The Thunder, owners of the best record in the NBA, face off tonight in what could be a playoff preview against the Timberwolves, who are just percentage points ahead of the Rockets and Jazz in the race for the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference. Here's more from the West:
- Raja Bell is hopeful that he's nearing the end of the standoff he and the Jazz have been engaged in for months over the prospect of buyout, the veteran guard told Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune. Still, the team is giving no indication the impasse is close to resolution.
- There's no official timetable for the return of Eric Gordon, who's been rehabbing his troublesome right knee, but the Hornets shooting guard says he's "more than 90 percent sure" he'll play before New Year's Day, as John Reid of The Times-Picayune details.
- Many of the Kings are frustrated with coach Keith Smart over his benching of point guard Isaiah Thomas, according to Aaron Bruski of NBCSports.com, who gives sharp criticism of the team's signing of Aaron Brooks, Thomas' replacement in the starting lineup.
- Rockets rookie Donatas Motiejunas was appreciative of the playing time he received during this weekend's D-League assignment, notes Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. "When you step on the court, you have confidence," he said. "Sitting on the bench for a longer time kills your confidence. At least (in the D-League) you get a feeling for the game."
- Alex Raskin of HoopsWorld looks at how the improvement of Derrick Favors has created a dilemma in the frontcourt for the Jazz.
- Kenneth Faried said the Blazers told him they would draft him 21st overall in 2011, and when they passed him over, allowing the Nuggets to pounce at pick No. 22, the power forward from Morehead State was upset with Portland, as he explained to The Oregonian's Jason Quick. "I ain’t going to lie to you: I don’t like them," Faried said. "I think it’s disrespectful what they did, got my hopes up for nothing. Every time we play them, it’s a little extra motivation for me to come out and show them what they missed."