Thursday Bolts: 8.3.17

Russell Westbrook is back in OKC….but don’t get too excited: “Don’t expect the MVP to sign a contract extension with the Thunder while he’s in town. Westbrook arrived in OKC late Wednesday night, but a source told The Oklahoman that the trip is not so he can sign a contract extension. Though Westbrook spends much of his summer at his home in Los Angeles, he makes periodic offseason trips to Oklahoma City. There’s no expectation that this one is to sign the extension.”

Kevin Pelton projects the Thunder to finish with 49.5 wins: “The addition of Paul George, plus savvy bargain shopping for RPM favorite Patrick Patterson, lifts Oklahoma City into the mix for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. I think the Thunder’s defense is underrated by RPM, which projects Oklahoma City to finish 16th, six spots lower than last season. Although the Thunder’s second unit is likely to decline defensively, the starters should be better with George.”

Is 2017-18 a second chance for Westbrook?: “I think when Sam Presti made this move for the Thunder, he did it as a second chance … that’s the way the Thunder thinks of this. For the organization, for the city, but for many ways for Russell Westbrook. This is a second shot at playing with a superstar, to see if you can elevate him in the ways that a great point guard does. Is that in Russell Westbrook? Is that part of how he’s wired? Is he just wired ‘I’m going to the hole. I’m going to get mine?’ That’s what this year is going to be about. We’re going to know a lot more in six months about who Russ is.”

NBA.com has Sam Presti in the way-too-early running for Executive of the Year: “That’s right. The guy that watched the best player in the history of his franchise lead the Warriors to the 2017 championship makes the list. Because he’s bold. He’s daring. He doesn’t dwell on misfortune or prior moves that didn’t pan out. Just when the prime contenders in Cleveland and Boston were circling around Paul George, along came Presti to swoop in and grab him up for a song. Sure, it’s a huge one-year gamble. But free agents don’t often choose to go to OKC and this was Presti’s chance to add another an elite player on the roster alongside reigning Kia MVP winner Russell Westbrook and then spend a year teaching him about the Thunder way with a long-shot chance to keep him.”

Carmelo hasn’t spoken with Knicks brass about his future: “Sources told the Daily News that team president Steve Mills has tried to talk with Anthony to go over options,” Stefan Bondy wrote for the New York Daily News. “However, sources said Anthony is not interested in having such a discussion after the team put a deal with the Houston Rockets on hold. ‘For him, there’s nothing to talk about,’ a source said.”

Referee Danny Crawford has retired: “One of the most recognizable NBA referees has decided to put away his whistle. Danny Crawford is retiring after 32 seasons calling NBA games. He officiated 23 consecutive NBA Finals, with his last game being the the Golden State Warriors clinching the NBA crown in Game 5 last June. Crawford’s career spanned 43 years, including time working in the CBA and collegiate ranks.”

A lesson on using individual defensive stats: “Good defense is characterized by the absence of things. The best defense is not a missed shot attempt, but rather the forcing of a pass. When Kawhi Leonard swarms or intimidates a player so badly they had to pass, his defensive play goes completely unrecorded. This is the most ideal byproduct of good individual defense, and yet there is no method of counting to capture it. To make up for this, we’ve created countless advanced stats to measure relative and individual impact. But even those have massive, glaring flaws of varying types and causes. Let’s discuss.”

Sam Borden with a great look at how Darko Milicic wasn’t a bust: “He jokes about being memorably dreadful, bringing up the 2003 NBA draft when he was the second pick — right ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, and right behind LeBron James. He pretends to be talking to those players, raising his hand in the air and telling them that, statistically, someone from the group is bound to be a nightmare so, fine, “You guys be the best and I’ll be the” historical smudge mark. Then, he belly-laughs.”