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Without Durant, does Oklahoma City have to trade Russell Westbrook, rebuild?

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Oklahoma City came within a game of being in the NBA Finals, where they certainly would have been at least very competitive.

Within a year, they could be another rebuilding team in a small market.

It’s all in the hands of Russell Westbrook.

Kevin Durant has decided to play for the Golden State Warriors. There is an understandable sense of shock and betrayal by Thunder fans — they look back at the final minutes of Game 6 in the Western Conference Finals and realize that has forever changed the franchise. KD praised Oklahoma City on his way out the door, but for Thunder fans it feels like Durant went back on his words and who he said he was.

That doesn’t change the fact that in the coming weeks and months, Oklahoma City’s front office faces a very difficult decision:

Do they need to trade Westbrook? If so, then it’s time to begin a total rebuild.

The trade Westbrook question comes down to this: Does he want to stay? Westbrook is a free agent next summer. The Thunder need to sit down with Westbrook and his agent/team soon and get a sense of his plans. They can offer him a contract renegotiation and extension, something Brian Windhorst at ESPN says they will propose. They can give him three more years and add $8 million more to the deal, according to the report. However, even if he wants to stay, he will not take the extension because under the CBA he makes way more money becoming a free agent then re-signing with his team.

There is a sense from some in the league that Westbrook was always drawn to the bright lights of a bigger market, and with Durant gone he would bolt, too.

That’s not the feeling inside the Thunder front office. They have felt Durant was the one feeling the pull of outside forces to leave. Now the Thunder is Westbrook’s team, OKC believes he wants that and they can sell him on staying because and being the lone star with all the top billing.

However, if Westbrook says he’s going to take meetings with other teams next summer and hasn’t made up his mind, then the Thunder need to look at the trade market for Westbrook to get something for him now and jump start a rebuild. The Thunder would not get equal value back in a trade, but if they feel he might leave next summer they need to get some return rather than the nothing they get if he leaves as a free agent.

Westbrook would have some leverage in this trade — because he is a free agent next summer, if he tells a market “I will not re-sign with you” said team would be foolish to give up assets to get him.

If he does want a change, there are a couple of star-hungry teams that may entice Westbrook. Boston just landed Al Horford, and they are loaded with young assets and draft picks that could interest the Thunder. Put Westbrook and Horford with Isaiah Thomas and good role players, and it’s a team that could threaten Cleveland in the East.

Westbrook’s hometown Lakers is another option. The sides could exchange point guards — D'Angelo Russell — and the Lakers have other interesting young pieces that Thunder may value. Even with Westbrook and young players like Brandon Ingram, the Lakers would be a few years away (certainly they are no immediate threat to Golden State, and they would be worse than OKC with Westbrook). The pitch in L.A. is Westbrook would take over for Kobe Bryant as the face of the franchise, and this could be a very good team in a few years with other smart moves by management (Westbrook would need to decide if he trusts the current Laker management to make those moves).

There are numerous other teams that would be interested as well, from Miami through New York. Westbrook and the Thunder would have options.

Oklahoma City just hopes not to go down that road.

OKC faces other tough questions, too. The big one: Should they match offers from other teams to keep Dion Waiters (or just re-sign the restricted free agent)?

It sucks in the wake of the emotional, heartbreaking loss of Durant for Thunder fans to contemplate moving their other star, but Thunder management has no choice. Durant made his decision, and it has forced other, tough ones on the Thunder. Decisions with no perfect answer.

But in the end the call on Westbrook is clear cut: If he’s going to leave next summer, they need to get something for him while they can.

Jamal Crawford finds it “baffling” no team has called to sign him yet

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Iman Shumpert got his call from the Brooklyn Nets.

Carmelo Anthony got his call from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Jamal Crawford is still waiting for his call, and he’s confused why it hasn’t yet come. From Shaun Powell of NBA.com.

“I know I can play,” Crawford told NBA.com, “and I would think my reputation is still solid. It’s baffling to me…

“Physically, I feel better than I did last season,” he said. “I’m able to get my body together. My skill set is sharp. I feel that I’m good. My mindset is be patient and hopefully something good comes about it. I’ll be ready for the opportunity.”

Like Anthony, Crawford needs the right role, but he can help teams.

He’s not young at age 39 but, in the right situation, he could help a team get buckets off the bench. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year has slowed in recent years, and his defense is a bigger concern to front offices, but the man still averaged 7.9 points per game last season off the bench and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the end of last season (including a 51-point game against Dallas). 

Some team is going to give Crawford a chance. Probably. Until then, he is staying ready, waiting for the phone to ring.

 

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks over not one but two Pacers (VIDEO)

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Once Giannis Antetokounmpo gets rolling downhill, good luck.

The Pacers found that out the hard way with not one but two players getting dunked on by the Greek Freak. On the same dunk.

Damn. That’s not fair.

It’s also not the only highlight play for Antetokounmpo on the night.

