While Durant was always the best player on the Thunder during his tenure in OKC, Smith is reporting Westbrook had trouble following KD as the team’s leader for a couple of reasons. “Several people have come up to me. A couple of people who used to play in Oklahoma City. Several people that are incredibly familiar with the history of KD in Oklahoma City. They said when he was in Oklahoma City, he wasn’t viewed as the leader,” Smith said on ESPN’s First Take on Wednesday. “They said it was hard for Russell Westbrook to follow him because KD, the man that you see right now, was a boy back then. And Russell Westbrook came in a man. “So to go to Russell Westbrook and to ask him to follow that guy, Russell Westbrook was a man lookin’ at you like you’re asking him to follow a boy. I’m quoting. I’m not tellin’ you who. But I’m quoting folks that said that and it was more than one person.”
September 18, 2019 | 8:25 pm EDT Update
Shams Charania: The Lakers have been granted a disabled player exception worth $1.75M from the NBA for the expected season-ending ACL injury to DeMarcus Cousins, league sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium. It expires on March 10, 2020.
Antigravity treadmills, light therapy lasers and 3D movement analysis services are just a few of the high-tech rehabilitation gizmos for injured athletes inside Henry Ford Health System’s new and soon-to-open William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine. The three-story, $37-million sports medicine center at 690 Amsterdam in Midtown Detroit is expected to open by Oct. 15.
On Wednesday, some members of the Pistons organization joined Henry Ford for the sports medicine center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. Detroit Lions team owner Martha Ford, 94, the widow of William Clay Ford, was in attendance. (The Lions also use Henry Ford for their team’s doctors.). “Our move to Detroit would not have happened without our partnership with Henry Ford,” said Arn Tellem, vice chairman of the Pistons. “Our organizations have worked side by side to create one of the best developments in medicine and sports, not in the region, in the world. This is a true game-changer for our team, franchise and the community.”
September 18, 2019 | 7:05 pm EDT Update
Rick Bonnell: Nothing new if @Charlotte Hornets 2nd-round pick Jalen McDaniels will be signed for training camp, per agent @Nima Namakian. Hornets are at maximum 20 camp slots for now, but that is far from set in stone. GM Mitch Kupchak told me he’d like to have McDaniels in team’s development system.
Bitadze arrived in Indiana just days after Summer League ended. With high-profile players like No. 1 pick Zion Williamson and No. 3 pick R.J. Barrett making brief appearances in Vegas before getting shut down, Bitadze said he was aware of the optics surrounding his absence. “It looked like I didn’t want to play or something,” he said.
Pacers coach Nate McMillan echoed Bitadze’s disappointment in missing Summer League, adding the rookie would’ve played if he was able to. “We tried to do everything we could to try to speed up that visa,” McMillan said. “As soon as we drafted him, we talked about it that night. To try to get it, put a rush on it and get it so he could get back and play. I would’ve loved to see him play in Vegas. It didn’t work out, but it was good to see him in some runs in the month of August and September.”
Standing all of 6-11, the 20-year-old hovered above the media scrum surrounding guard T.J. McConnell. Phone in hand, using his best reporter stance, Bitadze jokingly asked the fellow newcomer what he knew about his native Republic of Georgia. McConnell answered deadpan, “Not a thing,” before firing back at Bitadze to tell him what he knew about his hometown of Pittsburgh. “Uh, nothing,” Bitadze said with a sly smile, drawing laughs from the reporters in attendance.