Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game against the Nets: “Over the last few weeks it hasn’t always been there for the Thunder defensively, though the team still ranks in the top 5 in the NBA in defensive efficiency. The key for the Thunder was positioning, focus, discipline to the fine details and a commitment to staying between the ball and the basket. “Our stance was a little bit better on the ball. We didn’t get up on the side of their hips. I didn’t think we gave a lot of straight-line drives,” Donovan began. “When those guys straight-line drive, it’s hard to bring help,” Donovan continued. “But if you can make them change direction a little bit and a guy does make a great dribble move and make a great play offensively it gives the back side help a little bit more time to come over and at least challenge or present some resistance at the rim.” The Thunder will need to bring all of that to the table again as it returns home to face a Brooklyn Nets team that has been absolutely surging since the last time these squads met. In fact, when the Thunder beat the Nets on Paul George’s buzzer-beating three-pointer in Brooklyn, it dropped the Nets to just 8-18 on the season. Since then, Brooklyn is 28-15, the fourth-best record in the NBA.”
Jason Rose (Nets Daily) previews tonight from the other side: “One of those players who might draw a lot of Paul George defensive matchups is Rodions Kurucs, who has proved once again to be a vital part of this team despite being twelve years old (okay 21). Since he returned to the starting lineup, the Nets have not lost and Rodi is putting up 14.5 points and shooting 64/61/75 which doesn’t even cover how great he’s been on defense. He seemed to completely fluster Blake Griffin, grabbing three steals and playing with a fire and energy that only a rookie trying to prove himself can bring. He wants that starting job for good, and he should keep it for a while. He’s been great. The only Net who played more than 30 minutes against the Pistons was Allen Crabbe, which highlights a hidden advantage of a blowout win: Rest. The season is winding down and the players have been at it for a while and the Nets got away with playing DLo and Caris and Spencer some light minutes in a blowout win, that could be a big help as they start off this extended West Coast road trip.”
Tim MacMahon (ESPN) on the outcome of the Russell Westbrook/Jazz fan situation: “The Utah Jazz permanently banned the fan who had a heated exchange with Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook on Monday night, saying in a statement that “there is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.” The NBA, meanwhile, fined Westbrook $25,000 “for directing profanity and threatening language to a fan.” “Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy and play the game in a safe, positive and inclusive environment,” Jazz president Steve Starks said in a statement Tuesday. “Offensive and abusive behavior does not reflect the values of the Miller family, our organization and the community. We all have a responsibility to respect the game of basketball and, more importantly, each other as human beings. This has always been a hallmark of our incredible fan base and should forever be our standard moving forward.”
LeBron James commented on the fan incident:
Eric Woodyard (Deseret News) on Jazz fans having an opportunity to elevate the conversation surrounding them: “Just hours after several key Jazz players came to Westbrook’s defense, the team announced Tuesday that the ban is effective immediately and includes all arena events after conducting an investigation. It was determined that Keisel violated the NBA Code of Conduct through excessive and derogatory verbal abuse toward Westbrook and the franchise stated “there is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.” Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said this incident can be a teachable moment for not just Jazz fans, but for teams around the league as well. “It’s terrible and I hate seeing this kind of stuff,” Cox said over the phone, following budget negotiations on Tuesday evening during the final week of the legislative session. “I do think, though, there’s an opportunity here for us to elevate the conversation, to let fans know that we need to be better and we need to hold each other accountable, that we need to try harder to improve the reputation.”
Jazz faithful have started a GoFundMe in an attempt to raise $25,000 for the Human Rights Campaign: “In light of recent events between Russell Westbrook & a few outlying Jazz fans, I am calling for the true, loyal, welcoming & kind Utah Jazz fans to show our true colors. Let’s raise $25,000 – the same amount Russell Westbrook was fined – and donate it to the Human Rights Campaign. It is time to change the narrative on citizens of Utah, fans of the Jazz and those that call Utah ‘home’. We are not a bunch of redneck, racist, bigots. Most of us are dads, moms, friends, hard-workers, kind-hearted, do right by each other, help our fellow man, good neighbors and welcoming to all.”
Tony Pesta (Blue Man Hoop) on why the Thunder will be the Warriors’ biggest challenger in the West: “Westrbook is once again averaging a triple-double this season, putting up 23.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.5 assists per game. He has done a great job at getting his teammates involved and learning how to take a backseat during crucial moments. Only on rare occasions does he revert to his bad habits of old. The main reason the Warriors will have to worry about the Thunder is the rise of Paul George. PG is having the best season of his career and is legitimately contending for both the Most Valuable Player Award and the Defensive Player of the Year Award. George is averaging 28.4 points and 8.1 rebounds a game as he has helped lead the Thunder to a 40-26 record. This makes them the fourth best team in the Western Conference.”
Around the League: The new free agency strategy for NBA superstars…. Draymond Green officially signed with Klutch Sports…. LeBron plans to finish the season strong…. James Dolan is sensitive…. Serge Ibaka was suspended three games for trying to knock out Marquess Chriss…. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on how it feels to watch his records get broken…. The young Suns are learning to lead together…. The Cavs wanted to pair LeBron and KD after the 2016 season…. Danuel House signed for the rest of the season in Houston.