The Scoop:Westbrook had been limited to left-hand activities, at least during publicly-available practices. He's expected to be re-evaluated on Nov. 29 and his return is likely at least two weeks away, but his ability to catch passes and shoot right-handed suggests his recovery is on target. According to his initial timetable the earliest he might return is Dec. 2 vs. the Pelicans in New Orleans, but we'll know more after he meets with doctors in late November.
The Scoop:Durant still isn't practicing, let alone taking contact in a full-court scenario, so this doesn't change his timetable. He's expected to be re-evaluated right around Thanksgiving, setting up a likely return in early December. Hopefully patient fantasy owners will get some good news in the coming weeks.
A little over two years ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder and guard James Harden could not come to terms on a contract extension for the team’s super scoring sub. Fearful of paying the luxury tax in a small market and working with three and nearly four maxed-out players on the team, the Thunder dealt Harden to Houston, where he was happily inked to the same sort of contract OKC’s owners refused to pay. That deal hasn’t been the reason the Thunder have failed to return to the Finals setting that they enjoyed a few months before the Harden trade, but it is part of that package. Earlier this autumn, the Thunder and guard Reggie Jackson also failed to come to contract terms for the hybrid guard, whose services are needed more than ever with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant smarting with injuries. Jackson, 24, is playing over 41 minutes a game for OKC – contributing 21.5 points, 7.6 assists, 4.9 rebounds. He can be a restricted free agent in July. The Thunder didn’t deal Jackson, but his return as an RFA isn’t a foregone conclusion either. With Harden and Houston pairing up with the Thunder to engage in a miserable 69-65 Rocket win on Sunday, Harden was asked about the inevitable comparisons. From Darnell Mayberry at the Oklahoman : “I fell into the same situation, and that could have been my only contract. And I’m sure Reggie feels the same way,” Harden told The Oklahoman . “He has to get the money that he’s earned and that he’s worked his whole life for. It’s the nature of the business. It’s going to happen every single year and it’s going to continue to happen.” […] “That’s (tougher),” Harden said of Jackson’s situation. “Credit to him. He’s handling it great. He’s been a great leader. Since he’s been on the court he’s been playing very good basketball, and he’s handling it the right way. I’m sure good things are going to happen for Reggie.” […] “I just said to him, keep going out there and hooping,” Harden said. “Do what you’re doing; going out there, being aggressive and attacking, being the vocal leader that you are and everything will fall into place.” The idea of a guard’s first big extension working as potentially your “only contract” seems laughable at first, but players understand that the potential for a worst case scenario is always out there. Derrick Rose has barely played since his extension kicked in, while Russell Westbrook has undergone three surgeries and a broken hand since his second contract sparked up. Anything can happen. We’ve learned that about this Thunder franchise. You’d be correct in kicking the Harden deal in retrospect, but when your skinflint owners hand you a direct order to both not pay the luxury tax and not pay Kendrick Perkins to go away via the amnesty provision, there is little a general manager can do. Faced with those constraints, dealing Harden for a proven scorer in Kevin Martin, a lottery pick at a needed position in Jeremy Lamb (selected by Houston’s ultra-analytical front office, which has had great success in the past) and a future first round pick seems like as win-win’ish as things could come. Instead, Martin didn’t contribute as expected and was let go for nothing the next summer. Lamb has absolutely not panned out, and though the future first rounder turned into starting center Steven Adams, this turned out to be a miserable deal for OKC. They probably would not have returned to the Finals in 2013 and 2014 with Harden – not with Westbrook and Serge Ibaka out – but the three quarters for a buck-move didn’t work out. Worse, had the team amnestied Kendrick Perkins’ contract, it still could have functioned well while only paying the luxury tax one season and keeping Harden at his price. So when James Harden talks up the money that Reggie Jackson has “earned,” you can’t help but think that he’s partially referring to the money that James Harden truly earned two years ago. Jackson won’t sign for the sort of money that James (over $80 million spread out over five years) made, unless a competitor makes a truly ridiculous offer (and even then, legally, he won’t come close), but he will get paid because of the financial landscape that the Harden deal created. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
(Adds late game) Nov 16 (The Sports Xchange) - Highlights of Sunday's National Basketball Association games. - - - Rockets 69, Thunder 65 James Harden scored 19 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets improved to 9-1 on the season while the Thunder fell to 3-8 as they continue to play without the injured Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It was the second straight game for the Thunder to lose in the final seconds at home. ...