Associated Press

Paul George’s return fuels high expectations for Thunder

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Paul George is back, and so are the high hopes be brought when he joined the Thunder.

Oklahoma City acquired George last year in the deal that sent rising star Victor Oladipo to the Indiana Pacers. It was thought by many that Oklahoma might be just a detour on George’s road home to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers. Instead, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder made a winning sales pitch. George, an All-Star and one of the league’s best two-way players, shocked many by staying instead of leaving in free agency.

“I just developed these really good relationships here, almost feeling like I’ve been here for a while,” George said. “And then just over the course of the whole season, it just steamrolled, just got better and better, and here I am.”

George’s return is fueling hopes that Oklahoma City can improve on a disappointing, inconsistent season that ended with a first-round playoff exit.

“I just think we worked through a lot in one year, and people expected us to be a lot further along,” George said. “But honestly, that’s the reason why I’m here for year two. I knew it wasn’t going to be something that happened in one year being with this group. You’ve got to build certain habits, and that’s the habits we’re hoping that we build, is that consistency.”

The Thunder traded Carmelo Anthony during the summer in a deal that brought guard Dennis Schroder from the Atlanta Hawks. Schroder, who averaged 19.4 points and 6.2 assists last season, has been dynamic during the preseason.

“Obviously Dennis is a great player,” Westbrook said. “Done a lot of great things in Atlanta. Plays fast, plays with pace, good with the basketball, and I think it’s going to open up a lot of different things for him and myself when we’re on the floor together, so looking forward to it.”

ROBERSON’S KNEE

Thunder guard Andre Roberson, one of the league’s top perimeter defenders, will be out for at least two months following a procedure as he recovers from the torn left patellar tendon that cost him the second half of last season. Oklahoma City’s defense suffered without him last season, but Schroder could make up for his absence with his athleticism and scoring prowess.

MISSING `MELO

George acknowledged that things didn’t go as planned with Anthony, who struggled at times last season. Anthony is now with Houston, and Oklahoma City has become younger and faster.

“We miss Melo here as a teammate, as a brother, but if something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,” George said. “It’s nothing that he did, it’s nothing that the organization did, nothing that the coaches did. If something doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work, and that’s fine. We’ve got to be able to move on from that, and he’s in a better situation for him, and we’ve got to move on and get prepared as a team.”

JUMPING JERAMI

The Thunder also kept versatile, ultra-athletic forward Jerami Grant. He can play the forward spots and even center if the Thunder choose to go small. George considers Grant a key piece to Oklahoma City’s puzzle.

“J.G. is one of those special players I think that you need on a team to make a team special. Every team needs that one guy that can do a little bit of everything, and J.G. is that guy,” George said. “You can plug J.G. in at any spot, and he’s going to come out with some special plays for us.”

 

 

LeBron James, Lonzo Ball both drop triple-doubles on Hornets (VIDEO)

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The game itself wasn’t that interesting, it was an old-fashioned drubbing. The Charlotte Hornets go as Kemba Walker goes, and he was 2-of-13 shooting on the night. The Lakers have LeBron James… and Lonzo Ball.

LeBron has a triple-double Saturday with 24 points 12 rebounds and 11 assists. Lonzo Ball joined him in the triple-double realm with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. Check out the highlights.

It’s been a while since teammates had a triple-double together: The last ones were Vince Carter and Jason Kidd as New Jersey Nets back on April 7, 2007.

The last Laker teammates to do it? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson back in 1982.

Pistons end Boston’s 8-game run, beat Celtics 113-104

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DETROIT (AP) — Jayson Tatum leaped toward the basket and Andre Drummond met him there, blocking the Boston forward’s attempt at a one-handed dunk.

It was a fitting conclusion to an impressive second half of defense by the Detroit Pistons.

“I was thinking to myself as I was running. I’m like, if he gets this dunk, it’s going to ignite their entire team,” Drummond said. “I have to do something.”

There would be no late surge by the Celtics in the final minutes. Blake Griffin scored 27 points and Drummond added 19 points and 20 rebounds to help the Pistons win 113-104 on Saturday night, snapping the Celtics’ eight-game winning streak. Detroit also ended its own six-game skid with a solid 48-minute effort.

The Pistons took control with a 13-0 run in the third quarter and played well at the start of the fourth as well.

“They looked great. They were screening us, they were active, they were alert, they played great,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “We couldn’t match them shot for shot because the way we were guarding, that’s what we had to do, and we just couldn’t do it. So hats off to them. It’s not our best game. That’s it.”

Kyrie Irving led Boston with 26 points.

Both teams shot over 60 percent from the field in the first quarter, and the game was still tight at halftime, with Detroit up 57-56. Drummond punctuated his team’s 13-point run in the third with a dunk that put the Pistons ahead 76-66.

Boston closed the quarter strong and trailed by just seven after three, but a 10-1 run to start the fourth put Detroit up 95-79.

The Celtics missed their first seven shots from the floor in the final quarter and went over seven minutes before making a field goal.

The Pistons had 20 turnovers, including eight in the fourth quarter.

“The simple plays, just making the simple pass is the key,” Detroit coach Dwane Casey said. “The game gives you simple plays and for whatever reason we kind of get discombobulated.”

 

 

Pacers’ Myles Turner fined $15,000 for flipping bird at Sixers fans

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Myles Turner had to know this was coming.

Frustrated after fouling Joel Embiid under the basket and being taken out of the game, the Pacers’ big man flipped off some Sixers fans as he walked to the bench.

Saturday the league announced Turner was fined $15,000 for “making an inappropriate gesture toward the spectator stands.” The league, understandably, is not a fan of its players flipping off fans.

That fine is pretty much the going rate for these kinds of incidences.

Embiid went on to score 40 Friday night in a dominant performance, but the Pacers won the game 113-101.

Why are Lakers saving their young core? Reportedly to chase Anthony Davis.

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Anthony Davis is the target at the top of the Lakers’ wish list.

He’s also at the top of the wish list for the Boston Celtics and about 27 other teams, too. But if Davis is put on the trade block — something that is not likely until this summer, New Orleans is working to keep him — the Lakers and Celtics will be at the front of the line.

Which is why, when reports that the Lakers would not include any of their young core in a trade for Trevor Ariza came out, it fit with the Lakers’ long-term thinking. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN discussed this on a special trade season preview broadcast Saturday morning (transcription via Real GM).

“Here’s the line [the Lakers] have to walk: they’re not going to give away picks and their top young players in some deal that makes them incrementally better this season because they have to save all those assets for Anthony Davis, a big trade this summer either pre or post free agency…

“The absolute dream scenario, people talk about (how) they can trade for Anthony Davis or sign a free agent. The dream scenario is they do both.”

The dream is to sign Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant and get Davis, and while that dream may be a long shot the only chance they have is if they still have their core players to throw in a package.

The larger point also is valid — the Lakers are not going to beat the Warriors come the playoffs this season (assuming the Warriors are healthy) and L.A. should keep its powder dry for bigger battles. And Davis will be the biggest of battles.

New Orleans wants to keep Davis, they are actively trying to be buyers at the trade deadline, not sellers. Sources have told me the Pelicans’ plan is to win as much as possible this season and show Davis they are serious, then come July 1 offer Davis a designated veteran contract extension worth $230 million (or a little more, depending upon the cap). It’s roughly $40 million more than any other team can offer guaranteed. If Davis and his agent Rich Paul — the same agent as LeBron James — turn down that contract then the Pelicans will be forced to consider a trade.

If we get to that point, then all bets are off and the Lakers are all in. Until then, the Lakers are wise just to be patient.