Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook takes a break on the court against the Houston Rockets in the second half of their Game 2 NBA Playoffs basketball game in Oklahoma City.

Rockets-Thunder Game 3 preview: Russell Westbrook’s injury a series changer

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The Rockets are down, but Russell Westbrook is out.

Westbrook tore his meniscus and will require surgery. He’s out for the rest the Thunder’s first-round series and longer, giving Houston a much better chance of winning games in these playoffs.

But winning the series? That’s still a tall order, especially already down 0-2.

The Thunder’s net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) without Westbrook during the regular season was better than Houston’s overall. It was even better than Houston’s after the Rockets’ mid-season trades, which improved the team.

Still, Westbrook’s injury obviously puts the Thunder in difficult and new territory.

The Thunder’s remaining playoff rotation players (at least so far) – Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Martin, Reggie Jackson, Nick Collison and Derek Fisher – shared the floor without other teammates for just 278 minutes during the regular season.

Oklahoma City could add another player to its rotation rather than just shrink it to eight, but the Thunder are already using both their backup point guards. Fisher and Jackson often share the court, but now, one or both will have to play more without the other. Some of Oklahoma City’s best and most-used lineups without Westbrook include Hasheem Thabeet, but considering the Rockets found Game 2 success with small ball, giving Thabeet more minutes probably doesn’t make much sense.

No matter how the Thunder adjust their rotation, they’ll have to adjust their offense. Houston has focused on Durant and Westbrook, holding Durant to 43 percent shooting and Westbrook to 41. In turn, Oklahoma City’s other players are shooting 16-for-36 (44.4 percent) on 3-pointers in this series. What happens to those open outside looks when the Rockets have to focus on only one star rather than two?

Durant must step up and carry more of the load.

The Thunder move the ball worse with Fisher and/or Jackson rather Westbrook, so Durant’s one-on-one game becomes more important. During the regular season, Durant took only one more shot per 36 minutes with Westbrook out than with Westbrook in. Durant probably can’t allow his usage to remain so low sans Westbrook, and he can’t wait for Jackson and/or Fisher to set him up.

Iso-Durant isn’t a terrible playoff offense. Everybody hates isolation-heavy offenses, because they’re not fun to watch. But because they do such a great job of limiting turnovers, they’re fairly effective, especially in the playoffs, when there are fewer fastbreak opportunities

Westbrook’s injury might suck some of the aesthetic beauty from this series, but it also makes the series more competitive.

Aubrey McClendon used Thunder ownership stake as collateral for loans before death

DUBLIN, OH - MAY 30: Jack Nicklaus (R) stands with Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy Corporation during the Morgan Stanley Pro-Am Invitational at The Memorial Tournament May 30, 2007 in Dublin, Ohio.  (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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One day after he was indicted for oil and gas conspiracy, Thunder minority owner Aubrey McClendon died in a single-car crash.

Now, his ownership stake could be tied up in court.

Ryan Dezember And Kevin Helliker of The Wall Street Journal:

Collapsing oil prices in late 2014 strained the new oil-and-gas empire he had assembled, and he struggled in his final year to raise more cash to keep it afloat.

Oklahoma records show he had pledged assets as collateral for loans, including his roughly 20% stake of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, fine wine, investments in tech startups and antique boats.

Lawyers for Mr. McClendon’s creditors have said they think Mr. McClendon, who during his Chesapeake heyday was a billionaire, left behind more debt than assets. The entrepreneur’s debts so far amount to about $500 million, according to Oklahoma probate records.

But Martin Stringer, a lawyer for Mr. McClendon’s estate, said claiming it is insolvent is “incorrect” because “nobody has the facts,” according to a transcript of a May probate court hearing. The value of many assets “depends on commodity prices,” he added.

Mr. McClendon’s creditors, which so far range from Wall Street banks to a former employee to a farm-equipment maker, have until Sept. 16 to file claims.

Clay Bennett remains the Thunder’s controlling owner, so the team will likely remain stable. But there’s still potential for this to get a little messy.

Report: ‘Several executives’ believe Kendall Marshall, to be waived after 76ers-Jazz trade, still belongs in NBA

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 13: Kendall Marshall #5 of the Philadelphia 76ers puts up a shot between Justin Holiday #7 and Bobby Portis #5 of the Chicago Bulls
at the United Center on April 13, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Jazz just traded Tibor Pleiss to the 76ers in a salary dump. Utah gets Kendall Marshall in a procedural move and will waive the point guard whose salary is unguaranteed.

