Category - Thunder News

Nerlens Noel narrows list to Thunder and two other teams

According to Shams Charania of Yahoo! Sports, unrestricted free agent Nerlens Noel has narrowed his free agency hunt down to three teams and the Oklahoma City Thunder are in the mix.

Noel, 24, never has lived up to the potential of a top 10 pick. Drafted sixth overall in the 2013 draft, he was traded immediately to Philadelphia where he fell out of favor due to injury. Noel missed his entire first season due to knee surgery recovery.

Noel played in 171 games over 2 1/2 seasons for the Sixers before being traded to Dallas in the middle of the 2016-17 season. In Dallas, Noel’s plummet out of the rotation was worse than Nate Robinson in Oklahoma City. Rather than trade him, Dallas let him sit on the bench and rot. He played in 52 games over two seasons, averaging 6.1 points on 55.2 percent shooting. For his career, Noel is a 51.2 percent shooter, averaging 9.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in about 26 minutes per game.

Oklahoma City could use a back up center. Dakari Johnson was serviceable but often unplayable for a majority of the season last year. He was a dominate player in the G League but the jump from the NBA from the G League proved to be quite stark for an immobile player like Johnson.

There’s a slim bit of irony of a former Kentucky Wildcat big man potentially replacing another Kentucky Wildcat big man in the lineup.

Noel is also considering the Los Angeles Lakers and the Washington Wizards. The Lakers are probably out in the Noel sweepstakes since they’ve just signed JaVale McGee and it is expected big man Brook Lopez is going to return to the Lakers. That only leaves the Thunder and the Wizards. While Washington can offer Noel a chance a starting since they’ve traded away Marcin Gortat, a real chance a title and best team success sits in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City doesn’t have a lot of money but they do have a $5.337 million tax mid-level exception to use. It still goes against the cap but allows Oklahoma City to get a decent player instead of a player at a complete veteran’s minimum.

You should expect Noel’s decision in the next day or two.

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Jerami Grant re-signs with Oklahoma City

A question in so many minds was: What will Oklahoma City do with Jerami Grant?

The question didn’t take long to be answered. Oklahoma City re-signed Jerami Grant for three-year, $22 million at the beginning of free agency. Grant’s third year comes with a player option.

Oklahoma City acquired Jerami Grant two seasons ago from Philadelphia. He was a relative unkonwn and, I’ll be the first one to admit, I was wrong about him. I figured Oklahoma City made the wrong choice by training Ersan Elyasova for him. Presti stays winning.

Grant averaged 8.4 points last season on 53.5 percent shooting. While not the greatest three-point shooter, his numbers are solid across the boar dand provides a decent plus/minus.

Keeping Grant on a $9 million annual salary could cost the Thunder an additional $40 million in luxury tax. His re-signing is a clear message to George and All-Star guard Russell Westbrook about ownership’s willingness to possibly host the largest payroll in NBA history, which with George and Grant is north of $300 million at this point with only 11 players.

Grant was the 39th overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Grant’s iconic moment came in the Western Conference playoffs when he was a real piece in Oklahoma City’s historic comeback against Utah while Carmelo Anthony was on the bench. Anthony would eventually re-enter the game, but it was Grant who provided the spark.

 

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Paul George commits to re-sign with Oklahoma City

Free Agent Paul George has verbally committed to re-signing with the Oklahoma City.

It’s far believed within the Thunder’s organization George was committed to staying at Oklahoma City beyond the 2017-18 season. This gave Oklahoma City the ability to ride out an injury and understanding Carmelo Anthony’s contract would have to be moved. There’s a reason why Presti spoke about the Big Three (Adams, Russ, PG) when talking in his exit interview.

About 11 p.m. local time, George got on stage with Russell Westbrook as his hype man and told everyone he was staying.

Paul George fits Oklahoma City like a glove, from personality to play. George might not be KD. What he is though, is a quality person and player that will help the Thunder finally get out of the first round and hopefully back to the finals.

George is hitting the prime of his career. He’s 28 and him and Westbrook are one of the NBA’s best 1-2 punches in the NBA.

Last season, George averaged 21.9 points on 43.0 percent shooting plus 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists. George’s percentages were up across the board, including a career high of 40.1 percent from deep.

