Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Aug. 21) -- James Harden, Chris Paul put on show at charity hoops game Staff

This morning’s headlines:

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Paul, Harden team up for charity game — Chris Paul hasn’t held back in getting acclimated with his new superstar teammate in Houston, James Harden, since he was traded to the Rockets. The two chatted together at Summer League in Las Vegas, put on a bit of a show at the Drew League in Los Angeles and, now, are thrilling hometown fans in Texas. Glynn A. Hill of the Houston Chronicle has more:

James Harden dribbled the ball past midcourt before lobbing it toward the rim.

And just as Chris Paul, Harden’s newest Rockets teammate, raced along the right baseline, took the pass and finished off an emphatic jam, the crowd erupted, cheering a collaboration they hope to see more of when the NBA season starts in the fall.

While Harden and Paul were not wearing the Rockets’ colors Sunday when they defeated John Wall’s LaFlame team to cap off JH-Town Weekend at Tudor Fieldhouse, there was no mistaking that they were on the same page and the same team.

The backcourt tandem was joined by Rockets teammate Clint Capela along with veteran NBA players Demar Derozan, Tyler Ennis and Josh Smith.

LaFlame, their opponent Sunday, featured Wall, Marcus Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, among others.

“We’re brothers, man. This thing is bigger than basketball,” said Harden, who signed a four-year contract extension worth $228 million. “They get a chance to come show support, especially for a good charity weekend.”

Proceeds from the weekend’s events fund his 3 The Harden Way charity organization, which provides higher-learning opportunities for first-generation college students from single-mother households; single mothers attending college; and Houston students from economically depressed communities.

On Friday, Harden and his mother Monja Willis donated backpacks and school supplies to 150 children from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston to kick off the weekend’s events. That same day, he donated $100,000 to Texas Southern University to assist students in financial need.

“I was expecting to make my presence felt in the community,” said Harden, who turns 28 on Saturday. “It’s an opportunity for me to help kids get to college and be future bosses.”

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Donovan tackling expectations for season head on — Perhaps the most surprising move of the summer was pulled off by Thunder GM Sam Presti in trading for All-Star Paul George. That move both caught many in the NBA off guard and also gave Oklahoma City a chance to reassert itself in the Western Conference hierarchy. As the new season looms, Barry Trammel of The Oklahoman caught up with coach Billy Donovan about George’s addition and more:

On the last day of the fiscal year, the Thunder general manager traded for Paul George, and suddenly OKC was back in the saddle. Not riding astride the Warriors, but capable of keeping pace with any of the league’s other 28 teams.

And the pressure has jumped, from Presti to Donovan. The Thunder again has the horses to do great things, and it’s Donovan’s job to make that happen.

Donovan’s doesn’t shirk the duty.

“Yeah, I mean, every year you want to have the opportunity to compete,” Donovan said. “You want to have the opportunity to have a team that can go out there and has growth, upside and potential. You want to be in a situation where you’re trying to pursue something at the highest level.”

Donovan likened it to his time at Florida. The Gators won back-to-back NCAA championships. But then Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green and Chris Richard all went in the NBA Draft.

When Florida sported that four-freshmen team, there was no great expectations on Donovan the coach. The onus was on Donovan the recruiter. And in the NBA, the recruiter is rarely the coach. It’s Presti’s job to build the roster. And built it he has.

“When I was at Florida, I was always trying to think of ways to compete for a national championship,” Donovan said. “The one thing I enjoy about being around Sam and Troy (Weaver, assistant GM) and the front office, and Mr. (Clay) Bennett (the chairman), is we’re always thinking about ways we can get better and keep trying to chase that championship.”

This season is about more than just this season. This season is about convincing Westbrook and George to stay with the Thunder. And the level at which the Thunder plays is the No. 1 factor.

Which means the pressure is squarely on Billy Donovan.

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Report: Clippers off GM job to Thunder exec — The LA Clippers went through a bit of a front office restructuring earlier this summer when they relieved Doc Rivers of his role as GM. Vice president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank will continue to talk with Rivers on personnel matters, but it seems the Clippers are looking to hire a new GM soon, too. Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times has more:

The Clippers, continuing to revamp their front office, have offered the general manager’s job to Michael Winger from Oklahoma City, according to an NBA official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Winger previously was an assistant general manager and team counsel for the Thunder for the last seven years.

The Clippers are expecting Winger to accept the job, according to the official.

Before his time with Oklahoma City, he had worked for five years with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Winger will work closely with Clippers executive vice president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, who assumed more duties and power after coach Doc Rivers was relieved of his role as president of basketball operations.

The Clippers had openings in the front office after the departure of assistant general managers Gerald Madkins, who left for the same position with the New York Knicks, and Gary Sacks, who left to pursue other interests.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: O.J. Mayo opens up about his ban from the NBA and his plans for a comeback … Fans in Minnesota are pumped about the new uniforms and the team … The Magic are working on a two-way deal with former first-round pick Adrien Payne … Taking a closer look at the Brooklyn Nets’ entire offseason


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