Preview: Durant can do more but will need more help for OKC to even series with Memphis

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When you hear GMs — or sometimes television pundits or Internet bloggers — talking about a team needing an identity, this series is exactly why.

The Thunder have had to scramble under pressure to develop a new identity without Russell Westbrook, to figure out how they can generate baskets outside Kevin Durant. The result was an ugly end for the Thunder in Game 3 and Durant coming out later and saying, “I can do a lot more.”

The Grizzlies know exactly who they are and what they want to do. It’s not always pretty but it is effective.

And that’s where we are at with Game 4 — Oklahoma City needs a big Night from Kevin Martin or Serge Ibaka or someone else, they need to find an identity fast. It’s not technically a must win game for OKC, but if the Thunder go down 3-1 in this series it’s hard to see how they climb out of the hole.

Not to sound simplistic, but the team that actually makes shots this game will win. The winning team shot 40.5 percent last game. It wasn’t pretty.

That is especially true for the Thunder — somebody not named Durant needs to knock down a shot. Anyone. Durant was 9-of-19 last game and you take that out and the rest of the Thunder shot 33 percent last game. Without Durant they were 3-of-12 from three. And with the Grizzlies defense geared up on him Durant can’t be as efficient as he normally is. The man needs help.

Memphis knows they got away with one in Game 3 — the Thunder won the battle on the boards, the points in the pain, the fast break points, the best postgame meal (probably). On paper, the Thunder should have won, save for the fact they couldn’t hit a shot. Give credit to the Grizzlies defense, but if they get outplayed like that again. Mike Conley and Zach Randolph were a combined 7-of-21 shooting, if that happens again the Grizzlies will lose. That simple.

Memphis has the advantage of knowing who and what the team is. OKC will have to figure it out on the fly or be in a deep, deep hole.

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.