Author - Brady Trantham

Injury update 10-2-17

Head coach Billy Donovan announced today that Russell Westbrook, Patrick Patterson and Alex Abrines will not play in tomorrow’s initial preseason game against the Houston Rockets in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Raymond Felton will get the nod as the starting point guard tomorrow night.

Westbrook has been limited in preseason training camp in the wake of his platelet rich plasma injection procedure he had prior to camp. Patterson and Abrines are still recovering from minor injuries that don’t seem to concern the team for their status going forward.

“Today was the first day he (Westbrook) did contact which was good,” Donovan said. “There were no ill effects from anything.”

Patterson’s injury stems from arthroscopic knee surgery he had in August while Abrines’ left knee strain from international play continues to keep him from full practice.

“It difficult to put a time frame on anyone,” Donovan said on Patterson and Abrines’ status. “But it’s not something we think is long term.”

Felton, a 14-year NBA veteran, started 11 games in the 2016-17 season for the LA Clippers. He has been running with the first unit in Westbrook’s absence.

“Just because we got three All-Stars on this team, we still can’t back down,” Felton said when asked about how he his experience with the first unit has gone so far. “We have to continue to push them.”

Felton also has experience with teammate Carmelo Anthony, having played in New York together for two seasons.

“We got a lot of history with each other,” Felton said. “Just to get that bond back, to be on the same team and go battle together is going to be fun.”

Reserves Jerami Grant, Semaj Christon and Nick Collison will likely get more minutes for the rest of preseason.

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Thunder reactions of Westbrook extension

Russell Westbrook‘s signature on his NBA-record $205 million dollar contract extension sent shockwaves across the league. The 28-year old reigning MVP essentially will play what many believe will be the prime of his career with the franchise who drafted him in Oklahoma City.

It says a lot about his commitment here and when the time comes it will be easier to make my decision. -Paul George on how Westbrook affects his future

Fellow NBA greats like LeBron James sent their well-wishes to Westbrook through social media.

Nothing hit closer to home than with Westbrook’s own teammates.

I think everybody should be happy. For the future he is the cornerstone of this organization. -Carmelo Anthony on Russell Westbrook’s extension

While the extension is exciting for Thunder fans and allows the organization to breathe a sigh of relief, the ripple effects from Westbrook’s signature could have something to say about keeping the current big three intact.

Paul George has only been Westbrook’s partner for almost three months and he spoke after practice on Saturday how the point guard’s commitment to Oklahoma City will affect his own future.

“Absolutely,” George said when asked if Westbrook’s extension would be a factor in his future with the Thunder. “It says a lot about his commitment here and when the time comes it will be easier to make my decision.”

Surprisingly, George admitted he found out about the news on NBA TV.

Carmelo Anthony was extremely candid during his reaction to the extension.

“I was happy,” Anthony said. “I think everybody should be happy. For the future he is the cornerstone of this organization.”

Anthony has had plenty of experience with the business side of the league. His time in New York was littered with contractual language and headlines. His response to how players taking care of the business aspect of basketball and reliving the pressure that comes with it was enlightening.

“That burden is off,” Anthony said. “Although we try not to think about it, we think about it. It’s something that we have to keep in the back of our minds, our future. I’m pretty sure he is happy to focus only on basketball.”

“Also, not have to answer the questions,” Anthony said with a smile. “He won’t have to answer those questions anymore.”

Westbrook is expected to be available Sunday prior to the Blue/White scrimmage for the first time since the signing. He continues to be held out of practice due to the PRP injection he received late in the offseason although Billy Donovan said as of Saturday he began to do non-contact drills.

He is not expected to participate in the scrimmage.

Here is the video excerpt of the question I asked to Anthony.



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How Carmelo Anthony’s passing helps OKC

After a few days in Oklahoma City, the role of Carmelo Anthony is already a topic of discussion.

Of course, the 2017-18 Thunder is the best team that Anthony has played with on paper. Playing alongside Paul George and Russell Westbrook will allow opportunities for each to thrive and show the best of their capabilities.

I do think he has very, very good vision. And I think he put that on display with Team USA at points in time.

-Billy Donovan on Anthony’s passing.

The specter of “there aren’t enough basketballs to go around” continues to loom large over the organization. How can three ball-dominant players co-exist in a way that the Thunder can achieve their full potential?

Some of these questions were going to be there even if the Anthony trade did not occur. With a shorter preseason and less time to gel with his teammates, detractors of Anthony’s game — or what they think Anthony’s game is — will prosper until actual basketball begins.

