NBA Rumors Round-Up

NBA Rumors: Westbrook, Durant Back Friday?

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Check out the biggest rumors of the day in our NBA Rumor Round-Up. For more rumors and news, check out Basketball Insiders’ headlines, which are constantly being updated.

Thunder stars back Friday?

There is a growing belief that one or both [of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook] could rejoin the lineup soon, perhaps as early as Friday against New York. They returned to practice this week and are scheduled to have their respective injuries evaluated over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Thunder’s decision to waive Sebastian Telfair as opposed to apply for a third 10-day stint on Smith serves as confirmation that the team is confident that either Durant, Westbrook or rookie forward Mitch McGary will be available at some point over the next three games. Had the Thunder applied for and been granted a third consecutive 10-day stint on Smith under the league’s hardship rules, Durant and Westbrook would have been ineligible to play until those 10 days passed.

Via Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman

Telfair’s release came as a major surprise because he was playing 20 minutes a night. He passed on lucrative offers from China to play with the Thunder, and due to averaging eight points and a couple of assists during his stint with the Thunder, shouldn’t be unemployed for long.

The big news here, obviously, is that the Thunder’s stars are set to return and it couldn’t have come a second sooner. At 4-12, the Thunder need to go 45-11 the rest of the way to seriously stand a chance to get back in the playoff picture, and that’s just as an eighth seed. That’s not going to be an easy task, but the Thunder have to go for it as a lottery-bound season just a year before Kevin Durant is set to hit free agency could be potentially disastrous.

Cuban suggests realignment

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has come up with a proposal to level the playing field between the NBA’s two conferences.

Cuban suggests a conference realignment that would result in a total of eight teams, including the Mavs, switching conferences.
In Cuban’s plan, the Mavs, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans would move to the Eastern Conference. The Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks would move to the West.
“It’s not like it’d be the first time we’ve ever realigned,” Cuban said. “It’s happened many times before, so there’s precedent and I just think it shakes things up and makes things interesting.”

Via Tim McMahon of

Realignment has come up before in the past, but has never been seriously considered. The Minnesota Timberwolves have been campaigning to be realigned into the Eastern Conference for years to no avail. Cuban’s suggestion is timely, though, based on the difference of depth in the West compared to the East. Right now sub .500 basketball can get you to the playoffs in the East, whereas in the West 48 wins could still earn you a spot in the lottery.

Unfortunately, with all the other things the league is focused on, it’s hard to imagine that this gets seriously considered. They likely look at the league’s conference imbalance as a phase that could change within a single offseason. Because of that, it’s hard to go away from the alignments that they’ve had for the last several years. It’d change the game too dramatically.

Gregg Popovich out after minor procedure, Ettore Messina makes history in his place

via Twitter

Messina’s NBA head coaching debut was a success as the Spurs topped the Indiana Pacers 106-100. According to additional reports, Messina should expect to get another couple of games under his belt as Popovich continues to recover.

This stint, and this season as a whole really, is serving as great preparation for Messina, who has already been rumored to on several team’s head coaching radar in the past. By working directly under Popovich, he only helps ensure that he’s going to get his shot, perhaps even with the Spurs in the post-Popovich era if he’s patient enough to wait that long. However, Popovich losing his assistants has become commonplace, as Brett Brown (Philadelphia 76ers), Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta Hawks) and Jacque Vaughn (Orlando Magic) are just a few of his multiple disciples out in the coaching ranks, whether it be lead men or assistants.

David Blatt of the Cleveland Cavaliers may be off to a rough start in his NBA coaching debut, but his hiring shows a progressiveness from the league that proven coaches from overseas like Blatt and Messina are now viewed as viable candidates for head coaching opportunities. If Messina isn’t a head coach within the next three years, it’s because he’s turned down suitors due to a desire to stay with Popovich in San Antonio.