George joined the Oklahoma City Thunder last season after seven years with the Indiana Pacers before Oklahoma City traded for him one year ago today. Oklahoma City traded for George a year ago, knowing full well that he could opt out and head to Los Angeles. The big risk, big reward of Presti’s decision has paid off George has committed to staying at Oklahoma City.

Adrian Wojnarwoski reported George will sign for a four-year $137 million. The fourth year will be a player option.

George gets the security he wanted. Sure, playing in LA would’ve been fun. However, when you have the type of injury he did. Security means something. Now, he has to go out and prove he’s worth every penny the Thunder just paid him.

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Paul George opts out of contract, will be free agent

Paul George has told the Oklahoma City Thunder he intends to opt out of his upcoming $20.7 million contract and will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.

We probably knew this was happening. Why only take $21 million when you can get $26 million per year? It really makes the most sense, financially for him to opt out. George has until 11:59 p.m EST to officially opt out. There’s always a chance he could opt in. However, that’s not going to happen.

George, who was traded this time last year from the Indiana Pacers, openly spoke about his interest to join the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Russell Westbrook and Sam Presti have done a fantastic job of selling Oklahoma City’s potential to the five-time all-star. Woj is reporting George is more and more comfortable with the Thunder. With a healthy lineup, the Thunder were one of the best teams in the NBA. Injuries derailed a promising season.

What makes the most financial sense is to sign with the Thunder. If George does that, he’s eligible for a five-year, $176 million contract extension on July 1. It’s easily the most money any team can offer him.

It’s highly expected George will sign a 1+1 deal, controlling his own freedom in case things go south. LeBron James started this and it’s becoming a huge trend. It gives players control and the ability to move on if they’re not comfortable.

If George signs with another team, the most he could sign for is four years, $169 million. So, what’s really $7 million in the grand scheme of things.

If it was truly about just winning, George would take a huge pay cut. Go come off the bench and win a ring like the snake did in Golden State. So, it doesn’t make a lot of sense… unless LeBron James goes to Los Angles. Even then it’s questionable whether or not they’d be able to beat the Warriors and the Rockets.

George averaged 21.9 points and 5.7 rebounds while being chosen as an All-star by the coaching staff this season. He shot 40.1 percent from three, second best of his career.

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Paul George free agency to be featured on ESPN

This isn’t the best news. Paul George’s flight into free agency is going to be broadcasted all over the World Wide Leader for everyone to see. Last time we saw something like this, LeBron James bolted for Miami.

George and SportsCenter will do a three-part series on his free agency journey, beginning to air on June 26 at 5 p.m. on SportsCenter.

The first part will dive into the George’s rise to stardom. This will be mainly a lot of Indiana Pacers highlights and US Basketball.

Part 2 will air on June 28 and will follow him in his off court journeys as he prepares to build the next phase of his career.

Part 3 will air after George makes his announcement. It’ll be approximately six minutes long and will talk about the next step after he’s announced to the world whether or not he’ll stay in Oklahoma City and what led him to that decision.

George joined the Oklahoma City Thunder last season after seven years with the Indiana Pacers. As the series documents an important point in his career, the Los Angeles-area native will be shown speaking with trusted advisors and friends, including 12-time NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade.

It’s unknown what this means. If you’re a Thunder fan, it’s almost like hearing “Hey, we need to talk” from your significant other. We all know what it means. However, he could be propping up his return to Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison have gone on ESPN and spoke fondly about their times in Oklahoma City, so why not George, too?

George can still opt out of his player option and still re-sign with Oklahoma City. We expect him to do exactly that. George could opt out and then re-sign with Oklahoma City for a max contract, paying him a lot more than $20 million.

Friday is the day we’ll find out what happens and hopefully, it’ll be good news. If not, Sam Presti will find a way to keep Oklahoma City in a the title chase.

In Presti we trust, right?

Official Press release: https://espnmediazone.com/us/press-releases/2018/06/paul-georges-offseason-to-be-featured-in-three-part-sportscenter-series/

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Carmelo Anthony to opt-in

Well, what we knew would happened, finally happened. Carmelo Anthony opted in on his $27.9 million contract. While many understood this was going to happen.

You don’t walk away from $28 million, it’s still also understandable for people’s frustrations. Anthony wants a ring and maybe thinks he can do it here but we’ve seen in reality that’s probably not happening. However, we cannot hate or even really be mad at someone for not passing up that type of money.

