Kurt Helin

Russell Westbrook

Five Things We Learned in NBA Thursday: Oklahoma City may be best in West now

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while wondering why you get the munchies while high

1) Oklahoma City should now be the favorite to win the West. The lowest seed to win the NBA title was the Houston Rockets as the six seed (the only eight seed to make the NBA Finals was the 1999 Knicks). The Thunder may rewrite that history. Oklahoma City was a potential contender before Thursday — healthy again this was the same team that made the conference finals last season and, once Serge Ibaka returned, gave San Antonio all it could handle. But they won the trade deadline Thursday adding Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin, and Steve Novak. They now have a bench they can trust in the playoffs, something they have lacked since James Harden left. If you had any question how good the Thunder are you could see it Thursday night as they jumped on a good Dallas team early and never let up. The one concern with OKC is health — Kevin Durant’s surgically-repaired foot was clearly bothering him Thursday night. The West remains loaded and to count out Golden State, Memphis, San Antonio, or a few other teams is a mistake. But right now, I’d bet on OKC.

2) Tim Duncan can still dunk. Watch out Zach LaVine, the Big Fundamental is coming for you. First he did this on DeAndre Jordan (more on him later):

Then later in the game Duncan (who had 30 points on 12-of-14 shooting) did this:

3) Sam Hinkie likes to blow things up. I’ve been in the corner of the Sixers’ GM through all of this rebuild that has become the poster child for tanking — for the Sixers to become elite the core needs to be built through the draft. I’ve said we need to wait until 2018 to truly judge this plan. And I still believe those things — but I don’t get today’s moves. These Sixers were starting to develop an identity. They were playing good defense, and while the offense lacked shooting you could envision them becoming dangerous with Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and some more picks coming over the next couple years. So Hinkie blew it up. I could live with trading Michael Carter-Williams for the Lakers first round pick that belonged to the Suns (top five protected this year, top three next year; the Lakers stink that should be a very high pick). But I don’t get trading K.J. McDaniels just because they have to pay him some this summer — now the Sixers are going to pay JaVale McGee instead, because they took him on to get a pick. At some point all the assets need to become players and you started to see that in Philly, but the team was blown up again. It’s time to build something. But I’ll reserve total judgement for a few more years.

4) Portland quietly had a big day Thursday. With the frenzy of trades at the deadline there was a lot of buzz about how the Thunder got better, how the Sixers got worse, and what the Suns were doing (Brett Pollakoff of PBT liked their moves, I’m not a fan). Lost in all that — Portland had a fantastic trade deadline. They are a team with questions at the three and questions about depth, they went out and added Arron Afflalo from the Nuggets. This is a fantastic fit, a sixth man who can knock down the three, is a solid defender and can create his own shot on the wing playing the two or three. Portland’s starting five — Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez — outscores opponents by 9.6 points per 100 possessions, but when the team goes to the bench things go sideways. Afflalo helps change that. Portland just got a lot better.

5) Blake who? DeAndre Jordan finding offensive game at right time. That’s three wins in a row for the Clippers without Blake Griffin, this time Jordan put up 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting plus he had 18 rebounds. He was a force inside from the very start and was the focal point all night because Gregg Popovich went to the “hack-the-DJ” strategy. It worked in the first half when Jordan was 4-of-14 from the line, then in the second half he was 6-of-14 but the Clippers did not surrender their lead. With the Dallas loss to OKC, the Clippers are now the five seed in the West, and while things will change before the end of the season so far they are not slipping down the ladder without Griffin. And DJ is the main reason.

Plus, he did this.

Chris Bosh undergoing lung tests at Miami hospital

Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks
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This is potentially scary. Hopefully it turns out to be nothing.

Miami Heat All-Star center Chris Bosh checked into a hospital on Thursday night to get tests on his lungs, reports the Miami Herald.

Bosh was “under the weather” on Wednesday when he reported to practice, according to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, and team trainers sent Bosh to see a doctor. He did not attend practice Thursday and was instead admitted to the hospital.

Initial tests on Bosh, 30, were inconclusive, according to a team spokesman. An independent source confirmed for the Miami Herald that the initial tests were on Bosh’s lungs.

While there has been that this could be a blood clot, we do not yet know what those tests found. Stl, Joseph Goodman of the Herald added this.

Bosh has been the focal point of the Heat this season, scoring 21.1 points per game and adding seven rebounds a game for the Heat. He has stepped up his game in the absence LeBron James this season.

