Reports: Paul George traded to Oklahoma City

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Danny Ainge was patient, he wanted to secure Gordon Hayward first. Magic Johnson was patient, he believes Paul George will eventually come to him (maybe that still happens, but it’s less likely). The Cleveland Cavaliers desperately tried to make a deal but didn’t have the pieces to get a trade done, even when dangling Kevin Love.

Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti was not patient, he made his move.

The Thunder have traded for Paul George, sending Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Pacers to help start their rebuild. The trade may not formally be consummated until July 7 (after the signing moratorium), but it’s done. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the news.

Numerous other reports have confirmed this. It’s a bit surprising in that Indy had been demanding picks in every other deal but settled without one in this trade. Before you bash Danny Ainge, remember the Pacers asked for the Brooklyn pick and the Laker pick next year, plus Jae Crowder in a deal. They took far, far less from OKC.

First, for the Thunder, this is the kind of move that will make Russell Westbrook want to sign that super max contract extension the Thunder are expected to throw at him at the stroke of midnight.

Second, the Thunder roster of expensive, somewhat one-dimensional role players — Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Andre Roberson if they can retain him in free agency — was built to go around two elite stars. Their flaws were evident last year when it was one star and those role players were asked to do more. While Paul George is no Kevin Durant, the Thunder have two stars again.

George gives the Thunder another good ball handler and shot creator, plus someone who can defend on the perimeter. It will take pressure off of MVP Westbrook, and we should see a more diverse offense from them. This is a Thunder team that will be very good and, if things go right, could be in the second tier of a Western Conference suddenly looking very deep as teams line up to challenge the Warriors.

Will George, who has told people he wants to go to Los Angeles, stay in Oklahoma City when he’s a free agent next summer? Maybe. Depends on how this season plays out. How good do the Thunder look? How do the young Lakers look? There are a lot of variables at play, and George to LA has never been the done deal some tried to sell it as. This is a smart roll of the dice by the Thunder, who didn’t give up too much.

For Indiana, welcome to rebuilding around Myles Turner. The problem is, this package seems like not enough, but Sabonis is a potentially good player about to get all the run he wants. Apparently, Pacers head man Kevin Pritchard is high on Oladipo, who has four years and more than $80 million left on his contract. It’s just step one in a long process for them, but it seems more a stumble than a step.

Jeremy Lin says “at times it kind of sucks” being only Asian-American in NBA

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When Jeremy Lin landed in Toronto — after being bought out and waived by the Hawks, clearing the way for him to sign with the Raptors for the playoff push — the number of cameras and reporters in the Raptors locker room instantly ballooned. Lin remains one of the most popular players worldwide in the NBA, he’s a social media phenom, and there are cameras there to track his every move and send it around the world, particularly back to Asia.

Lin isn’t in the NBA because he’s famous and sells tickets — he’s a quality guard who can help a team, there’s a reason the contending Raptors picked him up — but he inhabits the role of both player and groundbreaker.

Lin talked about that (and Asians in popular culture) with Cary Chow of the Undefeated in an interesting Q&A at The Undefeated, where he said being the only Asian-American in the NBA is not easy.

At times it kind of sucks. At other times it’s amazing. Amazing because you get to challenge everyone’s viewpoints and perspectives. I’m rooting for so many more Asians to come in. Last year, when I was with Brooklyn and we had Ding [Yanyuhang] on the summer league team, I was like, ‘Dude, please make the team. We’d have so much fun together during the season.’

On the feeling that he has to represent an entire race.

Yeah. At first it was something I ran from and really struggled with. Now I embrace it way more and am more equipped to handle it. I’m not perfect, but I kind of know who I want to be at this point in my career, so I keep trucking along and doing things the right way and stay above all the distractions.

Lin has handled his fame deftly over the years. He has challenges and opportunities not open to other players, and that’s the balancing act. It takes someone smart, but also grounded and balanced to pull it all off. The Raptors got all that, along with the extra cameras around the team.

Mostly, though, the Raptors got a player who is going to help them make a deep playoff run.

 

Rudy Gobert re-energized ahead of Jazz at Thunder

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Rudy Gobert didn’t hide his disappointment at not making the NBA All-Star Game for the first time despite averaging 15.2 points and 12.9 rebounds while leading the league in field-goal percentage.

But coming off the 10-day break, the Utah Jazz center says he’s re-energized heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Just recharge, completely — mentally, physically,” Gobert said. “For me, I was able to get a little bit of sun and feel a lot better when I get back.

“The next two months, I feel like, will be a lot better.”

The Jazz, who have won 13 of their last 16 games, come out of the break sixth in the Western Conference but with one of the NBA’s easiest schedules down the stretch.

Utah plays just eight of its final 25 games against teams that are above .500.

One of those, though, is Friday night’s game in Oklahoma City, which sits third in the West after winning 11 of 13 before the break.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have one of the league’s most challenging schedules moving forward. Oklahoma City plays 17 of its remaining 25 games against teams above .500 including each of the first five out of the break.

The Thunder have won the first two meetings between the teams, including a 122-113 win on Dec. 10 in Oklahoma City.

An Oklahoma City win would clinch the season series for the Thunder after Utah eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has a streak of 10 consecutive triple-doubles. During that stretch, he’s averaged 21.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 13.5 assists.

Utah is hopeful backup point guard Dante Exum, who has missed the last 17 games with a left ankle sprain, will be able to return against the Thunder.

“I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot,” Gobert said.

The Thunder could have forward Markieff Morris available for the first time. Morris signed with Oklahoma City over the All-Star break after being waived by New Orleans following his trade from Washington on Feb. 7.

Morris was averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Wizards this season before suffering a neck injury in late December that has kept him out since. Morris was cleared to play two weeks ago.

“We got a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re going to be ready for the second half after this break,” Oklahoma City’s Paul George said.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “We’ll see,” when asked Thursday if Morris would play against the Jazz.

The Thunder also figure to have both starting forward Jerami Grant and backup point guard Dennis Schroder back after each missed the last two games before the break, Grant with an ankle injury and Schroder after the birth of his child.

Friday’s game is the start of a back-to-back for both teams, with the Jazz hosting Dallas on Saturday and Oklahoma City hosting Sacramento.

 

Raptors fans welcome DeMar DeRozan back with loud, standing ovation

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DeMar DeRozan was the greatest Raptor ever. He was an All-Star, he presided over the best seasons in franchise history, and he’s the one guy who re-signed and stood up for a city that has an inferiority complex around its basketball team.

Toronto fans understood the trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to the team — it’s an upgrade on the court — but their love for DeRozan is real.

They showed that on Friday night when DeRozan returned to Toronto for the first time as a member of the Spurs — he got a raucous ovation upon his introduction.

Early in the game he gave them a taste of what he did for them for years, getting the and-1 bucket on the drive.

Marcus Smart hits halfcourt shot at practice, celebrates with a back flip

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The celebration is more impressive than the shot.

After a tough loss to Milwaukee on Thursday, the Celtics traveled to Chicago to take on the Bulls on Saturday. Friday they had a practice in the Northwestern University facility.

It’s there Marcus Smart drains a halfcourt shot. Impressive. But not nearly as impressive as the backflip celebration.

I did not know Smart had that in him.