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Wednesday Bolts: 11.14.18

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game against the Knicks: “The Knicks have a platoon at the center position with rookie Mitchell Robinson as the starter and former Thunder center Enes Kanter coming off the bench. When Robinson is in the game he’s rolling to the rim on offense and protecting it on defense. With Kanter, the Knicks are trying to run offense through the post in order to generate layups, fouls and kickouts. It’ll be up to not just Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel, but the entire Thunder roster to gang rebound… On the perimeter, the Thunder must be aware of dynamic point guard Frank Ntilikina, who has shown flashes of greatness in his time in the Big Apple. This year he’s done a good job of converting at the free throw line and attacking in transition. The Knicks also have a sharpshooter in Tim Hardaway Jr., who is scoring a sensational 23.2 points per game this season on 18 shot attempts per game. Whether its Paul George or Terrance Ferguson who get the assignment, the entire five-man Thunder unit must be in position to switch, close out and seal off box outs.”

RotoWire on Russell Westbrook being listed as “Out” tonight versus New York: “Westbrook (ankle) won’t be available for Wednesday’s game against New York, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Westbrook’s status was up in the air following a light practice Tuesday, although it appears the Thunder will elect to play it safe with their superstar. He’s set to miss his fifth consecutive contest since spraining his left ankle but could certainly make a return Saturday in Phoenix if he manages to ramp up his activity in practice over the next few days.”

The Thunder will debut their “City Edition” alternates tonight — Jenni Carlson (Oklahoman) ranks all of the Thunder’s alternates: “2. Turquoise “City Edition,” 2018-19: Another bold look. Another great look. The whole uniform pays homage to Oklahoma’s Native American roots with tons of cool details, from the style of the OKC lettering on the jersey to the diamond banding on the shorts. But the best thing about it is the color. That turquoise is sharp.”

New Math:

Berry Tramel on why OKC made better use of Melo than the Rockets did: “His production went down – to 15.6 points per game over the last 72 games, primarily because his shots were down. Carmelo’s shooting actually was up quite a bit on 3-pointers (.361) over the last 72 games, though his overall field-goal percentage was down to .402. I don’t know what this has to do with anything, but Carmelo’s overall 3-point percentage, .357, would actually be quite valuable on the current Thunder team, which is showing great progress but lays bricks from long range. The Thunder found a way to make it work with Carmelo. The Thunder starting lineup, when intact, was among the better units in the league. Could Houston have done the same? We’ll never know. As many analysts have pointed out in recent days, the Rockets’ problems go far beyond Carmelo. Houston didn’t give it much time to work.”

Dan Devine (Ringer) has the Thunder in his five most-interesting teams in the NBA’s week 5: “8-5, making that unsightly 0-4 start into ancient history, with the league’s fourth-best efficiency differential since some dope wondered how they’d survive life without Russell Westbrook. (The answer, mostly: by playing elite defense.)”

Zach Buckley (B/R) still has Billy Donovan on the hot seat: “Last December, Sean Deveney of Sporting News reported the Thunder “have not given serious consideration to firing Donovan yet” but added the coach was working on “a short leash.” That leash likely grew uncomfortably tight when the team limped out to a 0-4 start this season, although Donovan created some breathing room with a subsequent seven-game spurt. Still, there are significant issues with this offense (18th) that Donovan has been unable to address. No team averages fewer passes per game (241.8), and only seven spend a higher percentage of their plays on isolations (8.9). Essentially, this attack ebbs and flows based on the shooting success of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Dennis Schroder, which is worrisome when the latter two are both converting fewer than 42 percent of their field goals.”

Brian Windhorst (ESPN) on what the Paul George, Jimmy Butler, & Kawhi Leonard situations taught us about the NBA: “In the past 18 months or so, five star-level players have demanded trades in the NBA. All of them got what they wanted in relatively short order. Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and now Butler. The George, Leonard and Butler situations are particularly instructive. All fit within roughly the same parameters: two-way wing players with one year left on their contracts. Paul held the hammer on the LA Clippers because he could’ve opted for free agency and left within days; Irving had two years left on his deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and had less leverage. This is probably going to keep happening. Players with a year left on their contracts who aren’t willing to extend will be looking to force the issue. Naturally, the name that pops up is Anthony Davis in these types of discussions. Trust me on this, there are white papers floating around front offices analyzing these deals and preparing teams for when the hot potato either lands in their lap or they see the next opportunity to take advantage.”

Around the League: The KD/Draymond saga is reaching unprecedented heights…. Unpacking everything that happened between KD and Draymond…. Did KD say “That’s why I’m out” immediately after the Draymond dust-up?…. Fantastic news on the Caris Levert injury…. Jimmy Butler is officially a Sixer…. Tracy McGrady thinks Melo should just retire…. The Mavs are already frustrated with DeAndre Jordan…. Adam Silver previews some technological advances to enhance fan enjoyment.