Miami traded for Goran Dragic on Thursday, and Pat Riley clearly believes Miami can do some damage in the playoffs starting this year. But that will not happen without a healthy Bosh.

Report: Bulls, Cavaliers frontrunners to land Kendrick Perkins after timeout

2014 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day
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What the Jazz got out of the three-team trade that shipped out Enis Kanter was the Thunder’s first-round 2017 pick (which has protections), Grant Jerrett, and the draft rights to Tibor Pleiss.

They also got Kendrick Perkins, but the plan was always to buy him out.

A number of teams expressed interest, but it’s down to a couple potential Eastern Conference contenders, reports David Aldridge of TNT and NBA.com.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports added this:

While Perkins has an interest in joining the Dallas Mavericks, owner Mark Cuban says his team has no intention of signing the 12-year NBA veteran to a deal.

That leaves out the Clippers, who certainly have interest and their coach Doc Rivers has a relationship with Perkins. But if Perkins is looking for a ring he’s more likely to get to the Finals and get a chance at it in the East. The Clippers will struggle to get out of the West, especially if they slide far down the standings with Blake Griffin out.

Perkins could back up Timofey Mozgov in Cleveland or Joakim Noah in Chicago. Perkins is a shadow of the 2008 Perkins who helped Boston win a ring, but neither the Bulls nor Cavaliers would ask much of him.

Tributes pour in for Blazers’ legend Jerome Kersey

Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers
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It came as a surprise to learn Wednesday that Trail Blazers legend Jerome Kersey had passed away at age 52. A blood clot that started in his leg and traveled to his lung caused his untimely and unexpected death.

The tributes have poured in. Above you see Kersey’s former teammate Terry Porter, who was overcome with emotion. His former coach Rick Adelman released this statement, via CSNNW.com.

“Jerome was a special person. I’ve known Jerome since he came into the league. How he earned his spot on our roster is an inspiring story and underscores just what a warrior he was. He never quit. He was someone you could count on every time he stepped on the court. He was just such a rock for those special Trail Blazers teams. He also cared about the community and was always giving back. My condolences go out to his family, friends and all those that knew and loved him.”

Blazers legend and another former Kersey teammate Clyde Drexler said this to CSNNW.com.

“It is so sad,” said former Portland teammate Clyde Drexler, his voice cracking over the telephone. “It is a huge loss for the Portland community. He was the greatest guy, the nicest friend, teammate and brother. He was loved by everyone. We will all miss him. He just cared so much. This is unbelievable.”

A number of current players commented on Twitter.

Three-team trade: Michael Carter-Williams to Bucks, Brandon Knight to Suns, 2015 first round pick to Sixers

Michael Carter-Williams
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In what was an insane final rush before the trade deadline, the Philadelphia 76ers sent reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams to Milwaukee as part of a three-team deal that included Phoenix.

In return, the Sixers get the Lakers’ top-five protected 2015 first round pick that was owed to Phoenix, while the Suns get Brandon Knight from the Bucks (to help replace Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, who were sent out).

Milwaukee also receives Mason Plumlee and Tyler Ennis from Phoenix.

Adrian Wojnarowski was first with the story, but it was quickly confirmed by multiple sources.

This trade broke all at once — with some false reports along the way — but here’s how it shakes out.

What the Sixers got that they wanted more is picks. Maybe some very good picks.

That pick is top five protected this season and next (it’s likely the Lakers are one of the five worst teams in the league this year, but 2016 is up in the air).

The Bucks are fans of Carter-Williams and they landed their man (on a rookie deal) along with Tyler Enis and Miles Plumlee of the Suns. That’s three guys with some potential. They wanted to get rid of Knight because they were afraid he would get overpaid this season.

The Suns may be willing to pay Knight because he will make less than Dragic. Knight is averaging 17.8 points a game, shooting 40.9 percent from three and has a PER of 18.5. He was a borderline All-Star in the East and can be a solid fit next to Bledsoe.

The Suns made massive changes to the roster through multiple deals — they traded away both Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, they get in return two Miami first round picks (likely 2017 and 2019), the Cavaliers 2016 first-round pick, Marcus Thornton, Kendall Marshall, Danny Granger, Shawne Williams, and Justin Hamilton, in addition to Knight. They have remade the roster, and not in a way that’s just about grabbing the eight seed this season.