Everyone knows about the scoring Anthony will provide. His 24.8 points per game over his career speaks for itself. Thunder GM Sam Presti highlighted an underrated facet of his game — his passing.

Even head coach Billy Donovan raved about his passing ability at Thunder Media Day.

“Carmelo, even the last two years playing against the Knicks, watching film, he’s really a smart player,” Donovan said. “He knows how to play. I think he’s got a good feel of how to play. I do think he sees the floor.”

Westbrook is a proven passer. George has shown the ability to play off the ball and within an offense. Anthony’s passing can be an advantage for Oklahoma City if Donovan allows the offense to flow through him similar to Enes Kanter with the second unit.

With a few weeks until the regular season starts let us imagine how Anthony’s passing can benefit the Thunder, broken down by player or position.

Steven Adams/Center Position

Right off the bat, Anthony demands so much attention with the ball in his hands. With the athleticism and talent on this roster, Oklahoma City will have plenty of opportunities for fast breaks.

Steven Adams is a player often mentioned as one who will benefit the most with more spacing on the floor. Anthony’s ability as a passer can flourish with an athletic big like Adams running the floor after steals or up-tempo possessions.

Adams has the ability to do damage off of high pick and roll. On possessions where Anthony finds himself with the ball and Adams begins to screen the high defender, the New Zealander will have clear lanes to the rim.

Last season around the 15th game mark, opponents had scouted the Thunder and took away Adams’ lob opportunities from Westbrook, as well as crowded the paint effectively taking Adams out of the game.

The factor of Adams being schemed out of games is less likely given the talent increase. The lane will be open for Adams to feast down low.

Another huge facet of Anthony’s game is his willingness to get physical on the block. With his size, he has the ability to bully smaller fours and threes with ease. This attention from the defense allows the backside to be wide open under the rim.

Perimeter Shooters

“Floor spacing” will be a phrase you will hear countless times this season. The transition from last year’s Thunder squad to this year’s is incredible.

With this roster having a nice balance between defenders and scorers, the fast break off of turnover possessions will be plentiful.

The attention that Anthony garners from defenders in desperate attempts to get back on defense allows shooters to find lonely spots in the corner. Anthony’s vision is impressive when he has capable shooters at his disposal.

“I do think he has very, very good vision,” Donovan said. “And I think he put that on display with Team USA at points in time.”

His vision is really impressive when you see examples of him passing across the three point area once the defense collapses onto him.

Alex Abrines, George and others will have open opportunities once Anthony drives towards the hoop.

Russell Westbrook

This is where the fun begins. Considering both player are high-usage rate/iso-centric players, there are some who are hesitant to call the basketball marriage between Anthony and Westbrook an immediate success.

But there is too much talent and too lofty of goals for these great players to not figure it out. Once the reigning MVP and Anthony can learn how to play with one another effectively, the highlights will come.

When you have such talented offensive players that demand so much attention, they are generating good shots for other people.

-Donovan on Anthony’s passing

Typically, Westbrook enjoys dumping the ball off to another player and remaining at the top of the three point line. This was the case when Kanter and Westbrook shared the floor. Expect some half-court possessions with Westbrook dumping it off to Anthony on the block to happen.

Once Anthony asserts himself on the block and influences the defense towards him, Westbrook will have a lane to the basket.

“When you have such talented offensive players that demand so much attention, they are generating good shots for other people,” Donovan said after practice. “The ball is moving well right now and we need to keep that going.”

Simply put, Oklahoma City will have a plethora of opportunities to not only bring out the best in their new Big Three, but also showcase the talents of their role players.

Guys like Adams, Abrines, Jerami Grant — who showed he is more than capable and willing to shoot the long ball — and Patrick Patterson can thrive on a team with multiple stars.

If Oklahoma City is going to have success deep in the postseason, Anthony’s passing in harmony with the rest of his team can have a lot to say about it.

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Dwyane Wade close to deal with Cavs

Former All-Star shooting guard and free agent Dwyane Wade is close to coming to a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The free agent signing that will reunite both Wade and LeBron James is expected to be finalized Wednesday according to ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This comes as news to Oklahoma City Thunder fans who had thoughts of Wade coming off the bench to supplement the trio of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George dancing in their heads.

Earlier in the week, Wojnarowski reported that Oklahoma City was making an “aggressive bid” for Wade’s services. Even going as far to share that both Wade and George spent a considerable amount of time together working out over the summer.

At Thunder Media Day, Anthony let it known what his thoughts on the potential signing of his long-time close friend Wade.

