Thursday Bolts: 9.26.19

For the third straight day, cold water is on the menu for Chris Paul trade enthusiasts. Barry Jackson (Miami Herald) follows up with more context on why the two sides in Oklahoma City and Miami haven’t and probably won’t budge beyond “interested” in months:

Hamidou Diallo tells Erik Horne (The Oklahoman) that he has fully recovered from his spring elbow surgery, and that he wants to be more of a leader in his second year with the team: “I haven’t even noticed that I had surgery,” Diallo said. “I was just speaking with the medical staff about it. Pretty much don’t even feel it anymore, so it’s doing well.” The highlight of Diallo’s first season was winning the 2019 Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend in Charlotte. But the soft-spoken Diallo is looking to follow that up with more assertiveness despite his age and inexperience. “Now that I’m in Year 2 just try to lead, be outspoken,” Diallo said. “Last year, I was pretty much just coming in and soaking it all in. This year, I’ll definitely soak some in, but this year I can speak my opinion.”

And Nerlens Noel won’t say anything to Horne about the playing status of Andre Roberson:

And Horne and co. answer some roundtable questions at The Oklahoman ahead of the season, including whether or not Billy Donovan is on the hot seat: “Horne: Definitely. Donovan did better with the All-Stars than he gets credit for, but how the young Thunder players progress and respond to his coaching will be critical. Lee: Yes. But wins aren’t necessarily what the team is looking for from him. In the last year of his contract, Donovan is tasked with finding a way to highlight the talents of a group in transition.”

To conclude the Thursday Horne Bolts, here’s his story on some trailblazers for the Thunder’s in-arena entertainment (H/T Mother Theresa): “Sarah Stubblefield and Jasmine Brown-Jutras are the first two females to ever make the Thunder Drummers, and together they’ve found a place to pursue a passion normally dominated by men. In the weeks leading up to the season, the Thunder has tryouts for numerous in-game entertainment and community outreach roles. Each year, approximately 25 to 30 people audition to become Thunder Drummers with about 13 selected each season. Entering its 12th season in Oklahoma City, the Thunder has rarely had a woman audition, let alone make the drum line.”

Morten Jensen (Forbes) previews the Northwest Division: “The biggest get for Oklahoma City so far has been second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who will both compete with Paul and Dennis Schröder for minutes, while likely spending significant time at the off-guard slot, polishing his three-point shot. The 6’6 playmaker is a sound decision maker who plays entirely under control which, at the age of 21, is rare and commendable. Providing Gilgeous-Alexander with the proper surroundings that let him develop the right way is of crucial importance, which is why the Thunder will need to figure out what to do with Schröder especially, as providing Gilgeous-Alexander with some point guards minutes has to be prioritized.”

Connor Ayubi (The Franchise) is doing best/worse case scenarios, and he really went for it with the darkest CP3 timeline: “Paul finds himself in a position to either elevate or destroy any chemistry in the locker room, which is in a fragile place already due to the recent roster reconstruction. He chooses not to buy in to the goals and systems of the team, and when the losses start coming (which they will) we find a disgruntled (former) star on our hands. Trying to selfishly boost his own numbers with his once effective iso-ball, teaching poor habits to the young players, and looking to get out, Paul fails to rally a team that desperately needs direction. Due to a combination of unwillingness and inability, the Thunder’s Chris Paul experiment becomes a bigger pain than Carmelo Anthony ever was.”

But five of Basketball Insiders’ writers weigh in on how the Thunder will do this season, offering some sunshine on the roster: “At 6-foot-9 and 200-plus pounds already, to call Bazley a physical specimen would be nearly understating the premise. Armed with an impressive 7-foot wingspan, Bazley represents the type of multi-faceted, multi-positional athlete that more and more franchises search for every draft season — and this time, the Thunder got their target. Although he may spend most of the season in the G League, Bazley, armed with the camaraderie and power only harnessed by LeBron James and company, could be somebody worth keeping an eye on.”

Frank Isola (The Athletic) says how the Nets manage Kevin Durant’s return from injury could easily become disastrous: “The Nets won’t push Durant but there is always the chance Durant could push the Nets. The normal recovery time for his injury is six to eight months. Durant could, in theory, make his Nets debut in March. Dr. Fred Cushner, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery who has dealt with NBA players for two decades, told The Athletic that while Durant’s ligament “will heal in six months, that’s only part of the picture because he has to get his strength back and be in game shape.” Dr. Cushner’s colleague at HSS is Dr. Martin O’Malley, the Nets team doctor, who performed Durant’s surgery. Cushner pointed to knee injuries Kobe Bryant and DeMarcus Cousins sustained after returning from Achilles surgery as examples of elite athletes coming back too soon.”

Durant’s playoff injury nightmare is fresh in everyone’s mind, but one would think Brooklyn has also noted his rocky recovery from a Jones fracture in OKC as a cautionary tale.

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