Wednesday Bolts: 01.22.20

Wednesday Bolts: 01.22.20

ICYMI: Justin Hickey evaluates Chris Paul’s performance at the midpoint of the season.

Rohan Nadkharni (SI.com) with an excellent feature on how CP3 has adjusted to life in OKC. “A narrative quickly formed once Paul got to Oklahoma City. There was simply no way a competitor as fierce as he was could be satisfied playing for a team in the midst of an overhaul. Paul has been described by some national media members as ‘stuck in limbo,’ or ‘happy … for now.’ The implications were clear. Paul, a star, couldn’t be content playing for a team without championship aspirations for the first time in over a decade. He insists that’s not the case. ‘People always try to tell your story,’ says Paul, 34. ‘I’m just in the moment. If something happens and I get moved, I’ll make adjustments. For now, I get to hoop. I get to play. My body feels good. I’m excited.'”

Berry Trammel (The Oklahoman) rated OKC’s win over the Rockets as the best win all season.

Luguentz Dort, an Arizona State alum, received his first NBA start on Monday and locked down James Harden, also a former Sun Devil. The state of Arizona was quite proud:

ArizonaSports.com writes that Dort gave Harden “fits” in Monday’s game. “The Thunder took home the 112-107 win over the Rockets, with Dort getting the better of fellow Sun Devil and Rocket James Harden. While the former MVP dropped 29 points in the loss, Harden shot a dismal 1-of-17 from long range, tying his own record for the most missed threes in a game in NBA history. He’s now hit that mark six times in his career and is tied with only Damon Stoudamire.”

Jeremy Cluff (Arizona Republic) says that Dort was impressive in his first NBA start. “There are currently three former Arizona State basketball players in the NBA. Two of them went head-to-head on Monday. And the rookie’s team got the better of the veteran’s. Making his first career NBA start, Luguentz Dort scored eight points for the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 112-107 win over James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Dort helped hold Harden to 29 points in the game. Harden shot just 9-for-29 from the field and 1-for-17 from 3-point range.”

Also, if you forgot, Dort is an undrafted rookie on a two-way contract. Cody Taylor (Rookie Wire) raved about the first-year player’s defensive performance. “Dort was disciplined guarding Harden after not biting on his patented pump-fake. Harden attempted just four free throws with Dort defending him as the rookie proved he belonged on the court. Dort always had a hand in Harden’s face and was mostly successful in avoiding foul trouble.”

Considering the Houston Rockets’ past history of contesting games, is Monday’s win at risk of being challenged?

In case you forgot, it’s still trade season, and the Thunder have two huge trade exceptions at their disposal:

OKC is also over the luxury tax, and is looking at a $2.3 million bill if the team stands pat, per Bobby Marks (ESPN).

Preston Ellis (Bleacher Report) includes two Thunder players as tempting trade targets to avoid. Ellis says that the Clippers should avoid trading for Steven Adams: “But while Adams is effective in the pick-and-roll, Harrell is the very best. The Clippers will need to rely on Williams and Harrell’s lethal combination in the playoffs for easy baskets and to relieve stress on Leonard and George. In addition, adding Adams would mean moving on from Maurice Harkless or Patrick Beverley. The Clippers should stand pat or take a smaller swing.” Ellis also says that the Bucks should avoid trading for Paul: “The math for a Paul trade is difficult but not impossible. Packaging Bledsoe and the Lopez twins works. So does Bledsoe, George Hill and Ersan Ilyasova. And that might be enough for an OKC squad that has proved to do right by its superstars. Plus, the Thunder cleaning up their books long-term while giving the keys to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander comes with its perks. But the Bucks should not take this risk. Bringing on Paul cripples depth and clogs the books. They need to trust Bledsoe will respond this spring. The whole franchise might be counting on it.”