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Three Things We Learned Sunday: Russell Westbrook on doorstep of history

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We know you were busy Sunday, doing things like making your ham and cheese sandwich look like Vin Diesel, so you may have missed out on the day’s NBA action. We’ve got your back, here are the big takeaways from Sunday around the league.

1) Russell Westbrook steps to the doorstep of history with 40th triple-double of the season, but Thunder fall to Hornets. When Russell Westbrook racks up a triple-double, the Thunder usually win: They are 31-9 when he gets one, 12-24 when he falls short.

He got another one on Sunday — his sixth straight — scoring 40 points, pulling down 13 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists. That’s 40 triple-doubles this season for Westbrook, just one shy of Oscar Robertson’s NBA record with six games left. It was another impressive night, and now Westbrook is just 11 rebounds and 29 assists short of clinching a triple-double season average.

All that wasn’t enough to get the win Sunday against Charlotte, the first time in nine years the Hornets beat the Thunder in OKC. Kemba Walker led the way with 29 points. The Hornets are now just one game back of Miami for the final playoff slot in the East, this is a team that has played much better than its record this year (they have the point differential of a 41-36 team) and sneaking into the postseason would be a little bit of justice.

This loss, plus the Clippers win streak, means sixth-seed Oklahoma City is not going to catch Los Angeles for the five seed. OKC needs some more wins to stay ahead of Memphis in the seven seed, just a game-and-a-half back of the Thunder.

Westbrook’s triple-double wasn’t the only one Sunday — Golden State left it’s starters in late in a win over the Wizards and ran plays for Draymond Green to get him the triple-double. The Wizards’ complained, but to them I’d say “if you don’t like it, stop them.” However, Nate Duncan made a great point talking to Warriors fans.


2) LeBron James and Paul George put on a show in double-overtime Cavaliers win.
The Cavaliers had been coasting lately, playing uninspired games because it didn’t look or feel like the playoffs yet. Paul George made sure it did on Sunday, dropping 43, and LeBron James woke up and responded with 41 of his own (to go with 16 rebounds and 11 assists).

The result was a double-overtime thriller that the Cavaliers eventually won 135-130. In the long grind of the NBA season, this was one of the most entertaining games we’ve seen.

With the win Cleveland remains just half a game back of Boston for the top seed in the East, and the teams are tied in the loss column. With the loss, the Pacers are now tied with the Heat for the final playoff slot in the East, Indiana is in real danger of missing out on the postseason altogether. Which is not going to make George happy (and that has implications heading into the summer).

3) Derrick Rose is done for the season, but the real question is what happens to free agent Rose this summer? Derrick Rose had missed a couple of games with what the Knicks had termed a “sore knee,” but after getting an MRI they found a torn meniscus that will require surgery. Obviously, that end’s Rose’s season, he’s going to need 6-8 weeks to recover.

What does another knee surgery mean for Rose as he heads into free agency this summer? Since his MVP season, Rose has never played in more than 66 games in a season (64 this season), and yes that’s going to color teams’ thinking. I would be shocked if any team offered Rose more than two guaranteed years. I doubt a good team would offer him more than $12 million a year (and that may be the top end).

In our PBT Podcast a few weeks back, Derrick Rose’s agent B.J. Armstrong echoed his player and said what mattered most to Rose was winning. Everyone says that, of course, but when the time comes they want money and a significant role on a team. If Rose really cared about winning more than anything else, I could see him taking a two-year deal with a contender to come off the bench and lead a second unit (like Rajon Rondo has done since the All-Star break in Chicago). Rose is still a solid NBA point guard, but if he wants to be a starter and have the ball in his hands, he’s not heading to a team that’s a real playoff threat — the teams that can offer him that chance are not in a good spot.

The knee injury will certainly impact Rose’s summer options, but what matters most is what kind of team Rose really wants to be on, what kind of role he’s willing to play, and how much money he’s willing to sacrifice to win.

Report: Russell Westbrook may sign “designated player” extension with Thunder on July 1

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Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP, coming off a historic season where he averaged a triple-double.

Westbrook also could see a massive pay raise this summer. Yes, you remember correctly that Westbrook signed one last summer after Kevin Durant left, but the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that kicks in July 1 grandfathered him (and James Harden, who also signed an extension last summer) in to get the “designated veteran” max contract. That would start at about $34.7 million (if the cap is at $99 million as expected) and go up from there.

Thunder management’s first call at midnight July 1 will be to Westbrook to offer the deal, and he may well take it reports Royce Young of ESPN.

