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Did Oklahoma City fan yell n-word at Pascal Siakam? (video)

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Pascal Siakam was awesome in the Raptor’s win over the Thunder yesterday. The Most Improved Player favorite had 33 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.

He also shot free throws as an Oklahoma City fan shouted something:

Did the fan yell the n-word? Did she yell “Nader,” as in Thunder Thunder forward Abdel Nader? Did she yell something else entirely?

I can’t tell. It’s a noisy arena, and she wasn’t speaking directly into the microphone.

Her shouting drew the attention of a couple Toronto players, though.

Fred VanVleet:

Siakam:

The Thunder should investigate this. Talk to arena workers who were in the area. Maybe fans, too. Racist jeers obviously shouldn’t be tolerated.

I’d be surprised if she shouted the n-word without it immediately becoming a major incident, though. As the Donald Sterling saga reminded us, that’s the type of racism is not tolerated by society. Discrimination in housing and employment – things that destroy lives – get ignored. People can get away with coded racist language and terms with racist undertones some are ignorant to. But get publicly exposed saying something clearly racist – especially the n-word – and a firestorm usually erupts.

Some have suggested she couldn’t have been yelling “Nader” because he wasn’t in the game. That doesn’t hold up. Fans often yell at players on the bench.

Again, I don’t know what she said. VanVleet’s and Siakam’s interest should prompt the Thunder to investigate and explain their findings.

Watch Paul George drain game-winning floater in 2OT, lift Thunder past Jazz

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) β€” Paul George floated in a basket with less than a second remaining in double-overtime, capping a 45-point night with the winning shot in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 148-147 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday.

George dribbled out the final seconds before splitting the Joe Ingles, Ricky Rubio double team then hitting a rainbow floater over Rudy Gobert 0.8 seconds left that gave the Thunder the win.

Kyle Korver got off a desperate 3 for Utah, but it went long as the buzzer sounded.

Russell Westbrook added 43 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists, helping Oklahoma City overcome 38 points from Donovan Mitchell. Westbrook fouled out with 1:09 left in the first overtime, ending his NBA streak of 11 consecutive games with a triple-double.

The game went to overtime after the Thunder’s Jerami Grant completed a tying three-point play, then blocked Mitchells shot at the other end. Grant had 18 points.

In the first overtime, Abdel Nader hit a 3-pointer to give the Thunder a 139-137 lead in the final minute after Westbrook and Terrance Ferguson had fouled out. Utah’s Rudy Gobert tipped in the tying basket with 33.7 seconds left, and George and Mitchell eached missed jumpers in the closing seconds.

Gobert hit two free throws with 1:10 left in the second overtime for a 147-146 lead, but Utah went cold from there. Mitchell’s driving shot off the glass missed the rim, and Joe Ingles missed on a long 3-point try as the shot clock expired with 13.2 seconds left.

Steven Adams played a game-high 47 minutes for Oklahoma City, returning from a pre-All-Star break ankle injury to score 16 points and grab 10 rebounds to go along with five steals.

Derek Favors hit his first 10 shots, finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds for Utah. Gobert had 26 points and 16 rebounds for the Jazz.

The teams were physical throughout. Westbrook got a flagrant foul for crashing into Gobert while defending a layup, and there was a fracas late in the first half after Jae Crowder fouled the Thunder’s Dennis Schroder.

 

Celtics’ quiet summer good enough

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A β€˜C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Celtics are in great shape.

They were always going to be in great shape.

Boston just reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals with Gordon Hayward missing practically the entire season and Kyrie Irving missing the entire postseason. Those stars return to a team that still has Jayson Tatum and Al Horford and Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier and… This roster is stacked. Though the Rockets and Raptors can stake legitimate claims, I’d rate the Celtics second in the NBA behind the Warriors.

If that weren’t enough, Boston also has 2-3 extra first-rounders coming – from the Kings or 76ers, Grizzlies and maybe Clippers. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

So, unlike last season, when they turned over 11 of 15 players from a conference finalist, the Celtics remained pretty quiet this year. And that’s totally fine. Boston didn’t to win the offseason. Winning the last several was enough.

The Celtics re-signed Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) and Aron Baynes (two years, $10,646,880).

Will Smart hold positive trade value? His style of play is so unconventional, teams might not believe they can fit him in.

