Author - Chuck Chaney

Will the Thunder roll into the playoffs?

We’re Not Rebuilding – You’re Rebuilding

We’ve all seen the tear-jerking videos of a military man surprising his family at a family picnic or the lost puppy miraculously found and caught by someone with a camera in hand. The tag line is along the lines of “I’m not crying, you’re crying” – because in effect – it’s hard for anyone not to get a bit misty-eyed.

So, what does this have to do with the Oklahoma City Thunder, circa 2019-2020? Well, it was a year that was supposed to be a bridge to the future and not a pathway to postseason success, at least not this season. In the offseason, the Thunder moved the cornerstone of the franchise, All-Star Russell Westbrook, to the Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul and Houston’s first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 as well as the right to swap first-rounders in 2021 and 2025.

Shortly before that blockbuster the Oklahoma City brass traded All-Star forward Paul George to the Clippers for forwarding Danilo Gallinari, guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a stunning haul of five first-round selections. Considering that the Thunder last reached the NBA finals in the spring of 2012 with the All-Star triumvirate of Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden, yet still bowed to the Heat in five games, the chances of climbing that prodigious mountain again with only Westbrook and George leading the charge were not good.

The Thunder fans would not be happy with such a shocking liquidation of their most precious assets but it was a necessary teardown to a brighter future, or so the OKC suits said. Even Vegas and the online sportsbooks made the Thunder one of the longest shots on the board to win the NBA championship at 325-1 before the season began.

However, the disastrous season many were envisioning for this year’s Thunder has yet to occur and, in fact, the results have been no less than shocking as we check out the standings during the All-Star break. Oklahoma City has registered a 33-22 record and is tied with Dallas for the sixth seed in the West with 27 games remaining on the regular-season slate. If we check out SBR Odds, we see that those championship odds have plummeted to 195-1 as the playoffs are now a very real possibility for a team that was destined for the cellar this year.

One of the most surprising contributions for Oklahoma City’s unanticipated success this season stems from their bench, the role players. The Thunder has emerged victorious in 15 of their last 18 road tilts and in 41 of their 55 games the Thunder backups have outscored the opposition’s second-stringers. Veteran point guard Dennis Schroder (19.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game) has been one of the league’s most unheralded bench players and his admiration for Chris Paul is boundless. Schroder gushed, “He’s (Chris Paul) awesome. He’s one of the best or top point guards who ever played this game…. He changed the culture here as well — how we’re playing together as a team. He’s talking to every one of us every time during games, practices. Even if we’re off the court he talks to us. Leading this group. Obviously, he did a lot for us so he deserves it (an All-Star selection).”

We should also point out that two of the players the Thunder received in their blockbuster deals, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, are the team’s leading scorers while Schroder is a candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. And let’s not forget to give oodles of credit to head coach Billy Donovan who has taken what his bosses have given him and forged a team that is strong on defense and even stronger on chemistry. San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich commented on Donovan’s performance this season and stated, “He’s done one of the more masterful jobs in the league this year.”

And while the Thunder’s record this year compares admirably to where they stood last season after 55 games (36-19), there are still games yet to be played and playoff seeds to be cemented. But from where we’re sitting, Oklahoma City is poised to be tipping off in the postseason come April and this Cinderella story has only just begun!

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No move at the deadline is the right move

It’s easy to sit there and want the Thunder to make a trade before the deadline. This team by all honest accounts is a middle of the road team in the NBA. The teams at the top are GOOD.

That’s not what the Thunder did on Thursday, especially without trying.

There appeared to really be only one legitimate trade, Danilo Gallinari to Miami. It was reported the Heat and Gallinari’s team were working on a contract extension but unknown reasons broke down the talks and OKC survived the deadline.

Oklahoma City stayed put at the deadline and that’s what most Thunder fans wanted. They wanted this team that has become so fun to watch give it a real go at the season. They are fully aware the chances at a championship are long but it’s been a moment since the Thunder have been fun to watch.

Sure, Russell Westbrook and PG were fun by the Thunder really have caused a lot of heartbreak and frustration by their play. They never lived up to the potential with multiple first round exits.

This team… this team is different. Their fight is different. Their comradery is different and it’s refreshing. Must like the 2016-17 team where we just hopped on Westbrook’s back and rode the wave.

