Nick Gallo previews tonight’s preseason opener vs Detroit: “The Pistons have a new coach in Dwane Casey. Their All-Star center, NBA rebounding champion Andre Drummond, is shooting three-pointers now, apparently. Point guard Reggie Jackson is still working his way back from injury. Blake Griffin, with a summer in Detroit under his belt, will be a dynamic, bruising threat. And by the way, the Pistons haven’t put anything on tape for public consumption so far this preseason, so for the Thunder there’s only some personnel tendencies to look over to re-build those game-day preparation habits. “We’ll have to see as the game’s going on,” Donovan said of the gameplan. “If we need to adjust as the game’s going on, we’ll do that, but really more than anything else it’s about are we executing the things we talked about needing to execute over the course of training camp.” So instead of watching film the team will look internally, as it is anyway at this early stage of U.S. Cellular Training Camp. The material to work from is the Blue and White Scrimmage, at which Donovan said he was eager to take a second look to evaluate the defensive performance.”
The Thunder’s injury report for tonight:
Erik Horne on why Paul George is primed for a big season: “When asked, neither George nor Thunder coach Billy Donovan said that Anthony moving on to Houston would make the OKC offense easier for George. “I think that would be too hard to answer,” Donovan said. “I think it would be unfair to make that statement because maybe it would have looked a lot different had there been more time in between, or maybe it would have looked different this year after having a year under their belts together.” What is unquestionable now, however, is George and Westbrook functioning as the primary offensive cogs in a system that aspires to be faster. George and Westbrook were the two leading scorers for the Thunder last season, but occasionally, George would have a quarter where he’d inexplicably get one shot attempt as the Thunder stumbled for its identity during an 8-12 start. “As much as me and Russ can do, we are going to need everyone here,” George said. “It’s not just a Russ and Paul team. We are going to need everyone in the locker room, so that’s what it’s going to come down to for us.”
George on Melo moving on to Houston:
Clay Horning (Norman Transcript) on Dennis Schroder quickly building chemistry in OKC: “Russell Westbrook won’t be on the court. The four-week mark, said to be the date of his reevaluation after undergoing proactive knee surgery to reduce stiffness and inflammation, arrives Oct. 10. Still, there’s a chance the most conspicuous of absences — Westbrook’s — might not slow the Thunder very much at all. That’s because of all the good impressions being made in OKC’s preseason camp, the best of the bunch may be the one point guard Dennis Schroder is making. In an offseason deal, Atlanta took over the expiring contract that was Carmelo Anthony’s and sent Schroder, who it no longer wished to employ, to Oklahoma City. The Hawks got their reboot — one that includes Norman North and Sooner alum Trae Young where Schroder used to be — and the Thunder received a proven NBA point guard who averaged 19.4 points and 6.2 assists only last season. That kind of ability and production was evident a few days ago at the Thunder’s annual Blue-White scrimmage.”
Reid Forgrave (CBS Sports) with the Thunder’s best/worst case scenario for 2018-19: “Best Case: The healthy return of Andre Roberson, coupled with the surprisingly successful offseason addition of Nerlens Noel, turns the Thunder’s defense into one of the NBA’s best. Just like last season, lineups that include Roberson, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams are among the NBA’s best lineups in plus-minus as that group even improves on last year’s 13.6 net rating. Roberson wins Defensive Player of the Year, while Dennis Schroder’s arrival does something surprising to Russell Westbrook. Schroder takes some of the scoring burden off of Russ, and Russ turns in the most efficient season of his career, specifically from 3-point range, where he shoots a career-best 36 percent, vastly improving over last season. The Thunder gets the No. 3 seed with 51 wins and upset the No. 2-seeded Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals as George and Roberson play lockdown defense on James Harden and Chris Paul. Sure, they lose to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, but that’s OK – who wouldn’t?”
Dan Favale (B/R) on the one player on each team facing the most pressure: “Russell Westbrook. Russell Westbrook is debate personified. He is an MVP who has brought the value of triple-doubles into question. He is a top-10 player about to kick off a bottom-10 contract. He is the Thunder’s soul. (See: their first season without Kevin Durant.) He is their potential downfall. (See: their Game 6 loss to the Jazz.) Successfully not driving Paul George into the Lakers’ arms inoculates Westbrook against nothing. He remains everything that’s right and wrong with the Thunder. They are content to live and die with him, and they’ll do both over the course of the season. Bake in a fourth surgery on his right knee and an awkward-seeming backcourt co-opt with Dennis Schroder, and there can be no other choice. It is Westbrook. It must be Westbrook. It will always be Westbrook.”
Around the League: LeBron made his Staples Center debut last night…. The Kobe/Matt Barnes flinch-gate is almost too much to handle…. KD plans to be honest about his free agency process…. Dirk may not be available for the Dallas season opener…. Melo made his Houston debut last night…. Melo apologized to the Rockets’ bench last night after making a long two…. Klay Thompson wants to make an All-Defense team…. Kawhi Leonard doesn’t care if you hate his laugh.