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Tuesday Bolts: 8.14.18

Carmelo Anthony penned a “Thank You” letter to OKC: “I know it was only one season, but from the time I arrived in OKC, I was greeted with so much love from The Team, The Organization, and of course the INCREDIBLE fans of this amazing city. Throughout the entire season, game after game, you cheered me on and rooted for us as a team. That is something I will always cherish and never forget. That genuine support kept me going all season long. IN LIFE, I’ve learned that things don’t always turn out how you want. I wanted nothing more than to make it work here & help bring this city a championship. I’m sorry it didn’t work out while I was here. Thank you to Russ, PG, Sam Presti, Coach Billy Donovan, my trainers and the entire staff who work so hard and diligently at Chesapeake Energy Arena and the practice facility. I appreciate you all very much. Last but not least, Thank You to (Thunder part-owner and chairman) Mr. (Clay) Bennett for believing in me.”

The Thunder signed Tyler Davis to a two-way deal: “The Oklahoma City Thunder has signed center Tyler Davis to a Two-Way Contract, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not released. In three seasons at Texas A&M, Davis (6-10, 266) appeared in 102 games (100 starts) and averaged 13.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 26.0 minutes. At the end of the 2017-18 season, Davis was named to the All-SEC First Team after leading the conference in field goal shooting (58.5 percent) for a third consecutive season. Davis led the Aggies in scoring this past season (14.9 points per game) as he helped lead Texas A&M to the Sweet 16 for a second time in three seasons. He is one of five players in school history to amass 1,000-plus points, 500-plus rebounds and 100-plus blocks. Davis was formerly named Mr. Basketball in the state of Texas following his senior season at Plano West High School.”

ESPN NBA insiders predict the Thunder to finish 49-33, fourth in the West next season: “Massive luxury-tax implications made dumping Melo’s salary a must, but the move might also make the Thunder a better team. Oklahoma City was minus-58 in Anthony’s 194 playoff minutes and outscored the Jazz by 32 points in the 94 minutes Melo sat during that series. How well Dennis Schroder, acquired from Atlanta in the Melo deal, adapts to his new sixth man role could determine whether OKC has home-court advantage in the first round.”

Michael Shapiro (SI) on the Thunder’s chances to win the Western Conference: “In the most stacked conference in recent memory, the Thunder face an uphill climb. Houston will be hungry for a second chance at the Warriors and Utah is a hot pick for the West finals. Anthony Davis may be in line for an MVP season, and oh yeah, LeBron has taken his talents to Los Angeles. The easy victories will be few and far between. But don’t count out Oklahoma City for pole position below Golden State. Another year of the Westbrook-George pairing should breed increased chemistry, and for the first time since the James Harden trade, the Thunder have the requisite depth to survive without its stars. Their defense will sit near the top of the league rankings, pairing with an offense that should allow Westbrook to shine. Three months after an embarrassing first-round exit, there may be some unfinished business in Oklahoma City after all.”

Kurt Helin (NBC Sports) on Russell Westbrook’s excitement about Paul George’s return: “Needless to say, Westbrook is a happy man. We could kind of tell that from the party he threw the night George agreed to re-sign, but he said it directly in an ESPN interview while in China on his Jordan Brand Tour. “I’m very, very excited. Paul has been an unbelievable teammate, obviously a great friend. I’m very, very excited that he is back and we’re ready to make some noise. We are just going to take it one day at a time. I think our team has a lot of great, young talent. We have one goal now and that is winning a championship.” While it’s hard to envision the Thunder reaching that goal (as constructed), the Thunder could well be the three or four seed in the West and have home court in the first round of the playoffs. While the margin for error in the West will be minuscule (with 12 teams having a shot at the eight playoff spots), with the Thunder’s strong top-10 defense and two stars who can take over games nightly, they should be one of the more consistent regular season teams in the West.”

Berry Tramel on the amount of Thunder weekend games being down: “The NBA is making it more difficult for Thunder fans to attend the games at Chesapeake Arena. Make the games or make it to work on time the next morning. The Thunder has just 17 of its 41 home games on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. Last season, the Thunder had 19 weekend games. The two years before last, it was 24 each season. The Thunder schedule has been on a fairly consistent rotation for much of its 10 years in OKC. A heavy dose of Wednesday, Friday and Sunday home games. But the new schedule that came out last week shows the days spread quite evenly: seven Sundays, seven Mondays, six Tuesdays, five Wednesdays, six Thursdays, five Fridays and five Saturdays.”

Ed Odeven (Japan Times) on Russell Westbrook bringing inspiration in Tokyo visit: “As he stepped on the stage, with NBA and B. League analyst Chris Sasaki serving simultaneously as master of ceremonies and translator, Westbrook was treated to a rock star’s entrance, not unlike the intro to a concert at a stadium. He made previous promotional stops in Shanghai and Beijing. The Tokyo stop was the final stretch of the summer tour. Fans cheered and clapped for the seven-time NBA All-Star. He provided a glimpse into his life and basketball career and his thoughts on being a role model. “It’s been amazing here,” Westbrook said, summing up his visit. “People are showing me love,” he added. “I’m happy to be here.” The feeling was mutual. Fans donned the Oklahoma City Thunder star’s No. 0 jersey and T-shirt. They snapped his photo and shot short videos, raising their cellphones to record the memories.”

Kicks On Fire recaps what went down on Westbrook’s tour of Asia: “For me, the most important part of this tour is getting to the fans, the kids and the people,” Russ said on the first day of tour. In Shanghai, Russ is exploring the city, meeting fans and attending the King of Underdogs tournament and Why Not? Apprentice Challenge. In Beijing, he’s spending time with local fans and artists, awarding Wings students and judging the NBA5v5 Dunk Contest. In Tokyo, he’s connecting with local fans at signature stores, meeting various fashion designers and playing ball with local youth. Check out the images above and itinerary below to give you a better ide of what went down at Russell Westbrook’s “Why Not?” Asia tour.”

Around the League: The unsurprising narrative surrounding Melo and the Rockets…. Mike D’Antoni likes Melo’s fit in Houston…. James Harden was involved in a nightclub incident over the weekend…. The Clippers fired Bruce Bowen from the booth after critical Kawhi comments…. Shams Charania is headed to The Athletic.