Dan Feldman

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Russell Westbrook reportedly hasn’t declined contract extension, so Thunder have that going for them

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The Thunder offered Russell Westbrook a designated-veteran-player contract extension projected to be worth $207 million over five years.

He obviously hasn’t signed it yet. Oklahoma City would’ve publicized and celebrated that, as it did when he signed an extension last year.

But has he declined the offer? Neither side would necessarily rush to publicize that.

Royce Young of ESPN:

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Westbrook hasn’t delivered an official answer — either a yes or a no.

Westbrook can sign his extension anytime by Oct. 16, the day before the regular season begins. The longer he waits, the more questions this situation prompts.

The unavoidable circumstances: Westbrook can receive the exact same contract terms by re-signing next summer – while keeping his options open in the interim.

He might value security by signing earlier, especially because that could influence Paul George. But Westbrook might care about his personal flexibility.

This saga will expire in a couple months, one way or the other. Until then, it’s easy to wonder: If Westbrook plans to sign the extension, why hasn’t he done it already?

Rudy Gobert retweets Isaiah Thomas’ Gordon Hayward recruitment after Kyrie Irving trade

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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Rudy Gobert, Isaiah Thomas and Hassan Whiteside waged emoji war over Gordon Hayward in July. Of course, Thomas’ Celtics won Hayward’s signature over the Jazz and Heat in free agency.

But Thomas – dealt to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade – won’t get to reap the rewards of playing with Hayward.

Shortly after that blockbuster trade, Gobert retweeted Thomas’ tweet to Hayward:

image

I’m here for the pettiness, which I chalk up as partially in good fun and partially not.

But I doubt Thomas is broken up about not playing with Hayward considering Thomas is going from the East’s second-best team to the East’s best team.

LeBron James chastises Isaiah Thomas jersey burners

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After the Celtics traded – traded!Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers, a couple people burned Thomas jerseys:

I’m unconvinced these are Boston fans showing sincere resentment toward Thomas, who played his heart out for the Celtics, including in the playoffs following his sister’s death. Burning someone’s jersey, especially in such a ridiculous fashion, is a quick path to fleeting fame.

But LeBron James still deemed it necessary to stick up for his new teammate (and Gordon Hayward, who left the Jazz for the Celtics amid very scrutiny from Utah fans).

LeBron:

LeBron’s general point about the hypocrisy of how players are treated is spot on, though I’d argue burning someone’s jersey is a relatively harmless way to show dissatisfaction when he leaves your favorite team. LeBron seems to be working as a players union vice president more than anything here.

You could also argue LeBron – whose jerseys were burned when he left Cleveland in 2010 and Miami in 2014 – is also trying to change the narrative ahead of leaving the Cavs again next summer. But not even I am that cynical.

Tracy McGrady having Isiah Thomas present him at Hall of Fame induction

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In 1997, Isiah Thomas – an all-time great player who was then running the Raptors – drafted Tracy McGrady straight out of high school with the No. 9 pick and said, “He does the things that we all wish we could do.”

Twenty years later, Thomas will present McGrady at the latter’s Hall of Fame enshrinement.

One of the coolest things the Basketball Hall of Fame does is have inductees select a current member to introduce them. It’s always fascinating to see which greats share a connection.

McGrady and Thomas didn’t spend long together in Toronto. But after Thomas resigned in November of McGrady’s rookie year, McGrady called Thomas a “father figure.” Given Thomas’ willingness to mentor younger players, their relationship likely didn’t end there.

Here’s the full list of 2017 presenters, via a Basketball Hall of Fame release:

Zack Clayton, presented by Earl Monroe (‘90)

 

Nick Galis, presented by Bob McAdoo (‘00)

 

Robert Hughes, presented by Sheryl Swoopes (‘16)

 

Mannie Jackson, presented by Jerry Colangelo (‘04), Lynette Woodard (‘04), Russ Granik (‘13)

 

Tom Jernstedt, present by John Havlicek (‘84), Ann Meyers (‘93), Geno Auriemma (‘06)

 

Jerry Krause, presented by Jerry Reinsdorf (‘16)

 

Rebecca Lobo, presented by Geno Auriemma (‘06)

 

George McGinnis, presented Artis Gilmore (‘11), Reggie Miller (‘12), Bobby Leonard (‘14), Spencer Haywood (‘15)

 

Muffet McGraw, presented by Ann Meyers (‘93)

 

Tracy McGrady, presented by Isiah Thomas (‘00)

 

Bill Self, presented by Larry Brown (‘02)

Wizards face financial check on their commitment, don’t blink

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

There’s a simple plan for getting good in the NBA:

1. Be bad

2. Spend

The Wizards executed step two this summer.

