Erik Horne on Thunder/Rockets on Christmas Day: “The Thunder will be spending Christmas away from Chesapeake Energy Arena for the first time since 2014. The Thunder is slated to play at Houston on Dec. 25, The Oklahoman confirmed Tuesday night, joining a slate of four other Christmas Day games across the NBA. The rest of the NBA regular-season schedule is expected to be released sometime in the next week. Christmas could be the first time Carmelo Anthony will face Thunder since a three-way trade with Atlanta and Philadelphia on July 25 sent Anthony to the Hawks. The Hawks waived Anthony, and he’s still expected to sign with Houston, possibly as soon as this week, per multiple reports. Christmas Day is considered a showcase day for the league, which normally only has about a handful of games on Christmas each year. The Thunder is 5-3 all-time on Christmas (4-1 at home, 1-2 on the road) and will play on Dec. 25 for the ninth consecutive season.”
Joseph Zucker (B/R) on more schedule news coming today: “The NBA will announce the schedule for the opening week of the 2018-19 regular season Wednesday along with the slate for Christmas Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday. NBA TV will air a special Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET to reveal the games and break down the matchups. Opening night and Christmas Day in particular have become two of the biggest days during the NBA regular season. As such, the league generally tries to highlight its top stars and offer games that could be a preview of a possible playoff series. The Boston Globe‘s Gary Washburn reported Aug. 1 on two potential games for opening night: the Philadelphia 76ers vs. the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder. Both would be suitable for the occasion.”
Justin Wingerter (NewsOK) on some strange drama involving Paul George and the Oklahoma GOP: “An upcoming Oklahoma Republican Party fundraiser will be at the Oklahoma City home of Thunder star Paul George, but don’t consider it a political statement. The $75-per-person fundraiser next Tuesday will feature jazz and drinks at 5309 Pulchella Drive, a five-bedroom, eight-bathroom house in Gaillardia listed at $3.4 million. An invitation to the event says the home belongs to George but Pam Pollard, chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party, stressed in an interview that George will not be there and is “absolutely not, in any way whatsoever” making a political statement. “From what I understand, he actually leases his house. This is his seasonal home. We are renting it from the person that he actually leases it from,” Pollard said. The 10,000-square-foot show home can be leased when George is not staying there, Pollard said. It features a three-stop elevator, 10-car garage, three balconies and two hot tubs, according to a listing on Zillow.”
James Siegle (Nugg Love) on the Nuggets and how they can topple Russell Westbrook and the Thunder: “My question: What’s wrong with Russell Westbrook? Who blocks mascot Rocky’s shot attempt during break? Has Westbrook no respect? Or that cheap shot Russell delivered to Jokic in a preseason game? That’s right – it was a preseason game. Westbrook hit the game-winner to end Denver’s playoff hopes in 2017. Why couldn’t this have been any other player? Denver hates Westbrook. And Russ is winning the battle. In Oklahoma City’s “Russell-vs-the-world” playoff campaign, the Mile High banded together and rooted feverishly for “the world.” The world won, sort of…as Houston eliminated OKC in five games. But what if the Nuggets played a part? What if Denver had opportunity to avenge Westbrook’s sins personally? To wipe the leer off his face, cut him down to size? This year is precisely that opportunity. OKC and Denver could each finish anywhere from third to eighth in the jam-packed Western Conference. Denver may see Oklahoma City in the playoffs. First round or second. Here is Denver’s blueprint for winning such a series, knocking Russ from atop his pony.”
Scott Davis (Business Insider) on Melo’s role in Houston: “It’s unclear, then, what Anthony is expecting in Houston. Anthony appears to most oppose coming off the bench, but it would seem he has no choice but to take a lesser role with the Rockets. Last year’s Rockets team played methodically. Harden and Paul often ran a pick-and-roll or isolation, forcing the defense to adjust before scoring, hitting the roll man, or kicking it out to three-pointers. Harden and Paul both finished in the top 12 in average dribbles per possession among players who played 1,000 minutes. They’re ball-dominant players in a guard-dominant system. It would seem, on paper, that Anthony would be shoehorned into another side role, namely as a spot-up threat from the perimeter. The Rockets are famously reliant on layups, threes, and free throws, and Anthony’s mix of midrange face-ups and post-ups would seemingly run counter to what the Rockets want to do. If he’s forced to adjust his attack points, it stands to reason that Melo would be moved to the perimeter, where he would spend a lot of time watching Harden and Paul dribble the ball — not unlike what he did with the Thunder.”
Dave Zarum (SportsNet) on Steven Adams taking aim at Jonas Valanciunas in his autobiography: “Oklahoma City Thunder centre Steven Adams is hardly one to shy away from contact on the basketball court. But unlike many of his peers, the seven-footer from New Zealand isn’t known to participate in talking trash. That is, until an encounter with Toronto Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas. In his recently published memoir, My Life, My Fight, Adams details a story of an interaction with a “totally aggro” Valanciunas (h/t reddit user ShaolinCheesecake): “Perhaps my new signing was a boost to my confidence because I decided to properly respond to trash talk for the first and last time. Jonas Valanciunas from the Raptors was ripping into me all game, totally aggro. When he asked for a fight for the hundredth time, I finally turned to him and said, ‘You don’t want to mess with me. You use a knife and fork to eat your food. I use my hands.’ He didn’t know how to respond to that because it was so dumb, but it got him to shut up for a while, so I guess it worked. I decided to retire from trash talking after that game and go out on a win.”
Nike is heavily discounting PG 2 sneakers through Saturday: $30 off all available colorways.
Around the League: Melo is a Rocket….. Lakers/Warriors on Christmas Day…. LeBron is ESPN’s MVP favorite for 2018-19…. Jahlil Okafor is headed to NOLA…. Gilbert Arenas shared the full story of card games leading to guns in the locker room…. Philly’s Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture…. Why things will be different for Melo and Mike D’Antoni this time around…. Using shot selection to determine player types.