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Northwest Notes: Payne, Westbrook, Arthur, Wolves

The Thunder are nearly ready to bring back Cameron Payne from a fractured foot, tweets Chris Haynes of ESPN. Haynes mentions December 29th in Memphis as a possible season debut for the second-year point guard. Payne suffered the injury to the fifth metatarsal on his right foot early in training camp. He had Jones fracture surgery on the foot in July, but opted to let it heal on its own this time. Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said there is still no set date for Payne to return. “Part of the reason I haven’t given a timetable is because they can’t give me a timetable,” Donovan said of the team’s medical staff. “And to be honest with you, I don’t really ask them a lot of that stuff. I trust what’s going on. They give me an update of how guys are progressing and where they’re at, what they’re doing. I try to be supportive of the player, try to spend time with the player.” Payne averaged 5.0 points and 1.9 assists in 57 games during his rookie season.

There’s more news from the Northwest Division:

  • Russell Westbrook is ESPN’s Marc Stein’s choice as Most Valuable Player in the Western Conference. Westbrook has taken on an expanded role in the wake of Kevin Durant‘s departure for Golden State and is averaging a triple double per night through the first third of the season. He leads the league in scoring at 30.4 points per game to go along with 11.0 assists and 10.5 rebounds. Westbrook’s stellar play has helped the Thunder remain playoff contenders, just one game back of Utah in the Northwest standings.
  • With the Nuggets now fully healthy, coach Michael Malone wants to shorten his rotation, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Malone plans a limit of 10 players per game, and the first casualty of that decision is Darrell Arthur, who was informed this week that he will no longer receive regular playing time. “The word that Darrell used, and it hits the point, is sacrifice,” Malone said. “Can’t play 15 guys, and Darrell Arthur is a guy that’s proven to be a very good player in this league, but he sacrifices for his team and supports everybody that is playing. So you have to be selfless and support each other along the way.” The 28-year-old forward is in his eighth year in the league and his fourth in Denver. He is under contract for $7,464,912 next season and has a player option for the same amount in 2018/19.
  •  Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is preaching patience in the face of a disappointing start, relays Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune. Minnesota made a coaching change and overhauled its front office during the offseason, but has a 7-19 record after Saturday night’s collapse in the final minutes against Houston. “Well, let’s say that I was hopeful they would get off to a better start,” said Taylor. “Even in all the games they have played, you can see the exceptional talent that we have, and the ability to win. But for some reason or another, which I don’t have an answer for, we just have a terrible quarter in each game and get ourselves so far behind that it’s hard to pull it out. I’m hopeful that we’re getting it figured out.”

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