Update 5:51 p.m. ET Saturday: The Thunder have announced the signing as official. Sam Presti held a call to congratulate everyone… before he left to get married. Dude signed his power forward to a four-year extension on his wedding day. Those guys are machines
Well, that didn’t take long.
Yahoo Sports reports that the Oklahoma City Thunder have reached an agreement with forward Serge Ibaka on a four-year extension. The deal is reportedly for four-years, $48 million. That puts it as the same value the Brooklyn Nets signed considerably older and less impressive at this stage Gerald Wallace to this summer.
The extension is relevant on multiple levels. First, it means that Ibaka will not hit the market as a restricted free agent next summer and that the core of Durant and Westbrook have a defense-first shot blocker who can finish at the rim and hit the mid-range is intact. Ibaka finished second in Defensive Player of the Year votes this season and took another step forward in his development on both ends. Locking him up to a long-term extension saves them the grief of having to deal with questions about it for the forseeable future.
But that’s ignoring the bearded, Hello-Kitty-backpack-wearing elephant in the room, isn’t it?
The obvious turn here will be in regards to how it affects James Harden. Harden is also scheduled for restricted free agency next summer and there’s been rampant speculation about whether Oklahoma City can afford to keep both Ibaka and Harden. So you’re going to get bombarded with talk of how the Thunder are going to shop James Harden. Don’t buy in, until you hear from reputable sources on the matter. Clay Bennett has spoken in the past about a willingness to spend into the luxury tax to keep a winning team together. The Thunder are the very model of a winning team. Harden has expressed a desire to stay in Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant strongly wants him back. The Thunder may simply elect to keep those four players, deal with the luxury tax implications, and figure out the rest as they go.
Or they could trade him.
There’s just no way to tell.
But Oklahoma City made a bold decision late Friday night to commit to a future with Ibaka, which doesn’t preclude a future with Harden, but it makes the road tougher. We’ll pass along an update with contract details when they get leaked/ are available.
Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.
Pacers fans delivered.
They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.
Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.
The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.
“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”
Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.
Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.
Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):
This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.
Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.
He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.
Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.
So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.
Sam Amick of USA Today:
Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency
Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.
There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.
Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.