Milwaukee was up double digits on the Pacers early in the fourth quarter, and of course, Antetokounmpo was leading the way.

NBA teams enhancing fan experience with high-tech replays

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ATLANTA (AP) — NBA fans will soon be able to look up at the big videoboard above the court and get a different look at that deep Trae Young 3-pointer early in the first quarter. Or see a different perspective of that monstrous Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk.

In a reversal of roles, NBA teams are bringing the video game experience back to the live action – one arena at a time.

The Atlanta Hawks Friday will become the fifth NBA team to unveil significant financial investments into new 360-degree replay technology designed to eventually give fans the power to change the way they see the game.

“It’s the wave of the future,” said Hawks vice-president of live experience Joe Abercrombie, who says the technology also is “one more thing to give people a reason to come” to the arena.

The Bucks, Mavericks, Pacers, Wizards and now the Hawks are using the technology to package and replay highlights in the arena during games. The Bulls, who host the 2020 All-Star game, are scheduled to come online next month.

“It’s very nice. I especially like that up-above view,” said Allen Hazlett a fan from New Berlin, Wisconsin, after seeing the new technology at Thursday night’s Bulls-Bucks game in Milwaukee.

“I think it’s an added benefit for the fans. For those that aren’t here all the time, to see that, I think, really ups the fan experience for them. I don’t think people realize until you go somewhere else and you don’t see it how lucky we are to have this arena. Everything here is state of the art.”

The six teams have joined NBA partner Intel, which provides the technology for the new video replays. The process begins with 38 5K video cameras strategically located around arenas. The high-tech cameras work together, bringing 360-degree replays to in-game video boards, TV broadcasts and fans’ devices through social media.

It’s the latest effort by teams to entice ticket-buying fans to come to new and renovated NBA arenas. Atlanta spent almost $200 million to renovate State Farm Arena; Milwaukee last year opened its $477 Fiserv Forum.

“For us it was really a no-brainer,” said Matt Pazaras, the Bucks’ senior vice president for business development and strategy.

“There’s nothing like seeing a Giannis dunk live, and if we can supplement that experience with this technology, great. But if people are experiencing the Bucks wherever they are, hours away or thousands of miles away, we can still make the experience better.”

NFL fans already have seen 360 replays on TV. Those replays start from the traditional side camera before swinging around to bring the viewer behind the quarterback.

Not that the NFL was first in line.

Gamers have been manipulating all-angle replays for years. Video game-savvy kids may roll their eyes when their parents come home from NBA games eager to share their stories about their first looks at 360-degree replays.

Those video games were designed to mimic the real games. Now it’s time for some role-reversal.

Rich Green, Intel’s director of sports, said popular video games Madden NFL 19 and NBA 2K20 “have camera angles and if you do replays, you can spin the camera around.”

Added Green: “Now we’re going to have that in live games. Now they can watch their favorite player and follow just him. It increases their level of engagement.”

The new technology isn’t just for the fans.

Coaches and scouts can make use of the enhanced replays to improve player evaluations.

“I think the future of this is going to weigh heavy for basketball operations and player development,” Abercrombie said.

Players now have better tools to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Abercrombie said players who take dozens of shots in a practice can now study their shooting form in a new way.

“Players have asked ‘Can I shootaround and you take a look at the way I’m shooting and I want to spin around and take a look at the way I’m releasing,”‘ he said. “You think about traditional coverage of a game, there’s only four angles. Two on the floor and two up.

“When you think about 360 view and repetitive shooting over and over again, they can say ‘Oh, I see where my tendencies are.”‘

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, a former executive at Turner Entertainment, says TV sports leaders have dreamed for years of the day fans could control the way they watch a game.

“We’ve been reading for years that ‘You can be the director,”‘ Koonin said. “Actually, you can do that with this. The capabilities are unbelievable. … We think it’s the next generation of sports media.”

Green said there is more to come as new ways to utilize the technology will be found that are not yet possible.

Green said such high-tech terms as “voxels” – similar to pixels in the 3D age – and “volumetric video” will become common. He said fans will be able to follow a game from the viewpoint of their favorite player.

“How you watch a play could be completely different from how I watch it based on how we control what angle we want to see,” Green said. “That’s why we’re just scratching the surface.”

 

Watch Lance Stephenson get into flopping battle in China

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You can take the flopper out of the NBA but you can’t take the flopping out of his game.

Unable to land an NBA contract this season, Lance Stephenson signed with the Liaoning Flying Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association. He has taken his flopping skills to China.

However, he may have met his match with one Chinese player, who tried to sell a non-contact, off-the-ball, sniper-in-the-grassy-knoll level flop that even legendary flopper Vlade Divac would have called extreme. The Chinese referees saw through that and awarded a technical to Stephenson’s team.

Then Stephenson drew another foul later in the game with a flop as he tried to grab the ball away from a player after the play. That drew a foul on the opposing player, who complained and then got his own technical.

It’s all just Lance being Lance.