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SportLeverage play: Who holds the cards? Heat, Thunder, Westbrook?

03:30  12 july  2019
03:30  12 july  2019 Source:   msn.com

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Leverage play: Who holds the cards? Heat, Thunder, Westbrook?© DAVID SANTIAGO/Miami Herald/TNS The Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook reacts after dunking against the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on February 1, 2019.

LAS VEGAS — In the end, amid the NBA’s latest spectator sport, the Russell Westbrook Waiting Game, it comes down to leverage.

In what appears to be a stalemate, all involved can claim an influence advantage in the high-stakes game that includes the Miami Heat’s Pat Riley, the Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, and the prime protagonist himself, get-me-out-of-here Westbrook.

At the moment, no one is pushing all their chips to the middle at the table.

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Dennis Schroder, who started in Westbrook 's place, scored 20 points. Steven Adams had 10 points Westbrook picked up his NBA-leading 16th technical foul in a loss to Golden State on Saturday The Thunder led 13-0 after the Heat missed their first eight shots, but a 17-0 run by Miami's reserves put

At the moment, there is no reason, with the next meaningful game still three months away.

Where it stands with those with a stake in the game:

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— Miami Heat: For a team that seemingly has precious little to put into play after the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Heat do hold a prime hole card: the expiring contract of Goran Dragic.

With salary-cap relief clearly a priority, if not a necessity, for the Thunder, acquiring the final, $19.2 million season on Dragic’s contract would provide both a short-term replacement for Westbrook and needed cap relief starting next summer.

But the Heat also could find takers elsewhere for Dragic, particularly having moved forward with the experiment of Justise Winslow as their starting point guard of the future.

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Russell Westbrook III (born November 12, 1988) is an American professional basketball player for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives against Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15) in the first quarter in game five of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs Rockets guard Patrick Beverley had some words for the Thunder superstar, who may or may not have been listening.

If the Thunder attempt to call the Heat’s bluff when it comes to a seeming refusal to toss prospects into a deal (Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo), Dragic could wind up headed to another team in the interim, which seemingly was an initial play in the Butler trade machinations.

Salary-cap relief wears No. 7 for the Heat, but only as long as he is available from the Heat.

— Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder, of course, could do nothing, at least in the short term. And that could be the best play, to at least attempt to draw another motivated suitor into the equation.

But now that it is out that Westbrook would prefer a deal to the Heat, at least according to ESPN, the Thunder also know there is a degree of pressure on the Heat to not let another one get away, after being linked to Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward interest in recent free-agency periods.

Presti certainly put the full-court press on the Los Angeles Clippers in the Paul George deal. For a franchise that already has lost James Harden, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Victor Oladipo and, now, George, can the Thunder afford anything less than a perceived trade victory?

Report: Russell Westbrook, Thunder discussing possibility of trade

Report: Russell Westbrook, Thunder discussing possibility of trade The Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook are at a crossroads, and both sides may be ready to move on. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Westbrook’s agent, Thad Foucher, is discussing Westbrook’s next steps with Thunder general manager Sam Presti. One of those steps could be exploring trade possibilities, with both sides recognizing that the time may have come after an 11-year partnership to explore external possibilities.

Miami Heat Receive: Russell Westbrook . Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Goran Dragic The real question is whether the Thunder could sell this to their fanbase as a sufficient return for It would also get a couple of grinders who play the no-nonsense style Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra prefer.

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And it’s not as if rolling, at least for the short term, with Westbrook, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson couldn’t be competitive.

— Russell Westbrook: This is where it gets interesting: How much leverage comes with committing the first 11 years of a career to a single franchise?

If Westbrook does not get to a desired destination, does it cast the Thunder as team that does not look out for those who have been loyal?

This, of course, also is not like the Anthony Davis situation last season with the New Orleans Pelicans, when potential suitors were warned he well could up at leave after a season. Westbrook is locked into four highly compensated seasons. He is not walking away from that money.

— The loyal fans of OKC: And then there is one of the most loyal fan bases in the NBA.

How exactly would it play out if a player who has asked out does not get out, has to suit up in a uniform he attempted to shed?

Remember, Anthony Davis had been just as beloved in New Orleans. Until he wasn’t.

Beyond that, for all the picks acquired from the Clippers for the future, what about the moment and star appeal? Dealing Westbrook merely for cap relief would only further reinforce the feelings of abandonment that came with Durant, Harden and others from the 2012 roster that lost to the Heat in the NBA Finals.

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Thunder reportedly receptive to trade inquiries for superstar Russell Westbrook.
After discussing the situation with Russell Westbrook and agent Thad Foucher, the Thunder are — for the first time — receptive to hear trade inquiries on their All-NBA guard, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links). As Charania explains, all involved parties — Westbrook, Foucher and Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti — are working together to examine possible scenarios. As Charania notes, it could be difficult to find a trade partner for the star point guard at this point in the offseason, with little cap room still available around the league and recently signed free agents not becoming trade-eligible until at least December.

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