Oklahoma City Thunder and head coach Billy Donovan part ways

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Billy Donovan have mutually agreed to part ways, the club announced today.

According to the Oklahoman, “Donovan’s contract expired at the end of the season as the Thunder fell to the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs.”

“I have great respect for Billy and will always appreciate our work together. He is a terrific basketball coach and we are proud of what he has accomplished with the Thunder,” said Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager, Sam Presti. “We had planned to sit down at the end of the season and discuss the best way to move forward for both of us. After those discussions, it became apparent that we couldn’t provide him the information on the future direction of the team over the next several seasons to give him the level of clarity that he understandably desires at this stage of his career. Therefore, we close this chapter and reflect fondly on all that he has given to the team, organization and community. Billy will always have a place in the Thunder family.”

More from the Oklahoman: “Veterans like Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder and Steven Adams remain on the roster, but their futures with the organization are uncertain. Danilo Gallinari is set to enter free agency.”

Donovan was named the head coach of the Thunder on April 30, 2015 after serving the previous 19 years at the University of Florida. Over the past five seasons as the head coach of the Thunder, Donovan led the team to a 243-157 record (.608), resulting in playoff appearances in each season at the helm.

“Coaching the Oklahoma City Thunder the past five seasons has been a great honor, and I thank Mr. Bennett, Sam and the entire organization for the opportunity,” said Billy Donovan. “I have a great respect and admiration for the players I coached in Oklahoma, and I also want to thank the coaches I worked with, who gave unbelievable time and expertise to our common goal. Lastly, I want to thank the Oklahoma City community for being so welcoming to my family during our time here. This place will always be special to us. I will always hold this organization in the highest regard and wish the Thunder and their fans the success they deserve.”

“Billy Donovan will be remembered fondly for his personal integrity and professionalism during his time as our head coach,” said Thunder Chairman, Clayton I. Bennet. “We wish him and his family nothing but the best.”

Russell Westbrook likely active for Rockets vs Thunder Game 5

Here’s the Oklahoman reporting on Rockets guard Russell Westbrook, who has yet to play in the team’s first-round playoff series against the OKC Thunder but should be ready to go for Game 5:

Rockets guard Russell Westbrook is likely to make his series debut in Game 5 against the Thunder.

“He’ll go through practice today and if things are normal then we expect him to be ready to go,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Friday. “I’m sure he’ll have time restraints. We have not talked about that at all, and that won’t be discussed until tomorrow. Planning on it, but you never know. Russell will be hard to hold down. I’m sure he’s anxious and ready to roll.”

The Rockets need him. With Russ out, there’s simply way too much pressure on James Harden to create almost every scoring opportunity for the team. Westbrook’s ability to break down defenses and drive by defenders is a literal game-changer for Houston.

The NBA was on hold for a few days due to players rising up and protesting, not against the league, but against police brutality against Black people in the United States. The playoffs will resume Saturday, though the updated game schedule hasn’t been released yet.

Rockets guard Russell Westbrook status upgraded for Game 5 vs Thunder

UPDATE: Mere hours before scheduled tipoff this evening, Rockets guard Russell Westbrook was upgraded to Questionable.

Rockets guard Russell Westbrook put up 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game in the regular season, but has yet to play in the 2020 NBA playoffs. His return will not take place today. Here’s the Houston Chronicle reporting:

Rockets guard Russell Westbrook’s return from his strained quadriceps muscle moved closer Tuesday, but with the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder tied, 2-2, Westbrook was still ruled out for Wednesday’s Game 5.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni on Tuesday offered his most optimistic assessment of the potential of Westbrook playing since he was ruled out for the final seeding game and missed each of the four playoff games so far.

“I think it’s day to day, he’s listed,” D’Antoni said…

“Russ only has one level,” Rockets center P.J. Tucker said. “Russ got one speed. Russ got one mind, one energy (level.) If you get Russ, you get Russ. I think that’s a part of him taking his time to get back because he knows and we know the level he’s going to be at when he comes back.

Through four playoff games this year against the Thunder, fellow Rockets star guard James Harden has averaged 32.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. There is tremendous pressure on Harden to continue to carry the load. Getting Russ back would help a lot.

Thunder rookie Darius Bazley playing well in Disney NBA Restart Bubble

Thunder rookie Darius Bazley hasn’t gotten many mentions this season, but lately, since the NBA restart, he’s showing some nice signs. Here’s the Oklahoman with some examples:

On an afternoon the Thunder was overmatched from the start — five rotational players, including three starters, were scratched for various reasons — there wasn’t much fun versus the Suns.

Phoenix 128, OKC 101.

But if you’re looking for bright spots, none was more brilliant than Bazley. He recorded his first career double double, scoring 22 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and becoming the first Thunder rookie with a double double since Domantas Sabonis in January 2017.

What’s more, it was Bazley’s second 20-point game in as many days. When Sunday dawned, Bazley had never scored 20 points in an NBA game. By the time the sun set Monday, he had done it twice…

Through six seeding games, he is averaging 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Before the coronavirus put the season on hold, he was averaging only 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds.

The Thunder have been an under-the-radar good team all season, and must be pleased to see an additional player step up as the playoffs rapidly approach.

Thunder forward Abdel Nader out with concussion

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Abdel Nader sustained a concussion during last night’s 98-84 scrimmage victory against the Boston Celtics and he has been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

Per the NBA’s Concussion Policy, Nader will now begin the NBA-mandated Return-to-Participation Protocol. This process includes a series of steps designed to ensure an athlete exhibits symptom-free behavior before resuming basketball activities. There is no predetermined timetable to complete the protocol, as each injury and player is different and recovery time can vary in each case.

