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Three Things to Know: Thunder look dominant, figuring things out

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s what you missed while raiding your kids Halloween candy bag (not that I would do that, no, never… just ignore that bag of Skittles).

1) Thunder starting to look elite, figure out their defense in win over Bucks. Nobody is going to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo, he’s going to get his. The Greek Freak did that on Halloween night with 28 points on 14 shots, although he was held in relative check by foul trouble that limited him to less than 28 minutes.

What the Thunder did with their aggressive, swarming defense on Tuesday was shut down the other Bucks — Milwaukee players who do not play for the Greek national team shot just 37.1 percent on the night. As a team the Bucks shot 9-of-30 from three. That’s not good enough against Oklahoma City — the Thunder starters put together a 16-0 run in the first and the team never looked back, cruising to a 110-91 win. Paul George had 20 points and Carmelo Anthony 17 in the win, and the big three combined for 49 points and 21 assists.

There were a lot of good signs for the Thunder out of this game. The first half they were flat-out dominant against a pretty good Bucks team, and during that time ball moved and it led to a lot of open looks (more midrange shots than some would like, but they were clean, open looks). Westbrook controlled the flow of the offense without just scoring a lot. Maybe the best sign, OKC owned the defensive glass, an area it has struggled this season up to now.

Going into the season, the questions about the Thunder were “how long will it take them to get it together?” and “is the bench good enough?” The jury is still out on the second question (although Jermi Grant had 17 in this one), however the answer to the first question might be around Halloween.

2) Just a reminder, Eric Bledsoe is still a member of the Phoenix Suns. Bledsoe doesn’t want to be. The Suns are trying to trade him, but they have not found a deal as the reported asking price is turning teams off. Suns GM Ryan McDonough tried to gain a little leverage on Tuesday saying there is no timetable for a trade, but the reality is with Bledsoe sitting at home his trade value is not going up. So we all wait.

The reality is this: The Suns are going to get hosed on this trade. Look at what better players went for in the past year — DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Jimmy Butler — and you see the market for Bledsoe is not going to be that strong. Most teams are not looking for a point guard. Those who are — Denver, maybe Milwaukee, a handful of others — are not going to offer genuine quality. Sorry, the Knicks are still not throwing in Frank Ntilikina. Eventually, McDonough and the Suns will settle on a deal where they get a prospect/pick but also take on a bad contract. It’s not going to be a good deal for them, but welcome to reality. The only question is when it goes down.

3) It was tricks, not treats, for Jahlil Okafor, Mario Hezonja, Kevin Looney, and Josh Huestis on Halloween — their teams did not pick up their fourth-year options. NBA teams pick up fourth-year options on rookie deals almost out of habit, even if they don’t think they want the young player long term, they hold on to him in hopes of a trade so they can get some value back for the pick in a trade.

However, with the deadline to pick up options on Halloween, two of the top five picks in the 2015 NBA Draft did not have their fourth years picked up, and they will be unrestricted free agents next summer. They could be on the market even sooner.

In Philadelphia, Okafor is the odd man out in the Sixers young and impressive frontcourt rotation, and after a year of trying to trade him and getting nothing of value they did not pick up his option. The Sixers are still looking for a trade, and he could push for a buyout.

In Orlando, Hezonja has shown flashes of his athleticism and potential — this season he’s knocking down 62 percent of this threes — but his development has stalled out, he has never stood out, and Frank Vogel and company just decided they would move on. He also could potentially still be traded, but Orland tried (talking a lot to Sacramento) and nothing came of it and likely will not now.

The Golden State Warriors did not pick up the option on Kevin Looney, but their reasoning was less about his play (which hasn’t been great) and more straight forward — it’s about saving luxury tax money. In Oklahoma City, in 2014 Huestis was the rare  “domestic draft and stash” — the Thunder drafted him with the understanding he would not sign his rookie deal and would play for a season in the D-League, then sign with the Thunder. He’s never developed into the player the Thunder made that bet on (although he has played in all seven games this season), and they have decided to move on.