What’s next for Marshall and Pleiss?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports on Marshall:

several league executives still believe there’s a spot in the league for him as a backup point guard.

Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:

https://twitter.com/JCameratoCSN/status/769204973846589440

If so many executives believe Marshall belongs in the NBA, he’ll get signed. I have some doubts.

Marshall was curiously undervalued when he was younger and healthier. Now, he’s coming off a dreadful season in Philadelphia. A 2015 torn ACL still raises major doubts about Marshall’s ability to play even tolerable defense. His outside shooting has also regressed after blooming with the Lakers and Bucks.

Still, he’s a plus passer and just 25. He has a chance.

Pleiss is also coming off a lousy year, and he’s even older. He’ll turn 27 in the season’s second week, though he has played only one NBA season – and most of it was in the D-League. The 7-foot-3 Pleiss has plenty of size and a little shooting touch, but the 76ers don’t have playing time behind Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid to develop him. Pleiss likely returns to Europe.

Phil Jackson names biggest mistake with Knicks: Not taking Jae Crowder in Mavericks trade

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 25:  Tim Hardaway Jr. #5 of the New York Knicks and Jae Crowder #99 of the Boston Celtics look on during their game at TD Garden on February 25, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Jae Crowderone of the NBA’s most underrated players – went to the Celtics from the Mavericks in the Rajon Rondo trade (which, in hindsight, should be called the Jae Crowder trade). He then re-signed with Boston on an absurdly cheap contract.

But the Knicks could’ve had him instead.

New York traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Mavericks for a package of middling assets in June 2014. One of those middling assets was the No. 34 pick in the upcoming draft. It could’ve been Crowder.

Knicks president Phil Jackson, via Charley Rosen of Today’s Fastbreak:

I think the biggest mistake I made was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder.

I’m not sure what the Celtics had to do with this. Crowder was with Dallas then, and so was the No. 34 pick that became Early (though that selection was originally Boston’s before a 2013 draft-night trade with the Mavericks). Jackson wouldn’t have been negotiating with the Celtics at all. My guess: Rosen got mixed up in his transcription.

Anyway, yeah, that stinks for the Knicks.

This is definitely an after-the-fact critique. Crowder hadn’t come into his own yet.

But he and Carmelo Anthony could’ve played together as combo forwards. The beauty of Crowder’s game is his ability to fit with anyone. So, Jackson’s logic leaves plenty to be desired. Passing on Crowder because an early second-rounder appeared more valuable at the time is far more defensible.

That Early is already out of the league only adds to the sting.

On the bright side, Crowder would’ve made the Knicks better and maybe cost them Kristaps Porzingis – who’s even more valuable than Crowder.

Report: Jazz trade 76ers two second-rounders to take Tibor Pleiss

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Tibor Pleiss #21 of the Utah Jazz controls the ball in the game against the Philadelphia 76ers 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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You can remove Sam Hinkie from Philadelphia, but you can’t pull the 76ers out of The Process.

Not immediately, at least.

Hinkie slashed payroll so drastically, a spending spree that included Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson and Sergio Rodriguez still left the 76ers with more cap space than they know what to do with. So, Philadelphia is making another Hinkie-esque move – getting draft picks in a salary dump.

The Jazz signed second-rounder Joel Bolomboy, making him their 15th player with a guaranteed 2015-16 salary. Rather than eating Tibor Pleiss‘ salary to make room for Jeff Withey, an NBA-caliber center on an unguaranteed deal, Utah is sending the 76ers draft picks to handle that financial burden.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

https://twitter.com/WojVerticalNBA/status/769180540842811393

Kendall Marshall‘s contract is unguaranteed until Sept. 2. Expect the Jazz to waive him before then. Then, they can keep Withey – or maybe Chris Johnson (unguaranteed) or Marcus Paige (partial guarantee). Utah can make a final determination in the preseason.

The 7-foot-3 Pleiss was drafted with lofty expectations in 2010, and he remained overseas until last season. After acquiring his rights from the Thunder in the Enes Kanter trade, Utah signed Pleiss last summer to a three-year contract that’s fully guaranteed at $3 million this season and has $500,000 of $3.1 million guaranteed next season. But he looked completely overwhelmed during his rookie year, and he’s nearly 27.

Philadelphia already has a logjam at center with Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid. Perhaps, the 76ers take a chance on Pleiss, who’s big and has some shooting touch. But they could easily afford to waive him and eat his salary.

At worst, they got a couple draft picks for their trouble – just like old times.