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Wednesday Bolts: 6.6.18

Brett Dawson recaps Adrian Wojnarowski’s latest report on Paul George: “The Thunder is in a better position to keep Paul George than it was when it traded for him last summer, but the Lakers remain a threat. That was the message from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Tuesday during the network’s “NBA Draft: On the Clock” special. Wojnarowski, a noted news-breaker, said George will have options, that would clear cap space if the third-team All-NBA forward told them he wanted to play there. “But Oklahoma City’s done a great job of selling him on a future there, and he liked playing with Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams and Billy Donovan,” Wojnarowski said. “They have a real opportunity to keep him, but the Lakers are home. He grew up in L.A., and when he left Indiana his plan was that he would be in L.A. in a year. So you have to credit Oklahoma City for really turning his head on that.

Tim Daniels (B/R) on the Rockets and their interest in Paul George: “The Oklahoma City Thunder are reportedly attempting to convince small forward Paul George, who can decline a player option in his contract to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, to remain with the team, but the Houston Rockets are also expected to make a strong offseason offer. On Tuesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported (via Sagar Trika of Blazer’s Edge) OKC has “done a good job of marketing” the organization to George, but the Rockets are also preparing to make an “aggressive” push to sign him. In April, the 28-year-old California native left the door open to remain in Oklahoma City, but he unsurprisingly wouldn’t make a firm commitment.”

Russell Westbrook comes in at number 13 on the Forbes list of the World’s Highest-Paid Athletes: “Westbrook has posted monster numbers since his former running-mate, Kevin Durant, joined the Warriors in 2016. The dynamic point guard averaged a triple-double each of the past two seasons, becoming only the second NBA player after Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average double-digit points, rebounds and assists.Westbrook renegotiated his contract with the Thunder during the summer of 2016. The new pact added $9 million to Westbrook’s 2016-17 salary and the three-year deal is worth $85.6 million. Westbrook’s off-court earnings got a boost last year under a new 10-year contract extension with Nike’s Jordan Brand. Nike previously released lifestyle signature shoes for Westbrook, but the Why Not Zer0.1, released in January 2018, was the first performance signature shoe for Westbrook from Jordan.”

The New Zealand Herald on Steven Adams also making the Forbes list: “Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams has cracked the Forbes top 100 sportspeople list which doesn’t feature a single woman – the first time it has been entirely populated by men since Forbes began compiling an extended list eight years ago… Adams sits 86th on the list earning US$23.5m, made up of US$22.5m from his NBA contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder and US$1m in endorsements. He should jump up a few more spots in next year’s list, earning US$24,1m in the second year of his four year-$100m deal.”

Frank Urbina (Hoops Hype) lists the Thunder as a potential landing spot for Trevor Ariza: “The Oklahoma City Thunder’s potential interest in Ariza, as was the case with the Knicks, comes with a condition: They would have to lose the services of All-Star wing Paul George first. Losing George would open up a hole on the wing for a Thunder team hoping to be as competitive as possible next season, as it will be the first year Russell Westbrook’s monstrous contract extension kicks in. George’s departure would hurt, to be sure, but replacing him with a player like Ariza could make it sting a little less. An excellent standstill three-point shooter and a long forward who can comfortably defend positions 2 through 4, Ariza could be the perfect role player to slot in next to Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony thanks to his low-usage, low-maintenance style of play.”

Moke Hamilton (USA Today) on how the Thunder could move up in the draft: “Aside from the 10th and 26th overall picks, the Sixers also own the 38th, 39th, 56th and 60th selections. Philadelphia already has nine guaranteed contracts for next season and if they exercised the team options on T.J. McConnell and Richaun Holmes, they’d have 11. As a result, it’s extremely unlikely that the Sixers would exercise all six of their picks. What often happens in these situations is that a team like Philadelphia would be willing to part with a pick or two in exchange for future picks, especially since the club is likely to want to carry at least two or three empty roster spots into July. As it stands, the Thunder do not own a first round pick in this year’s draft and will convey their 2020 first round pick to the Magic if it falls outside of the top 20. They do, however, own all of their second round picks from 2019 through 2021.”

Grant Afseth (Indiana Sports Coverage) on why Russell Westbrook deserves some credit for Victor Oladipo’s breakout season: “There was a terrific quote from an anonymous NBA executive from a Cleaning The Glass article by Jordan Brenner about how Russell Westbrook’s leadership during his MVP season made a massive and necessary impact on Victor Oladipo’s mindset. “I don’t know if he would have been able to do what he’s done if he hadn’t gone to Oklahoma City and seen Westbrook work,” the anonymous executive said. “It changed his whole mindset.” Between his poor performance in the 2016-17 playoffs and the reaction to the Paul George trade, there was more than enough reasons for motivation for Oladipo. He had all of the reasons for motivation but spending that season with Westbrook showed him what it takes to be great. Westbrook’s lead by example display day in and day out showed Oladipo that he needed to work on his body in the off-season. He went to work with David Alexander at DBC Fitness in Miami, Florida and found tremendous results.”

Berry Tramel looks at both sides of Kevin Durant’s “validation” comment: “Let me answer a few things. If Durant had signed with the Celtics, I wouldn’t be dogging him. If he wanted out, he wanted out. It was the Golden State element that left such a sour taste. He wiped out the balance of power in the NBA in what was really a weak move. As far as my health, it’s perfectly fine. I don’t write about Durant’s decision unless he says something, usually on social media, which means it was uninitiated. He’s the one who doesn’t let it go. He’s popping Russell Westbrook. He’s popping Billy Donovan. He’s popping Sam Presti. He’s trying to justify his decision. Which is fine. But we’re not going to let it go without commentary. As for the challenge, I have no interest in trying to refrain from responding about Durant’s nonsense. If he wants to talk about validation from his peers, I’m going to write about validation from his peers.”

Around the League: The 50 greatest individual postseason runs in NBA history…. What the Warriors are doing to Cleveland is just mean…. LeBron is sure no NBA team wants an invite to the White House…. How the NBA Finals will impact free agency…. How will Cleveland react if LeBron leaves again?…. What will Danny Ainge do this offseason?…. USA Today’s first round NBA mock draft…. OK, Mo Bamba is a monster.