Patrick Patterson

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Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha: ‘I stand 100 percent with Russell Westbrook’

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Russell Westbrook profanely yelled at a fan during the Thunder’s win over the Jazz last night:

The important question: Why?

Westbrook said the fan made inappropriate and personal remarks toward Westbrook. The fan denied it. Westbrook’s teammates, Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton, backed Westbrook’s account.

Sefolosha on Instagram:

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Sefolosha’s perspective is important.

Though he’s a former teammate of Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Sefolosha plays in Utah. It’d be easy for Sefolosha to stay out of this and avoid local backlash.

But what’s right is right.

Sefolosha is all too familiar with problematic power dynamics. New York police officers broke his leg while arresting him for not moving out of the way quickly enough in a chaotic situation two years ago. His then-Hawks teammate Pero Antic, who was also arrested, called it pure racism.

Westbrook has contended Jazz fans have repeatedly gone too far. At this point, they might be emboldened to continue crossing the line.

A player on their team calling for this type of heckling to end will hopefully change behavior in Utah.

Report: Markieff Morris signing with Thunder

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The Lakers didn’t get Enes Kanter.

They’re not getting Markieff Morris, either.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The Wizards traded Morris to dodge the luxury tax, and the Pelicans waived him. He has been just OK this year, but maybe getting healthier and escaping the drudgery of Washington will improve his play. Morris certainly brings plenty of talent as a versatile big forward.

He should provide an upgrade over Patrick Patterson as Oklahoma City’s backup power forward. Patterson is having another down season, raising questions about  his long-term health.

Morris projects to cost the Thunder $44,865 daily in salary and luxury tax. They play New Orleans tonight, and I wonder whether they’ll sign Morris in time for that game. Waiting another week – during the All-Star break – would save them a projected $314,057.

But it’d also cost him $85,640. So, he might not be down to wait.

That could be a reason he didn’t pick the Rockets. Though they have two open roster spots, they can’t yet sign two players even to pro-rated minimum contracts without crossing the luxury-tax line. They could have signed Morris and remained below the tax, but that would have meant waiting longer for another addition.

As for the Lakers, Morris is another pursued free agent who wasn’t Carmelo Anthony. If everyone keeps choosing other teams, the Lakers might run out of excuses for not signing Anthony (other than the right one).

Paul George, Russell Westbrook each have triple-doubles in Thunder win

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook set an NBA record with his 10th straight triple-double, Paul George scored 47 points, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-111 on Monday night.

Westbrook broke a tie with Wilt Chamberlain, who had nine straight triple-doubles in 1968, by finishing with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. He clinched the record on an assist to George for a 3-pointer with 3:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was his 23rd triple-double of the season and the 127th of his career.

George had 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the third triple-double of his career. Rookie Deonte Burton had a career-high 18 points and Raymond Felton added a season-high 15 for the Thunder.

Damian Lillard scored 31 points and Jake Layman added 17 for Portland.

The Thunder shot 56 percent in the first half to lead 68-49 at the break. George scored 21 points and Felton added 15.

The Trail Blazers started the second half on a 7-0 run to make things interesting, and they trimmed Oklahoma City’s lead to 87-82 by the end of the third quarter.

Westbrook had five assists heading into the fourth, and he re-entered the game after a rest with 9:36 remaining. He got his first assist of the quarter with 6:54 left, but was up to his ninth with 4:57 to play.

 

Russell Westbrook, Paul George lead Thunder past Suns for first win

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Thunder didn’t care that Phoenix had just one win this season, was playing the second game of a back-to-back and was missing its leading scorer.

They just wanted to get a win.

Oklahoma City finally broke through for the first time in five tries this season. Paul George and Russell Westbrook each scored 23 points, and the Thunder beat the Suns 117-110 on Sunday.

“It feels special,” guard Dennis Schroder said. “I think we can build off of that win. We’re going to keep getting better. It was a good one tonight.”

Nerlens Noel had 20 points and 15 rebounds and Patrick Patterson added 17 points for the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s victory left the Cleveland Cavaliers, who fired coach Tyronn Lue on Sunday, as the league’s only winless team.

