Yahoo Sports previews tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz: “Most teams struggle in the second night of a back-to-back. The Utah Jazz are thriving. The Jazz are 4-1 in the second game of back-to-backs, including 1-1 on the road, entering a Tuesday game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Utah comes in having won six consecutive games, including a 116-69 home win over the Washington Wizards on Monday.”
Brett Dawson on Carmelo Anthony passing up shots to keep the OKC offense moving: “Not every night I have to score 20 or 30 points, and I’m good with that,” Anthony said. “It’s a good feeling, as long as we’re winning.” That’s easy to say. But in the Thunder’s past two games, Anthony is backing it up with passing action. The 6-foot-8 forward, who’s averaging 41.3 passes per game, has averaged 46 over the past two games. Anthony had three assists in Sunday’s 90-87 win against the Spurs, tying his season high.”
Nazr Mohammed wrote a Players Tribune article about continuing his basketball career in the Thunder front office: “A lot of people in the Thunder organization made this an easy decision — especially Sam Presti. I’ve known Sam since our San Antonio days, and I highly respect him and what he’s done. The OKC culture is really something else. This is a great opportunity to learn all the aspects of the business and become a well-rounded basketball executive. Yes, one day I’d like to aim for a GM spot, but not for a little while. During my career, I used to go around saying, “I want to be a GM.” Now that seems pretty bold — maybe even a little naive. It’s easy to think, from the outside, that the job of GM is mostly about signing players and conducting trades. In reality, there’s so much more to it. There are so many moving parts and considerations that all vary depending on what organization you’re with and what’s going on in the league at the time.”
Dan Favale (B/R) has Billy Donovan on his list of NBA coaches with the hottest seats: “Rumors of discord aren’t emanating from OKC’s locker room. On the contrary, Anthony made it clear that the ire is directed only at their sub-.500 record, collective shortcomings and ongoing learning curve—not any one individual. That bodes well for Donovan’s job security. And recently, he’s done a better job building a half-functioning offense around George and Westbrook, with Anthony assuming a lower-usage role and Andre Roberson getting more looks off cuts to the basket. Still, the Thunder lead the league in isolation possessions. The Big Three have burned through more one-on-one sets between them (273) than all but three NBA teams, and Westbrook is the only one shooting better than 40 percent in these situations.”
Tim Bontemps (WaPo) put the Thunder in the fourth tier of NBA competitors: “The most surprising team on the entire list might be Oklahoma City, in this tier despite its sub-.500 record. But the Thunder’s overall metrics are still strong, tied for the league’s third-best defense and 10th-best net rating. Oklahoma City’s struggles in close games are likely to go away, so it should be just fine, and deserving of this spot.”
Nick Gallo on the Thunder giving back to the community yesterday at Target: “Steven Adams’ head was too big for the blue Santa cap, so he went with a massive fur hat with ear flaps as a topper to a classic Steven Adams outfit: a NASA T-Shirt under his Thunder Cares shirt, basketball shorts and flip flops. That was quite the sight for shoppers at Target in Oklahoma City, as Adams and his Thunder teammates, Thunder broadcasters, the Thunder Girls and Rumble the Bison helped Sunbeam Family Services and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren with its 10th annual Target Shopping Spree.”
Tom Moore (Daily Breeze) on LA Chargers DB Casey Hayward being a big Russell Westbrook fan: “The NBA jersey in question — Oklahoma City Thunder No. 0 — was worn by Chargers Pro Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward. His seven interceptions led the league last season. Wearing the jersey was a demonstration of the pro athlete as a fan. This is the human side of the gladiators. They cheer, they appreciate great athletes, just like you do. Why Westbrook? “I like him,” Hayward said with a grin. The Perry, Georgia native who went to Vanderbilt considered his comment for a moment and then edited himself. “I love him,” he corrected.”
Around the League: Steph Curry suffered a nasty ankle sprain last night…. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant was ejected again…. Derrick Rose is back with the Cavs…. Kawhi Leonard is predictably vague on his return date.