Rumor: Paul George is “gone” in Oklahoma City

Getty
11 Comments

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George recently said it’s too soon for him to think about his pending free agency. We knew that was just talk, especially given the amount of time and server space that’s been dedicated to writing about rumors George is destined to choose somewhere more to his liking, probably the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now, with the Thunder season over thanks to the Utah Jazz, we can talk openly once again about where George might be headed. And as we’ve heard before, there are rumblings that George is soon to make his exit from Oklahoma City.

Speaking on his radio show this week, ESPN’s Ryen Russillo said that his source close to the team believes George leaving the Thunder is all but a done deal.

Via ESPN (transcribed by Slam):

Russillo: “Today is the first time I’ve heard from anybody that I trust that George is gone.”

To L.A.?

Russillo: “I don’t know where. It’s a ‘He’s gone’ deal.”

I heard (ESPN reporter) Royce Young say George thinks he’s leaning toward staying. George made it seem in the press conference after Game 6 that he genuinely was torn and maybe even wanted to stay…

Russillo: “I’m skeptical of sharing it […] because all of us watching (the press conference) were like, ‘Why would you even come back to this thing?’

“And I was like, Where is he going then? And (the source) was like, ‘All we know is that he’s gone.’ […]

“I know what Royce Young said, and I saw that coverage of it. Royce is fantastic and he would know better than I because he’s there.

“But Paul George also is somebody who knows what to say. But I wouldn’t trust anything he says.”

George going to the Lakers is the favorite hypothetical scenario, especially when you look at the other teams with enough cap space to sign him to a deal outright. It’s basically the Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Indiana Pacers. The Sixers are the most intriguing out of that group, obviously, but the rumor there is more about LeBron James.

So if George picks the Lakers, where does that leave the Thunder? It’s not a great position to be in considering the teams preparing for the Golden State Warriors’ window to close. That includes the Houston Rockets and younger teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves. OKC is sort of caught in the middle and they’re probably about to lose their second-best player.

The joke is that Sam Presti drafted three MVPs and managed to keep the worst one. That skips over the context of losing Kevin Durant, although trading James Harden in order to keep Serge Ibaka will not be a career highlight for the Thunder GM. More importantly, the roster construction for Oklahoma City is patchwork outside of Westbrook, Steven Adams, and Andre Roberson.

Hell, if Carmelo Anthony really does opt-in to the final year of his contract and continue to be a stickler about being a starter, the Thunder might take a bigger dip than we expect next year without George. Watching Westbrook go nuclear on people could be hard to indulgently watch if the team around him gets worse.

So while the grabbing headline here appears to be George, the continued degradation of the Thunder roster following a high water mark in 2012 and a quick tumble following Durant’s departure might be the real story long-term.

We’ll have to wait to see what George does, but no doubt it won’t be in the best interest of Thunder fans.

Ja Morant fined $35,000 for using ‘ inappropriate language’ toward referee

0 Comments

A frustrated Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant must have used some special language near the end of the Grizzlies’ loss to the Timberwolves, because both were ejected within a matter of minutes near the end of the game Wednesday night.

The league fined Morant $35,000 for “confronting and directing inappropriate language toward a game official and failing to leave the court in a timely manner following his ejection.”

Morant was not demonstrative at the time and was clearly surprised by the ejection. Before leaving the court he dapped up Anthony Edwards (who was shooting free throws) and a couple of other players before heading back to the locker room. Afterward Morant took to social media.

If the official said that to Morant, he should also be punished. The league can’t come down on players for not showing the referees respect if it’s not a two-way street.

It was an ugly loss for the Grizzlies, who fell to a Timberwolves team without Karl-Anthony Towns.

Teams reportedly watching to see if Bulls make stars available; Lakers had internal discussions on it

0 Comments

It was a talking point going into the season: What teams we thought would be good will struggle, and then pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama in the lottery.

What about the 9-13 Chicago Bulls? They barely look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even at their best where do they fall in the East? Would they blow it up? With DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine, they have players that would interest other teams and could bring quality picks (or young players) back to Chicago. Other teams are watching, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

One of those teams: The Los Angeles Lakers.

