Since the day after Kevin Durant said he was going to sign with Golden State — which came as a shock to a lot of people with the Thunder organization — there has been a sense from the Thunder and people close to it that they thought they could keep Russell Westbrook. That ultimately, he would prefer to stay. Few around the league were buying that, but OKC believed it.
Maybe it’s optimism. Maybe it’s reality. But the question isn’t about the 2016 season that starts in October; it’s the 2017 season. Does Westbrook want to stay with the Thunder long term and sign an extension to prove it? Or when he’s a free agent next summer does he want to at least listen to his other options? Because if it is the second option, even if Westbrook says he likely stays, well, the Thunder just went down that road and got burned. They have no choice but to move him. And he knows it. He just didn’t expect to have to make this decision now.
According to sources with knowledge of the situation, he doesn’t want to be traded. He wants to play next season with the Thunder. It’s the year after that which is in question. There’s a growing belief Westbrook will think heavily about an extension but will first weigh every angle before doing it.
That extension would put $9 million more in Westbrook’s pocket next season (because the Thunder are under the cap) and he would get raises off of that for three more seasons. It’s a good deal, what he would ultimately lose is one more guaranteed year on the end of his contract if he left the Thunder, two if he stayed.
The real question is: Does he want to be wooed as a free agent next summer?
If the answer is yes, the Thunder have no choice but to trade him — and other teams will have lowball offers unless he guarantees to re-sign where he is traded (no team is giving up many quality future assets to rent Westbrook).
If the answer is no, he should go the James Harden route and sign an extension.
Either way, the answer is coming this summer.
Jonas Jerebko? Yes, Jonas Jerebko with game-winner for Warriors
Jonas Jerebko was a quality under-the-radar pickup for Golden State last summer, a solid veteran power forward who can space the floor and hit threes.
Obviously, the Warriors got him to be their go-to player in the clutch.
Or, at least, that’s what happened in Utah on Friday night.
Jerebko inbounded the ball then rolled to the rim. Rudy Gobert put a body on him, but as Kevin Durant went up for his game-winner attempt, Gobert took a step toward him and that gave Jerebko the space to get inside Gobert. From there it was just a tip in.
This was a wildly entertaining game, where Kevin Durant dropped 38, Stephen Curry had 31, and for Utah Joe Ingles put on a show on his way to 27. Check out the finish of this game, it was amazingly fun basketball with a lot of emotion for the second game of the season.
Kawhi Leonard hears MVP chants, plays like it with 31 points, leads Raptors past Celtics 113-101
TORONTO (AP) —Kawhi Leonard had 31 points and 10 rebounds, Serge Ibaka added 21 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the Boston Celtics 113-101 on Friday night in an early matchup between Eastern Conference contenders.
Boston’s Gordon Hayward scored 14 points in 24 minutes, connecting on six of 13 field goal attempts.
Leonard made 10 of 25 attempts, including 2 of 5 from 3-point range, and went 9 for 9 at the free throw line.
Brown made a 3-pointer to give the Celtics an 87-86 lead with 9:03 remaining. VanVleet answered with a reverse layup, the first basket in a 6-0 spurt that gave Toronto the led for good.
Green and Lowry each made 3-pointers around an offensive foul by Tatum with just over two minutes remaining, giving the Raptors a 107-99 edge. Green went 4 for 7 from long range, while Lowry made 3 of 5.
Watch Caris LeVert’s game-winning layup lifting Nets over Knicks 107-105
NEW YORK (AP) — Caris LeVert‘s driving layup with a second left gave him a career-high 28 points and the Brooklyn Nets their first victory of the season, 107-105 over the New York Knicks on Friday night.
LeVert surpassed the 27 points he scored Wednesday night in Detroit, when the Nets fell just short. He made sure they pulled this one out, driving right into the lane and putting up the tiebreaking shot over Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway and Enes Kanter each scored 29 points for the Knicks, who were trying for just their third 2-0 start in 20 years. Kanter tied it on a three-point play with 15.9 seconds remaining but all they could manage for a final shot after LeVert’s basket was a long 3-pointer by Hardaway that wasn’t close.
The Nets were still without starting forwards Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who just became a father, and DeMarre Carroll, who had right ankle surgery. But they did get back Allen Crabbe, their normal starting guard who came off the bench after missing the opener while recovering sprained left ankle.
They started fast, shooting 70 percent in the first quarter, and were in control until early in the second half. Then, Kanter and Frank Ntilikina had a couple of baskets apiece in an 11-0 run that wiped out a 10-point deficit and gave the Knicks a 66-65 lead on Hardaway’s 3-pointer.
New York was ahead 76-74 after three quarters and neither team led by more than six in a back-and-forth final 12 minutes.
WNBA veteran Chasity Melvin joins Hornets’ G-League team coaching staff
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Chasity Melvin has been hired by the Charlotte Hornets’ G League team, the Greensboro Swarm, as an assistant coach.
She becomes the first female coach in Hornets and Swarm history.
The former North Carolina State standout was the 11th overall selection in the 1999 WNBA draft. She played 12 seasons in the WNBA and was an All-Star in 2001.
Melvin was part of the NBA Assistant Coaches Program, which prepares current and former NBA, WNBA and G League players for coaching careers. Former program participants include James Posey (Cavaliers), Jerry Stackhouse (Grizzlies) and Vin Baker (Bucks).
Her hire comes one day after Kristy Toliver became the first active WNBA player to become an NBA assistant when she joined the Washington Wizards.
Other female assistants in the NBA include Becky Hammon with the Spurs and Dallas’ Jenny Boucek.