Getty Images

Thunder GM Presti: Billy Donovan is returning as coach

19 Comments

There is a segment of Thunder fans who want Billy Donovan gone as coach. The reason? The team doesn’t play within a team system the way that the Warriors or Celtics or the Utah Jazz — the squad that eliminated the Thunder in the first round — do. The Thunder’s system is Russell Westbrook, and that system has a ceiling.

However, is that really Billy Donovan’s fault? Could John Wooden or Red Auerbach or Phil Jackson rein in the wild stallion that is Westbrook?

The person who has the final say on this, Thunder GM Sam Presti, sides with Donovan and said the coach will be back in OKC next season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, in part because Donovan and Presti have a long relationship, and in part because Donovan still has a couple of years left on his contract.

One of the reasons Donovan was brought in is players related to him, spoke to him, and listened to him. Undoubtedly Donovan needs to turn those skills up on Westbrook and get him to see the need to find ways to better lift the team up. Westbrook has a Kobe-like mentality of “I’m the best option always” and that led to him using a ridiculously high 38 percent of the Thunder’s possessions in the playoffs when he was on the court, and him taking 43 shots in the deciding game. Kobe, like Michael Jordan before him, was a gunner at heart but learned how to involve and lead a team to lift them up (even though both men had to learn some of those lessons the hard way). Maybe the loss to Utah makes Westbrook more open to a more movement based offense — which is what Donovan prefers to run.

If the Thunder fall short of expectations next season, Donovan’s seat should get warm. Of course, what those expectations will be will depend on what is going to be a wild offseason in OKC.

Paul George: I wanted Pacers to trade me to Spurs over Lakers

Leave a comment

When Paul George told the Pacers in 2017 he’d opt out the following year, the widespread assumption – fueled by George himself – was he wanted to join the Lakers.

Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

George had another team on top of his wish list.

“I wanted to be traded to San Antonio,” George says. “We wanted to go to San Antonio first, and we didn’t make that happen.”

A league source confirmed that the Pacers and Spurs talked, but San Antonio lacked the assets to pair George with Leonard.

Despite Kawhi Leonard trying to persuade the Spurs to deal for George, Indiana traded George to the Thunder. George spent a couple years in Oklahoma City and appeared mostly happy. But he requested and received a trade to join Leonard on the Clippers last summer, finally uniting the star forwards.

At the time of George’s Pacers trade saga, there was a theory he was using a veneer of Lakers interest to help his new team maintain assets. The threat of George leaving in 2018 free agency for Los Angeles reduced the quality of offers to Indiana. The Thunder’s package certainly looked meager (though Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis blossomed with the Pacers). Then, George re-signed with Oklahoma City without even meeting with the Lakers. This revelation only further supports that theory.

Is it true, though? George now plays with Leonard on L.A.’s rival team. He might want to show his affinity for Leonard and distance himself from the Lakers. This story accomplishes both.

I’ll definitely give George this: Whatever his motivations, he said on the record the Spurs were his first choice in 2017. He didn’t hide behind the cloak of anonymity. So, I’m inclined to believe him.

Bulls unveil blue uniforms (photo)

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
2 Comments

Michael Jordan famously wore a pair of North Carolina shorts under his Bulls uniform.

Now, Chicago will bring baby blue to the surface.

Bulls:

These are a major-departure from the Bulls’ red-and-black color scheme. Even the logo is altered.

Such deviations are becoming normalized. The Magic will wear orange. Expect other teams to get more radical.

These jerseys will certainly sell. The short-term revenue boost of all these alternate uniforms is the entire idea.

But I wonder whether there’s a cost to teams diluting their identities. These don’t look like Chicago uniforms. It could become increasingly difficult to value the prestige of NBA jerseys if they’re so loosely associated with a team.

Bucks to wear ‘Cream City’ jerseys (photos)

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
4 Comments

The Bucks making cream one of their colors? Great! It was distinctive and local, celebrating the cream-colored bricks throughout Milwaukee.

These uniforms?

Bucks:

Not so great. Everything about the uniforms is fine except the words on the front of the jersey.

I’m sure nobody will crack immature jokes about those.

Reporter: Charles Barkley told me, ‘I don’t hit women, but if I did, I would hit you’

Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Julius Erving Golf Classic (a PGD Global Production)
5 Comments

Charles Barkley has a history of sexist comments.

The crudest publicly came in 1990. Los Angeles Times:

Barkley, who said the remarks were meant as a joke, was quoted as saying after a tough Nov. 3 win over the underdog New Jersey Nets that “this is a game that if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids. Did you see my wife jumping up and down at the end of the game? That’s because she knew I wasn’t going to beat her.”

But since becoming beloved for his outspokenness as a commentator, there have been others – calling the Warriors’ style “little-girly basketball,” mocking the weight of female Spurs fans.

Now, Barkley has again run his mouth in this direction.

Alexi McCammond of Axios:

Turner Sports:

This was obviously inappropriate for Barkley to say. I’m not sure how else to characterize it. It doesn’t sound like a threat. It’s not related to domestic violence. It’s just not the way to speak to someone working professionally.

I’m glad he apologized, and I hope he learned from this. But history suggests he’ll continue to make off-color jokes. In fact, he’s rewarded for repeatedly pushing the line.

That might eventually get him into serious trouble. I don’t think these remarks should be the ones to spark mass outrage.