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Paul George on Thunder’s slow start: “We have a whole year to figure it out”

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The Oklahoma City Thunder have the second best defense in the NBA, allowing less than a point per possession (96.9 per 100 possessions). They are long, athletic, and have a big backstop in Steven Adams in the paint.

Yet, they are just 4-6. Tuesday night, they lost to a Sacramento Kings team that was 1-8 coming in.

Despite having reigning MVP Russell Westbrook plus Paul George and Carmelo Anthony on the roster, the Thunder have the 22nd ranked offense. Watch them play and it reminds you of the 2010-11 Miami Heat when LeBron James first arrived there: guys played next to each other taking turns in isolation, not getting plays out of the offense. The Thunder make the fewest passes per game of any team in the league (via the SportVU tracking cameras in arenas). They run more isolation than any team in the league — 12.3 percent of their shot attempts come out of isos, and they shoot just 42.7 percent on them, scoring only 0.87 points per possession on them (19th in the league). Anthony still stops the ball, and the Thunder are predictable. And predictable is defendable.

Paul George is not worried, he is still preaching patience, as he told Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

“We have a whole year to figure it out,” George said. “We can’t really try to rush this. It’s something that’s step-by-step, day-by-day [and], at this point, game-by-game.

“We’ve got to slowly get on the same page.”

Carmelo Anthony is preaching from the same book.

“This is all new to everybody, new situations for everybody,” said Anthony, who along with George joined the team this summer. “Even though we losing games, I think it’s more of lessons being learned than actually losing the game. So right now, we’re learning a lesson in these last couple games.”

Hard lessons. However, they are right, it was always going to take a while to figure out, it would take time for these players who speak glowingly of making sacrifices to win actually put that into practice. We’ve seen it when LeBron James jumped ships (first to Miami, then back to Cleveland), there are rough patches. Even last year’s Golden State Warriors had some bumps integrating Kevin Durant into the fold.

The challenge is this: Will they figure it out in time to keep Paul George? Westbrook signed a massive extension and is going nowhere, and Anthony has a $27.9 million player option next season that most around the league think he will pick up (unless he reaches a wink-wink deal with the Thunder for multiple years at a little less money). However, George is a free agent. The people around him were not shy about talking Lakers before the trade.

Next summer, with the chemistry be worked out and the pull of staying in OKC be so strong that George re-signs? That’s the real deadline for this team. But they’ve got 72 more regular season games to put it together, that’s plenty of time.

Adam Silver jokingly thanks Magic Johnson for paying for All-Star Legends Brunch

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The NBA held its annual All-Star Legends Brunch last weekend. Jerry West, James Worthy, Bill Walton and Magic Johnson were honored.

And NBA commissioner Adam Silver delivered a great line while addressing the event.

Silver, via Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:

“Magic, thank you for paying for the brunch today.”

So, that’s why Johnson got fined for $50,000 for tampering for innocuous comments about Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald reveals he’s living with incurable heart disease

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The National Basketball Players Association and NBA set up health screenings for former players.

Nate “Tiny” Archibald, who starred for the Kansas City Kings and Boston Celtics, took advantage. Unfortunately, he learned a difficult outcome.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

IT WAS DECEMBER 2016 when Archibald learned of his diagnosis, during a free screening at the New York offices of the NBPA. And now, more than a year later, he’s still reeling from the news.

“What I have is really rare,” he says. “There’s no pills, nothing they have found that works. I’m being tested all the time, just hoping, you know?

“My [heart] could go any minute. But I’m not ready for that. I want to be around for a long time.”

The medical community has had little success solving the riddle of amyloidosis. For those who suffer from it, aside from participating in clinical trials, or the possibility of a heart transplant, which at Archibald’s age may not be viable, there isn’t much that can be done.

We celebrated Archibald’s 69th birthday last fall with this highlight video. If you’re not familiar with the 6-foot-1 guard’s exciting game, get acquainted:

Hopefully, Archibald gets his wish and sticks around a long time.

Jeremy Lin: I believe J.J. Redick

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76ers guard J.J. Redick explained then apologized for saying what sounded like a slur for Chinese people, claiming he was tongue-tied.

Nets guard Jeremy Lin:

Lin’s Asian-American heritage helps make him very popular with the same people most offended by Redick. Lin vouching for Redick will likely go a long way in diffusing tension.

Hornets dropping GM Rich Cho, will reportedly pursue Mitch Kupchak

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Update: Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that the team will not extend the contract of General Manager Rich Cho. The Hornets will begin a search for a new general manager immediately.

“I want to thank Rich for all of his hard work with the Charlotte Hornets organization through the years and wish him and his family the best in the future,” said Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan. “Rich worked tirelessly on behalf of our team and instituted a number of management tools that have benefited our organization. We are deeply committed to our fans and to the city of Charlotte to provide a consistent winner on the court. The search will now begin for our next head of basketball operations who will help us achieve that goal.”

 

Last spring, the Hornets exercised their option on general manager Rich Cho for this season. It wasn’t exactly a strong vote of confidence without a contract extension.

Now, it’s becoming even more clear he’s a lame duck.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Cho has had plenty of hits and misses as general manager, including a year with the Trail Blazers. But the misses have added up in Charlotte. The Hornets’ next general manager will inherit:

Kemba Walker helps, but he can’t do it alone. This bloated payroll leaves little flexibility for roster upgrades – necessary to lift Charlotte into strong playoff contention. Walker will become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, and affording him could be tricky.

This is not a good job (relative to the other 29 NBA general manager jobs, of course).

Hornets owner Michael Jordan certainly plays into that. In one of the biggest gaffes of the Cho era, Charlotte rejected the Celtics’ offer of four first-round picks for the No. 9 pick in the 2015 draft, just to pick Frank Kaminsky. (Boston wanted Justise Winslow.) Was that Cho’s call or Jordan’s?

Cho takes the fall, though. That’s how this works.

Jordan’s ownership also means he gets to pick the replacement. It’s surely not a coincidence he’s leaning toward Mitch Kupchak (who played at North Carolina) and Buzz Peterson (who played with Jordan at North Carolina).

Kupchak fizzled late, but his overall tenure with the Lakers was a success. Has the game passed him by, or did recency bias unfairly paint him unfavorably? We might get to find out.