It was just as frustrating as it was fun. This team is all fun. They look like they are having fun. They’re not barking at each other (sans Burton) and enjoying the basketball game. The lack of expectations is a part of it and the fact they are just good.

We wrote on here a week ago this team is curing all their issues by just winning games. That will mask a lot of what may be wrong but doesn’t matter this season.

You’re not going to fix everything that may be wrong with this team this season. The draft is expected to be 2012 bad. Their fighting for their playoff lives. It would be different if this team was a .500 team or out of the playoffs but they’re right in the thick of things and have a chance to move up higher.

Let the fixing of the team happen in the off season. We know Gallo is gone. We know you’re going to trade Schröder and CP3 is going to be a big trade piece next season. This season, they’ve beaten the predictors.

Let them try to do the unthinkable.

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Thunder defying expectations by winning

This team is going to be terrible they said. Tanking for days. The Thunder are not going to be good for the foreseeable future.

That’s what they all said and despite all of the bad words the mean guy on the TV and radio said, the Thunder have fought that narrative and are good… and fun.

It starts with Chris Paul. The 36-year old veteran didn’t appear overtly happy to be traded away from his family and a ring opportunity but when one door shuts, another opens. The Thunder are happy to have the future first ballot hall of fame inductee. It’s been a beacon of light for Paul, who appears to be in the best health in many moons. The man they dub “Point God” has been the best role model for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Speaking of SGA, the 20-year old has been everything many had promised. He’s a quiet leader and down right a bad ass on the court. While he’s going to be taking part in the Rising Stars game, it might not be too long when we see him move from Saturday night’s events to Sunday afternoon.

On Friday night when the team needed them most, the 3-guard lineup showed up and made their mark. A 15-2 run to put the Thunder ahead before the tornado hit. The Thunder avoided the twister and picked up the win but most importantly, they continued to win. They’ve won a lot of games where they weren’t supposed to. A lot of games where they trailed. They’ve won 13 games when trailing heading into the fourth quarter. Their 13 fourth quarter comebacks are the most since 2014-15 when the Portland Trail Blazers did it 14 times. The most wins in the last 20 years is Cleveland’s 17 comebacks in 2007-08.

The rest has just fallen in place. From the surprising emergence of Lu Dort from the two-way contract to the surprising three-headed monster that has become the Thunder’s closing lineup. When it comes to individual players, the guard trio is the best lineup in the NBA. Their net rating is the best by at least eight points. Oh, The CP3-Schröder-Gallinari line up is third best.

The Thunder are a team without expectations by many which considered the Thunder to only win 30-32 games and with those no expectations of winning, this team has flourished.

There are obvious issues with the team the Thunder have to deal with like Andre Roberson and what to do with Terrance Ferguson.

The fans are enjoying the ride and with only six days left until trade deadline day, this team could be dismantled next week.

Until then, put your hands up as this team rides a rollercoaster season that was supposed to be a ride on teacups.

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Nerlens double-double powers OKC by Portland

The Thunder built an 18-point lead and everything appeared to be going to form. They would blow the lead, melt down in the third quarter. Damian Lillard would catch fire and everyone would srhug their shoulders as if we are to accept the outcome.

Except, the Thunder didn’t do that. They may have lost the lead but they overcame Lillard’s big third quarter to hold the lead after three. They pushed the lead back to double digits.

In the end, Oklahoma City beat the Trail Blazers 108-96 on Sunday night to start their West coast road trip in the best way.

The Thunder are now 10-12 on the year. With the win, Oklahoma City moves to seventh in the Western Conference playoff race.

Oklahoma City overcame so many of their early season woes in one game. In just days after the Trail Blazers hit their first approximately 1,000 shots against Oklahoma City, the Thunder forced Portland to miss 12-of-13 shots in the middle of the first quarter.

Dennis Schröder got the ball rolling for the Thunder in the second quarter. He hit two threes and an old fashioned, three-point play, pushing Oklahoma City into a double digit advantage. The lead grew as Nerlens Noel and others chipped in.

Before the Blazers really found their footing, the Thunder had built a 49-31 lead with just over four minutes left in the half.

Portland made a runoff two threes from Lillard. The Thunder held off the run, which would be one of a few, and controlled the halftime scoreboard 55-47.

Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Portland made their final run throughout the third. Lillard got hot but Oklahoma City found an answer every time the Blazers and Lillard did anything of value.

Then as if it was a switch that was flipped Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stepped up and made some buckets after struggling for a majority of the game. Danilo Gallinari did the same. SGA had 14 points in the final frame and Gallinari hit a big three that helped OKC keep their distance from the surging Blazers.

SGA finishes with 21 points. Schröder had 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-4 from deep. Nerlens Noel had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Oklahoma City plays the Utah Jazz Monday night in Salt Lake City. Their 8.5-point underdogs and it already feels as if they’re winners. Tip-off is at 8 p.m.

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Oklahoma City destroys Golden State 120-92

It’s everything we’ve wanted to see over the last few years, minus a few players. Oklahoma City Thunder-dumped the Golden State Warriors on Sunday afternoon 120-92.

The Thunder led from the beginning, with Danilo Gallinari scoring the first eight points. It set the tone and the Thunder would never relinquish the lead.

Oklahoma City picks up their first win of the season, improving to 1-2 on the year and it exercised a handful of demons in the process.

The win also ties the Thunder’s biggest win over the Warriors in franchise history.

IN the year’s past of the Warriors blowing out the Thunder, often with devastating. results as the Warriors spouted four all-stars and the Thunder riding these emotional waves that were nearly impossible to control. As the franchise continues to recover, the tide is turning. KD is gone and so is Westbrook. That chapter of the rivalry is gone. Oklahoma City notched the first win in the new era by shutting down Steph Curry and use an array of players to make the Warriors afternoon a nightmare.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to be this remarkable player with huge upside. His ability to contort his body against the body of his defender and still find a way to make a finger roll or a nice contested bucket leaves you jaw dropped and the Thunder can see a real superstar in SGA. He finished with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting in only 29 minutes.

Oklahoma City saw their first double digit lead early as they jumped up 13-3 on a nice move by Chris Paul. The Thunder saw their lead balloon to 20 midway through the second quarter when Hamidou Diallo made a 3-pointer, giving Oklahoma City the 48-26 lead with 7:29 to go until half.

The Thunder led 70-39 at half.

The onslaught continued for Oklahoma City as they pushed and pushed. Chase down blocks by SGA and outstanding production from Chris Paul, running the offense, and Danilo Gallinari scoring big time points, the Thunder pushed their lead to as many as 42 in the second half and Golden State really never could find any rhythm to get themselves back in the game.

Paul finished with 10 points on 2-of-5 shooting. Gallinari 21 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-9 from three. Six different players scored at least eight points for Oklahoma City. Dennis Schröder showed up finally. He finished with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. He led OKC with six assists. He also had eight rebounds.

Oklahoma City held the Warriors to only 5-of-33 three-point shooting, one of their worst shooting performances in recent memory of the Warriors.

The Thunder led 105-68 after three quarters.

D’Angelo Russell was ejected in the third quarter for yelling at an official.

The best part about the game is Oklahoma City was able to rest their starters on the front of a back-to-back. No one played more than 30 minutes and that’s most important.

Oklahoma City will be back on the court tomorrow night against Russell Westbrook and the Houston Rockets.

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Thunder Game Day #2: vs. Washington Wizards

Oklahoma City Thunder (0-1, 0-0 home)

at

Washington Wizards (0-1, 0-1 away)

Friday, October 25 :: 7:00 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)
TV Coverage: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 9-point favorites. The over/under is 221.5.
Online StreamFS OK | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Wizards: here

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

  • You can catch the radio on Oklahoma City’s WWLS, 98.1 FM. Matt Pinto will be your play-by-play voice. If you’re in Tulsa, catch it on 1450 AM.
  • Chris Fisher and Michael Cage call the game on the Thunder’s flagship station, Fox Sports Oklahoma. You can watch the game there, catch it on NBA League Pass, or use the Fox Sports App (If you’re in Oklahoma).

