Tuesday Bolts: 2.19.19
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) takes a look at Thunder pregame handshakes: “The move is simple and effective. Adams hooks the inside of his arm with each teammate. It also can be dangerous. Once in pregame, Adams caught Thunder guard Anthony Morrow in the face. “I think I punched (him) in the head by accident,” Adams said. “Yeah, it was really bad because, you know, it’s a swing. And I guess I wasn’t thinking and I went too far down. The angle wasn’t ideal for the execution of it.” Morrow said it was Adams’ elbow which caught him, knocking out his contact. “He apologized for like three days straight, every time he saw me,” said Morrow, who lives in Charlotte and worked on digital content with the Thunder during All-Star Weekend. “Steven never wanted me to ever feel like he disappointed me.”
Sean Highkin (B/R) on how teams in the West stack up with the Warriors: “Paul George is in the midst of a career year, simultaneously making strong cases for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Russell Westbrook, despite his historically awful shooting season, has found ways to have an increased impact defensively. Thursday’s addition of veteran big man Markieff Morris gives the Thunder more depth. They’re the most physical team Golden State will possibly face in the playoffs. There is a world in which the Thunder could give the Warriors a scare, but a “scare” feels like the best-case scenario. George will have his hands full with Durant, and the Thunder will have to hope Westbrook can contain Stephen Curry. Despite his much-improved defense, that’s a tall order.”
Rohan Nadkarni (SI) on the race for MVP: “Remember when LeBron James was at or near the top of MVP ballots after the first quarter of the season? A lot can change over the course of 25 games. James’s injury torpedoed his MVP case, and in the meantime, James Harden has become the frontrunner thanks to his Wilt-esque scoring binge. Lurking in the wings are Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George, both of whom are compiling impressive cases. The Greek Freak is posting Shaq-like numbers for the best team in the league, while George is providing world-class defense on one end of the court and shooting like Stephen Curry on the other.”
Ben Couch (NBA.com) on the triple-double excellence of Russell Westbrook: “Another season, another triple-double average for Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook. And this time, it’s not close: Westbrook, despite struggling to keep his shot north of 40 percent from the field, 25 percent from 3-point range and 65 percent from the line, is averaging 21.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists per game. And he’s done it while essentially deferring to Paul George as the team’s No. 1 option — his usage rate (the percentage of his team’s possessions used) is at its lowest mark since his second season. He has literally entered unprecedented territory, both with this third full season of statistical prowess and the still ongoing streak of 11 games with a triple-double.”
Zach Harper (Athletic) has the Thunder sixth in his latest power rankings: “We have plenty of time to talk about the Oklahoma City Thunder, their chances of advancing deep into the playoffs, Russell Westbrook’s shooting, his overall game, and the validity of a Paul George for MVP candidacy. This team is going to be one of the most interesting and dynamic squads the rest of the regular season and well into the postseason. Since we have plenty of time, I want to discuss what the new dunk champ did on Saturday night. Prior to being crowned the 2019 NBA dunk contest winner, Hamidou Diallo brought the biggest man in the building onto the court. Shaquille O’Neal obliged him and stood strategically in front of the hoop. Then Diallo got a running start and used Shaq as a bit of a springboard to get as high off the ground as possible. Then this rookie had the audacity to dunk a basketball while putting his forearm into the rim. He recreated the Vince Carter elbow dunk but put an even crazier twist on it by jumping over Shaq. He made this look incredibly easy, before revealing that he might be Superman.”
Berry Tramel (Oklahoman) on why Thunder history should include the Seattle SuperSonics: “Franchise records – and all other kinds of records – are nothing but information. A collection of facts. Records as they pertain to the Thunder can be viewed in many ways. Franchise records. Oklahoma City records. Two different things, with different meanings. The Thunder franchise scoring record is interesting. That accounts for 51 years of basketball. That has all kinds of relevance. The OKC scoring record is not all that interesting. Durant had on opening night in October 2008, and when he bolted to the Warriors and Westbrook re-signed with the Thunder, Westbrook was bound to break the record, with little drama. Which he did. Those records mean different things. If you don’t care about Jack Sikma and Gus Williams and Downtown Freddy Brown, fine. Don’t care about them. No reason you should. But they’re still relevant to history.”
Around the League: Bradley Beal used All-Star weekend to try to recruit players to DC…. James Harden says he’s scoring this way because he has to…. Jim Dolan denied his rumored interest in selling the Knicks…. Is LeBron James still the best player in the NBA?…. The NBA’s regional ratings are down…. How Tim Donaghy conspired to fix NBA games.