Pacific Notes: Westbrook, George, Biyombo, LeBron

Russell Westbrook is preparing to face Kevin Durant in a playoff series for the first time since their Oklahoma City partnership ended seven years ago, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. The Clippers wrapped up the No. 5 seed Sunday afternoon with a victory over the Suns, setting up a first-round matchup with plenty of star power.

Both players started the season elsewhere, and they got to their current teams in radically different ways. Durant was the centerpiece of the season’s most celebrated trade, being sent from Brooklyn to Phoenix in a four-team deal at the deadline. Westbrook was a salary dump by the Lakers, who had to give up their 2027 first-round pick to get Utah to take his contract. He signed with the Clippers after agreeing to a buyout with the Jazz.

Westbrook is eager to return to the playoffs after missing the postseason last year.

“It’s a blessing and something that I don’t personally take for granted,” he said. “I’m grateful to be in a situation where I have an opportunity to do so, and I’m looking forward to it.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Paul George won’t be available when the Clippers start their series on Sunday, but he’s making “tangible progress” in his recovery from a sprained right knee, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. A report over the weekend said George has started exercising again after having to keep the knee immobilized for a while.
  • Suns center Bismack Biyombo sat out Sunday’s game with a right knee bone contusion, but he’s confident that he’ll be ready for the playoffs, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Biyombo said he felt the worst pain of his career when he bumped knees with Lakers big man Anthony Davis Friday night, but the effects have largely subsided. “If it was a big game, I’d probably step on the court and compete, honestly,” Biyombo said on Sunday, “but the medical staff and the trainers that we have, we’re working through the process, but we’re patient enough knowing that we’ve got the playoffs starting. … That’s when things matter, which I’m really excited for.”
  • LeBron James is relieved to be in the play-in tournament after a 2-10 start, but he said the Lakers have to keep the same focus that propelled their late-season success, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “We put ourselves in a position where we can move on. That’s all we asked for, to put ourselves in a position to move on,” James said. “We obviously had a very, very slow start. … So, to know where we are today, you can be happy about that but not satisfied.”
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