Oklahoma City winning at the free throw line

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Oklahoma City has not been right so far this season. The offense ends up in too much isolation for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The defense lacks the tenacity it had last season, teams are shooting well against them. OKC is not creating turnovers and converting those into the spectacular transition points we expect.

But they are above water at 4-3, thanks to free throws.

No team in the NBA gets to the line more often then Oklahoma City — they have attempted more free throws in ratio to field goals attempted than any team in the league (35.4 percent). Durant has averaged 10 free throws a game, Westbrook 9, Jeff Green another 6.8. As a team they average 32.6 free throws a game.

And they are converting them at a record 87.3 percent. As a team they are shooting just shy of 90 percent. For comparison, the best team free throw percentage for a season was the 89-90 Boston Celtics at 83.2 percent. OKC is 4 percent higher than that right now.

All this is keeping the Thunder in games when everything else isn’t working. And that’s part of the plan, coach Scott Brooks said told the Oklahoman.

“That is the personality of our offense,” Brooks said. “We want to get to the rim, attack the basket and get to the free-throw line. It’s a great asset to have.”

You get the feeling that the Thunder will work out their other problems, that this is just is just the fluctuations one should expect from a young team. Learning to win at the next level, as the hunted and not the hunter, is hard. But if you have one thing you can fall back on — say getting to the line a lot and converting — you have a cushion that allows time to work everything else out.

Are Bulls and Dwyane Wade moving toward a buyout?

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About a month ago, the Bulls said they hadn’t discussed a buyout with Dwyane Wade.

Have the two sides progressed since?

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Dwyane Wade isn’t long for the organization’s future and is expected to reach a buyout agreement at some point in the next few months.

Expected by whom?

People with direct knowledge of momentum toward a buyout?

Or everyone who can see that a 35-year-old earning $23.8 million fits poorly on a rebuilding team?

For the Bulls to now drop their biggest name and a large expiring contract that could prove useful in trades should require Wade surrendering a large portion of his salary. He doesn’t sound like someone inclined to do that yet.

A few months is a long time. As long as Wade gets bought out by March 1, he could join another team’s playoff roster. It’d surprise nobody if he gets bought out after the February trade deadline, which we already knew. I don’t see strong indication of something more imminent.

LeBron James’ camp already shooting down leaving-Cavaliers rumor

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LeBron James has done a terrible job shooting down rumors about him leaving the Cavaliers

Except this one from Chris Sheridan, who cited a source saying LeBron would “100 percent” leave Cleveland next summer due to a rift with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Sheridan’s source saying LeBron is leaving doesn’t make that true. But other anonymous sources denying it doesn’t make the denials true, either.

New Orleans Saints fire Pelicans’ team physician

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The Pelicans have been crushed by injuries the last few years.

Why? That’s an incredibly complex question.

But the New Orleans Saints – who share an owner (Tom Benson), a front-office leader (Mickey Loomis) and other staff with the Pelicans – have found culprits for their own injury woes.

Mike Triplett of ESPN:

The Saints have fired team orthopedists Deryk Jones and Misty Suri, per source, after it was discovered that CB Delvin Breaux has a fractured fibula and will require surgery expected to sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. Breaux was originally diagnosed with a contusion

Suri is a Pelicans team physician.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Fairly or not, Suri – after the Saints deemed him unacceptable – will be in the crosshairs if he keeps his job with the the Pelicans and their injury woes continue.

Rumor: LeBron James ‘100 percent’ leaving Cavaliers next summer

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Chris Sheridan was ahead of the crowd in 2014, reporting LeBron James would likely leave the Heat for the Cavaliers – which obviously happened.

But Sheridan called it a “90 percent chance,” a small – but large enough – hedge. He also said LeBron would announce the decision on LeBron’s personal website. Of course, LeBron revealed his choice in a Sports Illustrated essay.

So, maybe Sheridan knows what he’s talking about. Maybe he doesn’t.

But the longtime NBA writer just fanned the flames of the already hot LeBron-leaving-Cleveland rumors.

Sheridan:

Of course, the denials came quickly.

There have already been plenty of warning signs about LeBron’s relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, which didn’t restart in a great place.

It’s entirely believable LeBron would leave Cleveland, in large part due to Gilbert.

But it’s also fun to speculate about that salacious storyline.

Maybe Sheridan or his source got carried away for that very reason. Or maybe they know something.

Neither possibility should be discounted.