Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game in Sacramento: “At over one more steal and over one more forced turnover better than the next closest team makes the Thunder quite the outlier, though its opponent on Wednesday night is also adept at turning defense into offense with their high-octane transition game. As the Thunder squares off with the Sacramento Kings for the third time already in just Oklahoma City’s 30th game, whichever side protects the ball and swipes the ball better will likely emerge victorious. “When we’re forcing a lot of turnovers, that ignites us on the break, that gets us out going, that allows us to put up points quickly and go on runs,” said Donovan. “The biggest thing is you want to have good, quality offensive possessions because generally those possessions have a positive impact on your team.”
Rafe Wong (A Royal Pain) previews tonight’s contest from the other side: “Expect Sacramento’s starters to come out with some fire tonight after having to sit on the bench and see their team get steamrolled in the Twin Cities. Especially in front of their home crowd, the players and fans will feed off each other’s energy which will give them some needed momentum when competing against the Thunder. Even without the services of Marvin Bagley III, and maybe Iman Shumpert and Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Kings still have the talent to win this game. As long as they continue to push the tempo on offense, make their open shots, and play solid defense, they definitely can give the Thunder a run for their money. Sacramento will need to rely on players like De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Willie Cauley-Stein to have good performances, as well as receive solid minutes from their second unit.”
Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on Paul George & Russell Westbrook being excited about Billy Donovan having his contract option picked up: “That’s exciting, man,” Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook said of the team picking up Donovan’s contract option. “Billy’s been nothing but great for our organization, for myself. He’s been very understanding when he first got here and the same now. Excited to have him back.” Apprehension about college coaches’ ability to lead NBA players still loomed when Donovan took the helm in OKC, even though the Celtics’ hire of Brad Stevens out of Butler in 2013 ended a nine-year period in which no NBA team hired a head coach without prior NBA experience. Then former Thunder star Kevin Durant stoked fans’ old fears last year when a post on his official Twitter account, which he later apologized for, said he didn’t like playing for Donovan. But for Paul George, open communication with Donovan over the potential MVP candidate’s past two seasons with the Thunder has built good chemistry between player and coach, he said”
Brendon Kleen (Step Back) on why the Thunder got it right by sticking with Donovan: “While Presti is a master of tinkering with his roster on the margins, Donovan is adept at adjusting and maximizing the team around Westbrook. Most surprising of all has been Donovan’s ability to get so much out of the Dennis Schroder-Westbrook pairing that many were skeptical about heading into the year. Both carry earned reputations as inefficient chuckers, but they have a plus-17.1 net rating in 681 possessions this year, according to Cleaning the Glass. According to ESPN, a “strong playoff performance” could have led to a contract extension for Donovan, but the Thunder opted to lock him in now. At some point, Donovan will have to truly answer for his team’s first-round playoff exits in 2016 and 2017. There were excuses both years — losing Durant then getting Anthony — but Oklahoma City is sitting pretty right now with the league’s best defense and both his stars playing well. Coaches notoriously hate working without job security, and now the Thunder rightly have alleviated the pressure on Donovan ahead of another big postseason test in the spring.”
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Steven Adams adding the euro step to his game: “It’s happened before, but never this frequently: Steven Adams is using the Euro Step. It’s a trickier move than it looks, often reserved for explosive guards like Russell Westbrook or rangy wings like Paul George. But three times in the last week, the 7-foot Adams has broken out the move, which is defined as taking a step in one direction with the ball, then quickly taking a second step in another direction in order to avoid a defender. “Oh, it’s nice,” Thunder guard Dennis Schroder said. “He’s working on it in practice. He’s doing a great job of it, so he should try it in the games.”
The NBA TV crew discusses Paul George’s defensive dominance:
Evan Sidery (Valley of the Suns) compares the 2018-19 Suns to the 2008-09 Thunder: “I can hear it now: “Evan, woah, slow down.” The thing is, I don’t think it’s a crazy comparison to make. Even if the Suns weren’t winners of three straight games, I would still lean in this direction. Former General Manager Ryan McDonough alluded to studying rebuilds like Oklahoma City on multiple occasions before his surprising firing nine days before the regular season.”
“Even if the Suns weren’t winners of three straight games…” Kills me.
Kicks On Fire gives a first look at the upcoming Jordan Why Not Zer0.2: “Looking at the Jordan Why Not Zer0.2 we see that it is highlighted by a mesh construction on the upper with plastic overlays on the toe, eyestay, and heel counter. Russell Westbrook and Jordan Brand branding are then placed on the tongue, heel, and ankle with this pair above being done in Oklahoma City colors. One of the most unique features of this shoe comes on the outsole which comes with the size tag on it instead of being placed behind the tongue or somewhere else inside the shoe.”
Around the League: LeBron likes the idea of Anthony Davis with the Lakers…. How LA has turned into Bron Bron Land…. Kyrie Irving is speaking his (science) mind and that’s hardly ever a good thing…. How the NBA became a Christmas Day staple…. The NBA needs to stop using Seattle as its personal bludgeon…. Recapping last night’s NBA action.