It’s not quite “James Harden who?” But the Thunder may be taking steps in that direction.
What has been the knock on the Oklahoma City Thunder as a title threat? Depth. Yes they have two elite scorers in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, plus some quality guys like Serge Ibaka, but if you can get into their bench you can beat OKC.
Which is what the Spurs did — except the Thunder bench shot 78 percent on the night and won OKC the game.
Reggie Jackson had 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting, Jeremy Lamb had 12 points and the spark they brought in off the bench — plus some good team defense by OKC all night — gave the Thunder a 94-88 win at home. The loss snapped the Spurs 11 game winning streak.
This is not a statement game — both of these teams know there are no statements made in November. Not if you’re a contender. But this game could be a sign that OKC is going to get get more out of their bench than expected, and that could take them a long way later in the season.
San Antonio focused its defense on not letting the Thunder stars take over and it worked — Durant had 24 points but needed 23 shots to do it, Russell Westbrook was a disaster at 2-of-16 shooting. However the Thunder had a strong defensive game as well, holding the Spurs to 39.1 percent shooting and just 88.7 points per 100 possessions (the Spurs average 104.9 per 100 on the season).
Tony Parker had 16 points for the Spurs but needed 16 shots to get there. Kawhi Leonard had 14 points on 18 shots, Tim Duncan 11 points on 14 shots. It was that kind of night of the Spurs.
Serge Ibaka had a strong game for the Thunder, with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but it was the five blocks and numerous changed shots in the paint that were bigger.
The Spurs advanced to the NBA Finals last season, but the athleticism of the Thunder has always given them trouble. It did again on Wednesday. This one game will not mean anything if these teams meet in May in a playoff series, but the bench play and defense are reminder that the Thunder can beat the Spurs and are legit contenders when on their game.
Thunder center Enes Kanter – who had passport revoked by Turkey – lacked documentation to travel for a December game against the Nets in Mexico City and a March game against the Raptors in Toronto.
Apparently, that issue has been resolved.
Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman:
Kanter said on Sunday that the team has worked out an arrangement to allow him to travel to games in Toronto and Mexico City even without a passport.
It always seemed highly likely Kanter would get to Toronto and Mexico City. He’s a high-profile millionaire working for a billion-dollar company.
In July, Carmelo Anthony was reportedly confident he’d be traded to the Rockets.
That optimism always seemed misguided. A couple months later, with Anthony still on the Knicks, it looks downright foolish.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
Anthony’s camp is cautiously optimistic that a deal will be struck before Monday, and trying not to think about the potential media circus that will take place if Carmelo is still with the Knicks.
It’s more likely Anthony’s confidants are hopeful than optimistic. If they’re actually optimistic, they’re very likely to be disappointed.
If Anthony hasn’t been traded by now, what will change between now and Monday? Houston still must find a taker for Ryan Anderson, and that’s no easy task – not without relinquishing sweeteners more valuable than Anthony. I suppose Anthony could waive his no-trade clause for additional teams, but it’s late for a deal to come together.
Hopefully for Anthony, his advisors aren’t pinning everything on a longshot trade and are helping him craft answers to the numerous questions he’ll face at media day next week – likely in New York.
Once an advocate of increasing the age minimum and a willing accepter of one-and-done, NBA commissioner Adam Silver sounded more open about allowing high school players to declare for the NBA draft.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement left the issue open, but Louisville coach Rick Pitino predicts change is coming – relatively soon.
Pitino, via ESPN:
When I was at Kentucky, I had seven high school basketball players, told me they were coming, and instead, they went to the pros out of high school. And by the way, I think that rule is going to change back to that. I think high school players are going to be able to go pro again.
I think the commissioner is probably going to do it within two years.
Does Pitino know something? With decades of experience in the NBA and college, he could have many contacts with inside information. It’s certainly imperative for devising a recruiting strategy to know how this rule will change.
It’s also possible Pitino saw Silver’s comments, like any outsider could have, and is making a relatively blind guess.
But the possibility of inside information makes his comments more intriguing.
The Warriors are charging $60 million over three years for their jersey ads – about double what any other NBA team is getting.
Golden State chief marketing officer Chip Bowers, via Darren Rovell of ESPN:
“We actually had multiple finalists,” Warriors chief marketing officer Chip Bowers said. “This was not the biggest deal that we were offered.”
Bowers said the team felt it was important for the deal to be with a worldwide brand.
Light years ahead.