Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Westbrook-George duo puts Thunder back into West mix

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30 teams in 30 days: Westbrook-George duo puts Thunder back into West mix

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Oklahoma City Thunder .

“Real g’s move in silence like lasagna.”
 
It was a catchy one-liner from hip hop artist Lil’ Wayne a couple years ago.
 
And in so many ways it describes how Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti seemingly came out of nowhere to orchestrate one of the more stealth trades last season in landing Paul George in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
 
Russell Westbrook had a phenomenal season, winning the MVP while averaging a triple-double of 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game.
 
Still, as good as Westbrook was, he was going to need help if the Thunder were to be anything more than first-round fodder for teams with more depth and overall talent.
 
In comes George, whose trade demand led many to believe he would wind up in Los Angeles with the Lakers, or possibly with the Celtics, who were among the favorites to land the two-way standout who has been named to four All-Star teams (2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017) and three All-NBA defensive teams (first team in 2014, second team in 2013 and 2016).
 
He’ll be a free agent next summer, with most anticipating he’ll play for the Lakers. A successful run in Oklahoma City could lead to a change of heart for George, as well as Westbrook, who has a player option after this season which would allow him to hit the free agent market as well.
 
Westbrook and George give Oklahoma City a dynamic tandem for sure.

Still, their place among the top teams in the West is cemented in part by the pieces surrounding their 1-2 punch of Westbrook and George.
 
Steven Adams is a bruising, physical 7-footer who gives Oklahoma City a strong presence around the basket defensively and an active body to attack the glass.
 
Last season, he averaged 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and should be able to be even more impactful with Sabonis out of the picture and the addition of Patrick Patterson, who is a stretch big capable of providing more opportunities for Adams at the rim.
 
The Thunder’s potent scoring punch gets headlines but Oklahoma City has a very underrated defense that returns most of its key players from a year ago when they ranked among the best teams defensively.
 
Oklahoma City was ranked among the top 10 in several key defensive categories such as a defensive rating (105.1, 10th in the NBA), defensive rebound percentage (.790, 3rd) and blocked shots (5.0, 10th).
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Paul George (Indiana); Patrick Patterson (Toronto); Raymond Felton (Los Angeles Clippers).
 
Key losses: Victor Oladipo (Indiana); Domantas Sabonis (Indiana);
 
Rookies of note: Terrance Ferguson.
 
Expectations:
54-28 (first in the Midwest Division, third in the West)

Gordon Hayward will start traveling with Celtics in March

Gordon Hayward will start traveling with Celtics in March

LOS ANGELES – The Boston Celtics have made a point of trying to change up Gordon Hayward’s rehabilitation routine as to avoid the boredom that’s often associated with the recovery process from a long-term injury such as his.

How about a few days in Southern California?

Hayward is with the team here in Los Angeles, and will stay behind for a few days afterward according to head coach Brad Stevens.

“One of the things we wanted to do was change his environment,” said Stevens who added that Hayward may begin traveling with the team in March. “So, he’s going to be here for these two games, and he will stay here in Southern California for a week to 10 days with a couple of our staff and re-join us in Boston.”

The key to him re-joining the team for road games hinges on whether he can do is rehabilitation work without the need for an ultra-gravity (Ultra-G) machine which he has been using.

Stevens later explained why the team felt the need to try and switch up Hayward’s regimen.

“People that have been through this, you know, long process ... One of the things about us, we’re jumping on a plane every four or five days,” said Stevens who added that Hayward still has “a long way to go” before returning to play in an actual game. “And he’s used to that and he has been in the same routine doing the same thing for three or four months without that. So, we just wanted to have him here for a couple games while we’re out West and for a few days later, leave him out here.”

Al Horford is among the Celtics eager to have Hayward join the team on road games, even if his timeline for returning to action is still targeted for next season.

“We’re happy, anytime, for Gordon to be around us,” Horford said. “For him, it’s his process to getting back to where he needs to be. Obviously, we’re respectful of that. But any chance that he gets around us, it’s good to share with him. He’s still a part of this. That’s the cool thing about it.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Al Horford joins Kyrie Irving at the all-star game, selected as reserve

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Al Horford joins Kyrie Irving at the all-star game, selected as reserve

LOS ANGELES – Kyrie Irving won’t be all by his lonesome during all-star weekend next month, with teammate Al Horford being selected as an all-star reserve.

For Horford, this will be his fifth all-star selection but first as a member of the Boston Celtics after joining the team in 2016.

Horford’s play, particularly on defense, has been instrumental to the Celtics (34-13) having the best record in the Eastern Conference, and third overall in the NBA.

This season, he has averaged 13.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game while shooting a career-best 43 percent from 3-point range.

Horford’s numbers don’t always speak to his impact on teams and more important, winning games.

“He’s a big part of our team in order for us to be number one in the East and hopefully sustain that spot,” Irving said earlier today. “We know how valuable he is. The Celtics organization, our team, everybody. He definitely has a case; he’s got my vote.”

Horford is grateful and appreciative of being named an all-star.

But his focus, as you might expect, is on what he views as a much more significant prize – a victory tonight which would snap Boston’s season-long losing streak which stands at three straight.

Horford is more concerned about the Celtics setting the tone defensively tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“That has to be our mindset,” he said. “And sticking together. So this is a great time for us to make sure we’re together and we do it as a group.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE