Houston Rockets center Zhou Qi added 15 points, 11 rebo…

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July 18, 2019 | 10:57 am EDT Update
You were able to bring back Khris Middleton on a five-year deal. What was the process like? And what does he mean to the team? Jon Horst: Khris was always a focus. You and I have talked about that a lot. He’s our second superstar, our second star. He’s an All-Star. He’s been one of our best players for a long period of time here. Fits our culture, fits our style of play, fits our aging curve. He’s become a leader of our team. For us, we want to try to recruit with him and play the culture fit, winning. Create an environment he wanted to play in for a long, long time. A place where his family is happy with Sam and the baby and everything.
You already had several big men in your rotation. What do you feel Robin Lopez adds? Jon Horst: A true 5 (center). We felt like Ersan (Ilyasova) is versatile and a really good player and has great moments for us. D.J. (Wilson) is growing again and is versatile. Giannis can slide down and play 5. Obviously, more of a 4, 3, 2, 1 than he is a 5. I think, for us, to have a true 5 – none of those guys are true 5s – and to have a true 5 on our roster the way that we play defensively to go from Brook to Robin on a consistent basis night in and night out defensively, we think is going to be a monster. We were the best defense in the league last year. We think we can be even better this year having him with the impact he can have protecting the rim and helping our rebounding.
When I look at this roster (with no Brogdon), I would say this team on paper isn’t as good as last year’s team. Do you agree or disagree with that assessment? Jon Horst: I would tell you pure analytics – kind of like the raw evaluation and the stuff that we look at – I think it’s close, maybe slightly worse. But, for me, I think we’re going to have internal development and growth, so I think we’re going to be better than last year based on that. We’re going to have another year in Bud’s system, which you have to remember last year was Year 1, so we’ll have another year in his system. And I think we added two guys who fit in a big way. I think Malcolm fit offensively and defensively at one position and did a great job, a fantastic player. I think Wes fits offensively at a high, high level and defensively, he’s really good. Robin fits defensively at a high, high level and offensively, he’s pretty good. In some ways, we were already the deepest team in the league in my opinion last year, and I think we might have become deeper. We still have four studs in the starting lineup and we have a fifth guy that fits great with them. I think we could be better. I really do. … I think we’ve filled the gaps in a great way.
July 18, 2019 | 9:34 am EDT Update
Multiple sources told The Athletic last week that the Thunder traded Westbrook for Paul along with two draft picks and two pick-swap options, fully comfortable with the idea that Paul could be on the roster this season. And ESPN on Wednesday reported there’s an “increasing expectation” Paul will start the season in Oklahoma City given the limited trade suitors for his considerable contract.
Storyline: Chris Paul Trade?
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