paul George is the go-to guy on this team right now. Russ is going to be the leader — he’s always going to be the leader of this team emotional-wise. He’s just the leader of this team. But Paul George is the go-to guy.

Russ has not gotten his offensive game in-sync. Do not let these triple-doubles fool you. His offensive game is not where it needs to be and he knows that. Paul George, however, he’s been the most consistent player on this team. It’s obvious.”-Addam Francisco

I understand the reluctance to go there. After all, saying Westbrook is anything but the G.O.A.T is a dangerous game in these parts. The thing is — Francisco is right. George’s emergence as the Thunder’s go-to guy is obvious.

I also think it’s by design.

Despite his clear struggles on the offensive end, no one seems more comfortable with handing George the keys to the bucket-getting machine than Westbrook. It hasn’t been perfect, and there has been/will continue to be instances of his instincts doing battle with his quest for reformation, but there’s enough evidence of Westbrook deferring to George in the first 29 games to safely assume it’s part of his evolution we’ve heard so much about. Declaring PG13 the go-to guy is only spicy because it’s different — but it appears to be the plan. A plan with varying degrees of success thus far, but the plan nonetheless.

In any case, I enjoyed Francisco’s rant and found his take to be an appropriate temperature. Westbrook’s ability to mold his mindset was always going to be the story of this season — I believe this is just part of that.

You can check out Francisco’s Suave Report Rant from last night below. Although I don’t agree with everything he said (this team isn’t better than the 2015-16 squad yet), he’s a thoughtful guy and I generally enjoy the #content he produces.

Billy Back

The Thunder picked up the final year of Billy Donovan’s contract, locking him in as head coach through the end of the 2019-20 season. While the move probably isn’t loved by the entirety of the fan base, it’s unsurprising given his success during his time in Oklahoma City.

“Donovan has a 169-106 (.615) record in his three-plus seasons with the Thunder, trailing only Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich and Brad Stevens for victories with one team in that span of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN

Pretty impressive — even if he did inherit a legitimate title contender when he took over for Scott Brooks in the summer of 2015.

Donovan navigated Durexit, the Melo-era, and came out the other side with big fans in Westbrook and George. And hey — the team doesn’t appear to be conspiring against him and he hasn’t put any opposing players in a headlock yet. It could always be worse.

The Rest

Some quickfire notes that don’t warrant their own section:

  • Thieves Guild: The Thunder lead the league in steals at 10.6 per game. The team also has the top two individual steals leaders — Westbrook (2.5 SPG) and George (2.2 SPG). While George is no surprise when it comes to defensive accolades, Westbrook is on an absolute tear, posting at least four steals in five of the last six games. The individual defense is still shaky (at best?), but he’s making a sizable impact.
  • Triple-Doubles: Although it’s never overlooked entirely, Westbrook averaging a triple-double has lost its allure over the last couple seasons. Regardless, he’s posting a stat line of 20.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10 assists through his first 21 games. Let it be known that I’m still impressed.
  • Love for Ferg: It’s easy to forget about Terrance Ferguson when he’s averaging 4.2 PPG — but here’s a bit of recognition for the young man. He fills his role and has been playing solid defense. Shout out to @SteveThunderFan on Twitter for pointing out a few examples of Ferg’s blossoming abilities on the defensive end. Like this one:
  • Big Kiwi: This season, Adams is averaging career-highs in points (16.1), rebounds (9.7), assists (1.6), steals (1.5), and field goal attempts per game (11.4). He’s very clearly taken his game to another level, particularly in the month of December. In eight games this month, his numbers rise to 20 PPG, 8 RPG, and a shooting percentage of 59.4 percent. His path toward making the All-Star team is impossibly difficult in the Western Conference, but he deserves all the love and praise for what he’s doing.
  • The Road Ahead: At 19-10, the Thunder are currently third in the Western Conference — a game behind the Warriors for second place and 1.5 games up on the fourth place Lakers. According to Tankathon, the road gets much bumpier from here. OKC’s final 53 games are good for the second-toughest remaining schedule in the NBA.

That’s all I got. Enjoy your Tuesday.