5 min read

Wednesday Bolts: 8.15.18

John Schuhmann (NBA.com) on the Thunder’s easy start to the 2018-19 season: “The Thunder will play eight of their first 11 games against teams that had winning records last season, but will also play six of their first 16 against the Suns (3), Kings (2) and Knicks (1) — three teams that figure to finish at or near the bottom of the standings again this season. They’ll also have all four of their meetings against the Hornets and Cavs in their first 20 games. Both Denver and OKC are looking to move up in the West, and relatively easy starts to the season could help them do that.”

Berry Tramel on the Thunder catching a scheduling break: “The Thunder’s four West teams it plays only thrice each are the Warriors, the Lakers, the Spurs and the Grizzlies. The Thunder draws Phoenix and Sacramento four times each. Playing a Northwest Division schedule isn’t easy – it’s the only NBA division with five quality teams – but OKC gets repaid in other ways. Playing Golden State just thrice is good for the ledger. So is playing LeBron James only three times. The Spurs are traditionally strong. OKC gets only three games against Memphis, which doesn’t figure to make the playoffs, but the Thunder gets four games each against Sacramento and Phoenix, the two acknowledged weakest teams in the West, plus four games against Dallas and the Clippers, who figure to be out of the playoff hunt. Conversely, the Houston Rockets have to play Golden State four times. The Rockets’ three-times foes are Portland, Minnesota, the Clippers and Phoenix. That’s a small advantage for the Thunder.”

Royce Young on Melo’s farewell letter to Oklahoma City: “Carmelo Anthony, after officially signing with the Houston Rockets on Monday, said he “wanted nothing more than to make it work” in a letter thanking the Oklahoma City Thunder organization and its fans. “I know it was only one season, but from the time I arrived in OKC, I was greeted with so much love from The Team, The Organization, and of course the INCREDIBLE fans of this amazing city,” Anthony said in the letter provided to The Oklahoman via the team. “Throughout the entire season, game after game, you cheered me on and rooted for us as a team. That is something I will always cherish and never forget. That genuine support kept me going all season long.” Anthony waived his no-trade clause last September to approve a trade from the New York Knicks to the Thunder, tipping off a rocky season that featured career lows nearly across the board for the 10-time All-Star.”

Alec Nathan (B/R) on Melo discussing a potential bench role in Houston: “The question now is if he’ll embrace that role or push for a starting job after inking a one-year deal with the Houston Rockets on Monday. “Let’s just let it play out, though,” Anthony told TMZ Sports on Tuesday. “I don’t even know what’s going on. I just signed—let it start first.” Anthony started all 78 games in which he appeared for the Thunder last season, and he made it clear at year’s end that serving as a sixth man didn’t appeal to him moving forward. “I’m not sacrificing no bench role,” he said in April, according to MassLive.com’s Fred Katz. “That’s out the question.”

ESPN’s expert NBA panel on where Kevin Durant will land next summer: “The two-time reigning Finals MVP has already taken a pair of discounted deals with the Warriors, so the biggest question regarding his free agency next summer might not be where he’ll sign, but for how much he’ll sign. The majority of our panel sees him staying with the Warriors, with the bright spotlight of Madison Square Garden as a potential lure. Two low-percentage options are the most intriguing. KD back to OKC? There’s almost no way to make that work under the cap — not to mention the years of hurt feelings that would have to be set aside — but it’d be amazing to see. KD to LA to team up with LeBron? That’d be a seismic NBA shift.”

Brad Botkin (CBS) on it being time for Westbrook to lift the Thunder to elite status: “OKC’s season will, largely, come down to Westbrook. We can pretty much pencil in the numbers he’ll put up — 27-plus points a night, somewhere north of eight rebounds and eight assists — but we have no idea what they’ll add up to. Could be a No. 7 seed, could be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Could be another first-round bounce, could be a conference finals appearance or maybe even a Finals berth. Crazier things have happened to less talented teams. OKC is built to defend the Warriors, against whom it went 2-1 last year. OKC is even better this year, no question. Houston, many would argue, is worse as of now. If you’re a Thunder fan, there is enough here to at least hope for something special. Would Westbrook have to completely change his game for this title-contention fantasy to become reality? Of course not. He’s not even capable of that. This is a guy who took 82 shots combined in Games 5 and 6 vs. the Jazz in last year’s playoffs. Eighty-Two! The man is what he is. But the best players, on the best teams, always find a way to make subtle changes without losing what made them great in the first place.”

Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) with Corey Brewer’s comments about his future: “On a recent episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, Brewer briefly discussed his future for the 2018-19 season. “[I’m] just trying to figure it out,” Brewer said. “Hopefully, sign somewhere and just keep playing basketball. That’s what it’s all about.” As it currently stands, the Thunder currently have 15 guaranteed contracts on the books for next season and it doesn’t seem very likely that they’ll re-sign Brewer. Of course, the team can free up one more roster spot if they choose to waive Kyle Singler using the stretch provision, which could save about $14 million for next season.”

Ross Dwyer (Sneaker News) on the upcoming release of the Nike PG 2.5 “Fresno State”: “Done up in Fresno State’s signature combo of bold red and stately obsidian, the shoe’s upper features a base of red mesh and leather, while small navy accents appear on the medial side and the heel tab. A navy and red bulldog adorns the tongue, and George’s #13 is printed on the insole. A white midsole with a sparkling navy blue swoosh provides contrast to the mostly tonal upper, and the shoe is then completed with a translucent outsole featuring a PG logo hit on the heel and red/blue detailing on the forefoot. Look for George’s collegiate kicks to arrive on September 1st at the Nike Basketball stockists listed below, and retail for a reasonable $110.”

Around the League: Kyle Kuzma says the Lakers are being underestimated…. Color-mixing and lineup synergies…. The NBA’s small guys are getting bigger…. Players entering make-or-break seasons…. Best bets to win MVP…. Hands-on preview of NBA 2K19.