Author - Brady Trantham

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.

Growth.

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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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What Paul George is inheriting

Yesterday’s blockbuster deal for Paul George sent shockwaves throughout the NBA. It was a message heard loud and clear:

Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder were not going to concede to the teams ahead of them or accept their place in the hierarchy of the league.

“Oklahoma City is a small market, no one wants to go there.”

“With the loss of Kevin Durant, the Thunder will begin to slip into obscurity.”

You have heard those statements over the past 12 months. In the wake of the titanic hole left by Durant’s almost-heretical departure, Oklahoma City was cast down in the Western Conference. From potential title contender for the next few seasons to a middle-of-the-pack franchise with no real aspirations of raising banners.

Thankfully for Presti and the Thunder, they were left with a guy by the name of Russell Westbrook.

The 2016-17 reigning MVP led the charge to pull the Thunder from out of the depths of separation anxiety caused by their former star bolting for Oakland. Westbrook’s league tour of destruction made it exciting to rock Thunder blue again. Now, the fan base would run through a wall for him.

Oklahoma City, while ecstatic about Westbrook’s historic year and playoff appearance, do not accept playing second fiddle to the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs or even the gods on Mt. Olympus themselves, the Golden State Warriors.

That is the situation George is walking into — an environment ready to not only take the next step, but crash the party. The former Indiana Pacer makes his glorious appearance in the holy war against Durant and the Warriors.

Make no mistake, Oklahoma City wants Golden State.

At this point, the Warriors are still the class of the league by one of the widest margins in memory. Adding a player — even one of the caliber of George — does not guarantee a competitive series against the defending champions who lost one game in their postseason run. The door, however, has been opened.

There is no question that Oklahoma City’s time with George could be limited. The All-Star wing has made it clear to his former employer that he intends to return home to Southern California and play for the Los Angeles Lakers when his contract is up next season. Presti however won’t accept that.

There are still moves to be made according to ESPN‘s Royce Young.

Whatever happens over the next few hours and days, the Thunder have substantially improved their roster. George brings that second option that Westbrook desperately needed. A player with the ability to take over games on any given night and keep opposing defenses up at night.

The Thunder still have a way to go before you can boast a potential competitive series against the Warriors, Spurs or even the Rockets. The process has received a shot in the arm with the arrival of George.

The optimism to compete is no longer a “few years down the road” discussion. If Oklahoma City is going to become a player in the Western Conference it starts with Westbrook.

And now continues with George.

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New York Knicks interested in Sam Presti

According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, the New York Knicks have had internal conversations about possibly adding Sam Presti to their front office to replace Phil Jackson.

In the report, Begley says that the Knicks would “likely need to offer compensation to OKC for Presti, who is currently under contract.”

It is unclear how serious the talks are at this point. Regardless, New York is being run currently by Steve Mills.

Presti is an attractive name to float around to add to another team’s front office. With a résumé including drafting Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka among others, Presti was ranked first out of all 30 NBA general managers by Bleacher Report.

The Knicks are in disarray after the abysmal tenure of Jackson. It is safe to assume the talks are wishful thinking at this time. Considering the Knicks would need to compensate Oklahoma City, these whispers appear to be only that — whispers.

Stranger things have happened, however.

Presti recived a multi-year extension to his previous contract in 2010. Thunder owner Clay Bennett did not announce the terms at the time.

 

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Westbrook, Thunder in top 10 jersey sells for April-June

Westbrook nominated for multiple ESPY awards

According to NBAStore.com, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder are in the top 10 of jersey sells for the months of April and June.

The 2016-17 NBA MVP came in at fourth behind Steph Curry, LeBron James and former Thunder teammate Kevin Durant. Another former Oklahoma City player cracked the top 10 — James Harden came in at number nine.

As a team, the Oklahoma City Thunder ranked seventh in overall team merchandise sells. Those that finished ahead of the Thunder were the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Overall, Westbrook is the fourth highest jersey sell for the 2016-17 season behind the same three players.

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OKC still interested in Rudy Gay

The former Sacramento King small forward Rudy Gay is still on the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s radar.

According to The Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowksi, the soon to be free agent will be hosting suitors in Austin, Texas while the Thunder “continues to be a team that sees fit.”

Ever since the departure of Kevin Durant, Gay and Oklahoma City have been linked in numerous trade rumors prior to the achilles injury he sustained on January 18 against the Indiana Pacers. At the time, Gay and former Thunder back up point guard Cameron Payne were linked in a potential deal.

It is unclear what role Gay’s achilles tear will play in his free agency experience. As Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript points out, players who have suffered a similar injury — such as Dallas Maverick Wes Mathews — have never fully bounced back from an achilles tear.

Considering Oklahoma City is near the tax, the Thunder may not extend the full mid-level extension towards Gay as that would hard cap them, according to Katz.

The fit is a little puzzling. While his position is that of a small forward, Gay has experience playing power forward in small ball lineups. Not typically known for his rebounding or defense, the experiments in Sacramento at PF did not yield pleasing results.

The Thunder have plenty of bigs at the PF and center positions.

His shooting skills, scoring and offensive versatility are what Thunder general manager Sam Presti probably see in potentially adding him in free agency.

Prior to his injury, Gay was averaging 18.7 points per game on 45 percent shooting to go along with 37 percent from beyond the arc. The former University of Connecticut Husky is a career 18.4 point scorer and averages just over five rebounds per game.

Free agency meetings can begin on Saturday, July 1 at 12:01 a.m.

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