Lou Williams trolls Jimmy Butler for resting during All-Star Game

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Jimmy Butler was in Los Angeles and enjoying his well-earned All-Star slot on Team Stephen.

Well, except for the actual playing basketball part. Butler did not set foot on the court during the All-Star Game at his own request.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

Lou Williams, the Clippers’ guard who likely would have been near the front of the line for an open All-Star roster spot in the West (likely second in the queue behind Chris Paul), but instead took part in the Saturday Skills Competition then had Sunday off, trolled Butler for it on Twitter.

This seems more good natured than genuinely bitter.

Williams will roll with it, but his point’s a valid one — if you’re an All-Star, at least play a little and give the people what they want. Get out there for five minutes or whatever. LaMarcus Aldridge only played four minutes, no big deal.

If you’re not going to use the roster spot, give it up to someone who will.

Report: Raptors won’t sign Vince Carter if he gets bought out

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Of returning to the Raptors, Vince Carter said, “It’ll happen one day.” It sounds as if the Kings would buy him out if he wants.

Will he end the season with Toronto?

Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050:

After speaking with a few team sources, I can confirm that they’ve had internal dialogue and debate about the idea of bringing Vince Carter back. It’s something that they wanted to do over the summer. That’s why they made him an offer, something that I’ve reported in the past. And it’s also something that they’d be open to in the future, perhaps next year in some capacity. But they’ve decided now is not the right time. And I think the consensus seems to be there’s so much going on right now, and they want this season to be about this team, their accomplishments and their playoff push and not the sideshow that I think would come with a Vince Carter return.

The Raptors (41-16) are on pace for their best record ever. They’re excelling offensively and defensively. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are spearheading a more dynamic offense that spurs hope for more playoff success.

Toronto is probably correct to save the Carter reunion for another year – though it depends who else is available. That 15th roster spot could be useful. If Carter is the best player who’d sign, the Raptors should sign him and deal with the hoopla.

But it’s not clear whom they could get or whether they could even get Carter. He hasn’t sounded like someone who’d forgo guaranteed salary to play for the minimum.

Tiago Splitter announces retirement

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Tiago Splitter was so effective in his role for the Spurs during their playoff run to the 2014 title – 19.1 PER, .239 win shares per 48 minutes, +7.5 box plus-minus. It gets forgotten, because he twice lost his starting job that postseason.

Limited by a late start in the NBA and injuries, Splitter’s prime was short and ill-timed. He was a traditional center just as those were going out of style.

But for moments in the right matchups, he provided a major boost to a championship team. That was the peak of a seven-year NBA career.

HoopsHype:

Tiago Splitter announced his retirement at the age of 33 in an interview with SporTV.

Splitter just couldn’t get healthy. He missed 150 games over the last three years with the Spurs, Hawks and 76ers.

Drafted No. 28 in 2007, Splitter remained overseas for a few years and built hype and intrigue. He signed with San Antonio and started alongside Tim Duncan for a couple years. The Spurs later dumped him on Atlanta to clear space for LaMarcus Aldridge – a sign of Splitter’s success. He earned about $47 million in his NBA career.

J.J. Redick apologizes for saying what sounded like a slur for Chinese people

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76ers guard J.J. Redick explained saying what sounded like a slur for Chinese people – he was tongue-tied. But he didn’t actually apologize, and that bothered many.

Now, he’s getting that part right.

Redick:

Maybe Redick really did just stumble over his words. Based on the inflection, it certainly sounds possible.

Maybe he thought he was being funny then got caught.

He’d respond now the same way now either way. Maybe it’s just unfortunate he’s caught up in this. Maybe he’s using plausible deniability to get away with something.

I don’t know, but it’s good he apologized. People can apologize for accidents, and it usually helps make everyone feel better and move on.