Remember how Russell Westbrook had to have a second knee surgery to clean up a loose stitch and that was going to force him to miss the first month of the season or so?
What they meant was two games.
Westbrook has cleared all his medical benchmarks and is physically ready to go, so he will play Sunday night at home when the Thunder host the Phoenix Suns, tweets Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman. He has been out since tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee during the first round of the playoffs last year against Houston.
There had been reports of him looking good in practice for a week but the Thunder have been cautious with their timetables. They didn’t want to rush him back, they need him right.
Oklahoma City started the season 1-1 without Westbrook, relying on the Kevin Durant show to win games, but they are vastly more dangerous with Westbrook on the court as an option. The Thunder don’t exactly run complex, Spurs-like sets, they just rely on you not being able to match up with their stars. That worked to the tune of 60 wins last season, thank you very much.
Expect a little rust on Westbrook, no matter how he has looked in practice and workouts it’s not the same as game speed (just ask Derrick Rose, although his ACL was a more serious injury). Plus, the Suns have played surprisingly good defense in their first two games (opponents are shooting 38.6 percent overall and 30.2 percent from three).
Still, in a deep West where lost games could hurt playoff seedings, his speedy recovery is huge.
If you’re going to bet on an NBA player likely to be moved before the start of the NBA season — or at least by the deadline — Bucks’ big man Greg Monroe would be a good choice. It’s no secret he is on the trade block, the Bucks just aren’t finding a team making an offering to their liking.
What would Monroe like?
He probably wants to end up in New Orleans, ESPN’s Marc Stein said on the Lowe Post podcast.
Which makes a ton of sense — he was born in New Orleans, he wants to go home. The two sides have talked about a deal multiple times in the past, but nothing got done.
The problem is the Bucks are only getting rock-bottom offers for Monroe. On the upside, he’s an efficient offensive NBA big who got the Bucks 15.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game last season. However, he’s a defensive liability who does not protect the rim, plus he’s a $17 million rental next season (he can and likely will opt out in the summer of 2017). Even teams that could use a scoring big are not going to give up much quality in a trade for a rental like Monroe.
The Pelicans already have Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca as traditional fives, and they should play Anthony Davis there more anyway. Roster wise, the Pelicans would need to make some other moves for this deal to make sense.
But eventually, the Bucks will find an offer they are willing to take.
Venezuela is in its first Olympic basketball tournament in more than 20 years — they upset Canada and Argentina to win the FIBA Americas tournament last summer and earned the right to go to Rio.
But they are going to have to play there without the one NBA player on their roster. Greivis Vasquez, who had ankle surgery last December, announced he had to pull out, via the Nets.
If you want to know what this means for the Venezuelan team heading into Rio, well, they shot just 23.9 percent in an 80-45 loss to Team USA Friday night in Chicago — and that was by far the USA’s worst performance in the exhibition run-up to the Rio Games.
Vasquez should be getting decent minutes off the bench behind Jeremy Lin in Brooklyn this season. They need him healthy as the team tries to move from “god awful” to just plain “not good” next season.
Another smart move by the Spurs.
Monty Williams is one of the better assistant coaches in the NBA right now, and he was available (remember he understandably left Oklahoma City last season after the tragic death of his wife). He’s part of Mike Krzyzewski’s staff with USA Basketball this summer — watch him in practices at age 44 and he’s a better defender plenty of players in the league — and he wanted to get back on the bench.
San Antonio has snapped him up, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
Sources told ESPN that Williams — who left the Oklahoma City Thunder’s bench in February after the tragic death of his wife, Ingrid — has been urged by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to take as much of a role with the organization as he feels comfortable for the 2016-17 campaign.
The specifics of what role Williams would fill and how much time he could commit have not yet been determined, but sources say San Antonio has opened the door to either a coaching and player-development role or a front-office position (or a hybrid), depending on what he prefers.
One source close to Williams told ESPN that the 44-year-old “absolutely” intends to be a head coach in the league again after his expected stint with the Spurs. The source also said numerous teams, including Oklahoma City, have made similar offers to Williams for next season.
Williams will get another shot in the big chair down the line. In the short term, this is a smart move — nothing looks better on a resume than “Spurs” around the league right now.
Team USA had their “Tiny Dancer” moment.
Like “Stillwater” in Almost Famous, Team USA’s Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green and Kyrie Irving were leading a sing-along of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” on the team plane out of Chicago to Houston for the USA’s final exhibition game. Hat tip Alysha Tsuji who pulled the snapchats.
Everyone was loving it… except for Carmelo Anthony, according to DeMar DeRozan.