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Three Things We Learned Sunday: Russell Westbrook on doorstep of history

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We know you were busy Sunday, doing things like making your ham and cheese sandwich look like Vin Diesel, so you may have missed out on the day’s NBA action. We’ve got your back, here are the big takeaways from Sunday around the league.

1) Russell Westbrook steps to the doorstep of history with 40th triple-double of the season, but Thunder fall to Hornets. When Russell Westbrook racks up a triple-double, the Thunder usually win: They are 31-9 when he gets one, 12-24 when he falls short.

He got another one on Sunday — his sixth straight — scoring 40 points, pulling down 13 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists. That’s 40 triple-doubles this season for Westbrook, just one shy of Oscar Robertson’s NBA record with six games left. It was another impressive night, and now Westbrook is just 11 rebounds and 29 assists short of clinching a triple-double season average.

All that wasn’t enough to get the win Sunday against Charlotte, the first time in nine years the Hornets beat the Thunder in OKC. Kemba Walker led the way with 29 points. The Hornets are now just one game back of Miami for the final playoff slot in the East, this is a team that has played much better than its record this year (they have the point differential of a 41-36 team) and sneaking into the postseason would be a little bit of justice.

This loss, plus the Clippers win streak, means sixth-seed Oklahoma City is not going to catch Los Angeles for the five seed. OKC needs some more wins to stay ahead of Memphis in the seven seed, just a game-and-a-half back of the Thunder.

Westbrook’s triple-double wasn’t the only one Sunday — Golden State left it’s starters in late in a win over the Wizards and ran plays for Draymond Green to get him the triple-double. The Wizards’ complained, but to them I’d say “if you don’t like it, stop them.” However, Nate Duncan made a great point talking to Warriors fans.


2) LeBron James and Paul George put on a show in double-overtime Cavaliers win.
The Cavaliers had been coasting lately, playing uninspired games because it didn’t look or feel like the playoffs yet. Paul George made sure it did on Sunday, dropping 43, and LeBron James woke up and responded with 41 of his own (to go with 16 rebounds and 11 assists).

The result was a double-overtime thriller that the Cavaliers eventually won 135-130. In the long grind of the NBA season, this was one of the most entertaining games we’ve seen.

With the win Cleveland remains just half a game back of Boston for the top seed in the East, and the teams are tied in the loss column. With the loss, the Pacers are now tied with the Heat for the final playoff slot in the East, Indiana is in real danger of missing out on the postseason altogether. Which is not going to make George happy (and that has implications heading into the summer).

3) Derrick Rose is done for the season, but the real question is what happens to free agent Rose this summer? Derrick Rose had missed a couple of games with what the Knicks had termed a “sore knee,” but after getting an MRI they found a torn meniscus that will require surgery. Obviously, that end’s Rose’s season, he’s going to need 6-8 weeks to recover.

What does another knee surgery mean for Rose as he heads into free agency this summer? Since his MVP season, Rose has never played in more than 66 games in a season (64 this season), and yes that’s going to color teams’ thinking. I would be shocked if any team offered Rose more than two guaranteed years. I doubt a good team would offer him more than $12 million a year (and that may be the top end).

In our PBT Podcast a few weeks back, Derrick Rose’s agent B.J. Armstrong echoed his player and said what mattered most to Rose was winning. Everyone says that, of course, but when the time comes they want money and a significant role on a team. If Rose really cared about winning more than anything else, I could see him taking a two-year deal with a contender to come off the bench and lead a second unit (like Rajon Rondo has done since the All-Star break in Chicago). Rose is still a solid NBA point guard, but if he wants to be a starter and have the ball in his hands, he’s not heading to a team that’s a real playoff threat — the teams that can offer him that chance are not in a good spot.

The knee injury will certainly impact Rose’s summer options, but what matters most is what kind of team Rose really wants to be on, what kind of role he’s willing to play, and how much money he’s willing to sacrifice to win.

Report: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.