Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: Chris Paul is still point god, outduels Westbrook


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 shooting your television because your children watch it too much (no, you shouldn’t actually do that)

1) Chris Paul is the point god, outduels Russell Westbrook. There is a reason that when you ask scouts and front office types about the best point guard in the league they mention Chris Paul. He can do it all — he can score if needed, he can set up teammates, he defends well, and there is no smarter floor general in the game. All of that was on display Wednesday. Russell Westbrook has been on a Jordanesque tear of late and Wednesday night Paul owned him. CP3 controlled the show. Paul ended up with 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting, nine assists, four rebounds, and a couple steals. More impressive was the other end where Paul played fantastic defense on Westbrook, cutting off his driving lanes and pushing him to help, forcing 10 turnovers, and contesting seemingly every shot. It was a masterful performance, one worthy of the point god.

2) Portland picked up the kind of win that made you forget about Wesley Matthews for a night. OnWednesday Wesley Matthews had surgery to reattach hisAchilles tendon. That night the Blazers looked like a team that wasn’t going to miss a step without him. Arron Afflalo started and was impressive containing James Harden (18 points on 19 shots). Afflalo was so good on defense we’ll forgive his poor shot selection and rough offensive night. The Blazers got their offense from the usual suspects (LaMarcus Aldridge had 26, Damian Lillard 14) but this was the night guys like Nicolas Batum (18 points) and Meyers Leonard (8 points in 9 minutes) stepped up as well. The Blazers played like a team that could come out of the West with a couple breaks.

3) Is Melvin Hunt the coach the Denver Nuggets need? Denver just outworked and completely outplayed the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday. The Nuggets won 115-102, but that doesn’t do justice to a game they led by 34 at one point and were in complete control of all night. The Nuggets were prepared for the Hawks actions and cut them off out on the perimeter all game. The Nuggets are 4-2 under Hunt and are playing with a renewed energy. Hunt is a highly-respected long-time assistant around the league and looks ready for the big chair. Will Nuggets management give it to him?

4) Fortunately for the Grizzlies, Mike Conley is just fine. Still Boston rose up and smacked them. It may have been a loss but for Memphis, just getting out of this game with a healthy Conley is what matters. They aren’t going anywhere without him. Conley had to be carried off the court after this.

Conley returned to the game, bu he could not stop the Celtics, who looked like a team that has found its identity and stride under Brad Stevens. (He should be on some Coach of the Year ballots, you get to name three.) Boston looked like a playoff team. They did it without Isaiah Thomas, instead getting Avery Bradley back and he had 17 buckets including some key jumpers late. The Celtics are 1.5 out of the final playoff spot right now, but games like this make you think they can make it. And have some success long-term pieces to build on.

5) If you’re lucky enough to be in one of the front rows at a game, watch the game. Or instant Karma is going to get you.

Sam Presti calls trading Kevin Durant ‘ludicrous’


Former NBA executive and current ESPN analyst Tom Penn suggested the Thunder would be more likely to trade Kevin Durant in light of Russell Westbrook’s incredible run with Durant sidelined.

Specifically, Penn cited Thunder general manager Sam Presti’s unwillingness to lose a player for nothing. Durant, of course, could leave for the Wizards, Knicks, Lakers, Raptors or any other team as an unrestricted free agent in 2016.

But Presti is shutting down that line of thinking.

Presti, via Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman (hat tip: James Herbert of

It’s ludicrous to assert that we would trade Kevin. There’s no way to measure what he represents to our organization on and off the floor. He has helped build this organization from the ground up and personifies the Thunder: past, present and future. When he’s done playing there will be streets named after him throughout the state and younger generations of Oklahomans will learn about the role Kevin has played in elevating this community in ways beyond basketball.

The Thunder might lose Durant in 2016, but there’s almost no way they trade him before that.

1. It’d be very difficult to get fair return for someone who plays like an MVP when healthy and is in the midst of his prime.

2. Trading Durant would take the pressure to stay in Oklahoma City off him and place all the scorn squarely on Presti. As the general manager says, Durant is revered in Oklahoma. Fans – to varying degrees, depending how he handled it – would despise him if he left, though. If Durant wants to accept that burden and leave, that’s on him. I doubt Presti lets him off the hook and takes the admonishment himself. Fans would loathe Presti, and Durant could remain beloved by always claiming he wanted to stay.

Thunder expect Kevin Durant back in week or two


Kevin Durant had a screw replaced into his foot, a procedure expected to keep him out at least a week.

That was two and a half weeks ago.

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoma:

In this case, there could be a big difference between one week (four games) and two weeks (eight games). The 35-28 Thunder are eighth in the Western Conference, but the 36-29 Pelicans are hot on their heals.

Russell Westbrook has done his triple-doubling best to keep Oklahoma City afloat, but the team has gone just 6-3 since Durant’s last setback. That pace probably won’t cut it against New Orleans.

The Thunder are obviously better with Durant, which you’ll see in the playoffs – if he returns quick enough now to get them in.

PBT Extra: Which team gets final playoff spot out West, Thunder or Pelicans?


The Pelicans will not go away.

At points in the past few weeks, it has seemed like Oklahoma City would run off and hide with the last playoff spot in the West. However, as of Wednesday, New Orleans and Oklahoma City were tied (NO has the tie breaker), although the Thunder are one game up in the loss column.

So who gets the spot? That’s what Jenna Corrado and I discuss in the latest PBT Extra. The Thunder have a slightly easier schedule, and they get Kevin Durant back to go with Russell Westbrook, all that makes them the favorites. But Anthony Davis and the Pelicans will not go quietly.

Also we discuss who I would prefer to have these playoffs, Davis or Westbrook? Flip a coin.

Rumor: Recent play of Russell Westbrook makes it ‘much more likely’ Kevin Durant gets traded next year


Kevin Durant will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of next season, and since he’s one of the game’s best players, that means speculation will run wild as to whether or not he’ll re-sign in Oklahoma City, or choose to play somewhere else.

In fact, it already has.

A former NBA executive (Tom Penn, now an analyst for ESPN) believes that because of the recent surge by Russell Westbrook — one in which he’s registered triple-doubles in five of his last six games — that makes it more likely that the Thunder will look to trade Durant next season if he doesn’t give an early indication that remaining with the team is a real possibility.

Penn, via ESPN’s SportsNation:

“I think this burst from Westbrook makes it much more likely that Durant ultimately gets traded next year. … Sam Presti has proven that he does not ever want to lose anybody for nothing. So he traded James Harden a year early to avoid a potential luxury tax problem a year later.

“The Kevin Durant drumbeat next year is going to be so loud because he will not commit early to Oklahoma City contractually because the rules are against that. He can’t get the same contract if he signs early as if he just goes to free agency and resigns.

So if Sam Presti doesn’t get that commitment, he’ll look to to trade Kevin Durant. And looking at the performance of Westbrook and the team around Westbrook will make it easier for him to do that potentially.”

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Despite how great Westbrook has been recently, OKC is just 3-3 in the last six games in which he’s played. His one-man wrecking crew act has been a joy to watch, but it hasn’t been enough on its own to push the Thunder to wins on anything resembling a consistent basis.

If the goal is to win a championship, Westbrook needs help. The Thunder already have the reigning MVP in Durant in place, and aren’t going to even listen to offers for him as long as there remains the slightest hope that he’ll re-sign.

Now, if Durant should go the Kevin Love route and declare to the team that he’s intent on leaving, then — and only then — will the Thunder look to trade him.

That, of course, isn’t likely to occur until after next season is finished, and is a long shot, at best — all of which makes speculating on what may or may not happen well over a year from now more than a bit silly.