Russell Westbrook will not be altering his game, thank you very much

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Russell Westbrook, for reasons I struggle to comprehend, took a lot of flak for Game 2. Magic Johnson called it the worst performance by a point guard in the Finals. People have blamed the entire loss on him. As if, without Westbrook, the Thunder would have magically created his 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. Was it efficient? Of course not. This is a series against one of the best defenses in the league. Efficiency is a commodity. He needs to get the efficiency up. He could have played better. But part of this is the role that Westbrook plays in the Thunder offense.

Someone has to soak up possessions. “It should be Kevin Durant!” you say. Durant will never shoot 28 times or more in a game, unless it’s in overtime. It’s not who he is, it’s not who he has ever been, it’s not how he’s made. He’s an efficient shooter who lets the game come to him. Someone has to take those shots. And when they’re falling? Westbrook can drop 40 with the same amount of effort. Shots didn’t fall. He still made plays, and his defense was light years ahead of Durant’s in Game 2. But no one will talk about that.

Whatever the case, Westbrook is having none of it, and he’s going to get grief for that, too. From media availability today:

 

Well, that’s going to go over great.

Outside of the double-negative which actually indicates he’s going to make an adjustment, this is the same kind of bold response you have to expect here. If athletes adjusted their games based on media pressure, LeBron would play in the post more and Dwight Howard would have a reliable hook shot. OK, those are bad examples. But it’s not the time for Westbook to be upending his game. He needs to do what he does. Westbrook needs to be Westbrook. The Thunder can win that way. But the Thunder have to play better defense. Westbrook can take five shots and Durant 40, and it won’t matter if they don’t play better defense. But by all means, let’s keep blaming Westbrook, the LeBron of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Bulls claim PG Kay Felder off waivers

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The Bulls’ point-guard position is a quagmire.

Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne are both injured (and not necessarily good). Jerian Grant is maybe an adequate backup pressed into starting. Ryan Arcidiacono is on a two-way contract.

Enter Kay Felder.

Bulls release:

The Chicago Bulls announced today that the team has waived forward Jarell Eddie and center Diamond Stone, and claimed guard Kay Felder off waivers.

Felder was waived by the Hawks, who acquired him in a salary-dump trade from the Cavaliers. Cleveland drafted Felder No. 54 last year, but ran out of roster spots this year.

Felder is only a moderate prospect. He impressed in the D-League, but at 5-foot-9, he has significant limitations. (His size also makes him incredibly fun to watch when he gets rolling.)

For Chicago, he’s a quite-noteworthy addition.

LeBron James: ‘I still got Pandora with commercials’

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Dwyane Wade revealed last year that LeBron James refuses to use his phone internationally unless he’s on Wi-Fi.

LeBron’s friend and new Cavaliers teammate again brought up that claim, and LeBron confirmed – then went even further about his own cheapness.

LeBron in a joint interview with Wade on ESPN:

No. I’m not doing that. I’m not turning on data roaming. I’m not buying no apps. I still got Pandora with commercials.

LeBron – he’s just like us!

As funny as that line is, keep watching to see LeBron hilariously explain how his hairline affects his interviews.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.