Weekend Bolts: Rumblings in OKC and Afar
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There’s not a lot to pass along that is new for Thunderland, but you’ll notice in the bolts that the rest of the league is getting antsy. As the trade deadline approaches and the standings solidify, buyers and sellers are getting serious. I’ve tended to overestimate how active OKC will be in-season during this rebuild, but I still won’t be surprised to see multiple deals involving Oklahoma City in the coming weeks.
- The Thunder lost to the Spurs last night, remaining ahead of one of the winningest franchises as one of the losingest teams this season taking a step in their goal to be one of the winningest teams of the next decade…as Brandon Rahbar so eloquently put it for DT.
- Meanwhile San Antonio offloaded a player before Oklahoma City, kicking off trade season by sending Bryn Forbes to Denver.
- Kenrich Wiliams remains the last Thunder player in health and safety protocols, but is close to returning.
- Thunder fans aren’t going to be hyped about trading for players like Nassir Little, but Nick Crain (FanNation) is right to mock up the idea as these kind of value plays are more likely at this juncture in the rebuild.
- Josh Giddey is breaking BBall Index’s database for rookie playmaking.
- Paul George’s rest and recovery period is getting extended.
- The slow motion trainwreck in LA continues: the Lakers lost again and Russell Westbrook got benched.
There’s trouble in paradise for the Lakers. This summer, Russell Westbrook got to (finally) go home as a pro and LeBron got a more reliable minutes/playmaking innings eater to lighten his load. Carmelo Anthony signed up for the minimum and the rest of the ring chasers followed suit.
The timing even made it so that Oklahoma City fans, patiently enduring a rebuild at home, could cheer Russ on abroad as he played for the big bad market that we had feared would steal him from us in the past. But most everyone outside of Los Angeles and Westbrook World was placing bets that this superteam marriage was doomed for drama before the honeymoon even began.
With a sub-.500 record, Frank Vogel’s seat reaching approximately 200° Fahrenheit, and Westbrook getting benched, LA found themselves in peak LeCrisis mode like some of James’ past title contenders have. While I don’t think they will become strong title favorites this season, I do think the leadership of James and attitude of Russ are shining through an ugly on-court storm. Westbrook is saying all the right things rather than pouring more gas on the fire, and is at least paying lip service to altering his playstyle in ways that his defenders and critics alike have found unlikely for years.
Hanging onto the seventh seed with a win against Orlando isn’t much of a statement, but if they start to figure the hardest stuff out before Anthony Davis returns this could mark a promising turning point for the boys in purple and gold. I’m rooting for Russ to have a breakthrough, modifying his game under the realization that he can either complement star cores to win chips or become the focal point of lesser rosters to chase the play-in round.
It may sound crazy, but if Carmelo can change, #whynot Russ?
- The Thunder lost badly badly to the Hornets then gave the Cavaliers a run for their money on a back-to-back. Developmental wins aside, the Thunder have lost give straight and 10 of 11.
- Josh Giddey crossed 20 points for the first time in his career against Charlotte.
- Lu Dort was ejected from the Cavs game for catching Kevin Love with an elbow. I’d bet on the league downgrading it to a Flagrant 1 in conjunction with a Grayson Allen suspension. No call exists in a vacuum.
- The Thunder have signed Mamadi Diakite to a second 10-day contract.
- It never ends. OKC brief everyone out of the covid woods, only for assistant coaches Mike Wilks and David Akinyooye to enter health and safety protocols.
- Kenrich Williams tells Joe Mussatto (The Oklahoman) that he wants to retire with Oklahoma City. I know we’ve tried to crown a dozen Nick Collison heirs, but if this particular on/off machine hangs on for the long haul of the rebuild he’d be in the neighborhood of Collison 2.0.
- There’s enough Thunder insight for everyone to enjoy the latest Daily Thunder podcast, but Ryan and Brandon threw in some MCU content as a bonus.
- Since the Cavs are the kind of blossoming rebuild that the Thunder hope to become soonish, here’s a nice breakdown of their breakthrough to the Eastern Conference’s top tier from Zach Cram (The Ringer).