4 min read

Tuesday Bolts: 10.8.19

Royce Young (ESPN) has a post-Russell Westbrook perspective loaded with thoughts and anecdotes on the lifted shadow of the Brodie in OKC: “Few players generate the kind of influence and magnetism he does. He set standards, he helped establish culture and identity. He was the constant, the reliable cornerstone. He oversaw a decade of success in OKC that featured the second-best overall record in the league and 107 playoff games. An MVP award, historic achievements, city- and state-wide impacts ranging far wider than basketball. The Thunder and Westbrook’s brand were synonymous. But personality is different than identity, and the Thunder’s runs deeper than any one player. Westbrook was no doubt the most iconic, but he didn’t take with him the values that had been established. “We’re still the Thunder, at the end of the day,” Terrance Ferguson said. “The team name didn’t change just because he left.”

Billy Donovan told media including Maddie Lee (The Oklahoman) that Andre Roberson won’t play in the Thunder’s presesaon opener tonight. Don’t fret: Olivia will still be taking over the DailyThunder twitter handle during the game, so no intrigue should be lost on the whole.

John Hollinger (The Athletic) has some colorful thoughts on the Thunder in his preview series: “Can Gilgeous-Alexander emerge as a star? Does Paul have positive trade value? Can Adams show more dimensions to his game? Will Terrance Ferguson ever dribble? As we contemplate the future, also watch out for deep sleeper Justin Patton. Signed on the cheap after injuries marred his first two seasons in Minnesota, the former first-rounder has athletic pop and a workable skill set.”

Douglas Farmer (Basketball Insiders) tags SGA as the Thunder’s breakout player to watch: “Oklahoma City’s roster is an utter curiosity at this point, but the one piece head coach Billy Donovan knows is not going anywhere is (Shai) Gilgeous-Alexander. Pushing him to the forefront of the scheme will help the Thunder both in the short- and the long-term. And with Paul — one of the greatest guards in league history — he’s got the mentor to make things happen as well.”

Erik Horne (The Oklahoman) looks at Danilo Gallinari as a likely trade piece: “Gallinari is entering the final year of his contract and the Thunder would have to dive deep into the luxury tax to re-sign him, something it’s unlikely to do after trading Grant. Gallinari’s skill set will bring trade offers from playoff teams looking to add scoring punch.”

Zach Harper (The Athletic) moves the Thunder up a few spots in his power rankings, because he is in on the awakening that the Thunder will most likely hang onto Chris Paul for some time: “The interesting aspect of trading him is the exchange of assets. Since it’s such a giant contract number, do the Thunder have to attach draft picks to CP3 to get a team to bite on that deal? Or is Paul good enough and a team needing to trade for him desperate enough for the Thunder to ask for some kind of asset in return? That’s the tricky part of negotiating this type of deal. Perhaps a team like Miami is willing to roll the dice on Paul, but I doubt it wants to have to give up anything of value at this point.”

Not cool: DW.com reports that Dennis Schröder got robbed (H/T HoopsHype).

The Thunder won’t have an exclusive, rule-abiding look at R.J. Hampton on Thursday:

By the time you read this, Russell Westbrook’s first game with the Rockets will be in the books.

The Rockets/China saga marches on. If you want an update, here’s one from Jeff Zillgitt (USA TODAY). To put my cards on the table: I’m not anti-capitalist, and I lean pretty hard toward non-interventionist principles. Still, the only “crisis” for a league rolling in billions of dollars, faced with backlash from a market for a solitary pro-liberty tweet from a solitary league employee, is purely, entirely, unequivocally commercial. Democracy and state over-reach are not impossibly complicated subjects for which Daryl Morey (or Steve Kerr, for that matter) needs to study at length before speaking. And the media members spinning this as a nuanced, complicated maze for the Rockets and the league office to navigate are compromised by access and/or commercial concerns themselves. Rushing to report with a straight face that the Rockets and league never considered disciplining/removing Morey (while the owner liked comments expressing exactly that possibility, and Morey was trotted out for a clearly conflicted “apology”), or trusting that the discrepancies between American and Chinese communications from the NBA were accidental–what a coincidence that the Mandarin translation threw Morey further under the bus!–is naive at best.

I won’t link to either, but a certain NBA owner and a certain writer for the Athletic are even parroting the “national sovereignty” language that a certain government has used as a blanket excuse when called to account for egregious human rights violations by the United Nations. The reason I’m less dispassionate about this particular hypocrisy than, say, Tom Ziller (SB Nation), is that real people are under the real boot of the state, and the NBA, Adam Silver, Tilman Fertitta, and James Harden have all implicitly endorsed that use of force while pretending to ride some imaginary apolitical fence. But I’ll probably leave it at that.

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