Tim Bontemps (WaPo) on Paul George looking like his former self: “The superstar forward arrived in Las Vegas for Team USA’s two-day minicamp last week at the tail-end of an offseason that saw him commit to remaining with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the rest of his prime, and after medical procedures to his left knee and right elbow. To those who watched Team USA’s practices, though, George looked as good as ever. He looked and sounded like a man confident in himself and his surroundings — which, he said, was a big reason he didn’t even bother to take a meeting with another team before committing to remain with Oklahoma City for the next several seasons in the opening hours of free agency. “I felt comfortable where I was at already,” George said. “There was no need to prolong it and go further with meetings and interviews. “I knew what my heart was set on. I would just be wasting people’s time at that point.” If there were any concerns that George would be something less than what he was in the past when he returns to the court this fall, they were displaced by his showing in Las Vegas. George took part in every facet of Team USA’s practices, and looked every bit the lithe athlete he’s been since bursting into stardom several seasons ago. He said the recovery from the arthroscopic surgery he had on his left knee in Los Angeles in May had progressed nicely, and while he didn’t feel he was back to where he’d like to be, it was impossible to tell from watching him play.”
ESPN NBA experts break down the best moves of the offseason: “Chris Herring, FiveThirtyEight: I feel obligated to say LeBron James, given that he’s the best player in the world. But if you’re the Oklahoma City Thunder, you have to feel like it was locking in Paul George after making the enormous gamble to trade for him without knowing whether he’d stay in the small market. On top of that, the Thunder got out from under the last year of Carmelo Anthony’s deal (and all the luxury tax payments it would have triggered) and managed to get a useful player out of it. They won’t win a title because of these two things, but they came out of it all pretty well, all things considered.”
Offseason Russ Alert:
Ti Windisch (FanSided) on why the Thunder can’t play Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder together: “The problem is going to be Schroder’s role on the floor when Westbrook isn’t sitting. Russ has sat out for five games over the last three regular seasons combined, and he’s averaged just over 35 minutes played per game in that span. The Brodie does not sit out all that often. If Westbrook continues to play for roughly 35 minutes each night, that leaves just 13 non-Russ minutes per game. In those minutes it makes a lot of sense for Schroder to tear up bench units and do a lot of the stuff Westbrook does, just not as good. Schroder, for his part, has averaged about 31 minutes per game over his last two seasons. Considering he’s down to go over to Germany to tell the media there he wants to be traded, he might not be the kind of low-key player who could be cool with playing 18 minutes less per night than he has since becoming a starter. That’s going to create an impasse in Oklahoma City. Clearly Westbrook should be playing a lot of minutes if he’s healthy. That’s a no-brainer. That leaves two options when it comes to Schroder: play him next to Russ, or barely play him.”
Nick Gallo on the study, reliable Raymond Felton: “The timely shot-making, tenacious attitude and savvy on the floor has made Felton a fan favorite amongst Thunder fans. From a fit and feel, he seems right at home. Originally from the tiny South Carolina town of Latta, Felton clicked immediately in Oklahoma City. Sure, the downtown metro has blossomed over the past few years, but Felton found charm in the people he interacted with, and the fans who come down to Chesapeake Energy Arena and bring the juice the team needs every night. “Here,” Felton began. “Win, lose, draw, whatever, these fans got your back 100 percent.” As many NBA players who joined the Thunder later in their career have expressed in the past, it’s the fan loyalty and support that has made the biggest impact on their experiences in OKC. Even with 3 a.m. and 4. a.m. arrivals, Okies wait patiently outside the private terminal at Will Rogers World Airport in the early morning frost for a glimpse of the team and a chance to applaud and show support. No matter if the team just won a crucial postseason-clinching game or came home with a playoff series loss. The Thunder faithful are there in full force, and Felton is still blown away.”
Erik Horne with seven highlights from Steven Adams’ autobiography: “One of the best aspects of the book is when Adams breaks off into his shorthand, pre-draft workout diary, a city-to-city look at which teams he worked out for and the highlights. Adams worked out for the Celtics, Thunder, Kings, Hawks, Trail Blazers, Mavericks, Jazz, Bulls, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Suns and Sixers. In his first trip to Oklahoma City, he tried to take video of the Thunder’s impressive facilities, but Russell Westbrook shut him down. “He might’ve been lying, but I wasn’t about to argue with him,” Adams wrote June 3, 2013. “I really like their vibe though. It’s the closest thing to a Kiwi vibe I’ve felt so far so would be awesome to be drafted there.”
Around the League: LeBron thinks the Lakers will be better than expected…. Melo secured his buyout with the Hawks…. Dwyane Wade will decide on retirement ‘in due time’…. LeBron says Trump is using sports to ‘divide us’…. The best free agents still on the market…. A proposal for eliminating the one-and-done rule.