Chris Paul has a chance to show Rockets what they traded away

Chris Paul
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OKLAHOMA CITY — Few imagined when the Oklahoma City Thunder traded cornerstone Russell Westbrook to Houston for Chris Paul last summer that the teams would meet in the playoffs this season.

Most expected Oklahoma City to rebuild after sending All-Star Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, then Westbrook to the Rockets. The thought was the Thunder would eventually trade Paul and Danilo Gallinari — the veteran players they got back in those deals – and focus on the future and the slew of draft picks they acquired.

Instead, the Thunder didn’t trade Paul or Gallinari.

Paul returned to All-Star status and embraced his role as team leader. Gallinari had one of the best seasons of his career. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — the young player the Thunder got in the deal with the Clippers – emerged as Oklahoma City’s leading scorer this season. And the team, under coach of the year finalist Billy Donovan, actually had a higher winning percentage this season than last.

Now the Thunder and Rockets will open their playoff series on Tuesday in central Florida after posting matching 44-28 regular-season records.

As Westbrook says in his slogan — “Why Not?”

Westbrook’s status is unclear. He missed the team’s last two seeding games with a right quad strain. He averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 assists, and 7 rebounds per game this season.

“I don’t think they have a specific time on it yet,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Friday. “Hopefully it’s sooner than later. Obviously, we have to hold serve until we get him back.”

But the Rockets still have James Harden, who led the NBA with 34.4 points per game this season.


Houston focuses heavily on Harden and Westbrook offensively while the Thunder rely on balance.

Gilgeous-Alexander leads the team with 19.0 points per game. Dennis Schroder — a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year — averages 18.9. Gallinari averages 18.7, Paul 17.6 and Steven Adams 10.9.


Schroder left the bubble for the birth of his second child. He returned for the final seeding game and played well with 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting in a loss to the Clippers on Friday.

“I felt great,” Schroder said. “Being away for six games, it’s always tough but I kept myself staying ready and was practicing, working out a little bit.”


Adams, at 7-foot and 265 pounds, will be factor in the series. He could be a difference-maker for the Thunder or the Rockets could run him ragged.

Adams is a capable scorer who shoots 59% from the field and averages 9.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.

Houston traded big man Clint Capela earlier in the season and now usually puts no one taller than 6-8 on the floor. Robert Covington, at 6-8, is the team’s leading rebounder. Harden averages 6.6 and P.J. Tucker uses his 6-5, 245-pound frame to average 6.6 boards.


The Rockets led the league in 3-pointers made and attempted per game. Harden leads the league in both makes and attempts while shooting 35.5 percent beyond the arc.

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
Jun Sato/WireImage

The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension


Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’


No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.