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Wednesday Bolts: 5.2.18

Dane Carbaugh (Yahoo Sports) on the rumor of Paul George leaving OKC: “Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George recently said it’s too soon for him to think about his pending free agency. We knew that was just talk, especially given the amount of time and server space that’s been dedicated to writing about rumors George is destined to choose somewhere more to his liking, probably the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, with the Thunder season over thanks to the Utah Jazz, we can talk openly once again about where George might be headed. And as we’ve heard before, there are rumblings that George is soon to make his exit from Oklahoma City. Speaking on his radio show this week, ESPN’s Ryen Russillo said that his source close to the team believes George leaving the Thunder is all but a done deal.”

Erik Horne has four pressing questions for Sam Presti at today’s press conference: “There’s no shortage of excuses for Billy Donovan: A roster that’s changed as much as any in the NBA in the last two seasons. Three ball-dominant players who were always a question in terms of fit. Andre Roberson’s injury. All will be referenced Wednesday. The Western Conference was deeper and the Thunder’s offense eventually became a Top 10 unit, but that offense also ground to a predictable halt against the Jazz’s elite defense. Too often, Westbrook, George and Anthony deviated from Donovan’s desired ball and player movement. Promising players such as Josh Huestis and Jerami Grant were shuffled in and out of the rotation or never settled into roles. Donovan has two years and a reported $12 million left on his five-year deal. Is the Thunder willing to pay two coaches at once next season — Donovan if he’s fired and a new hire?”

Bill Haisten (Tulsa World) on the underachieving Thunder: “OK, let’s say Presti fires Billy Donovan. Who gets the job? Westbrook now is a 10-year veteran, a headstrong guy and one of the world’s highest-paid athletes. Can you envision him responding favorably to a fiery coach who demands a more measured approach offensively and more consistent effort on defense? Good luck with that. Donovan’s job status is a pointless discussion topic, anyway. Presti won’t make that change. Since holding a 3-1 lead over Golden State in the 2016 Western Conference finals, the Thunder’s overall record is 98-80. That’s a winning percentage of .551 for an organization that in 2009-16 had Kevin Durant and an overall winning percentage of .649, with four appearances in the Western Conference finals and a 2012 run to the NBA Finals.”

Fred Katz on Carmelo Anthony, Billy Donovan and a situation that’s not getting any better: “All season, Donovan evoked the same themes about Anthony — who, just a few hours after Donovan’s staunch backing, would toss his coach under a fully loaded school bus and back it up just to make sure the tire marks stuck. Anthony was the ultimate professional, Donovan had said. He was an “unbelievable communicator” on defense. He “sacrificed” for and “accepted” a role he’d never before owned. Yet, at his exit interview, Anthony made it clear he was done with that. Coming off the bench next year was “out the question” after the 15-year veteran had played like, well, a 15-year veteran all season. “I’m not sacrificing no bench role,” he said.”

Berry Tramel on the lack of self-awareness surrounding Carmelo Anthony: “Carmelo seems to be subtraction by addition. Carmelo was billed as the final piece of a trinity. A third superstar to go with George and Russell Westbrook. Turns out it wasn’t so. Carmelo was a shell of his former self. The offensive juggernaut from Nugget and Knickerbocker days was nowhere to be found. Carmelo shot 40.4 percent from the field, the worst of his career. His true shooting percentage (which factors in foul shots and the bonus for 3-pointers) was a career low .503, well behind Jerami Grant’s, Corey Brewer’s, Terrance Ferguson’s and Andre Roberson’s. Carmelo was purported to be a playoff weapon, joining with Westbrook and George as craftsmen who could manufacture shots when postseason defenses stiffened. Didn’t happen against the Jazz. Instead, Carmelo averaged just 11.8 points a game, shot 37.5 percent from the field and made just six of 28 3-pointers. Utah was willing to give up the long ball; Carmelo’s teammates combined to make 39.3 percent of their 3-pointers. Carmelo, brought in largely as a deep threat, made 21.4 percent.”

Andrew Sharp & Ben Golliver (SI) discuss whether Russell Westbrook or Rudy Gobert is more valuable: “In the individual matchup, Gobert is the exact player you want against Westbrook’s specific skillset. Because so much of what Westbrook wants to do is going to the basket and Gobert totally takes that away. It just changes him as a player. So I think in this particular matchup, Westbrook looks about as bad as he could against any random team, whereas Gobert looks about as effective and impactful as he does against virtually any other team. This is why I am going to be looking at this Houston team carefully, because he’s not going to be an accessory to the action, but if Houston is going to be able to score a lot consistently with him on the court, I think perception of Gobert as a more valuable overall talent over Westbrook will fade a bit but it’s a lot closer than people actually think.”

Rodger Sherman (Ringer) on Carmelo Anthony’s failed OKC experiment: “In Oklahoma City’s first-round loss to the Jazz, Anthony was “bad” in the same way that an unexplained wad of human hair in a fast-food meal is bad. When Anthony was off the court, the Thunder stood a chance—in fact, OKC outscored the Jazz by 32 combined points in the series when Anthony was benched. That was most notable in Game 5, when the team mounted a raucous 25-point comeback with Anthony mostly on the sideline. But when Melo played, Oklahoma City was doomed, as the Jazz outscored the Thunder by a whopping 58 points. He was a defensive liability, useless when switched onto quicker scorers (which happened virtually whenever Utah wanted). And despite having a reputation as an offensive menace, he was brutal shooting the ball. On 3-point shots that NBA.com classifies as “open” or “wide-open,” Anthony was 6-of-26. If a guy on your rec league team went 6-of-26 on uncontested 3s, you’d be like, “Man, Steve thinks he’s good at shooting, but…”

Zach Buckley (B/R) on the NBA’s notable masked men: “Between his full-throttle style and seemingly superhuman stats, Russell Westbrook was always a likely candidate to join the Association’s face-mask crew. He did it in maybe the most Westbrook way possible, suffering a fractured bone in his right cheek while tallying his third straight triple-double in February 2015. The injury was the result of friendly fire, as he fell and was hit in the face by teammate Andre Roberson’s knee. The collision left Westbrook with “a noticeable imprint on his right cheek,” per the Associated Press. That happened on a Friday. After sitting out a contest that Sunday, Westbrook was back in action the coming Wednesday. Moreover, the masked Westbrook was just like the unmasked version. He not only triple-doubled for the fourth consecutive game, but he had his most points (49) and rebounds (15)—both career highs at the time—of that stretch.”

SLAM Magazine has Russell Westbrook at number 37 on its list of the top 100 players of all-time: “How do you capture the brilliance, essence and ferociousness of Russell Westbrook in just a few short sentences? Let’s try this: TWO-TIME SCORING CHAMP! 2017 MVP!! ARCHITECT OF PERHAPS THE GREATEST INDIVIDUAL SEASON EVER! FIRST SINCE OSCAR TO AVERAGE A TRIPLE DOUBLE (AND HE DID IT TWICE)!!! STYLE ICON!!!!”

Around the League: Kendrick Perkins and Drake are beefing with one another?…. Steph Curry returned and did Steph Curry things as the Dubs went up 2-o on NOLA…. LeBron and the Cavs took Game 1 after an another Toronto postseason collapse…. Charles Barkley wants to punch Draymond Green in the face…. Draymond Green is apparently ready for that fight.