Thunder look cool (except for Westbrook who got hot) in easy win over Grizzlies

14 Comments

It was a perfect storm of bad for Memphis — they trade their leading scorer Rudy Gay, who is out shopping for a much more extensive winter wardrobe, but his replacements (Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye) have yet to arrive. Then you are on the road against a rested Oklahoma City team who has used its days off to work out some kinks.

The result is the Thunder opening the game 9-for-9 shooting getting a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter and never looking back as Oklahoma City cruises to a 106-89 over Memphis . This game wasn’t really that interesting to watch and the Thunder came off looking cool.

Well, except for Russell Westbrook, who got a little bit hot in the third quarter.

Westbrook got called for a five-second violation while trying to back-down the smaller Jerryd Bayless. Thabo Sefalosha had cut through the lane during the time and Westbrook had words with him afterwards. We should note, the Thunder were up 15 at the time.

Westbrook went to the bench where Mo Cheeks tried to calm him, then Westbrook stormed into the tunnel. He eventually returned to the bench with a towel over his head. Coach Scott Brooks kept him on the bench the rest of the third quarter.

Of course, after the game Westbrook played it off as nothing.

In the time he sat, Memphis made its one push. Early in the third the Thunder had their lead up to 25 but Memphis went on 27-14 run. Near end of the third quarter Memphis got the lead down to 10 and it was a 12-point game to start the fourth.

That’s when Westbrook returned. Memphis’ coach Lionel Hollins was shorthanded and needed to get his wing players some rest so he went big to start the fourth — Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur all on the court at once — and athleticism of Thunder quickly got some transition baskets and stretched lead out to 17. From there the rout was back on.

Kevin Durant had 27 points, Russell Westbrook 21 and Kevin Martin 16 for a Thunder team that shot 55.6 percent on the night.

Memphis’ Randolph had a really rough night — he shot 0-for-9 for the first half and was 4-of-17 total in the game, although he did grab 19 boards. Marc Gasol had a good night with 16 points and 7 rebounds, while Bayless added 23 points. But as a team the Grizzlies shot just 34.7 percent.

We’re going to see how Memphis’ already struggling offense — they were 23rd in the NBA in points scored per possession with Gay — works with its new players. But this was not the night, and if you’re going to have an off night against a rested Thunder team on the road is going to be a rough place for it.

Kevin Durant’s brother says Instagram comment wasn’t about star leaving Warriors this summer

AP Photo/Ben Margot
Leave a comment

Rumors about Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors are intensifying. Even people within the Golden State organization are bracing themselves for him to depart in free agency next summer.

Not even the Warriors collecting their championship rings could stop the momentum.

In fact, last night’s celebration contributed to the noise.

Kevin’s brother, Tony, commented on Kevin’s Instagram post featuring the rings, “Filling the hand up before we get outta here!”

Rob Perez of The Action Network:

My best guess was “here” meant the Warriors’ arena in Oakland. This is their last season there before moving to a new arena in San Francisco Francisco.

Or maybe “here” meant in the NBA. Careers in the NBA are finite.

Another thought that crossed my mind: “Here” could have meant in this world. Lives, too, are finite.

The only clear part: Tony wants Kevin to win a handful of rings. The deadline is nebulous.

Of course, the loudest speculation was “here” meant playing for the Warriors and this being the last run. But Tony sharply denied that.

Perez:

If you want to be a conspiracy theorist, perhaps Tony meant leaving Golden State after this season but Kevin just instructed him to downplay it to quiet chatter. I suppose that’s possible, though it wouldn’t jibe with Kevin’s tell-the-truth-about-free-agency approach.

Occam’s Razor suggests taking Tony at his word, and that’s what I’ll do.

Report: Tom Thibodeau raised asking price for Jimmy Butler after infamous practice

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
3 Comments

After sitting out while awaiting a trade rehabbing after injuring his wrist, Jimmy Butler practiced with the Timberwolves for the first time last week. He reportedly showed up late, talked a ton of trash and led third-stringers to a win over the starters then left early.

Amidst widespread speculation they had to trade Butler after that, the Tom Thibodeau-run Timberwolves put out word they considered it their best practice of the year.

Maybe Thibodeau is that insanely competitive. Maybe he was just trying to preserve leverage.

If it were the latter, he sure stuck to his story.

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

Teams who talked to Minnesota after his first practice, literally the day after his practice, Minnesota was asking for more then than they were before the day. Which tells you this: Minnesota is not trading him. They’re asking for packages that know teams aren’t going to agree to.

The Timberwolves are in a though spot. Butler is an excellent player, but everyone knows he wants out. I don’t blame them for trying to maximize their limited leverage.

How will Butler react to this revelation, though? Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he told Butler the team would seek a trade. Butler pledged to play hard in the meantime.

But if Butler playing hard just makes it less likely Minnesota will trade him, will he feel as if the team isn’t holding up its end of the bargain? Then what?

It has long seemed Taylor and Thibodeau are on different pages on several issues. Though Taylor just backed Thibodeau, Butler could drive a wedge even deeper between the owner and president-coach.

Russell Westbrook sneak-snacking steals show on NBA’s opening night

1 Comment

NBA’s opening night was quite tame. The Celtics and Warriors won as expected, neither the 76ers nor Thunder mounting much of a challenge.

That allowed Russell Westbrookout with an injury — to have the most fun moment when he looked around deviously, turned to his side and ate something.

What did did Westbrook eat? Was he not supposed to be eating? Did he not want to share? Big questions remain unanswered surrounding this important incident.

Joel Embiid on 76ers-Celtics: ‘This is not a rivalry … They always kick our ass’

2 Comments

The 76ers-Celtics rivalry is being renewed.

But it’s not there yet, according to Philadelphia center Joel Embiid.

The 76ers are 3-19 against Boston since drafting Embiid, and though that includes multiple tanking years, Philadelphia hasn’t fared much better since getting good. The 76ers went 2-7 against the Celtics last season, including 1-4 in their second-round playoff series. Philadephia followed that with a season-opening loss to the Celtics last night.

Embiid, via Matt Haughton of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“JJ (Redick) mentioned it earlier, this is not a rivalry,” Embiid said to reporters after the Sixers’ 105-87 season-opening loss to the Boston Celtics (see observations). “I don’t know our record against them but it’s pretty bad. They always kick our ass.”

I appreciate Embiid’s directness. We can all see the problem. There’s no point denying it.

The subtext is Embiid’s motivation to change this status quo, and a lot of it does fall in Embiid. Al Horford has given him fits. Even Aron Baynes worked him at times last night. Embiid is talented and far younger than those two. He’ll eventually get there.

In the meantime, he’s not mincing words.