Did Boston really have to give Baynes a player option or even a second guaranteed season? He’ll turn 32 this year.

But those questions are minor compared to the biggest takeaway: Smart and Baynes will help the Celtics over their contracts. Boston coach Brad Stevens knows how to use those two, and keeping them was important.

It might take the Celtics into the luxury tax, which ownership has shown a willingness to pay – and good for them. Their spending should bring advantages. That said, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Boston sheds a small amount of salary this season to avoid the tax and delay the repeater clock.

The Celtics drafted Robert Williams, who slipped to No. 27 because he’s immature then saw first-hand just how immature he is. Most rookies have their acts together more than that, but Williams’ career won’t necessarily be irrevocably derailed by immaturity at age 20.

Other moves were even smaller – trading Abdel Nader to the Thunder and signing Jabari Bird and Brad Wanamaker to minimum deals.

Really, the most significant move of Boston’s offseason was arguably LeBron James leaving the Eastern Conference he had dominated for the last eight years. No team was more impeded by LeBron during that run than the Celtics.

But even if LeBron re-signed with the Cavaliers, I still probably would have picked Boston to win the East this year. Without two stars, the young Celtics nearly beat an old Cleveland team last year. The road just gets a little easier with LeBron gone.

I’m extremely bullish on Boston. It just has little to do with this summer.

Offseason grade: C+

Thunder secured Paul George, surprisingly kept spending

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A β€˜C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Thunder clearly made headway with Paul George throughout last season.

But then signs of disaster struck internally and externally.

The Jazz ran through Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoff, exposing all the Thunder’s liabilities. It also became increasingly apparent LeBron James would choose the Lakers.

The Lakers with George would have been better than the Thunder with him, and he could have fulfilled his longstanding desire to play for his hometown team. Even if his Los Angeles interest was overstated or he wasn’t fond of joining LeBron, George had numerous other options. The 76ers and Jazz were already better than Oklahoma City. George would have vaulted either team even further ahead.

On the other hand, the Thunder looked like they might take a step back even if they re-signed George. Though Andre Roberson getting healthy would help, Oklahoma City’s payroll was getting quite high. Most small-market teams would shed salary, either by trading helpful contributors or attaching draft picks as sweeteners to unload overpaid players.

Yet, just when the walls of Thunder’s yearlong recruitment of George appeared to be caving in, George re-signed – even locking in for three years (with a fourth-year player option on his max contract). Keeping George – who likely never would have even considered Oklahoma City in free agency if he spent last season elsewhere – is a coup.

We might never know why George agreed so quickly to re-sign, not even meeting with the Lakers. Maybe he just became so attached to Russell Westbrook, George wasn’t leaving under any circumstances. But perhaps the Thunder sold him on their ambitiously expensive plan to upgrade the roster.

Oklahoma City is on pace to pay more than $93 million in luxury tax next season, which would be a record. Perhaps, the Thunder will stretch Kyle Singler. That could drop them below the $90 million-plus the Nets paid in luxury tax in 2014. But Oklahoma City is in the same range despite not nearing Brooklyn in market size.

This is the same Thunder franchise still reeling from the perception it traded James Harden over luxury-tax concerns. What a way to change a narrative.

Oklahoma City re-signed Jerami Grant to a three-year, $27,346,153 deal. That’s an expensive outlay, especially considering the Thunder are just entering the repeater luxury tax and have multiple veterans on expensive long-term deals. They’re facing a big tax bill for years to come.

Smaller moves also prove quite costly in this environment. Oklahoma City picked three players in the second round – Hamidou Diallo (No. 45), Devon Hall (No. 53) and Kevin Hervey (No. 57) – but signed only Diallo. Rostering second-round picks can save teams in luxury tax, as players signed as draft picks for less than the second-year minimum count less toward the tax than minimum free agents. But Hall will play overseas next season, and Hervey remains unsigned. Instead, Oklahoma City signed Raymond Felton and Nerlens Noel for the minimum (Noel’s cost landing even higher because he received a player option). If they signed Hall and Hervey instead of Felton and Noel, the Thunder would have saved nearly $9 million next season.