“Come on D,” Anthony said with a smile. “You know where ya wanna be.”

Sam Presti even hinted during his brief media availability that Wade was a long shot to come to Oklahoma City.

“Often times, players know where they are going beforehand,” Presti explained. “That is the nature of the league today.”

It appears that the ability to start with Cleveland rather than come off the bench with the Thunder as well as the relationship between Wade and James won out in the end.

While it is unclear what the Thunder would do if Wade were to sign with Oklahoma City, it is fair to assume a sixth-man role would be the likely outcome. Andre Roberson would retain his starter status in order to be more effective in his role.

Losing out on Wade is no surprise. It was always going to be a long shot despite what his relationships with Anthony or George are. At age 35, Wade’s prime is in the rearview mirror but he can still contribute and be a valuable piece to a championship contender. His role will likely be larger in Cleveland than in Oklahoma City.

Despite having a starting five that includes three All-Stars, Oklahoma City still has areas of their roster that can be improved via player movements. Presti’s aggressiveness over the summer suggests that he will continue to improve this roster in order to compete against the top teams in the league.


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Westbrook: “This is where I want to be”

A joyous Russell Westbrook took to the podium for the 2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day answering a wide range of questions. The first thing on everyone’s mind was the $207 million elephant in the room — when will Westbrook sign on the dotted line?

The reigning MVP cited new fatherhood responsibilities he gained over the summer as why the extension hasn’t been signed yet. He and his wife Nina Westbrook had their first child, Noah, in June.

This is a place I want to be. I love being here. -Westbrook on Oklahoma City

“It’s been a long summer,” Westbrook said when asked by The Oklahoman‘s Erik Horne. “This is a place I want to be. I love being here.”

This has been the consistent answer from Westbrook going back to his extension he signed last offseason. For the first time in his career in the post-Kevin Durant era, Westbrook was the lone hero for the Thunder. A task he took on with great success — leading the NBA in scoring, breaking triple-double records nightly and winning the MVP award.

I feel like he is going to sign the extension

-Enes Kanter at New York Media Day

Westbrook, however only cares about competing and winning championships. While last season saw Oklahoma City in the playoffs, it was apparent that without extra help, the Thunder’s championship chances were never going to be on par with the 2011-16 runs.

The additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are huge for the short term goals for Oklahoma City as well as the long term. Now the Thunder have a legitimate shot to not only challenge the Golden State Warriors but now find themselves on the short list of teams who could possibly win an NBA title. These are things Westbrook wants. These are things that make your franchise cornerstone want to stay in Thunder blue.

After a summer which saw George and Anthony — as well as Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton — added to the fold, Sam Presti even received praise from his All-Star point guard.

“He’s done an amazing job,” Westbrook said. “I’m very thankful to have someone in his position like that.”

Ultimately, the question on if Westbrook signs the extension prior to Oct. 16 will more than likely be answered on that very day. That hasn’t stopped his now former teammate Enes Kanter from sharing his opinion on the matter.

“I feel like he (Westbrook) will sign his extension (prior to Oct. 16),” Kanter told the media at New York Knicks Media Day.

Training camp begins Tuesday. There appears to be no visible worry in the eyes of Presti, Westbrook or head coach Billy Donovan. The Thunder will continue to move forward with or without a Westbrook extension before Oct. 16. When you have a roster with multiple All-Stars you can afford some relaxation.

But it would sure be nice for the front office if Oct. 16 rolls around and there is more to be excited about for Thunder nation. A Westbrook signature for the world to see.

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Presti: “We continue to move forward”

To kick off the 2017-18 NBA season, Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti held his annual opening press conference this morning at the Integris Thunder Development Center.

To no surprise, the two biggest players in the Thunder’s brief ten-year history — Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant — were the topics of many questions. The latter of which drew attention for some regrettable tweets from a covert Twitter account in which he criticized his former coach and teammates.

“First of all, no one with the Oklahoma City Thunder have anything negative to say about Kevin Durant,” Presti said in his opening answer.

Presti also said that he had not received any communication from Durant since the tweets surfaced.

This has been consistent from the organization from the time Durant announced his departure via the Player’s Tribune article in July of 2016. While there were no tribute videos during the regular season, Presti and the Thunder franchise have been persistent in their desire to move forward but to pay Durant the respect he deserves when it became necessary.

It’s going to be a fun year for Thunder basketball.

-Sam Presti

Moving forward is exactly what the Thunder have done.

