Thursday Bolts: 8.24.17

Bill Shaikin (LA Times) on how the NBA isn’t the first pro league to investigate Magic Johnson for tampering: “In 2013, his first full year as co-owner of the Dodgers, while bantering with reporters before the first game of the playoffs. Johnson spoke about how the Dodgers intended to sign Clayton Kershaw to an extension but did not plan to pursue New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, who would be the premier free agent that fall….Even though he said the Dodgers were not interested in Cano, Major League Baseball opened a tampering investigation of Johnson anyway. Baseball is the only major North American sport without a salary cap, so teams can pay any free agent whatever they like. The league and the players union were concerned about how the public declaration that a big-spending team was not interested in Cano might depress his market.”

Bleacher Report Asks — Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook?: “On the one hand, you can’t go wrong. Tell a general manager he can have whoever is leftover from Curry and Westbrook, and it’ll qualify as the best day of his career. On the flip side, picking between them means someone technically has to lose, which feels unfair. Both are superstars. Both have MVP awards on their resumes. Both are point guards you should probably want on your team—unless, of course, you root for the Houston Rockets.”

Brett Dawson on how the Thunder will replace Michael Winger in the front office: “After seven years in Oklahoma City, assistant general manager Michael Winger has agreed to take a job as the general manager of the L.A. Clippers, a source confirmed Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear when the Clippers will make an official announcement but Winger – who was offered the job last week – is headed to Los Angeles, and the Thunder has an executive to replace. General manager Sam Presti has been here before.”

Fred Katz on Westbrook’s historic rebounding: “Westbrook broke defensive conventions so that he could head to the block and consume boards, no question. And no matter what the team said publicly, there were constant private conversations about how to turn Westbrook into more of a defensive contributor without hurting his rebounding numbers. He led the NBA in uncontested rebounds, per NBA.com’s SportsVU data. But that, alone, didn’t turn him into a pedestrian rebounder. He still corralled the second-most contested boards of any guard. And keep in mind, no matter how many jokes there were about him phoning a hitman whenever another Thunder player would steal a rebound: If Westbrook and a teammate had an equal chance at a board, the Thunder wanted it to be Westbrook’s. And not just to manage ego.”

B/R has Paul George getting snubbed from next season’s All-Star Game: “This is a tough one for George, who was an All-Star during each of his last four healthy seasons in the East. You could make the case he warrants consideration over Jokic, but that’s about it. And without knowing how he’ll perform as Westbrook’s wingman, it’s too hard to predict George will be good enough to clearly deserve a spot.”

Kelley Evans (The Undefeated) met with former Thunder big man Nazr Mohammed: “I realized a long time ago, seeing other friends and teammates go through it. Only the great ones actually retire. The rest of us get retired,” he said. “I don’t feel like I need to officially retire, but I am retired. What I mean by that is, you know, there’s always a situation you would play for, but after a year has passed, I’m not really thinking in that mindset as far as playing again. I’m looking more into coaching basketball.”

KD calls Russell Westbrook a “style icon” during an interview at YouTube Studios:

KD & Russ made Yahoo Sports’ list of top sports breakups: “Durant and Westbrook quickly became one of the best tandems in the NBA after the two were drafted in back-to-back seasons by Sonics (now the Thunder). They led the Thunder to a sustained run of success and advanced as far as the NBA Finals in 2012, losing to the Miami Heat. But Durant made the highly criticized decision to leave Oklahoma City during 2016 free agency for the greener pastures of the Golden State Warriors. There was noticeable tension between Durant and Westbrook when the two teams played this past season.”