BOZICH | College clock ticking on Billy Donovan; NBA Summer League opens
With Paul George coming to Oklahoma City, coach Billy Donovan has one shot to chase an NBA title. Then Donovan will be in prime position to return to college basketball.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Not everything that happens in the NBA features the Warriors and Cavaliers.
Friday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana for free-agent-in-waiting Paul George.
In Indianapolis, the move is viewed as a homecoming for Oladipo, whose three-season career at Indiana University ended in 2013. As the Pacers rebuild, Oladipo becomes the face of the franchise.
In Oklahoma City, the move is viewed as a Hail Mary attempt to give Russell Westbrook an alpha sidekick to help the Thunder make another push in the Western Conference.
But in college basketball the move must be viewed this way:
Billy Donovan will be primed for a return to the best available opening in the summer of 2018. Billy D will be the top coaching free agent — and I know his contract with the Thunder runs through the 2020 season.
Here’s why: This is the Thunder’s one-shot at glory.
George and Westbrook can leave Oklahoma City as free agents after the 2018 season. George has been an open book. He wants to play in Los Angeles, likely for the Lakers.
Westbrook, the reigning MVP, is also considered a likely goner, an L.A. guy who will likely also need to leave if winning a championship is important to him. Plus, it will be Westbrook’s prime opportunity to get paid.
Donovan left Florida for OKC in 2015, eager for the opportunity to coach Westbrook and Kevin Durant to the NBA title.
Almost happened. Didn’t happen. The Thunder coughed up a 3-1 lead in the 2016 Western Conference finals.
Last season, without Durant, OKC regressed to 47-35, sixth-best record in the Western Conference. They exited the playoffs in round one, losing to Houston in five games.
This is it for OKC. They couldn’t win the title with Westbrook and Durant. Now they’re going to win one with Westbrook and George?
One more run at a title — and then likely a non-stop flight to under .500 and the NBA Draft Lottery.
When that happens, Donovan will have a choice:
Remain the coach of a 31-51 NBA team or take the best available job in college basketball, which by 2018 could include Louisville, North Carolina, Duke, UCLA or another spot where a guy with two NCAA championship rings would be handsomely paid and adored.
SUMMER LEAGUE OPENS: If you need a basketball fix (and you know you do), they will be available Saturday. Four games will be played.
At 11 a.m. the Hornets vs. the Heat. That will be followed by the Magic vs. the Pacers at 1, the Knicks vs. the Mavericks at 3 and the Thunder against the Pistons at 3. All four games will be carried by NBA TV
Former Louisville center Mangok Mathiang is listed on Charlotte’s roster, along with top draft pick Malik Monk. (Monk is skipping the Summer League with a bad ankle.)
Former Kentucky and Bullitt East star Derek Willis will play for the Pistons. His UK teammate Bam Adebayo is with Miami while former UK center Dakari Johnson is scheduled to play for Oklahoma City.
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