After a season which saw Oklahoma City enter the playoffs and bear witness to one of the more incredible single season runs in NBA history by an individual player, Presti spoke about how the changing and evolving roster is in an effort to take the next step in competing for a title.

“We are continuing to build the Thunder into something the city can be proud of,” Presti said. “Billy Donovan and his staff have been incredible this summer. I’m really excited to see them work with this group of guys. It’s going to be a fun year for Thunder basketball.”

While Westbrook’s extension and the ghost of Durant still loom large over the franchise, Paul George seemed to be a forgotten piece to the Thunder puzzle. Presti was quick to express his excitement for not only he to watch Geroge assimilate with the team but for the fans to see it all unfold.

“It is an unique opportunity to acquire a player like him,” Presti said. “He plays the right way and adds a rare dimension to the team.”

I’m excited for our fans to see him play –

Presti on Paul George

On separate occasions, Presti boasted about George the person rather than George the top-12 NBA player.

“He’s such a mature guy, there’s something about him that is sturdy and stable,” Presti said. He has a nice confidence about him. I’m excited for our fans to see him play.”

Westbrook’s uncertain future did not seem to phase or worry Presti, a man who rarely shows how he’s truly feeling with the media.

“We are just going to let that play out,” Presti answered when asked about Westbrook’s unsigned extension. “We have until the 16th of October to figure out what he will want to do, until then I don’t want to use any adjectives to describe what is going on.”

They compliment each other very well. They both have killer instincts about them.

-Presti on Russell Westbrook and George playing together

The addition of George will certainly give fans memories of when Westbrook and Durant roamed the court together in Thunder blue, but Presti was cautious to simply assume that due to Westbrook’s history with another top NBA player, that the chemistry between he and George would yield the same success.

“Obviously that is the goal, to get back to where we were,” Presti said. “But each player is different, each team is different so I don’t want to say that just because Westbrook played with a great player in Durant that it will be the same with George. But I will say that they both compliment each other really well. They both have killer instincts about them.”

The addition of George as well as Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson to go along with the development of other young players from last season appear to give Presti a level of excitement we aren’t as accustomed to seeing from the stoic-Bay Stater.

“We are committed to growth as an organization and I think we have a group of guys that can continue that growth,” Presti said.

Thunder Media Day and Training Camp begin early next week. The excitement of this year’s preseason is a far cry from where the franchise was a season ago.


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Westbrook organizing practices for Thunder players

The reigning MVP is currently organizing workout events for the Oklahoma City Thunder in Santa Monica, California, according to ESPN. These practices are expected to take place later on this week.

This has been a Thunder tradition going back to the Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka days.

Players and coaches will meet and run through conditioning drills together. Considering the heavy youth on this team, these practices provide a wealth of benefits for a roster that has changed a lot since being eliminated by the Houston Rockets in the postseason.

In their exit interviews, Russell Westbrook and head coach Billy Donovan both spoke about unofficial offseason workouts with the team.

These are not mandatory but rather an attempt to build and improve team chemistry before the start of training camp in late September. The entire roster will not be attending as several players have plans.

Paul George and Alex Abrines are in Spain while Nick Collison is enjoying vacation after re-signing with the Thunder. Oklahoma City rookie Terrance Ferguson remains unsigned while he waits for clearance from FIBA to sign his contract. His status remains unknown for these practices.

Westbrook’s status on his reported super max contract extension is still up in the air at this point. There does not appear to be any concern from the Thunder from all reports. The All-Star point guard has until October 16th to sign on the dotted line.



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OKC signs Patrick Patterson

The Oklahoma City Thunder have signed free agent forward Patrick Patterson to a three-year deal worth $16.4 million, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting. Oklahoma City used its full tax payer mid-level exception.

The deal includes a player option on the third year.

The Thunder finally got the stretch-power forward they have been searching for. This deal eliminates Oklahoma City from acquiring free agent Rudy Gay.

An alumnus of the University of Kentucky, Patterson has played for three teams over his seven year career. Recently, he played with the Toronto Raptors over the past three seasons.

A career 37 percent shooter from deep, the Thunder have in effect swapped Taj Gibson — who signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves — for Patterson, a player who can stretch the floor and demand defenders away from the paint.

Last season, Patterson appeared in 65 games and started in eight of them. He averaged 6.8 points per game on 40 percent shooting to go along with 37 percent from deep. Rounding out his usual box score, he averaged 4.5 rebounds.

Although there are some power forwards with surprising percentages from deep, Patterson’s resumé is more impressive considering over the last few seasons he has averaged about 3.5 attempts from three a game. Last season, he averaged just under four.

