Royce Young (ESPN) on Russell Westbrook’s sprained left ankle: “X-rays were negative and after further evaluation Tuesday, it was confirmed it was nothing more than an ankle sprain that looked worse than it actually is. Westbrook traveled with the team to Cleveland and will be evaluated again Thursday to see how he feels, and his status will likely be updated on a game-by-game basis. The Thunder, who have won five straight, play the Rockets on Thursday in OKC. However, considering it’s a back-to-back and the Thunder won’t hold a shootaround or practice before the game, Westbrook and the Thunder will probably lean conservatively on returning for that game with an eye more toward Dallas on Saturday, or Phoenix next week.”
Vincent Goodwill (Yahoo) on Paul George’s belief that he can win without Russ: “George said he knows championship windows aren’t open long. If not for the gruesome broken leg he suffered in the summer of 2014 while playing for Team USA as a member of the Indiana Pacers, George said, “We were gonna get it [the title] that next year.” So George feels the Thunder are in a championship window right now. “I think we are. We have a good opportunity,” George told Yahoo Sports. “We got a team that can be one of the best defensive teams that I’ve been a part of. And I’ve been a part of some good defensive teams, so we know what we got over here. This is definitely an opportunity.”
Dan Devine (Ringer) on whether or not Paul George is correct in that belief: “He’s not as explosive or physical as Westbrook, but the statistical comparison between them through the first six seasons of their careers is eye-openingly tight; so far this season, Schröder’s averaging a positively Westbrookian 29.4 points, 10.1 assists, and 7.5 rebounds per 100 possessions when he runs the show sans Russ. Whether the Thunder can survive the loss of 2018-19 Russ by replacing him with an approximation of 2013-14 Russ, though, is a big question. For all the slings and arrows Westbrook takes for his inefficient and at-times-tunnel-visioned game, Schröder has a lower career true shooting percentage, free throw rate, and assist percentage than Westbrook. And while Schröder’s individual production has ballooned with Westbrook off the floor this season, the Thunder as a team have averaged just 99.7 points per 100 in those minutes, a rate of offensive efficiency that would rank dead last in the NBA over the course of the full season.”
Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on Dennis Schroder’s ability to replace Russ: “There is a difference between not feeling a dropoff when Westbrook leaves the floor and not feeling a dropoff when Westbrook never steps on it. But especially heading into a game against the struggling Cavaliers (1-9), Schroder has proven that he can fill in without much disruption. “Dennis, the way he played in the absence of Russell, was really a major contributing factor in the game,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after the Thunder’s 122-116 win over the Pelicans on Wednesday. Schroder finished the night with a season-high 22 points, 16 of which he scored after Westbrook (left ankle sprain) left the game with 4:25 to go in the third quarter. “The mindset then is still going to be the same as, say, next game,” Adams said when asked about Schroder’s mentality Monday. “Even if he misses or makes the shots, his mindset is still the same.”
Clay Horning (Norman Transcript) on the deep Thunder bench coming into focus: “Against the rest of the NBA, the Thunder bench doesn’t rank near the top in hardly any category. However, when judged against itself, last season, the improvement is vast. A year ago, among the statistics the OKC bench ranked 28th, 29th or 30th in the league were points per game (25.9, 30th); rebounds per game (11.3, 29th); assists per game (4.5, 29th); efficiency (29.5, 29th) and efficiency differential (-9.4, 28th). Now, in the same order, nine games into the season, the Thunder bench ranks 20th at 39.8 points; 19th at 15.6 rebounds; 27th at 6.8 assists; 17th with an efficiency rating of 43.3 and 20th, with an efficiency differential of -3.7. In previous seasons, the Thunder’s first unit was charged with making up the negative difference the Thunder bench regularly endured. Now, it’s a different dynamic.”
Tracy McGrady isn’t worried about the Thunder’s chances without their star point guard:
Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game against the Cavs: “The Thunder’s close to the game against the Pelicans sufficed, but it likely won’t withstand many more tests, particularly against a hungry Cavaliers team who just lost at the buzzer to the Orlando Magic on Monday night. In order to score efficiently down the stretch against a Cavaliers squad that has veteran defenders in George Hill and Tristan Thompson at crucial positions on the floor, the Thunder will have to play with better tempo, more decisiveness and with higher awareness. More of those downhill drives to the lane to create layups and kickouts, and less of the east-west dribbling that can get teams flummoxed with poor spacing, bad shots and giveaways. “We can learn from coming out of the last seven or eight minutes,” Donovan stated. “We got some good shots and I thought we took some questionable shots coming down the stretch but overall thought the guys did a good job battling and competing and fighting.”
Around the League: Tyson Chandler has signed with the Lakers…. X-rays were negative on Draymond Green’s injured foot…. Donovan Mitchell is probable to return tonight from his sprained ankle…. The NBA’s offensive explosion is unstoppable…. 2019 NBA Mock Draft.