Erik Horne on Carmelo Anthony finally catching his breath in OKC: “For better or worse, Anthony’s salary cap number for next season — a $28.7 million player option he’s unlikely to decline because of his age (33) and the sparse money teams will have to play with in free agency — has likely been memorized by Thunder fans across the metro area. Anthony will be back next season, a proposition that looks much better when he’s shooting like he has in the last five games — 47.4 percent on 3-pointers. So, get comfortable with Carmelo. He’s getting comfortable with Oklahoma City. If you keep your eyes peeled at night in the Deep Deuce district of downtown OKC, you might see him — hoodie and all. Even as a teen early in his NBA career in Denver, Anthony’s sleep schedule was messed up because of travel and the professional grind. Five or six hours a night, max.”
Fred Katz on the difficulty of OKC’s remaining schedule: “The Thunder have the NBA’s most difficult remaining schedule. By far. Oklahoma City’s leftover opponents combine for a .597 winning percentage, per Tankathon.com. San Antonio owns the second-toughest slate with a .574 remaining strength of schedule. For reference, a team with a .597 winning percentage would be sixth-best in the NBA. Oklahoma City’s next game, home against the L.A. Clippers, will begin a streak of 11 consecutive matchups against teams currently four-or-more games above .500. The team then closes the regular season against Memphis.”
Marc Hinton (Stuff New Zealand) on Steven Adams and his injury: “Seldom, if ever, have Steven Adams’ legendary healing powers been more important than right now as the Oklahoma City Thunder steel themselves for a pivotal last 12 games of the NBA’s regular season. Adams picked up a hip contusion, on the back of an ankle tweak, in the Thunder’s 106-101 victory over the Sacramento Kings and sat out Wednesday’s (NZT) 119-107 followup success over the Atlanta Hawks – OKC’s fourth win on the bounce that, for now, has them up to fourth in the Western Conference on a 41-29 record. But it is no stretch to say that Thunder coach Billy Donovan needs his 2.13m Kiwi starting centre back as soon as possible, preferably in time for Saturday’s (NZT) next game up at home against the surging Los Angeles Clippers (37-29, 7th in West).”
Nick Gallo on 100 Russell Westbrook triple-doubles: “Beyond the incredible, record-book level numbers, it’s that attitude, relentlessness and tenacity that stands out to teammates, including two perennial All-Stars on the Thunder. The triple-doubles are a byproduct of the effort and energy Westbrook empties out onto the floor each night. “That’s workin’,” veteran forward Carmelo Anthony grinned, giving an astonished shake of the head. “That’s a testament of who he is as a player, his focus, his mindset, his work ethic and a testament to his teammates to make the shots when the ball gets to them and the confidence level he has in his teammates and that we have in him.”
AJ Mason (USA Today) compares this Thunder record to last season’s: “With Paul George and Carmelo Anthony added to the team, the Thunder were thought to be on the cusp of contention in the Western Conference. Instead, the entered play on March 13 with the same exact record through 69 games as they had last season: 40-29. The Thunder won in Atlanta on Tuesday night, though, which pushed them to 41-29, whereas last season’s club lost their 70th game to the Warriors and reached Game 71 having gone 40-30.”
Brett Dawson on Jerami Grant’s versatile contributions: “Over the past nine games, Grant has played some of the best basketball of his career. He’s averaging 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds almost a block and an assist in 21.5 minutes per game over that span. During that stretch, the Thunder is outscoring opponents by 11.4 points per 100 possessions with Grant on the floor. “I give him a lot of credit, from this perspective: last year, he was really a three and a four for us and this year, because of our roster, he’s had to play five,” Donovan said. “And he’s never really done anything else but try to learn that position and try to get better at it and do the best job he can at it. He’s played very, very well for us.”
Paul Centopani (The Step Back) on how every team needs a Steven Adams: “He’s not your typical star. Appreciating his nuance takes a refined palette who enjoys the brutish facets of basketball. In this case, Adams is a full-bodied Barolo and I’m picking up notes of licorice and vanilla. Adams’ excellence subsists in the margins of the game, so it often gets unadmired or overlooked. Of course, it’s easy to get overshadowed when you share a court with supernova incarnate, Russell Westbrook. The Big Kiwi may not have the same eye-popping stats as the reigning MVP, but he has a near-equal effect on the Thunder.”
Around the League: Klay Thompson is out with a fractured thumb…. LeBron thinks he is like a fine wine…. Julius Randle & Isaiah Thomas had a shouting match on the Lakers sideline…. Why the Obamas are rooting for the Knicks…. Shaq wants more cops in schools…. Sam Hinkie is ready to start talking.
Our friends at Mr. Presti’s Neighborhood podcast are giving away two tickets to tomorrow night’s Clippers @ Thunder game. To enter, rate the podcast on iTunes, screenshot it, and tweet it at @MPNpodcast. You can visit their iTunes page here.