This is the biggest free agent Sam Presti has signed, per ESPN’s Royce Young.

It is unclear whether Patterson will start or come off the bench. Oklahoma City still has restricted free agent Andre Roberson to deal with, and the recent signing of Gordon Hayward to Boston opens up an interesting can of worms concerning Marcus Smart.

Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript reports his salary will start off at $5.19 million in year one.

The Thunder got their floor spacer to play along side stars Russell Westbrook and recently acquired Paul George.


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Happy Fourth of July

Today is the day where we all join hands and remember how lucky we are to be Americans. Bar-B-Qs, fireworks and (usually) great weather.

This is a basketball site dedicated to covering the Oklahoma City Thunder. The NBA is a global game, so it is important to remember the thousands of Thunder fans where to them, today is just simply Tuesday.

One thing every Oklahoma City fan from across Kyrie Irving’s flat earth can agree upon is the significance of this date. The departure of Kevin Durant.

In the wake of his departure, the Thunder found themselves in troubled waters. Gone were the days of title contention. What was to become of the remaining star Russell Westbrook? At the time, it wasn’t pretty.

Of course, we know how the story goes from there.

Westbrook reaffirmed his commitment of Oklahoma City and led the Thunder out of the pit of despair. A 47-win season. A triple-double record for the ages. And finally, a well deserved MVP award.

Even still. The future was far from promising. Westbrook’s future remained uncertain. Even with all the excitement of the 2016-17 season, 47 wins is not what Thunder fans have grown accustomed too. While dreams of title contention seemed out of reach with Golden State appearing so dominant.

And then, the wizard waved his wand.

Sam Presti brought another super star in Paul George to the plains of Oklahoma to team up with Westbrook. Once again, Oklahoma City fans had hope. The addition of George is a large reminder of how lucky Thunder fans — and we as Thunder writers — are.

While Thunder fans hail from many countries — New Zealand, Turkey, Brazil, England and so many others — the Fourth of July will remain a pivotal point for all fans in Oklahoma City basketball history. The day when the first era of Thunder basketball died, only to give way to the new era. No matter how long or short this time may be, it is fun to be apart of the ride.

As an American, the Fourth of July represents many things. Pride was mentioned earlier. It is rather fitting.

Westbrook made it okay in those worrisome few weeks last year to be proud to be a Thunder fan. Now with another top player to help compete, there is more pride to be felt.

We here at Thunder Digest are certainly proud to cover this team. There may be more fun times ahead and that is all you can ask for.

Enjoy your Fourth of July everyone. Cupcakes and all.


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Three things noticed in Summer League Game 1

The Oklahoma City Thunder won their first game of the 2017 Summer League in exciting fashion against the Detroit Pistons 92-91.

Obviously, Domas Sabonis was no longer able to play with the Thunder’s Summer League squad after being traded yesterday. First round pick Terrance Ferguson has yet to sign his initial contract and is not in Orlando with the team.

Summer League is about development and growth. With the loss of Sabonis, the Thunder were represented by Semaj Christon and Josh Huestis as the only two players with NBA/Oklahoma City experience.

Here are three things that stuck out:

Semaj Christon

As stated earlier, Summer League is mainly to see growth and development in individual players. Christon is a player who Oklahoma City gave every opportunity last season as Russell Westbrook‘s primary backup. It was an up and down year for the rookie out of Xavier with more negatives than positives.

Today was a mixed bag for Semaj. While statistically, Christon isn’t going to be a player who will wow you, the main thing with the young guard is confidence.

Christen looked in control and definitely looked one of the few players with NBA experience. He had a handful of nice dishes and drives.

As of right now, Christon remains the backup point guard for the Thunder. If that is still the case when the 2017-18 season begins, his confidence will have to remain high.

Lack of Shooting

Until the final minutes, the Thunder were abysmal from beyond the arc. They finished the game shooting a respectable 36 percent after a desperate final run.

Guys like Huestis, Christon and Daniel Hamilton handling the shooting duties won’t light up the score board from deep.

This Summer League squad is designed to defend. While Huestis has shown a capable shot with good mechanics in his brief NBA experience, he will need to start pressing the issue with his shot if he wants to make strides.

The Ending

With two minutes remaining, the Thunder were down 11. Hamilton scored five points in 7.6 seconds to take the one point lead.

All thanks to a officiating blunder.

Official Haywoode Workman admitted to giving two free throws to the Thunder when they should have only had a one-shot technical.

Even in the Summer, the officials need some development.

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