SCOUTING THE ENEMY

  • The Washington Wizards went 32-50 last season, 11th in the Eastern Conference.
  • The two teams split last season’s series, winning on each other’s court.
  • The two teams have split the last three seasons.
  • Oklahoma City is 73-62 all-time against the Washington Wizards.
  • Since the Thunder relocated, Oklahoma City is 14-7 against Washington.
  • When they play in ‘Peake, the Thunder are 9-1. It happened last season.
  • INJURY REPORT:
    Troy Brown Jr. (calf strain) is out.
    Ian Mahinmi (achilles strain) is out.
    Jordan McRae (finger) is out.
    CJ Miles (foot) is out.
    Isaiah Thomas (thumb) is a game-time decision.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Washington came on March 14, 2011, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 116-89 (27-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (22 points) vs. the Wizards occurred during an 120-98 loss on Feb. 13, 2017.

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson (return to play management) is out.

UNIFORM WATCH

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Thunder look like a team in loss to Jazz

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Mike Muscala (33) fouls Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) as Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) drives during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Salt Lake City.

We expected the worst last night so when the final score came down, we were pleasantly surprised. For the Oklahoma City Thunder and their fans, the 100-95 loss to one of the Western Conference favorites, the Utah Jazz, there were a lot of good to take away from.

The Thunder’s win totals are considerably lower than in year’s past due to the loss of a couple of well known guys in Russell Westbrook and Paul George. However, the additions of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul, the Thunder appeared to be a formidable bunch. The duo combined for 48 of the 95 points Oklahoma City scored. While Chris Paul’s future with Oklahoma City will remain in the air for the foreseeable future, it was SGA’s take over in the second and third quarter that put Oklahoma City in prime striking distance.

The real difference in this game came down to two things: coaching and having a superstar.

The mere presence of Donovan Mitchell gave Oklahoma City fits. His ability to hit key shots when the Jazz needed was detrimental to the Thunder’s winning percentages. Oklahoma City had no answer for him and that was more than just defending shots. The game winner or you can call it. Donovan caught a high screen from Gobert, leaving Mitchell open for a mid-range jumper. While he nailed it, nothing but the bottom of the net, it left Adams on an island. Does he push up and get blown by Mitchell, leaving the rim wide open or does he hold his ground, hoping a player who shoots under 50 percent can match his percentages. Mitchell’s ability to close games prevailed and the Thunder are sent back to Oklahoma City trying to get better.

Then there was Billy Donovan’s decision making down the stretch. The inability to call the right play against a team he’s seen more than a dozen times remains frustrating. Chris Paul having to take a contested corner three because Donovan’s ability to draw up a simple play that puts Utah in precarious situations is alarming. This team has eight new players, so some of the frustration plays we’ve seen in the past should change as the personal changes. It didn’t last night and that’s what is the most worrisome.

SGA is the real deal. While he didn’t score in the fourth quarter, setting a new career high of 25 points through just three quarters, his ability to maneuver through the lane is impressive. He hit shots within stride and really showed why the Thunder were so amped to get him in the trade. He’s probably the future of Oklahoma City basketball. His line of 10-of-23 shooting, 3-of-7 from three looks oddly like a Russell Westbrook line.

The Thunder have a lot of things to work out as they continue to integrate so many new players. One thing everyone should improve on is the free throw shooting. SGA, a career 80 percent free throw shooter coming into the game, was only 3-of-6. Adams appeared to be in midseason form as he was 1-of-6, missing his first four attempts. Oklahoma City’s been will continue to be a bit of an engima unless proven otherwise. Without Andre Roberson back, which will force someone to the bench (most likely Terrance Ferguson [we’ll get to him in a moment]), the bench will struggle to find their own identity. Only 21 points on absymal shooting, 7-of-24 and 1-of-8 from three. It was literally the Hamidou Diallo show for the bench. Dennis Schröder hasn’t been found in Utah and maybe he was left back in Oklahoma City. The local authorities are on it. He was terrible, going 1-of-8 from the floor. We could get someone like Sebastian Telfair to do that for the league minimum.

Steven Adams was not himself against Gobert. That is something we should come to accept. When Adams matches up against someone better than him, he will struggle heavily. This could be applied to Jokic, Nurkic and maybe Whiteside. The Kiwi is a little too slow to move with the guys who are defensive powers. While Adams’ game is old school, his ability to overcome strong defense is not. He disappears and becomes a non-factor. The Thunder have little to no room for error and him becoming a non-factor is a real flat tire for the Thunder. Interesting to see what Adams can do against other players in the league. He’s often one of the more criticized Thunder players due to his hefty contract.