All of a sudden, Anthony is the 10th highest player in the NBA. TENTH. ONE-ZERO.

Anthony, 34, had come to Oklahoma City in hopes of becoming a trio that helped dethrone the Warriors and added that elusive championship to his already hall of fame resume. However, injuries happened and it exposed Anthony defensively and his role as the power forward position, playing a very stretched version of it, had worn thin with him and in all honesty hadn’t really worked too well.

It was apparent from the first time he interviewed with the media he wouldn’t be accepting anything less than a starting position. You also don’t trade for a player like Anthony, with his accolades and financial burden, to bring him off the bench. There were issues in which we saw other players stepping up when Anthony couldn’t. In Game 5 as Oklahoma City made their historic comeback, it was Jerami Grant who made the push, not Anthony.

Then, the open criticism of the experiment at the exit interviews. Anthony detested playing the four and once again reiterated he would not be coming off the bench.

Anthony spoke the right things throughout the season. However, it’s understood the experiment didn’t work. We can say Anthony tried. Thunder General Manager Sam Presti saw that, too.

“I give him an enormous amount of credit for the fact that he put both feet in,” Presti said. “I personally think he did an excellent job in his first year transitioning his game, working to becoming more of an off-the-ballplayer, being more reliant on other people to generate his offense, and sacrificing a lot.”

Anthony averaged 16.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game this season, both some of his career worsts. Scoring was the lowest of his illustrious career. His shooting numbers weren’t any better. His 40.4 percent field goal percentage was the worst of his career.

There are options for Oklahoma City. They could trade the 10-time all-star or they could buy him out. They could just make him come off the bench, too. However, it’s more likely Anthony will not be a member of the Thunder next season. Anthony does retain his no-trade clause in his contract.

If Oklahoma City buys out Anthony, the money they negotiate, whether it’s smaller or the whole $27.9 million, will still count agains the Thunder’s salary cap. However, if Anthony signs with another team within 48 hours, it’s completely free of the any responsibility. It’s more likely Anthony isn’t signed within 48 hours and a portion of the money would still count against the Thunder’s cap.

There’s also the wild factor of LeBron James’ decision. Cleveland could try to make a move for Anthony. It would give James another proven scorer around him, it would also provide some depth for Oklahoma City as they would probably get one or two players back in the trade.

For now, Anthony remains a member of the Thunder. Who knows if the Andre Roberson injury changed the entire course of the franchise, exposing Anthony’s liabilities to this point. We’ll never know.

What we do know is Anthony is making a lot of money now.

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Nick Collison retires

We knew this day was coming. Nick Collison has officially announced his retirement from the the Thunder and the NBA.

“I got to stay here a long time, but now it’s time to go.” Collison said via ESPN.

A staple within the Oklahoma City organization throughout his time here. Collison is one of two players who have spent their entire careers with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was given the nickname “Mr. Thunder.”

Sometimes, in the early phases of an organization’s life cycle, the right player ‎comes around at the right time to help define their vision,” Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager, Sam Presti said.

Collison, 37, a hard nosed worker who never complained about playing time or the transition of the team as players came and went. He was the epitome of those who lived in this great state.

Collison retires after 14 seasons, playing for six different head coaches and two different teams but really one franchise. In 910 games, Collison averaged 5.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He’ll go down in the top 10 lists throughout the franchise: third in games played; ninth in minutes played; third in offensive rebounds; sixth in defensive rebounds; fourth in total rebounds; second in personal fouls; sixth in blocks and fifth in field goal shooting.

He’ll go down playing with tons of Hall of Famers from Ray Allen to Russell Westbrook. He’s played in 54 playoff games. He’s bled his literal blood all over the court. He’s a large reason why players like Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison helped develop into the studs they are today.

While Collison only appeared in a handful of games over the last two seasons, his presence was felt through the vibrations he sent from the bench.

There’s really two faces who will go on the Oklahoma City Mount Rushmore. Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison. While Westbrook’s is more of on court accolades, what Collison did off the court goes beyond numbers. For that, all of Oklahoma City is thankful for having the pure luck and ability to see this man give it 100 percent for 10 years.

“I won’t get to feel that fire or that rush anymore, but I do get to keep the memories, the stories and the relationships. That’s what I will cherish the most.” Collison said. “Things worked out for me.”

