Can Thunder, without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, overcome their first identity crisis?


Few, if any, duos have defined a team’s presence in a city like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with the Thunder.

Since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City, Durant and/or Westbrook has played in 550 of the Thunder’s 551 games including playoffs

The lone exception, a win over Boston last January, will soon have plenty of company.

Durant is out with a fractured foot, and Westbrook broke his hand. Oklahoma City will have to play many games without its two stars – a big adjustment.

In fact, seeing the Thunder play at all without Durant and/or Westbrook is a rare sight.

As the Oklahoma City Thunder, they’ve played 85 percent of their minutes with at least one of Durant/Westbrook on the court.

Here’s the breakdown

  • Just Durant: dark blue
  • Just Westbrook: light blue
  • Both: orange



Westbrook’s and Durant’s injuries come at an especially bad time considering Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Anthony Morrow, Mitch McGary and Grant Jerrett are also hurt.

Oklahoma City will have a lot to overcome in all facets, but scoring will be a particular problem.

Serge Ibaka, who averaged 15.1 points per game last season, is the clear leader among healthy Thunder, but he’s ill-equipped to serve as a No. 1 option. Last season, 80 percent of his field goals were assisted.

After Ibaka, no healthy Thunder averaged more points per game last season than Nick Collison – 4.2. Woof.

Kevin Pelton of ESPN used a statistical formula to project Oklahoma City’s offense without Durant and Westbrook, and the Thunder rated ahead of only the 76ers, who are sporting a glorified D-League roster.

Comparisons to Philadelphia should trouble Oklahoma City, which still hopes to compete for home-court advantage in at least one round of the playoffs. Really, if Durant and Westbrook miss too much time, the 0-2 Thunder could fall into a deep enough hole that even reaching the postseason becomes questionable in the loaded West. (I wonder whether Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti regrets rallying owners to reject a proposal that would have made it much more likely the best lottery teams receive high picks.)

The Thunder, considering their recent success, have stocked themselves with an incredible amount of young talent. Perry Jones has impressively stepped up in place of Durant, scoring 32 points in a loss to the Clippers yesterday.

But this is still Durant’s and Westbrook’s team, just as it has been since arriving in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder have a strong identity. They’re just playing without the players who define it.

These next few weeks will be a huge challenge.

Heat: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic doubtful for Game 2 of NBA Finals

Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic
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Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.


This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.

Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.

At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.


Report: Tyronn Lue ‘early favorite’ to become Clippers head coach

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Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.

As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.

Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.

New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.

Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.

How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.

Victor Oladipo denies trade rumor he wants out of Indiana

Victor Oladipo
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It was a trade rumor that kind of came out of nowhere — maybe more as a thought exercise for Celtics fans hoping to move on from Gordon Hayward — but it got traction: Victor Oladipo reportedly wanted out of Indiana.

Not true, Oladipo said.

Oladipo jumped on Instagram Live with rapper Fat Joe and shot down the rumors (hat tip Clutch Points):

“I’m a Pacer. I’m a Pacer…

“Those rumors on the internet, I don’t know where they’re coming from, I’m just focused on getting my knee right for next year.”

He said later in the interview he wants a ring, he wants “hardware” because that is needed to show you are one of the greats, and he would consider leaving the Pacers to get it. But that wasn’t a short-term thing. (Also, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, John Stockton, Elgin Baylor and a lot of other guys would like to talk with you about that attitude.)

Oladipo returned mid-season from his knee injury to a Pacers’ team that finished as the four seed in the East but got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat.

Oladipo never quite returned to his All-NBA form after coming back from injury and averaged just 14.5 points a game in the 19 regular season games he did play. Oladipo is owed $21 million next season, the last year of his current deal.

Whether he wants out of Indiana or not, at $21 million and with questions about just what level of player he is post-injury, there is not much of a trade market for Victor Oladipo. Indiana more than likely runs it back under a new coach — who has yet to be chosen — and banks on a healthy Oladipo helping the team make the next step.