Terrance Ferguson tried to play his way out of the rotation. If it wasn’t for Schröder’s poor performance, it may be Ferguson who’s sent to the bench. We’ve said it for years, you cannot have a starting guard have more turnovers (1) than shot attempts (0). He started out slow last year and turned into a quality player but as we said about Adams and Schröder: there’s no room for error.

The Thunder are a good team. If Sam Presti doesn’t blow this team up and let it ride out, the Thunder are showing why they could be a playoff team. Injuries and other things will creep up but it’s how the Thunder will respond during those times that will show what real team the they have.

We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Thunder Game Day #1: at Utah Jazz

Oklahoma City Thunder (0-0, 0-0 away)

at

Utah Jazz (0-0, 0-0 home)

Wednesday, October 23 :: 8:00 p.m. CST :: Vivint Smart Home Arena (18,300)
TV Coverage: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 9-point favorites. The over/under is 221.5.
Online StreamFS OK | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Jazz: here

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

  • You can catch the radio on Oklahoma City’s WWLS, 98.1 FM. Matt Pinto will be your play-by-play voice. If you’re in Tulsa, catch it on 1450 AM.
  • Chris Fisher and Michael Cage call the game on the Thunder’s flagship station, Fox Sports Oklahoma. You can watch the game there, catch it on NBA League Pass, or use the Fox Sports App (If you’re in Oklahoma).

SCOUTING THE ENEMY

  • The Utah Jazz finished last season 50-32, fifth in the Western Conference.
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder swept the Jazz last season, including a 148-147 thriller in double overtime.
  • The Thunder have won seven straight over Utah.
  • The Thunder have won 10 of the last 11 against Utah and 14 of the last 16.
  • The Thunder have won three straight in Utah.
  • All-time against Utah, the Thunder are 110-78.
  • Since the Thunder relocated, Oklahoma City is 31-12 against Utah.
  • When they play in SLC, the Thunder are 12-10 against the Jazz.
  • INJURY REPORT:
    Dante Exum (right knee) is out.
  •  The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Utah came on 12/20/17, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 107-79 (28-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (21 points) vs. Utah occurred during a 99-120 loss on 10/31/10.

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson (return to play management) is out.

UNIFORM WATCH

We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Six takeaways from OKC’s preseason win over Dallas

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. The final score doesn’t matter. It’s a preseason game. Teams are not going to play their normal rotations and will try other players who are trying to make the roster. Here are a few notes from the game.

Defensively they look fine

No Luka Doncic and not Kristaps Porzingis but the Thunder’s defense looked solid. They made most shots tough for the Mavericks and the first time in a while the Thunder never really seemed to have a late game collapse. Sure, Dallas made it close but it really wasn’t a threat. Only four steals as a team. That’s going to take some time to adjust to, and that may change or hurt Oklahoma City down the road.

Chris Paul has always been an above average defender and the Thunder still have Steven Adams. However, stuff like Jerami Grant being gone won’t be seen until we really start playing full games. However, their perimeter defense was solid and overall was a solid performance by the team.

Sharing is caring

While Russell Westbrook often led the league in assists the team was disappointing when it came to total assists per game. 24 in their first game is nice. They were pretty spread out and that means people were hitting their shots with some consistency. It’s no secret Westbrook would’ve averaged 15 per game had people hit their shots.

Where will the assists come from? While the NBA continues to become this fluid, position-less league, the Thunder will rely on Chris Paul for those numbers but SGA will do his part but only one assist from SGA last night isn’t alarming but may be something we key on.

Free throws were rough

Oklahoma City shot just 65.7 percent from the free throw line last night. That cannot happen going forward. The margin for error will be tight for a team that lacks multiple MVP candidates. Some of it will get better. Lugunetz Dort will not miss two because he’ll be with the OKC Blue. Terrance Ferguson is better than a 50 percent shooter.

Things that probably will stay the same: Steven Adams missing three. That’s come to be expected. He was 6-of-9 last night and with his physicality down low, he’s likely to get the line a handful of times each game. Hopefully with Adams, he makes more than he misses.

We’re not even going to consider what it may be with Andre Roberson returning to the lineup soon.