Thunder center Steven Adams did not play after experiencing tightness in his left calf during pregame warmups, and Noel started in his place. Coach Billy Donovan was pleased with the way Noel performed in his first start.

“He did a lot of really good things,” Donovan said. “He was really, really active. He was very active defensively. He scored some points on some lobs and some rolls and he got to the free-throw line. I was really, really impressed with his defense.”

Noel has started 159 of his 228 career games, so he was comfortable in the role.

“Just do this on a nightly basis, just being a professional, ready for whatever is thrown at me in this position,” he said. “Steven wasn’t able to go, so I just kept the same mindset of being able to be ready, no matter what. I knew if I was coming off the bench, if I was starting, I’d play the same way. That’s about it.”

Rookie Elie Okobo scored 18 points and No. 1 overall draft pick Deandre Ayton added 16 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix. Devin Booker, who entered the day as the league’s ninth-best scorer at 27.8 points per game, sat out his second straight game with a left hamstring strain.

The Thunder led 62-48 at halftime after shooting 49 percent from the field. George scored 15 points before the break, while Westbrook made just two field goals. The Thunder blew a 14-point halftime lead against Boston on Thursday, so the threat of falling apart still was there.

Westbrook hit back-to-back layups to make it 82-65 in the third. George drained a shot from just beyond half court at the third-quarter buzzer to put Oklahoma City up 96-76.

“It’s one of the funnest basketball games I’ve played in since I’ve been here,” Noel said. “Guys just play so unselfish. This team is really built the right way. Guys just want to make winning plays, and everybody is going to excel when the play style is like that.”

Phoenix outscored the Thunder 34-21 in the fourth quarter.

“A lot of positives in the game,” Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said. “You’re not going to feel better – we lost the game. But effort was there. I think we tried, and we tried for 48 minutes.”

 

Space Jam 2 closer to reality: LeBron reportedly teams with Black Panther director

Courtesy Warner Bros.
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Space Jam 2 starring LeBron James — and, we can dream, Boban Marjanovic as one of the new Monstars — could be filming next summer and in theaters in 2019 or 2020.

This has been in the works for a while, and it has come together slowly (like most Hollywood projects). LeBron James’ production company has a development deal with Warner Bros. and a Space Jam sequel was always at the heart of it. While there had been rumors about the project for years, you knew there was some substance to the talk when Warner Bros. extended its trademark on “Space Jam” a couple of years ago.

In a sign this movie is going to be a reality, LeBron has found a producer — the man who directed Black Panther. From the Hollywood Reporter:

In his first project since directing the record-breaking Black Panther, Ryan Coogler is teaming with LeBron James on the anticipated follow-up to the Michael Jordan-Bugs Bunny hit Space Jam, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Coogler will produce the Space Jam movie and Terence Nance – who created HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness and directed the experimental film The Oversimplification of Her Beauty – will direct. Production on the Warner Bros. film is tentatively slated for 2019, during the NBA offseason. It will be James’ first starring role after a successful turn as a supporting character in the 2015 Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck…

“I loved his vision” for Black Panther, James tells The Hollywood Reporter, noting that when he was a kid growing up in Akron, Ohio, there were no black superheroes. “So for Ryan to be able to bring that to kids, it’s amazing.”

That’s a good team to make a movie, although we are all curious about the script.

Not that the original Space Jam starring Michael Jordan was winning a writing Oscar, but the move was a cultural phenomenon. It had MJ going head-to-head with aliens in a battle for Earth. Kid me loved that movie, adult me re-watched it and…

I didn’t love it as much as Patrick Patterson, who wrote: “To make a sequel to Space Jam would be like trying to paint the Mona Lisa again. Sure, you can probably do it, but why the hell would you want to?”

A lot of the older generation will say that, but if it’s a good movie it will do better than Uncle Drew. (Which, honestly, was better than I expected.) It could be a marketing coup for LeBron, plus add to his legacy of NBA titles and gold medals. Not everyone can put “saved the earth from annihilation” on their resume.