OKLAHOMA CITY — Paul George is a self-described big fan of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.
“He just has that ‘it’ about him as far as being a leader,” George said. “He holds everybody accountable and he’s always ready. It’s the perfect guy if you’re a team and you want somebody in that spot. He’s the perfect guy for that.”
Mayfield is one of three Heisman finalists along with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Stanford running back Bryce Love. It’s one of the reasons George isn’t ruling out a national championship run for OU, which plays Georgia in the Rose Ball on New Year’s Day.
“I think so. I’m not just saying that being here in Oklahoma. I think honestly, been watching them, their offense is explosive, and their defense is underrated. So, I think they definitely got a shot at winning it all.”
• Russ subbing: Thunder coach Billy Donovan has left Russell Westbrook in for the duration of the first quarter during a few recent games, though he changed the trend Tuesday against the Utah Jazz.
Still, doing it so often is a slight change from the way Donovan used Westbrook last season, when he was particularly conscious of his star's minutes amidst a season when the eventual MVP had to carry the team in so many elements of the game. And while he remains aware of Westbrook’s playing time, trying his best to limit it, he’s not quite as rigorous about the process as he was a season ago. Still, playing for 12 straight minutes isn’t something the point guard will do on a nightly basis.
“He was in a really good rhythm and flow right around his normal substitution and put him back in a little bit later in the second,” Donovan said. “More than anything else, just checking with him to see where he’s at and then making a decision from there. It’s not gonna be every game like that.”
• A new spot: Thunder wing Andre Roberson, who spends much of his time in the corner, has slid over to the wing a bit more of late. It’s allowed him to cut more off the ball, and he’s appeared more comfortable doing so from that positioning on the floor.
“He’s got to make reads based on the way he’s being guarded, because he is guarded uniquely,” Donovan said. “And when he is guarded like that, he’s got to pick spots where he can find open seams and cracks where he can kind of get in there. But at the same point he’s got to be able to create some spacing for different people.”
Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as the host of the postgame show, Thunder After Dark, and the OKC Dream Team, a weekly Thunder podcast that runs every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.