Memphis Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless tries to defend against against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook in the second half of their NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City.

Thunder look cool (except for Westbrook who got hot) in easy win over Grizzlies

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It was a perfect storm of bad for Memphis — they trade their leading scorer Rudy Gay, who is out shopping for a much more extensive winter wardrobe, but his replacements (Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye) have yet to arrive. Then you are on the road against a rested Oklahoma City team who has used its days off to work out some kinks.

The result is the Thunder opening the game 9-for-9 shooting getting a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter and never looking back as Oklahoma City cruises to a 106-89 over Memphis . This game wasn’t really that interesting to watch and the Thunder came off looking cool.

Well, except for Russell Westbrook, who got a little bit hot in the third quarter.

Westbrook got called for a five-second violation while trying to back-down the smaller Jerryd Bayless. Thabo Sefalosha had cut through the lane during the time and Westbrook had words with him afterwards. We should note, the Thunder were up 15 at the time.

Westbrook went to the bench where Mo Cheeks tried to calm him, then Westbrook stormed into the tunnel. He eventually returned to the bench with a towel over his head. Coach Scott Brooks kept him on the bench the rest of the third quarter.

Of course, after the game Westbrook played it off as nothing.

In the time he sat, Memphis made its one push. Early in the third the Thunder had their lead up to 25 but Memphis went on 27-14 run. Near end of the third quarter Memphis got the lead down to 10 and it was a 12-point game to start the fourth.

That’s when Westbrook returned. Memphis’ coach Lionel Hollins was shorthanded and needed to get his wing players some rest so he went big to start the fourth — Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur all on the court at once — and athleticism of Thunder quickly got some transition baskets and stretched lead out to 17. From there the rout was back on.

Kevin Durant had 27 points, Russell Westbrook 21 and Kevin Martin 16 for a Thunder team that shot 55.6 percent on the night.

Memphis’ Randolph had a really rough night — he shot 0-for-9 for the first half and was 4-of-17 total in the game, although he did grab 19 boards. Marc Gasol had a good night with 16 points and 7 rebounds, while Bayless added 23 points. But as a team the Grizzlies shot just 34.7 percent.

We’re going to see how Memphis’ already struggling offense — they were 23rd in the NBA in points scored per possession with Gay — works with its new players. But this was not the night, and if you’re going to have an off night against a rested Thunder team on the road is going to be a rough place for it.

Nerlens Noel calls Sixers crowded center situation “silly,” adds it “doesn’t make sense”

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Jahlil Okafor #8 and Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers play in the game against the Utah Jazz on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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He’s right. And Philadelphia management knows it.

At the center position, the Sixers have the athletic and defensive minded Nerlens Noel, the offensive-minded Jahlil Okafor, and the untested player who may be the best of the group in Joel Embiid. Elton Brand is on the roster as well.

That’s a lot of talented young players and not enough minutes to go around. Nerlens Noel called the situation out as “silly” speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Keith Pompey. At least he didn’t go so far as to request a trade.

“I think it’s just silly . . . this situation that we are in now with three starting centers,” Noel said on the eve of the Sixers’ media day. “With the departure of [former general manager and president] Sam Hinkie, I would have figured that management would be able to get something done this summer…

“I feel like it definitely needs to be figured out,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, again, you have three starting-caliber centers. And it’s just not going to work to anybody’s advantage having that on the same team. That’s how I’m looking at it. I’m not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated….

“Don’t get me wrong. We all get along great on the court and off the court,” Noel said. “But at the end of the day, it’s like having three starting quarterbacks. It doesn’t make any sense.”

The Sixers wouldn’t officially comment, but this summer they did try to get something done — Okafor and Noel were on the trade block. The problem is all the offers that came in were low ball. GM Bryan Colangelo has said he didn’t want to go into the season with this situation at center, but he also wasn’t going to give away one of these three for pennies on the dollar. Colangelo wanted a fair deal.
We saw last season that Okafor and Noel can’t play together, and now the Sixers need to see which ones of these three can play well with No. 1 pick Ben Simmons, who will be a point-forward much of the time.
Expect a deal to get done to move one of the three centers — and it very well could be Noel, he drew the most interest from other teams. It could happen during training camp, or maybe closer to the trade deadline. Maybe this stretches into next season.
But the Sixers know this doesn’t make sense, they just haven’t been able to remedy the situation. Yet.

Enjoy 50-best circus shots of last NBA season

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As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.

For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.

Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.

To avoid trash talk, Steven Adams told Kevin Garnett he didn’t speak English

Kevin Garnett
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Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.

Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.

Brilliant.

Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.

Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy “encouraged” by players speaking out, protesting social issues

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 17: Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons yells to his players during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption ***Stan Van Gundy
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Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.

Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.

A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…

“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”

Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.

The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.