Optimism is high

The over/under is 31.5 for the Thunder on wins. If they play like this and SGA becomes what the Thunder expect out of him, the Thunder could win a few more games. I’m not sure what the real life expectations from the Thunder are but if CP3 plays well, doesn’t get traded and the Thunder find themselves in the thick of a playoff race or at least at .500.

Muscal-eww

Mike Muscala didn’t look particularly well in his one. In only eight minutes of play he was 1-of-5 with a turnover. He was a plus-11. So, that’s good, right?

Do we eve really know what his role is here in Oklahoma City? No. The Thunder signed a player who doesn’t particularly fit well with the roster they have. He’s never shown proper play that would put him into the starting five, to me obviously. Maybe Billy Donovan is working him into the rotation but playing so late in a preseason game is not always the best sign. We’ll see going forward.

The Thunder shoot the three… well?

Despite it being just a preseason game, the Thunder looked GOOD from beyond the arc. Something the Thunder have struggled with over the last couple of seasons didn’t look like an issue last night. Sure, Dallas was without a couple of key players but the building blocks for a decent perimeter game was there.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went 4-of-8 and Chris Paul went 2-of-3. That’s already a change. While we all love Russell, his three-point shooting left a lot to be desired. It’s going to be a nice change of pace to have a point guard who hit a three with some consistency. Paul is a career 37 percent three-point shooter. Westbrook is a 31 percent shooter.

Starters-wise, the Thunder went 8-of-14, pretty solid. Danilo Gallinari missed his only attempt and he only played 17 minutes. Very curious to see what Oklahoma City can do with a full 48 minutes. It’s not always going to be good but it has to be better, right?

ALSO: Steven Adams hit a three! Steven Adams hit a three! Steven Adams hit a three!

Steven Adams hit a three! Okay. I’m done.

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Oklahoma City Thunder trade Russell Westbrook

The Oklahoma City Thunder have traded Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. It’s a sentence I never wanted to write. Here we are. Russell Westbrook’s comes to an abrupt ending.

Oklahoma City will get Chris Paul and a handful of picks in return according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have acquired eight first-round picks since draft night.

Russell Westbrook was the longest tenured player with the Thunder, lasting 11 seasons. During his career in Oklahoma City he won the 2016-17 MVP and averaged a triple-double for three consecutive seasons.

Westbrook finishes atop all the statistical categories are atop the Oklahoma City-Seattle record books. His charity events are atop the Oklahoma City charity groups. His on the court performances were matched by his ability within the community. Westbrook cared about those within the state of Oklahoma.

With everything Oklahoma City went through back in 2016. It was Westbrook who stayed. He could have asked to be moved then. He signed and committed to the city. He put his trust within the organization. They rolled out the red carpet. In return, he went bananas, winning the 2016-17 Most Valuable Player award over James Harden. He became the first player in half century to average a triple-double.

Then, Oklahoma City made money moves. They went into the high tax to bring in players like Paul George. Injuries and just mismanaged rosters with Carmelo Anthony, for example, led to three straight first round exits. The sky high expectations over the last two season have been met with little reward. Three straight first round exits, including a disappointing 4-1 series loss to the Blazers puts the duo in the cross hairs.

When Paul George asked for a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, Westbrook and the Thunder met to see what would come up with the Thunder. It became obvious the Thunder were looking to rebuild. The Thunder wanted to do right by Westbrook. The man who shown loyalty in a league where loyalty is all but a word. They took down a list of teams and began taking offers for the triple-double machine.

Miami shown interest but were not parting with key players like Tyler Herro and others. So, Presti did what he does best. He moved on. He’s done it numerous times. He is not a man who will play the staring contest. Like the Harden situation, Presti moved under the cloak of darkness and moved Westbrook to a preferred destination: the Houston Rockets.

Oklahoma City gets Paul, a 34-year old future hall of famer. He’s due $124 million over the next three seasons. It’s not a done deal Paul stays in Oklahoma City. Miami and such will be in the mix but with his large contract, it’s going to be difficult to move it. It will not be impossible, just difficult.

No. 0 will always be No. 1 in our hearts. For all of his faults. Westbrook will not quit on you. He’s going to be the greatest gift to the Rockets. He’s loyal to a fault and in the end, he cares about two things: his family and winning. That’s it.

Oklahoma City is stacked in draft picks. Houston is stacked for a title run. My heart is full of memories of Westbrook.

A new Thunder chapter begins.

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