Thunder guard Russell Westbrook will be available for tonight’s Game 5 after being fined but not suspended for going onto the court during an altercation, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. The league levied a $10K fine against Westbrook, who became involved in a fourth quarter shoving match during Game 4. Players are typically suspended for leaving the bench area during a fight, but Westbrook was given a break because he was about to check into the game when it happened.
“I was at the scorer’s table waiting,” he said. “The foul went, the horn blew. So, I walked on the court. I was already in the game. Once I was in the game, they told me to wait because they told me I was going to review it or whatever. Once they did that, then obviously the altercation happened so I was already on the floor.”
There’s more from the Northwest Division:
- Paul George‘s upcoming free agency becomes more interesting with every Thunder loss, notes Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated. George said earlier this season that he wouldn’t make a decision based on the playoffs, but obviously a first-round exit won’t help Oklahoma City’s chances of keeping him. Sharp acknowledges George’s talent, but questions whether he can be a team leader and speculates that things may not turn out well for the Lakers if they sign him but not LeBron James.
- It’s conceivable that Jimmy Butler could wind up back in Chicago after next season, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. The Timberwolves traded for Butler last summer to bring a veteran presence to the organization, but he can opt out of a $19.8MM salary next summer and may be tempted to leave if Minnesota can’t make an impact in the playoffs. Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf remains a huge fan of Butler and would be interested in a reunion. “I loved the city of Chicago, and I love the Reinsdorfs,’’ Butler said. “I’m forever grateful for them in taking a chance on me, allowing me to become the player that I am today. It’s still incredible to me that I got to hoop in a Bulls jersey. I got to play in the house that [Michael] Jordan built, that [Scottie] Pippen played, all that stuff. That’s because of the Reinsdorfs. If the time comes where I say, ‘You know what, I do want to end this thing in a Bulls jersey,’ I think that would be amazing. But it’s all about being wanted and winning.’’
- The Trail Blazers posted all their exit interviews on the team website after a surprising first-round sweep by New Orleans.