Exactly when Russell Westbrook will be back from the torn meniscus that ended his — and essentially Oklahoma City’s — playoff run is not clear. The Thunder are part of the NBA’s new “we don’t give timelines” trend (which became popular in the wake of Andrew Bynum and Derrick Rose last season).
But we know this much — he is not cleared for basketball activity yet, likely will not be by the start of camp and could potentially miss the start of the season.
Westbrook was his usually brash self talking with the Oklahoman on Monday, but that doesn’t mean there was a timeline for his return.
“I’m going to come back and be better,” Westbrook said matter-of-factly Monday, with the same unshakable swagger he’s always shown….
Westbrook has not yet been cleared to resume full basketball activities, and neither him nor team officials are providing a timetable for when that final obstacle will be overcome.
As an organization, the Thunder have long been cautious with bringing guys back from injury, particularly young players they see as long-term parts of their foundation. The Thunder need a healthy and explosive Westbrook in April and May, so if that means he misses some games in November so be it. OKC is focused on the big picture.
GM Sam Presti said the plan is to see how he responds to workouts once training camp opens next week, then go from there. They are not going to rush anything.
The bigger question is Westbrook when he does return — will he play with that same fearless, attacking style? Probably, that’s who Westbrook is. But it may take a little time for him to fully trust his knee again.
Still, it’s about the playoffs. The Thunder want to get back to the NBA Finals and they need the old Westbrook to have any shot at that.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.