L.A. Notes: Batum, Kennard, Westbrook, LeBron, Reaves

Veteran wing Nicolas Batum has continued to play a regular role off the bench for the Clippers this season, but he’s not taking it for granted. Before being bought out by Charlotte during the 2020 offseason, Batum had been relegated to a bench role and believed his playing days were nearing an end, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times.

“Two years ago, I didn’t think I would be in that spot today still playing major minutes, have a role for a contending team, no,” Batum said. “I was more about retirement.”

Batum quickly caught on with the Clippers in 2020 once he became a free agent and has since signed two new contracts with the team, including a two-year, $22.6MM deal this past summer. Now 34 years old, he doesn’t envision retiring anytime soon.

“After what happened to me in Charlotte I promised myself, especially with the French national team, I’m like … ‘I’m going to do everything so I will retire the way I want,'” Batum said. “That’s the attitude I have now. Going to keep working and I mean, they’re going to have to kick me out. Good luck with that.”

Here are a few more notes on the NBA’s two Los Angeles-based teams:

  • Clippers sharpshooter Luke Kennard is leading the NBA with a career-best .489 3PT%, but is only tied for 106th in the league in three-point makes, since he attempts just 4.2 per game. Janis Carr of The Southern California News Group explores whether Kennard should be more aggressive in seeking out his shot.
  • Lakers guard Russell Westbrook, who has missed the team’s last two games due to left foot soreness, is listed as probable to return on Friday vs. Charlotte, tweets Marc Stein. LeBron James, who sat out Monday’s game in Phoenix with left ankle soreness and returned on Wednesday in Sacramento, has also been designated as probable.
  • Like Westbook, Lakers guard Austin Reaves (right ankle sprain) has been sidelined for the last two games, but he also has a chance to return on Friday. He has been listed as questionable, per Stein.
  • Although Thomas Bryant has played well at center in Anthony Davis‘ stead, the Lakers have no adequate substitute on defense for their injured star, writes Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group. Since Davis went down last week with a foot injury, the club has the second-worst defensive rating in the NBA (124.5). “We’re already a team without a lot of length and not a lot of size,” James said. “And you lose a 6-11 guy with a 7-6 wingspan, 7-7 wingspan, I mean, it’s self-explanatory, so it’s not like it’s rocket science.”
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