Westbrook, Anthony remain questionable
Russell Westbrook didn’t practice on Saturday.
That doesn’t mean the Thunder guard was inactive.
“He’s not a guy that likes to sit still very much,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after Saturday’s practice.
So Westbrook was engaged. He encouraged teammates from the sideline, Donovan said. He did some strength and mobility work on the sprained left ankle that caused him to miss Thursday’s loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles.
But he didn’t participate in the Thunder’s practice. Nor did forward Carmelo Anthony, who missed the Lakers game with a sprained right ankle. As such, it’s unclear whether either will play in Sunday’s home game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Both are listed as questionable.
With a 6 p.m. start on Sunday, the Thunder won’t hold a morning shootaround. So Westbrook and Anthony will go through some activity at around 3 p.m. before reaching a decision with the medical staff about their availability against the Grizzlies.
On Saturday, the Thunder prepared for their absence, just in case.
Against the Lakers, OKC had players “out of roles, out of positions,” Donovan said, and it was clear the execution suffered in a 106-81 loss, the Thunder’s most lopsided of the season.
So Saturday’s practice included, for example, some work with Alex Abrines at point guard — he was OKC’s backup there against Los Angeles, his first significant minutes at the position — and with Steven Adams and Patrick Patterson playing together.
“You just try to work on the different combinations so there’s a feel of what’s going on,” Donovan said.
PG the playmaker
With Westbrook sidelined against the Lakers, Paul George took on some additional offensive responsibility.
In Thursday’s loss, 42 percent of the Thunder’s possessions ended with George attempting a shot, getting to the free-throw line or committing a turnover.
That 42 percent usage rate was well above George’s season percentage of 25.6.
The additional ballhandling responsibilities could prove useful later as the season winds on, George said.
“It’ll prepare me later on in case — it’s a long season,” he said. “Guys could be injured. Guys gonna have to take a night off. It was good to get that under my feet with having Russ and Melo out.”
Though Westbrook’s absence puts the ball in George’s hands more, Donovan said it doesn’t dramatically change the ways Oklahoma City uses him.
The biggest difference, Donovan said, is presenting George with a package of plays to use when he’s initiating offense and getting him comfortable with calling plays.
Even when Westbrook is available, Donovan said, he wants to see George bringing the ball upcourt at times and creating in the halfcourt for himself and others.
“To me, I almost look at Paul George as being a point guard just because of his vision and ability to see and make plays,” Donovan said. “To me, he’s a playmaker.”
Break on the horizon
The Thunder has three games remaining before the All-Star break: the Grizzlies on Sunday, the Cavaliers at home on Tuesday and the Grizzlies again on Wednesday in Memphis.
After that, OKC goes seven days without a game. And that break is enticing, George said. But the Thunder — which has struggled at times this season to focus on the task at hand — is trying to live in the moment.
“For us, we’re still in the hunt,” George said. “We still want to be playing our best basketball right now. We don’t really want to be looking toward the break. We’re happy there’s a break coming up, but the way we’ve been playing, we don’t want to kind of get relaxed or lackadaisical and be ready for this break to come.”
Thunder players Russell Westbrook, left, and Carmelo Anthony both are dealing with sprained ankles. It’s questionable whether they’ll play against the Grizzlies on Sunday.