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Thursday Bolts: 1.10.19

ESPN on Nerlens Noel’s injury status: “The Oklahoma City Thunder announced Wednesday that center Nerlens Noel suffered a concussion after an elbow to the head in Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Noel was struck by Andrew Wiggins’ elbow, and the team said he lost consciousness from the fall he took to the floor at the 5:16 mark of the third quarter. Noel has been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol. Per the NBA’s concussion policy, Noel will now begin the NBA-mandated return-to-participation protocol. He cannot resume basketball activities until it is determined that he is symptom-free. There is no timetable to complete the protocol.”

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game against the Spurs: “The Spurs are a team that have been on fire offensively over the last 16 games, scoring 115.8 points per game while going 13-3 heading into a Wednesday night matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies. With the Thunder in San Antonio waiting on the Spurs, the coaching staff will get a good look at its upcoming foe that has surged up the Western Conference standings. The game will be one of contrasting styles. The Spurs have been an offensive juggernaut, yet playing at an incredibly slow pace. The Thunder, on the other hand have been outstanding defensively and play at one of the fastest paces in the league. At the beginning of the season, the Thunder mentioned that it wanted to play faster, but that it started on the defensive end of the floor.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on quick fixes to break the Thunder slump: “Offensive rebounding has been one of the Thunder’s strengths in recent seasons. It still boasts the No. 2 offensive rebounding rate in the NBA this season, grabbing 30.6 percent of its misses. But in the last two games, it’s been outrebounded on the offensive glass 31-15. That’s a defensive rebounding issue. The Thunder has been on the cusp of being one of the Top 10 defensive rebounding teams in the league this season, but has dropped to 11th after allowing the Wizards and Timberwolves to rebound 35 percent of their misses in the last two games, the third-worst mark in the NBA in that span. “Just box out,” Thunder guard Terrance Ferguson said. “Not let them run in for freebies. Not letting the play be over. Always knowing that the play is still going. No matter if they took the shot, always box out, always look for your man and go get the board. Pretty simple.”

Zach Buckley (B/R) on what the Thunder should do at the trade deadline: “It’d be hard to predict a championship run for the Thunder given their crippling shooting shortage. No one has a worse three-point percentage (32.1), and only two teams convert free throws at a lower clip (70.4). Their 53.6 true shooting percentage ranks just 25th; they’re the only team in the 20s with a winning record. They either need to add multiple shooters or land a sniper who can log in the neighborhood of 30 minutes per game. Ideally, that sharpshooter will have the off-the-dribble chops to thrive in this pass-averse attack, but even spot-up gunners would help just by pulling defenders away from George and Westbrook.”

Brian Phillips (Ringer) on the many stages of Russell Westbrook fandom: “Being a Russell Westbrook fan is the emotional equivalent of playing basketball like Russell Westbrook—it’s spectacularly difficult, it takes willpower and imagination, it hurts, and if you’re not actually doing it, you probably can’t understand why anyone would try. When you are doing it, though, it seems to…not make sense, exactly, but reflect a kind of higher logic, detached from the utilitarian logic of the game. Westbrook is one of the most frustrating players in the NBA, and quite possibly one of the most frustrating human beings in the universe, but for the true Westbrook fan, his shortcomings are merely the obstacles against which our greatness must test itself—the 10-foot rims and help defenses of the spirit.”

Shaun Powell (NBA.com) grades the Thunder at the midway point of the NBA season: “A-. There’s someone playing at a Kia MVP level this season and it isn’t the resident former MVP. For the moment anyway, the Thunder belong to Paul George. He’s putting up career-best scoring numbers (26.8 ppg) and serving as OKC’s savior whenever it gets caught in a pinch. This is refreshing for a franchise that convinced George, a two-way star, to stay last summer during free agency and needed someone to balance the offense with Russell Westbrook. George isn’t the only reason for OKC’s rise to the attic in the West. Dennis Schroder was the offseason’s most underrated pickup and serves as a solid backup to Westbrook. Meanwhile, Jerami Grant is no longer surviving exclusively on athletic ability thanks to a reliable jumper. Even more impressive is how OKC has managed without injured defensive ace Andre Roberson.”

Around the League: NBA trade rumors…. Could Enes Kanter be headed to Sacramento?…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. Blake Griffin is downplaying his return to LA…. Patrick McCaw is headed to Toronto…. The Cavs can’t afford to be punished for releasing McCaw…. Giannis isn’t ready to discuss the MVP…. Five intriguing PnR creators…. Should KD shoot more threes?…. Space Jam 2 will “disrupt everything” according to the director.