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Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Wednesday that coach Billy Donovan’s job is safe <a title="Justin Coleman Jersey" href="http://www.seahawkscheapstore.com/justin-coleman-jersey-cheap">Justin Coleman Jersey</a> , despite a disappointing season.
Oklahoma City had high expectations this season after trading for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to join reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. Even with the added star power, the Thunder won just one more regular-season game than last year and lost in the first round of the playoffs again.
Presti noted that Donovan has been forced to deal with constant change. The Thunder went to the Western Conference Finals in Donovan’s first season with a fully stacked roster. A few months later, superstar Kevin Durant left for Golden State in free agency, and the Thunder scrambled to make the playoffs in 2016-17. This season, shooting guard Andre Roberson suffered a season-ending ruptured left patellar tendon in January.
”If you think about the last three years for our organization, and the last three years for him, it’s been a little bit of a whipsaw in respect to just the team he inherited in 2016, the performance of that team being within a couple minutes of going to the Finals, then not being able to capitalize on that,” Presti said. ”Obviously on the heels of free agency in 2016, we’re trying to put together a team on the fly and do the best that we can. We were able to get that team to the postseason. In his third year, there’s a significantly different roster. Again, I think the best thing for him <a title="Trey Hendrickson Jersey" href="http://www.saintscheapstore.com/trey-hendrickson-jersey-cheap">Trey Hendrickson Jersey</a> , I think the biggest opportunity for him, is in the continuity.”
The continuity depends largely on if George, who has a player option on his deal, stays. George, a 6-foot-9 forward, was an All-Star who averaged 21.9 points and 5.7 rebounds this season and was among the league leaders in steals. Presti noted the positive things George has said about the franchise and believes both sides have been upfront.
”From the day that he arrived, we really made a specific and intentional effort to build a relationship with Paul and his representation built on three things: collaboration, transparency, and trust,” Presti said. ”Those tenets were followed throughout the year and continued to be. I felt strongly about the relationship. I feel great about the communication and the honesty, about the way we started the relationship.”
Dealing with Anthony will be a critical element of the offseason. The 10-time All-Star was inconsistent and ended the season unhappy. He averaged just 16.2 points this season, the lowest average of his career. He was an isolation specialist most of his career before shifting to more of a catch-and-shoot role this season. He made it clear on Saturday that he’s not interested in coming off the bench and he doesn’t like the role he had last season.
The Thunder will owe Anthony $28 million if he doesn’t exercise his early termination option. If he stays, it creates a dilemma for Donovan. Presti doesn’t expect Anthony’s role to change.
”He has to decide whether or not he wants to do another year of trying to make this transition as a stretch player <a title="Chris Carson Jersey" href="http://www.seahawkscheapstore.com/chris-carson-jersey-cheap">Chris Carson Jersey</a> ,” Presti said. ”That’s the first thing. I think he’s being very candid and very honest. I respect that. I respect the fact he’s being open about that.”
Regardless, Donovan’s future with the Thunder is clearer than that of George and Anthony. He has a 150-96 career regular-season record (.610) with the franchise.
”I think he comes in guns blazing every day looking for ways to get better, looking for ways to continue to build relationships with his players,” Presti said. ”I think he’s done an excellent job of that, as well, based on just the fact that this season, with some of the adversities we faced relative to expectations, relative to some injury, the newness of the team, the chemistry of the team, the strength of the team. I think he has a big hand in that, as well.”
Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche leaned on their speed to get off to another flying start.
This time, it held up.
MacKinnon scored twice <a title="Joe Williams Jersey" href="http://www.49erscheapstore.com/joe-williams-jersey-cheap">Joe Williams Jersey</a> , including one as part of a three-goal first period and another to chase Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne from the game, and the Avalanche beat the Predators 5-3 in Game 3 on Monday night to pull to 2-1 in the first-round series.
Blake Comeau and Gabriel Bourque also scored in a furious opening period that revved up a pom-pom waving capacity crowd. Gabriel Landeskog was credited with an empty-net goal for the Avalanche, who snapped a 12-game skid against the Predators.
”Our guys were energized,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. ”We were on our toes and the aggressors early in that game and it paid off for us.”
Game 4 is Wednesday in Denver.
For a third straight game in the series, Colorado scored first. But the Avs were able to make it stand in this one. MacKinnon and his teammates have been a different bunch at home this year. Their 28 home wins in the regular season was tied for the most in franchise history with the 2000-01 squad that hoisted the Stanley Cup.
”They gained a lot of momentum, used their atmosphere to their advantage and we weren’t able to respond in that first period,” Predators forward Ryan Johansen said. ”That can’t happen.”
MacKinnon’s goal at 4:25 of the second period gave Colorado a 4-0 lead and prompted the Predators to pull Rinne in favor of backup Juuse Saros . Rinne allowed four goals on 15 shots.
”We weren’t very good in front of him,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. ”I didn’t think we were giving him the support he needed.”
Laviolette wasn’t in a mood to elaborate on what exactly went wrong.
”It wasn’t good,” Laviolette said of the first period.
Any particular reason?
”We didn’t play very well,” he said.
One thing was clear: MacKinnon was as fast as ever on home ice. He led the league in home scoring in the regular season with 67 points.
”He thrives on the energy in the building,” Bednar said. ”He’s just so explosive at home. He’s dangerous every time he touches the puck at home.”
Jonathan Bernier stopped 29 shots on a night when the Avalanche finished 0 for 5 on the power play. Johansen had a second-period goal and Colton Sissons scored another in the third to make it 4-2. Saros was pulled for an extra skater with around 2:20 left and, moments later, Landeskog was credited with a goal after being dragged down on a breakaway. A sliding Landeskog was trying to get the puck over to MacKinnon for the hat trick.
It’s about the only thing that didn’t work out for Colorado.
”We proved to ourselves that we can get a win <a title="Wil Lutz Jersey" href="http://www.saintscheapstore.com/wil-lutz-jersey-cheap">Wil Lutz Jersey</a> ,” MacKinnon said. ”Hopefully it just snowballs from here.”
Nashville got on the board midway through the second after Colorado was whistled for two penalties on a play, giving the Predators a 5-on-3 advantage. Johansen knocked in a rebound to make it 4-1, but Colorado quelled the other portion of the power play.
Late in the second, P.K. Subban and MacKinnon got tangled up near the corner. It led to some pushing and shoving with both getting holding penalties.
Simply playoff hockey.
”Anytime you play the same team over and over and over again you start to really dislike each other,” said Austin Watson, who added a late goal. ”It’s good battles, good intensity out there and it’s fun hockey.”
It didn’t take long for Colorado to get on the board with Comeau scoring 1:50 into the game and on the team’s second shot. The Avs beat Rinne on their opening shot in each of the first two games.
Shortly after Bourque tipped in Patrik Nemeth’s shot, MacKinnon scored with 1:53 remaining in the first when he took a pass from Landeskog, used a burst of speed to get free and beat Rinne with a wrist shot.
The last time the Avalanche played at the Pepsi Center it was also desperation time. They beat St. Louis in a winner-gets-into-the-playoffs season finale.
NOTES: Nashville LW Viktor Arvidsson nearly had a goal in the first when he and the puck crashed into Bernier at the same time. The puck slid in, but the officials waved it off due to goaltender interference. … F Filip Forsberg had an assist on Johansen’s goal to become the Predators’ all-time postseason points leader (29). … A Nashville fan threw a catfish onto the ice. … Avs D Samuel Girard missed a second straight game with an upper-body injury. … D Nikita Zadorov celebrated his 23rd birthday. … Broncos LB Von Miller showed up wearing a No. 58 Avalanche jersey.
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