More quietly and less deliberately, Washington achieved the result Sam Hinkie’s Process aimed for. Between 2009 and 2013, the Wizards lost their way into picks Nos. 5, 1, 6, 3 and 3.

They didn’t always get it right. They traded the No. 5 pick in 2009 for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, who each spent one forgettable season in Washington before departing. They drafted Jan Vesely No. 6 in 2011.

But those failures only ensured Washington would get more bites at the apple with high draft picks. The Wizards emerged from their downturn with John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter.

That trio led Washington to its best season best season (49-33, reaching Game 7 of the second round) in nearly four decades. Now, the Wizards are covering the costs of continuing the run.

After signing Beal to a max contract last summer, Washington matched a max offer sheet for Porter (from the Nets) and inked Wall to a super-max extension this summer. Those three are guaranteed a whopping $418,157,188. The Wizards are on track to pay the luxury tax for the first time in franchise history.

And the spending didn’t end at just their top players.

Washington also traded the No. 52 pick for Tim Frazier, who’s cheap for a backup point guard at $2 million but costlier than the second-round pick would have been. Though we’ve said it about others before, Frazier could shore up those minutes behind Wall.

The Wizards spent a portion of the mid-level exception to give Jodie Meeks a two-year, $6,744,500 contract with a player option. I didn’t love that deal nearly as much. The 30-year-old Meeks has missed 147 games the last three years. But, if healthy, the sharpshooter should help.

More importantly, signing Meeks rather than a minimum player signals Wizards owner Ted Leonsis’ commitment to winning.

The spending hit its limit when Washington restricted free agent Bojan Bogdanovic got $12 million guaranteed in a two-year, $21 million deal with the Pacers. Still, the Wizards are headed toward a payroll unprecedented for them.

They aren’t guaranteed to pay the luxury tax, which is assessed the last day of the regular season. They could try some funny business to dodge the tax, like dumping Jason Smith and not carrying a full roster throughout the season. Daniel Ochefu and Sheldon Mac are guaranteed just $50,000.

But Washington’s most direct path under the tax line is trading Marcin Gortat or Ian Mahinmi. The well-paid centers are redundant, to the point Gortat indicated an expectation he’d be traded. Smith can easily serve as the full-time backup center, and Markieff Morris can also play the position. Porter slides to power forward in some of the team’s most effective lineups.

Gortat and Mahinmi probably hold negative trade value, though. The 33-year-old Gortat has declined the last few years and is still owed $26,347,827 over the final two years of his contract. Mahinmi, 30, missed 51 games last season. His injury risk is considerable for someone with three years and $48,055,846 left on his deal.

If the Wizards knew which center they could rely on, they might bear the significant cost of unloading the other. But they can’t know. Gortat and Mahinmi are insurance for each other.

The worst thing Washington could do is trade the wrong one and wind up with no effective centers when it matters most – which is a far more favorable dilemma than what the Wizards could’ve faced. They could’ve used being strapped with Gortat and Mahinmi as reason for letting Porter – a young player who’s awesome in his role – walk.

Instead, they head toward the season with all three – stronger on the court because of it.

Washington has changed how the franchise is discussed, winning three playoff series in the last four years and going .500 the other season. Wall (26), Beal (24) and Porter (24) are young enough to keep advancing the conversation.

The Wizards dipped their toes into the Paul George waters this summer. Though they didn’t get him, they emerged unscathed and looking a little more credible for stars.

Washington probably won’t have cap room any time soon, but flexibility is inherent in winning, which lifts players’ values. A lengthened run – fortified by this summer’s spending – could also pay off years from now.

The roster didn’t change much, but keeping that chemistry proved costly. Credit Leonsis for committing.

Offseason grade: B-