The fanbase will cherish Collison as much as he cherished his time in the NBA. Many feel he deserves the No. 4 to hang from the rafters.

For now, go enjoy retirement, Mr. Thunder.

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Billy Donovan to return as head coach

It was pretty understood but there was still some debate. However, Thunder general manager Sam Presti shot down any notion of a coaching change as he said Billy Donovan would return as head coach for the 2018-19 season.

When asked if Donovan would return as head coach, it was just a one word answer: Yes.

“With respect to Billy,” Presti said. “One of the things that I’m most excited about and excited for him about going forward is the fact that if fortunate enough, he’ll be able to work with the same core of a team that, as I said before, has a baseline that we’ve established, but has some controllable areas we need to improve.”

Donovan is 150-96 in his three years at the Thunder helm, sixth best in the NBA during his tenure.

“After coming here from college,” Presti said. “He [Donovan] had us within two minutes of going to the NBA Finals.”

Despite returning, Presti admitted being disappointed in the season’s end result. Especially with all of the trades and expectations. Injuries, among other things, led to the first round exit this season. Presti hopes Donovan will have the same core for the first time in his tenure for the following season.

A bunch of that is going to rely on the choice made by Paul George. If he returns, Oklahoma City’s foundation will return. If he heads elsewhere, the Thunder will have to try and find another one to add and try to stay relevant.

“He’s done a good job of playing the cards he’s been dealt and making sure we have the sets, giving us the defensive schemes we need to succeed,” Russell Westbrook on Donovan.

Oklahoma City would look to get back to the mountain top of the Western Conference next season and that will be led by Donovan.

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Jazz 96, Thunder 91: What they said after Game 6

In another wild game in what has been an insane series, the Utah Jazz were able to hold off a surging Oklahoma City Thunder to take the first round series and advance to the conference semifinals. Utah won the series 4-2.

Russell Westbrook had to do a lot by himself offensively, as Carmelo Anthony and Paul George were nonexistent scoring-wise. Russell finished with 46 points, hitting 18 of his 43 shot attempts. Without Westbrook going into the mode that he did, Oklahoma City would have been absolutely blown out.

Donovan Mitchell was phenomenal for Utah, and helped them a ton when Rubio went out of the game early with an injury. Mitchell finished with 38 points, 22 of those in the third quarter.

After a very active offseason in 2017 and having high expectations, the Thunder will now go home early in the postseason with a lot left unaccomplished.

Here are some key quotes from tonight’s wild game six:

Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan:

“I thought our guys came in and competed, we battled. I think if you look at the six games that both teams have played in, there have been incredible runs in both directions.”

“We gave ourselves a chance and an opportunity. It has been a great group to work with, I really really appreciate all these guys, and what I really appreciate is when you bring a new group of people together, you never know how it’s going to be in the lockerroom and how guys are going to get along. Those guys did a great job. I think there is great optimism and hope, in my opinion, of what the team could end up being going forward, because I think there is a great opportunity for us to learn and grow from this and get better from it. So, we are disappointed our season has come to an end, but we give a lot of credit to the Jazz and how they played here today.”

Utah’s Quin Snyder:

“I think other people are finding out, stuff that we’ve known. Alec Burks is probably the best example of that tonight. A guy that, we’ve said, that all year long whether it is an injury or a game or foul trouble, we have had guys step up. That’s been what these guys are about, and Alec was that guy tonight. Found himself a situation, that he didn’t envision, at shoot-around today. He stayed ready….You saw tonight as good as example as you can have of a guy that was able to do that, and we don’t win that game without Alec. There’s no question about it. He is a reflection of what our whole group has been about all year.”

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook:

Every night I play, man. I leave it on the floor. I continue to say this every time I play, I’m not saying it for my health, that is just how I play. Regardless of win, lose or draw, I leave it on the floor, everything I have. Sometimes you come up short, sometimes you win. That’s my job, to bring my energy, aggressively for my team and that is what I do.”

“I don’t confront fans. Fans confront me. Here in Utah a lot of disrespectful things are said to the players. Truly disrespectful, talking about families and kids. I’m tired of going out and playing and fans saying whatever they want to say.. I’m not with that. If I was on the street, they wouldn’t come up and say that. I don’t play that shit. I think it’s just disrespectful they can do whatever they want to do. Especially in Utah.”