In 48 games (five starts) this season, Nader is averaging 6.0 points and 1.9 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game.

A look at OKC Thunder practice at Disney quarantine bubble in Orlando

The NBA is restarting, with games resuming July 30. Recently, 22 of the league’s 30 teams flew to Orlando, Florida, heading to Disney Wide World of Sports to quarantine, practice and prepare to play real games, leading to what will hopefully be a complete NBA postseason.

Here’s a glance at Oklahoma City Thunder practice. Press the play button:

Thunder to resume play August 1st vs Jazz

The Oklahoma City Thunder announced the schedule for its eight seeding games to restart the 2019-20 season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida today.

The Thunder will open play on Saturday, Aug. 1 versus the Utah Jazz. The team will then face the Denver Nuggets on Aug. 3 before its contest versus the Los Angeles Lakers on Aug. 5. Oklahoma City will face the Memphis Grizzlies on Aug. 7 then complete a back-to-back on Aug. 9 and 10, facing the Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns, respectively. Oklahoma City’s final two seeding games will be Aug. 12 versus the Miami Heat and Aug. 14 versus the LA Clippers.

All eight of the Thunder’s seeding games in Orlando will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Oklahoma. Additionally, all games can be heard via the Thunder Radio Network, led by flagship station WWLS-The Sports Animal (98.1 FM) in Oklahoma City.

ESPN will televise two of Oklahoma City’s games (Aug. 1 vs. the Utah Jazz and Aug. 5 at the Los Angeles Lakers) while NBA TV will broadcast two of the team’s games (Aug. 3 vs. the Denver Nuggets and Aug. 7 at the Memphis Grizzlies).

Given the updated game schedule and format for the 2019-20 season, the Thunder has solidified a playoff berth for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons, joining the San Antonio Spurs as the only other team to accomplish the feat in this timeframe. This also marks the team’s 11th straight season with a record above .500, good for the longest active streak in the NBA.

Thunder sign guard Luguentz Dort to multi-year contract

The Oklahoma City Thunder have signed guard Luguentz Dort to a multi-year contract, Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced today.

During the 2019-20 season, Dort has appeared in 29 games (21 starts) for the Thunder and averaged 6.2 points to go along with 1.9 rebounds and 0.79 steals in 22.0 minutes per game. Oklahoma City has posted a 16-5 record (.762) with Dort in the team’s starting lineup this season.

The Montreal, Canada native scored a career-best 23 points Jan. 29 at Sacramento after shooting 5-of-6 from beyond the 3-point arc and became just the fourth Thunder rookie to knock down five or more threes in a single game. Additionally, Dort registered the second-best shooting night by a Thunder rookie on Feb. 23 versus San Antonio when he went a perfect 6-of-6 from the field en route to 15 points during the Thunder’s victory versus the Spurs.

Dort was signed to a Two-Way Contract by the Thunder last July after one season at Arizona State where he earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and Pac-12 All-Defense Team honors.

Rest is a good thing for Thunder center Steven Adams

Here’s the Oklahoman reporting on Thunder center Steven Adams, who plays like his life depends on it and can use rest whenever it’s available:

A defensive anchor. A steady rebounder. A guy who didn’t care if he ever touched the ball. All kinds of entities have people like Stone Cold. Businesses. Families. Teams. Things just go smoother when he’s around. It’s always a little strange when he’s not.

But I’m also delighted when Adams sits. Because I know he’s resting. Adams is big and physical. He deals out plenty of punishment; some day, make yourself watch an entire game without following the ball. Just keep your eyes peeled to Adams and watch how many shoves and bumps and collisions he causes. But for every one of those skirmishes, there’s punishment coming back his way. Adams hits the deck a lot, in part because he does play hard and he doesn’t give up on plays, and it doesn’t take too far into the season before you can see him rising gingerly from the hardwood.

Worries me greatly. Adams hasn’t missed much time – like I said, 16 games total over the last four years and just 31 in his entire seven-season career. But Adams always looks injured. Wrapped up. Worn out. Then like Samson tied to the pillars, his feats of strength break through.

Adams always appears to need about two weeks off, though he never gets it.

On the last Thunder game before league play was put on hold

Here’s the Oklahoman editorializing on the last game the OKC Thunder played before league play was put on hold, a Sunday, March 8 105-104 win against the Celtics in Boston, with comments from point guard Chris Paul:

After the 105-104 win, Paul told Thunder sideline reporter Nick Gallo that he hadn’t gotten that excited in a long time. Paul also talked about how great a win it was, how much fun the team was having, how together everyone was.

I knew that game was in the final days before the coronavirus shut down the NBA, then all of sports in this country, but since the past few weeks feel like a few years, I couldn’t remember if the Thunder played any more games after that game in Boston.

I went to check my calendar.

(Yes, I’m old — I still keep a written calendar in a day planner.)

That game in Boston was Sunday, March 8. The Thunder then had two days off before a home game Wednesday, March 11 against the Jazz.

You know what happened there.

So, that game at Boston, that masterful win against the Celtics was the last time the Thunder played.

That win was OKC’s 8th in their last 10 games. It was their third win in a row, for a 40-24 record, tying them with the Rockets for the 5th best winning percentage in the Western conference.