Monday Bolts: 8.14.17

Brett Dawson reviews other much-improved Western Conference rosters: “Houston added Paul and the Warriors bolstered their bench with shooters Nick Young and Omri Casspi. But teams who battled for the bottom playoff spots – and in some cases, teams that were well out of the playoff picture – also made dramatic improvements. Adding Butler, former Thunder forward Taj Gibson and point guard Jeff Teague figures to put Minnesota in the heat of the playoff hunt, and Bontemps expects the Wolves to battle the Thunder for the No. 4 seed. Though Utah, the Clippers and Memphis appear to have dropped off, Denver, Portland and New Orleans all look to be better than a year ago.”

Sports Illustrated lists Thunder/Rockets as the best Christmas Day game: “If you’re celebrating Christmas, make sure your relatives have left the house and the kids are too tired to bother you during this one. The Rockets and Thunder will both be vying for the second spot in the West next year, and both loaded up in the offseason to prepare for the Warriors. These teams will likely have to go through each other for a spot in the conference finals, so don’t be surprised if this is a playoff preview. Chris Paul vs. Russell Westbrook. James Harden vs. Paul George. This game is going to be fast, fun, and filled with offense.”

Paul George was spotted wearing an OKC colorway of the Nike PG1: “Photographer Cassy Athena recently spotted George going head-to-head with Devin Booker in an amplified OKC-flavored colorway. While not exactly matching the team’s uniforms, the scheme definitely falls in line with what fans can expect to see on the court this fall.”

ESPN on the Thunder having a turnaround season: “Oklahoma City could once again win 47 games yet present a much stiffer challenge in the postseason than the one-man band easily dispatched against Houston. Though lots of ink has rightfully been spilled on how Paul George will alleviate Russell Westbrook’s offensive burden, don’t overlook Patrick Patterson’s impact as he provides frontcourt spacing that Oklahoma City desperately needed last season and knows how to play off a pair of ball-dominant scorers from his time with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.”

Nick Gallo on Alex Abrines: “He’s been working out in Spain, busy competing with his countrymen in their preparations for EuroBasket 2017. But in Alex Abrines’ mind, he has more time for personal training than he ever has in his professional career. Abrines is currently with the Spanish National Team in training camp, going against longtime professionals in each practice and in the friendly matches to help prepare the European clubs for the tournament that begins on August 31st.”

Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype previews the Thunder season: “With the addition of George and Patrick Patterson, it’s safe to say they will no longer be the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA … The Thunder have one of the best home-court advantages in the league with raucous fans fully behind the team.”

Enes Kanter weighed in on Charlottesville: “America only needs one torch. It’s bigger and brighter than yours.”

Forbes predicts the 2011-12 Thunder will be added to NBA 2K18 as a classic team: “The biggest “what-if” team in recent memory has to be the 2011-12 Oklahoma City Thunder. It had 2016-17 league MVP Russell Westbrook, 2016-17 NBA Finals MVP and 2013-14 league MVP Kevin Durant, and 2016-17 league MVP runner-up James Harden all on the same team–and they were 23, 23 and 22 years old, respectively. Throw in a 22-year-old Serge Ibaka who blocked 3.7 shots per game and a 21-year-old Reggie Jackson and you can imagine the talent in this locker room. This young bunch reached the NBA Finals before being turned away by LeBron, Dwyane and Chris’ Heat. Harden, Jackson, Ibaka, and Durant would leave, but oh what could have been.”

Paul George had a fishing tournament yesterday: Sam Presti, Billy Donovan, Russell Westbrook, Josh Huestis and other members of the front office/coaching staff were in attendance. Huestis placed first in the tournament, proving yet again that he is criminally underrated. (More photos from the event)