Oklahoma City’s Paul George:

“It is our first year playing together. I knew that coming here. High expectations to win. I think you have to figure out the in between stuff. It takes time to become a championship team.”

“It is too soon. I would love to remain a Thunder, but that’s what the summer’s for.”

“[Russell]’s unbelievable. Amazing. A stand up guy. Its not cliché, people say he’s an amazing player and amazing person. That’s truly how you can describe Russ. He’s one of the best teammates by far. Just learned a lot. He’s an unbelievable person.”

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell:

“Man, I don’t think words can really describe it. [Thunder] are a great team, they play with heart and passion, but the way we play together, we weathered the storm when they came out hot early. We stuck together that’s been our motto all year. To beat a team like that, says a lot.”

Utah’s Joe Ingles:

“It was a fun game, we obviously did not want to go back to [Oklahoma City], we wanted to finish it in front of our home fans. It is going to take a little while to wind down after that tonight. It’s a quick turnaround for Houston, and we will figure out what we got to do for that series. But obviously, tonight, is something we want to enjoy together. We’ve been a great team all year, sticking through the ups and downs, and tonight was just an example of that.”

 

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Thunder 107, Jazz 99: What they said after Game 5

The Oklahoma City Thunder completed one of the biggest NBA comebacks in playoff history in Game 5, rallying back to beat the Utah Jazz 107-99. It was the fourth largest comeback in NBA playoff history, and the actual largest comeback in Thunder franchise history.

The Jazz own a 3-2 series lead.

Oklahoma City looked dead in the water, beginning late in the second quarter, and came out absolutely flat early in the second half. The Jazz were clicking on all cylinders, especially with their outside shooting.

Then, midway through the third, Russell Westbrook and Paul George went totally bonkers, combining for 79 total points on the night.

Oklahoma City ended up outscoring Utah 66-43 in the second half.

Here are some key quotes from the teams on Game 5:

Utah’s Quin Snyder:

“Then Rudy went out, and we were fighting it, but we didn’t execute as well as we needed to offensively against the [defensive] switch. Got some good looks, missed them, and then the biggest thing is 37 points in the third quarter. Just let [Thunder] back in the game, and they had confidence and life, we did not do what we needed to do.”

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell:

“We stopped playing defense. We stopped getting back, and our offense got stagnant. They made adjustments, and we did not make the right adjustments back. We’ll watch the film and figure out what went wrong. But from my analysis we just stopped getting back.”

Utah’s Rudy Gobert:

“I got in foul trouble early in the game. Had a few stupid fouls that were on me, and had a fourth foul that was invisible. That was on me, I have to be smarter with three fouls and don’t put my teammates in that position.”

Utah’s Jae Crowder:

“I mean they made an adjustment, and we didn’t continue to get shots for our unit. Not just for me but for our team. They continued to go on a run, and we didn’t get looks that we wanted to get down the stretch. They made an adjustment, we didn’t make adjustments on the fly, and it cost us the game.”

Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan:

“It took a lot of toughness, a lot of resiliency, especially being down 3-1. To keep fighting, to find a way, at the end of the third, to be right there at the end of the game. Give them a lot of credit, we are excited about another opportunity to play, and extend the series. We will have to play a lot better than we did in the first half and we’re going to need a lot more in 48 minutes like we did in the second half.”

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook:

“We just know it is one game at a time. In the playoffs, you got to win on the road if you want to win the series. So, we know what we have to do. Got to go in there and take care of business.”

“Definitely, man, our guys fight all season long. Tonight is one of those nights where our crowd, everyone here in Oklahoma was behind us. We needed every bit of it tonight. Our guys stepped up and made big plays.”

Oklahoma City’s Jerami Grant:

“We always had the capability, we always have the capability of coming back from whatever, with a lot of fire power with [Paul George], Carmelo, and Russ. It was just do or die, and we had a sense of urgency.”

“The crowd was amazing. We fed off their energy and they fed off ours. It was definitely a plus to play here in front of these great fans.”

Oklahoma City’s Raymond Felton:

“I have no words for it. I’ve been in the league 13 years and one of the most amazing games I’ve ever been a part of.”

Up next: Game 6 back in Salt Lake City on Friday at 9:30 p.m. Thunder time on ESPN.

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