Russell Westbrook

Thunder to rest Russell Westbrook on certain back-to-back sets to finish the season

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The Thunder currently hold a record of 48-17, a game back of the Spurs for the best overall mark in the league.

Finishing the year on top of that race would guarantee home court advantage throughout the playoffs and into the Finals should OKC make it that far, and it’s a goal most teams would kill to have a shot of reaching at this late stage of the season.

But keeping the big picture in mind, the Thunder aren’t planning on going all out to get there.

With a high volume of back-to-back sets the rest of the way, the team is more concerned with preserving its stars for a postseason run, which means willingly taking Russell Westbrook out of the lineup for a handful of games the rest of the way.

From Randy Renner of NBA.com:

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s closing schedule is heavy with back-to-back sets, six of them over the last month of the season, and Thunder head coach Scott Brooks on Saturday said once again that point guard Russell Westbrook will not play in both games of “some” of those sets.

“We have a plan in place” as to which games Westbrook will sit , said Brooks, but he wouldn’t reveal it Saturday after practice.”I’ll let you know at the appropriate time,” he added. …

“We had a plan in place early on when we brought him back and we wanna stick with that,” Brooks said. “We just wanna, while we can, get some time where he can rest in between games.”

There’s been no word of Westbrook experiencing any swelling or discomfort in his surgically-repaired knee, so this appears to be an overly-cautious maneuver by Brooks and the team’s medical staff.

The Thunder play back-to-backs sets over their next four games, the first of which comes at home against Dallas on Sunday and then on the road in Chicago the very next night. The killer set comes on April 3 and 4, at home against the Spurs followed by a road trip in Houston.

We’ll see what the standings look like when each of these games approaches to see if things change, but it appears as though Brooks has already made up his mind.

Report: Joakim Noah tells teammates he’s leaving Bulls

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 15:  Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls runs off of the court after dislocating his left shoulder against the Dallas Mavericks at the United Center on January 15, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Mavericks defeated the Bulls 83-77. 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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Joakim Noah said in January he wanted to re-sign with the Bulls. Chicago reportedly wants to keep him.

A perfect match?

Not quite.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

According to a Bulls player, Noah has been telling teammates the last few weeks that he was done with the organization once free agency begins, and “has no trust in the front office getting this in the right direction.’’

The player was asked if Noah’s feelings had anything to do with first-year coach Fred Hoiberg and the he said, he said that went on early in the season when Noah lost his starting job, and insisted that Noah didn’t offer up that as an explanation.

What was offered up, however, was the fact that there seems to be a complete mistrust that multiple players have toward general manager Gar Forman, with Noah leading the way.

Noah and Hoiberg publicly disagreed about whose choice it was for Noah to come off the bench. Hoiberg said it was Noah’s. Noah said it was Hoiberg’s.

That looked like a petty problem, one both sides could – and maybe did – get over. But it seems Noah has deeper concerns.

This has been a rough year for the Bulls, who missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. That unexpected downturn takes a toll on chemistry and brings buried problems to the surface. That’s especially true considering Chicago fired Tom Thibodeau – a coach who looks better in hindsight. If players miss Thibodeau, that opens the door for them to turn on Forman, who forced out Thibodeau.

That said, the Bulls are probably better off letting Noah walk. He’s 31 and has been banged up the last couple years. I wouldn’t commit big money to him with Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis under contract and the need for faster players to run Hoiberg’s system. Chicago can’t quickly solve its Jimmy ButlerDerrick Rose issue, because Butler is worth keeping and Rose is under contract another year on a difficult-to-trade deal. But shedding Noah and using the resulting cap flexibility elsewhere gets the team headed in the right direction.

For his part, Noah can seek a fresh start – how about with Thibodeau in Minnesota? – and find a team that suits him, either a win-now squad or a younger group seeking veteran leadership.

Report: Indiana junior Troy Williams staying in NBA draft

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 25:  Troy Williams #5 of the Indiana Hoosiers reacts in the second half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Wells Fargo Center on March 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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An Indiana player – Thomas Bryant – who likely would’ve been a first-round pick didn’t even declare for the draft without an agent.

Another Indiana player – Troy Williams – who might not even get picked will stay in the draft.

Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star:

Williams, a 6-foot-7 small forward, is an excellent athlete. He’s not strong enough and hasn’t shown enough awareness to project him defending well in the NBA yet. But his length, quickness and leaping ability give him potential on that end. That and transition offense will have to carry him for now, because his outside shot is unimpressive.

There are players like Williams in every draft. It’s on him to convince a team that he has the work ethic and intelligence to refine his game.

Klay Thompson gives most depressing interview answer (video)

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The Warriors are taking a beating on the court, but their turmoil reached heartbreaking levels in Klay Thompson‘s press conference after Game 4.

Thompson, scanning the box score for any semblance of hope, applauded Golden State’s “40 assists” – which would have been the most in a playoff game since 1994. But he quickly realized that couldn’t be right, looked again and sadly announced Golden State had just 15 assists.

Thompson was probably looking at the Warriors’ rebounding total (which was 16 below the Thunder’s).

Report: Steven Adams suffered testicular contusion

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When Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams in the groin, it did more than create mass debate about the appropriate punishment.

Green hurt Adams badly, it sounds like.

John E. Hoover of The Franchise Tulsa:

Once you finish wincing, take a moment to appreciate how tough Adams is. He kept playing in the game and then came out in Game 4 throwing bullet passes.