Even moves described as cost-cutting weren’t. Once the Thunder decided to part with Carmelo Anthony, stretching him became the baseline. That would have cost $9,309,380 (minus potential set-offs) each of the next three seasons. Instead, Oklahoma City traded him for Dennis Schroder, who has a $15.5 million salary for each of the next three seasons. Unlike the cap hit for a waived Anthony, the Thunder could always move Schroder later to save money. But this trade was not a salary dump.

In the Anthony trade, the Thunder also landed Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, a worthwhile wing flier. But Oklahoma City surrendered a lottery-protected 2022 first-rounder that becomes two second-rounders if the Thunder make the playoffs that year. That’s surprisingly high price for Schroder, who many viewed as negative salary.

The only creative penny-pinching Oklahoma City did was trading for Abdel Nader, who’ll count less toward the luxury tax than a free agent because he signed as a drafted player with the Celtics.

Small picture:

  • I’m not sure Grant is worth his cost. He’s a quality defender in a switching scheme, and using him at center provides a style Oklahoma City lacks otherwise. If nothing else, he’s active offensively. But his subpar shooting lowers his ceiling and becomes especially costly in the playoffs.
  • I’m not sure Felton is worth his cost. He was a bargain as a steadying backup point guard, but downgrading him to third string, maybe Oklahoma City would have been better off with a cheaper developmental piece.
  • I’m not sure Noel is worth his cost. He still has plenty of untapped potential, but there are major questions about his work ethic. How much will he play with Adams, Grant and Patrick Patterson all capable at center?
  • I’m not sure Schroder is worth his cost. Even beyond his potential felony charge, basketball questions emerge. He might hit enough spot-up 3s to thrive with Westbrook. He might not. His ability to attack after Westbrook tilts the defense is intriguing. At minimum, he’ll liven up the offense when Westbrook sits. But the idea that his cost is only the difference between his salary and Anthony’s stretch amount ($6,190,620) is limited. Potential trade partners will value Schroder at his full $15.5 million salary.

Big picture:

  • Who cares?

It’s not my money. If Thunder owner Clay Bennett is willing to spend big, that’s great for the team. Kudos to him.

With Westbrook, Anthony and Adams guaranteed huge salaries, Oklahoma City wasn’t going to clear cap room this summer. Re-signing George long-term ensured the Thunder would be capped out as long they kept their core players. So, additional spending doesn’t hinder flexibility in an significant way. It just helps the on-court product.

My only concern is Oklahoma City fails to meet internal expectations and becomes more reluctant to spend in future seasons. I consider the Thunder more likely to lose in the first round than reach the conference finals, more likely to miss the playoffs than reach the NBA Finals.

But those expectations are higher than they would have been if Oklahoma City dodged the luxury tax. Westbrook is a 29-year-old superstar reliant on his athleticism. There is no tomorrow. Every playoff game is its own reward.

If Bennett is demanding a championship for his massive expenditure, he’ll likely be disappointed. Personally, I’m just impressed with a team that’s much better than it could have been on a tight budget.

Offseason grade: A

Report: Celtics trade Abdel Nader to Thunder

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Abdel Nader was one of those second-round gambles by the Celtics β€” the No. 58 pick in the 2016 NBA draft β€” that paid off better than expected. Nader was the D-League Rookie of the Year, then last season the wing got into 48 games for the big club in Boston, showing some potential as a three-point shooter (but also struggling with his efficiency in other areas).

Boston wanted to trim some salary now, so Nader is on his way to Oklahoma City (once the Carmelo Anthony trade goes through and they have cap space).

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports broke the story.

That cash will undoubtedly cover Nader’s $1.4 million salary, plus some more to help offset the crazy tax bill the Thunder still have coming. The Celtics will waive Purvis, who does not have a guaranteed deal.

All of this will save the Celtics about $450,000, getting them closer to going under the luxury tax line, they are about $2.5 million over it currently. (With this roster the Celtics are eventually going to pay a huge tax bill, but if they can avoid paying the tax this season that delays the painful repeater tax by a year, helping down the line. Expect to see more cash saving moves, don’t be shocked if Marcus Morris is the one on the trade block.)

While Andre Roberson and Paul George will start on the wing for OKC, Nader may be able to find minutes behind them. The Thunder have a mix of guys β€” Terrance Ferguson, Alex Abrines, Timothe Luwawu, Kyle Singler β€” who have yet to fully establish themselves in the league. Nader will have a chance to crack that group and get some run, if he can take several steps forward with this game.