Those close to Westbrook fully expect him to take the Thunder’s offer, quite possibly at 12:01 a.m., and stabilize the franchise and present a clear road map. Westbrook signed an extension last summer and invoked the word “loyalty” for a reason. He wanted to make a statement — a public declaration — and take on the burden of leading the franchise forward.

He likes the existing roster and has a close relationship and confidence in Presti and Weaver. He has built a strong bond with head coach Billy Donovan. He knew what he signed for and, with the Thunder coming off a successful first post-Durant season and with pieces in place to improve the team, there are a lot of reasons to commit again.

If Westbrook signs this, the Thunder can get on with the business of improving this roster — which will be next to impossible. The Thunder are capped out and have to re-sign restricted free agent Andre Roberson. Sam Presti is a smart man, but his hands are mostly tied due to some of the big contracts on the roster (ones that would have been no issue if Kevin Durant had stayed). The Thunder will make moves around the edges, but it’s going to take time to do anything substantial.

If Westbrook doesn’t sign this, more than just red flags will go up in OKC — this will be sirens and flashing red lights. The Thunder will be forced to think about trading Westbrook, or finding a way to keep him happy and in house. They will basically be right back to where they were last summer.

If Westbrook signs it — and he likely will, that’s a lot of money to leave on the table — it at least gives the Thunder a clear direction. Which is about all they can hope for this summer.

Bulls: No decision yet on Rajon Rondo’s future with team

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls are not ready to say whether veteran point guard Rajon Rondo will be back for a second season.

Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson says that “is still to be determined.” The Bulls can pay Rondo $13.4 million or buy him out for $3 million by Friday’s deadline.

Paxson spoke Tuesday during a news conference to introduce newcomers Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and rookie Lauri Markkanen, who were acquired from Minnesota for Jimmy Butler on draft night. The Bulls were planning to meet Tuesday with Rondo’s agent Bill Duffy, who represents LaVine.

Paxson also says a buyout on Dwyane Wade after he exercised his $23.8 million option “has not been broached.” Paxson says the Bulls, at least for now, assume Wade will play for Chicago.

Report: Chris Paul met with Clipper officials to talk future of franchise, himself

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Chris Paul is going to talk to a lot of teams this summer, but if you ask people around the league, most seem to think he will re-sign with the Clippers. The ultimate reason is money: As president of the players’ union he helped steer the new CBA negotiations, which included changing the “over 36 rule” — limiting max contracts to players who turn 36 during the time of the deal — into the “over 38 rule.” That meant 32-year-old Paul could sign one more five-year max contract.

Paul also wants to win, and it’s hard to see how the assembled team in Los Angeles — which is certainly a top 5-7 NBA team, maybe a little higher when healthy — picks up a ring. Especially with the Golden State juggernaut not going anywhere.

Paul has started talking to the Clippers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

I doubt that discussion was much about money — the Clippers will offer a five-year max contract. That’s not even up for debate.

The discussion was how to build the Clippers into a contender. Will Blake Griffin, also a free agent, be back and be part of that? What about J.J. Redick? Can the Clippers get the cap space to lure huge free agents in 2018? LeBron James reportedly wants to come to Los Angeles, although whether he wants to be a Clipper is another question. (For the record, I don’t buy the idea LeBron would “never” be a Clipper. While it may be highly unlikely, people I have spoken to around the league closer to LeBron’s thinking say he wants to keep every option open, play out next season, then see where things stand. He would not fully rule out playing with Chris Paul, who could still be in L.A.)

The Clippers have backed themselves into a corner by trading away picks for veterans, and not developing young players into guys who can contribute in the rotation. When was the last time the Clippers had their Patrick McCaw or Dewayne Dedmon? Without those young, affordable players, it becomes hard to put a good roster together and keep it together. It’s part of what Jerry West — with some help from GM Lawrence Frank — need to bring to Doc Rivers’ Clippers.

That’s likely part of the discussion, too.

There’s a lot for the sides to talk about.

Michael Jordan sent Russell Westbrook personal MVP congratulatory note

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Russell Westbrook is one of the biggest stars in the NBA, he’s now an MVP, and he wears Jordan Brand Nikes.

Still, it has to be a bit humbling to get a personal, signed note from Michael Jordan himself.

Which is exactly what he got on Tuesday, a congratulatory note from the GOAT.

The note said (in all caps):

Congrats Russell.

I got buy first MVP award before my first ring, too… keep going!

It was then signed by Jordan.

Westbrook could probably fill a second home with memorabilia from his career, but this is one he’s likely going to keep safe.