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Thunder make historic choice to trade star tandem, start over

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The Thunder – despite having stars Paul George and Russell Westbrook – lost in the first round for the second straight year.

“This is a team that can go far,” George said at his exit interview. “We have pieces in place to have a long postseason run.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around that, on what’s the next step, the next phase for this group going forward.”

George eventually found his answer – requesting a trade to the Clippers to play with Kawhi Leonard. Oklahoma City acquiesced and then worked with Westbrook to deal him, too. The Thunder are sending Westbrook to the Rockets, completing an unprecedented star teardown.

Oklahoma City is the first team in NBA history to trade two reigning All-NBA players in the same summer.

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This is only the third time a team has lost multiple reigning All-NBA players through any mechanism in the same offseason. The other two:

1998/99 Chicago Bulls: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

Jordan retired after winning his third straight championship and sixth in eight years. As the 1998 offseason stretched into 1999 due to a lockout, the Bulls – ready to enter a new era – signed-and-traded Pippen to the Rockets. Chicago stunk for the next six years.

1951 Indianapolis Olympians: Alex Groza and Ralph Beard

Groza and Beard both got banned from the NBA for a point-shaving scandal during their time at Kentucky. The Olympians folded a couple years later.

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Lowering the standard from All-NBA, a few more teams have lost multiple reigning All-Stars in the same offseason. Beyond this year’s Thunder, the other three:

1977 Indiana Pacers: Billy Knight and Don Buse

Forced to pay an entry fee with their merger from the NBA, the Pacers faced financial difficulties after their first NBA season. So, Indiana traded its best players – Knight to the Buffalo Braves for Adrian Dantley and Mike Bantom, Buse to the Suns for Ricky Sobers. Indiana clearly had seller’s remorse, later reacquiring both Knight and Buse.

1964 Detroit Pistons: Bailey Howell and Don Ohl

Following a miserable season, the Pistons traded Howell and Ohl to the Baltimore Bullets for Terry Dischinger, who won Rookie of the Year the season prior. But after one good season in Detroit, Dischinger went into the military and returned a couple years as a lesser player.

1957 New York Knicks: Nathaniel Clifton and Harry Gallatin

The Knicks missed the playoffs for the first time in their 11-year history then sent Clifton and Gallatin to the Pistons for Mel Hutchins. All three players lasted only one more season in the NBA.

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It’s unsurprising teams have so rarely broken up both parts of a star duo. It’s hard enough to get multiple stars on the same team. Once that’s in place, few teams or players want to end the arrangement.

But the Thunder looked stuck. They were already deep into the tax and didn’t get out of the first round. They were too expensive to upgrade further, too good to tank.

George did Oklahoma City a favor by ushering in its next era. The Thunder got Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari (who could be flipped) and a massive haul of draft picks from the Clippers. Westbrook netted even more draft considerations from Houston. Oklahoma City has a tremendous head start on its rebuild.

That’s the benefit of trading high-level players before they decline out of stardom.

But that’s also a scary plan. It’s difficult to disrupt a status quo that includes such good players and even moderate playoff success. Few teams or players have the guts for that.

George and Westbrook found even better team situations. They didn’t feel beholden to the Thunder and exercised their rights to push their way out.

Oklahoma City dove in headfirst into that plan in a way no other team ever has. It might be painful in the short term, but the Thunder will be better in the long run because of it.

There’s a mural in L.A. of Alex Caruso dunking over Harden, Leonard, Doncic

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It’s hard to overstate how popular Alex Caruso is in Los Angeles. Seriously. This isn’t just cult status popular, when he enters the game off the bench Staples Center explodes in cheers like LeBron James just fed Anthony Davis for an alley-oop.

Now Caruso has his own mural in Los Angeles.

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This is legit, it’s on the side of SportieLA, a clothing/apparel store on Melrose Ave. in the trendy heart of Los Angeles. Artist Gustavo Zermeño Jr. has done murals in the past for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and other Los Angeles sports icons such as Vin Scully.

This one plays off a huge Caruso dunk from earlier this month when Dallas’ Maxi Kleber was the victim.

It’s good to be Alex Caruso in Los Angeles right now.

Kawhi Leonard just destroyed Boston’s Daniel Theis on dunk

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Daniel Theis‘ play as a rim protector is one of the reasons Boston has a top-10 defense this season. He has anchored the Celtics’ defense in the paint.

Kawhi Leonard is a two-time Finals MVP, and if he wants to go to the rim nobody is stopping him. Theis found out the hard way.

After the game, Leonard was asked about the dunk and he responded in about the most Kawhi way possible.

This was the first game Leonard and Paul George played together and they combined for 42 points, and they both made key play down the stretch of a 107-104 overtime win.

It took Luka Doncic 25 minutes to put together 35-point triple-double (VIDEO)

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DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 33 of his 35 points in the first half and had yet another triple-double to help the Dallas Mavericks rout the short-handed Golden State Warriors 142-94 on Wednesday night.

Doncic fell a point short of matching Dirk Nowitzki’s team record set Nov. 3, 2009, against Utah. In just 17 minutes, Doncic was 10 for 11 from the floor, making 6 of 7 3-pointers, and hit 7 of 8 free throws.

The second-year star from Slovenia had 22 points, five assists and five rebounds in the first quarter alone. He played only 25 minutes total, but still managed 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

Doncic was coming off a 40-point triple-double Monday night against San Antonio, and has an NBA-best seven triple-doubles in 14 games this season.

The Mavericks never trailed and tied a franchise record with 22 3-pointers while sending Golden State to its worst loss since a 1973 playoff game.

The Warriors, who ended a seven-game losing streak by beating Memphis on Tuesday night, are an NBA-worst 3-13. Their five-year run of at the top of the NBA has collapsed under a weight of injuries, with Draymond Green out Wednesday because of right heel soreness.

With Green out, Golden State dressed only eight players, none of whom suited up for the team last season when it made the NBA Finals for the fifth consecutive year.

Eric Paschall led the Warriors with 22 points.

Tim Hardaway Jr. added 20 for Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth-straight double-double.

 

Bulls’ Otto Porter Jr out 2 weeks with bone bruise in foot

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls say forward Otto Porter Jr. has a bone bruise in his left foot and will be reassessed in two weeks.

The Bulls say a second MRI on Tuesday revealed the bruise, something “not apparent” on the first MRI.

“He had a second scan, and something showed up that didn’t show up on the first scan,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen told NBC Sports Chicago. “That’s tough, tough for him, feel bad for him. But we’ll treat him and move on.”

Chandler Hutchison had been filling in Porter’s spot in the rotation, but he is out indefinitely now with sore shins.

Porter, averaging 11.2 points in nine games, has been sidelined since he sprained his left foot at Atlanta on Nov. 6.

The Bulls were 4-10 with three straight losses heading into Wednesday’s game against Detroit.