Kurt Helin

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Another report Thunder will target Blake Griffin in free agency

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The Oklahoma City Thunder kept their man in Russell Westbrook — but in practice only for one more year. The new contract extension allows him to opt out in 2018 and become a free agent. Meaning the Thunder have a couple of seasons to prove to Westbrook they can rebuild this team into a contender and to make sure he is happy.

Blake Griffin is expected to exercise his early termination option next summer and become a free agent (financially, he’d be stupid not to). That would be Blake Griffin, Oklahoma native who grew up and went to college in the state.

You see where this is going, and the rumors that the Thunder were eyeing Griffin existed before Kevin Durant went west. They are just will be picking up steam now. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports talked about it in his analysis of the Westbrook extension.

Now, it’s a superstar solo act – with an eye upon Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin in 2017 free agency. Griffin is an Oklahoma kid gone Hollywood, a star who has his own tensions with Chris Paul on the Clippers. For now, this is Westbrook’s chance to become a recruiter, a gatherer, and bringing back Griffin could make these Thunder a legitimate threat to Golden State in the Western Conference.

The easy part here is the fit on the court — Griffin isn’t Durant, but he plugs nicely right into the four spot next to Steven Adams in OKC. He has enough of a jumper to space the floor, attacks the rim with ferocity, is a good passer out of the post, and defends better than he gets credit for. Westbrook and Griffin with a quality core of role players around them — Adams, Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson, etc. — makes a lot of sense on the court.

The harder question is, does he want to go home?

Griffin has had his friction with the Clippers and the hard-driving competitive nature of Chris Paul, but he’s also a guy who has enjoyed the advantages/trappings of living in Los Angeles year around. He lives near the beach. Heck, he’s out doing stand-up comedy (and doing it well). He likes the lifestyle.

Going home to play is not something every player wants — I’m not talking about Griffin specifically, he’s not talking about his plans yet, but in general. Going home brings added pressure, not to mention added distractions and challenges — that guy that kind of knew Griffin in college and talked to him at a party is now going to be calling asking for four tickets to a game. LeBron James heading back to Cleveland made the idea of going home fashionable with fans, but the reality is a lot of players who love where they grew up don’t want to go back and play there.

Griffin may or may not want to go home, may or may not like the idea of trading in CP3 for Westbrook. But the Thunder are going to try to find out.

Stephen Curry, LeBron James betting line co-favorites to win MVP next season

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Stephen Curry has won the last two NBA MVP awards. LeBron James has four of those trophies at home and just won the Finals MVP award leading the Cavaliers to the NBA title.

Not shockingly, those are the two early favorites to win the 2017 NBA MVP award.

Online betting site Bovada already has up the line for MVP next season, here are the top 10 with odds.

Stephen Curry 15/4
LeBron James 15/4
Russell Westbrook 4/1
Kevin Durant 8/1
Anthony Davis 14/1
James Harden 16/1
Kawhi Leonard 16/1
Paul George 22/1
Blake Griffin 22/1
Damien Lillard 28/1

I don’t expect Curry to win three in a row, especially having to share the rock more with Durant now in house (Durant’s not going to win, either). LeBron is the obvious favorite, with good reason.

However, smart gamblers are looking for value. That’s where I love Harden at 16-1, and to a lesser extent Westbrook at 4-1. I expect a bounce-back year from James Harden where he shows up in shape and has the Rockets looking more like a playoff team from day one— and he averaged 29 points a game last season. Russell Westbrook is also going to put up monster numbers. The only question with those two is will their teams win enough games? Voters tend to look for teams that win 50+ games and pick the top players from there, the Rockets and Thunder very well may not get there.

It is going to be an interesting MVP race next season.

Russell Westbrook on if Durant leaving for Warriors stung more: “Sting for who?”

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It doesn’t look like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be exchanging Christmas Cards this year.

Durant informed Westbrook of his plans to leave via a text — which Westbrook deleted.

Then came this exchange at Westbrook’s press conference announcing his contract extension with the Thunder.

Reporter: Did the fact that not only Kevin left but that it was for the Golden State Warriors make it sting even more?

Westbrook: Sting for who?

Damn.

Here’s the video:

Generally, Westbrook tried to play any conflict with Durant down and keep things focused on his plans for the future, at one point saying, “There’s no need to wait if you know where you want to be.”

When asked about his friendship with Durant, Westbrook said, “Definitely. We played together for eight years. You don’t just throw that away.”

Still, there is a rivalry there now. Expect to see the Warriors take on the Thunder in one of the prime spots on the NBA calendar (such as opening night or Christmas). The NBA knows what sells and feuding stars (even if they’re not feuding as much as some want to portray) works well for that.

Players vote Stephen Curry MVP; Kobe Bryant “Global Impact Player”

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A year ago there was a split: Media members voted Stephen Curry NBA MVP, but when the “players’ voice” award came out the players voted for James Harden.

This year, everyone was on the same page: Stephen Curry won the players’ voice MVP:

Curry also got the most clutch award.

The players and media also agreed on Rookie of the Year (which was pretty clear cut).

Kobe Bryant was voted the Global Impact Player.

LeBron James was voted player other guys secretly want on their team. Is that really a secret?

Check out the rest of the awards.

Watch Kyrie Irving’s new Kids Foot Locker “switching-faces” ad

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Foot Locker has been doing some of the most creative NBA ads out there the past couple seasons.

Kyrie Irving — with a raised personal profile coming off winning an NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers — is taking advantage of that as a primary spokesman for Kids Foot Locker. He will star in three ads for the national chain of stores between now and the end of the year, starting with this switching faces one you see above.

“Not any other summer in my life have I won an NBA championship, which has been great,” Irving told NBC Sports recently. “It’s just been awesome because of partnerships I’ve had throughout the years in my career, and now we get to put a lot of great ideas out there, and I get to be part of a lot of great things. I’m just thankful, and I’m just trying to take advantage of it, but also do it in a creative space I’m comfortable with.

“Partnering with Kids Foot Locker was just a great thing to do…. This is our next generation, so for me I’m just trying to impact our next generation anyway I can, whether it’s through telling stories with my shoes, or telling stories with any creative I’m coming out with…

“The whole switching bodies thing, I’ve seen a lot of other people do it, but to do it with a kid like Kevin (Kilumbu, the young actor in this spot) is just amazing. Little did I know he was more excited about this, about being part of this commercial with me, and then also his acting is unbelievable.”

Irving will star in a couple more ads before the end of the year, including one that drops around the Christmas holidays — right when the new Kyrie 3s are expected to drop, too.