That is according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe on the Lowe Post Podcast. He was discussing a potential trade floated by The Ringer’s Bill Simmons where the Lakers send Russell Westbrook and two future first-round picks (2027 and 2029) to the Bulls for DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.

“The trade I saw on Twitter was Russ and both picks, one with light protections I think for DeRozan and Vucevic. I can tell you 100% for sure that the Lakers have had internal discussions about that very possibility, if it would ever come up. Not that they would do that. Let me be clear.”

None of this matters if the Bulls don’t decide to pivot, and they are not there yet. They may never get to that point. But the Lakers and other teams are surveying what teams might make game-changers available at the deadline, and the way the Bulls are stumbling has other teams keeping an eye on them. Expect the rumors to keep coming.

But for now, that’s all they are, rumors and speculation.

On the bright side for Bucks, Khris Middleton looks good in return

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
0 Comments

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton initially said that making his 2022-23 debut in his return from offseason wrist surgery felt great.

Then he quickly corrected himself.

“I should actually say good,” Middleton said Friday night after the Bucks’ 133-129 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. “If we got the win, I think I would have been (feeling) great. It felt really good to be back out there with the guys competing and playing,”

Middleton, 31, had 17 points and seven assists while playing 26 1/2 minutes in his first game since spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee April 20 in Game 2 of the Bucks’ first-round playoff series with the Chicago Bulls. That injury caused him to miss the entirety of the Bucks’ Eastern Conference semifinal with the Boston Celtics, a series Milwaukee lost in seven games.

The 6-foot-7 forward then had surgery on his left wrist in the summer, having played through the injury late last season.

“Pretty impressive how kind of seamlessly he got back into the game on both ends of the court,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Middleton said Friday at a post-shootaround availability that he might need some time to readjust, but the three-time All-Star didn’t show any signs of rust in his first game back. He shot 6 of 11 and went 3 of 4 from 3-point range.

“Just relying on my experience,” Middleton said. “Just (trying) not to rush and let the game come to me. Don’t try to do too much the first game back and try to fit in and play off my teammates.”

The most important thing is that Middleton felt just fine physically.

“Hopefully tomorrow when I wake up, I feel the same also and I won’t feel too sore or whatever,” he said.

The Bucks had gone 15-5 in Middleton’s absence. Milwaukee is second in the Eastern Conference, behind only the Boston Celtics.

Middleton’s teammates believe his return should make them even better.

“It takes us to a whole different level,” Bucks forward and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “We scored 129 points and we had a bad first half. That says a lot.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham knows how much Middleton means to the Bucks’ title hopes. Ham was an assistant coach on Budenholzer’s Bucks staff from 2018-22, including their 2021 championship season.

“Giannis is the heart and soul and the engine, and Khris is like the steering wheel,” Ham said before Friday’s game. “He’s the GPS in terms of understanding what to do. Giannis is the focal point but Khris is the master of putting guys where they need to be. He’s like that quarterback.”

The Bucks aren’t going to overexert Middleton as he returns to the floor for the first time in about 7 1/2 months. Budenholzer said Middleton probably won’t play Saturday at Charlotte.

“We’ll talk about it on the plane, but my guess is he will not play a back-to-back,” Budenholzer said.

Middleton’s just happy he’s back on the floor at all.

“Just a range of emotions,” Middleton said. “(I’ve) been through a lot these last couple months. Happy, sad, anxious, nervous. To finally get out there and play and get a lot of those nerves past me felt pretty good.

LeBron James passes Magic Johnson for sixth all-time in assists

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
0 Comments

Magic Johnson is one of the greatest, most creative passers the game has ever seen.

Friday night, LeBron James passed Magic for sixth all-time in assists in the NBA. For LeBron, doing that in a Lakers’ jersey like Magic wore was special.

It happened with 8:41 remaining left in the game, LeBron found Anthony Davis for a 3-pointer on the right wing.

LeBron finished the night with 11 assists and 28 points, which along with a monster 44-point night from Anthony Davis led the Lakers to an impressive win over the Bucks in Milwaukee.