Memphis guard Nick Calathes has been suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.
His suspension starts immediately, which will make him ineligible to participate in the first-round series with the Thunder.
Calathes, a reserve point guard, tested positive for Tamoxifen, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports.
In 71 games, Calathes averaged 4.9 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 16.5 minutes behind starter Mike Conley Jr.
With Calathes suspended for the series, the Grizzlies are likely to rely on recently acquired guard Beno Udrih to fill the void off the bench. Udrich joined the Grizzles as an unrestricted free agent on Feb. 27. The 10-year veteran appeared in 10 games with Memphis this season, averaging 2.7 points, 0.2 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 5.5 minutes.
The report said the NBA is expected to announce the suspension Saturday.
NOTHING WRONG WITH WESTBROOK’S KNEE
Questions persist about the health of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, who is returning to the playoffs after being knocked out of last year’s postseason with a knee injury.
But both Westbrook and team officials insist that he is good to go. There are no back-to-backs in the playoffs, and Thunder coach Scott Brooks said the minute restriction Westbrook has been under since returning in the first game after the All-Star break has been lifted as well.
“Going into the playoffs, it’s unlimited,” Brooks said of Westbrook’s minutes. “He can play as I see fit.”
Westbrook attempted to clear up the reason his minutes continued to be monitored despite being healthy when asked what the restrictions say about his health.
“It says you’re being cautious,” Westbrook said. “It says you want to have a long career. It also says that I want to be the best player when it comes to April, May, June.”
TURNING THE PAGE TO THE PLAYOFFS
When the Thunder went 4-4 in its final eight regular season games, displaying some disturbingly inconsistent defense, the team’s mediocre finish seemed to elicit concern from everyone.
Everyone but the Thunder.
With the playoffs getting underway with Game 1 against Memphis on Saturday night, the Thunder has moved past its disappointing finish and turned its attention to the Grizzlies.
“We didn’t have a great finish, but I thought we had some good games during this stretch,” Brooks said. “We went through some adjustments and we got through them…What we did in the regular season has no bearing going forward now. We played that first season to get ready for the second season… All of our attention is going to be focused on winning that series and putting ourselves in the best position to win Game 1, and I’m sure they’re going to do the same.”
THUNDER’S REIGN ENDS
The Thunder’s three-year run of leading the league in free throws ended this year.
Oklahoma City, with an 80.6 percent rate, ranked second behind Portland (81.5 percent).
The Thunder’s 25 average attempts marked the fewest the franchise has taken per game since relocating to OKC. But the team’s success rate at the foul line illustrates why it’s important for the Thunder to continue to manufacture trips to the line.
“We have to get to the free-throw line,” Brooks said. “We’ve been one of the league leaders for many years. This year we’ve kind of dropped off. We’re trying to get a few other guys involved with getting to the line, but you have to get there by getting fouled.”
The Thunder has ranked in the top 10 in free-throw shooting in each of the past six years. OKC has been among the top two most accurate teams in each of the past five years.
REBOUNDING WILL BE KEY
Against the Grizzlies’ big man duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the Thunder will need to rebound.
To do that well, OKC must first focus on fundamentals.
“We’re going to have to block them out,” Brooks said. “We’re going to have to put a body on them. They’ve got three or four offensive rebounders, counting Tony Allen. Every team that plays Memphis, that’s what you have to do.”
The Thunder has been most successful when winning the rebounding battle. OKC went 44-8 this season when outrebounding its opponent. The Thunder was 17-2 in games in which it won the rebounding department by at least 10.
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins on Westbrook playing the Grizzlies after missing last year’s second-round series with a knee injury — “I know he gon’ come out like animal.”