Pacific Notes: Harden, Westbrook, Mann, Booker, Green

The Clippers picked up their first win since acquiring James Harden, beating the Rockets on Friday on a game-winning shot from the 10-time All-Star. According to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk, the win goes beyond simply snapping a win streak, as it shows Harden is becoming more comfortable in his new home.

I’m getting real close,” Harden said. “I’m getting close to myself every game I feel like I’m improving.

The win also showed a glimpse of what the Clippers can be when they’re at full strength, with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Harden all having their fair share of moments. On top of that, their victory comes off the heels of Russell Westbrook approaching coach Tyronn Lue about coming off the bench to help stabilize the team.

He wanted to do that, which [is] an ultimate sacrifice for a guy of his caliber,” Lue said. “For things he’s done in this league, the things he’s done for this team. So shout-out to Russ for wanting to do that. It’s a huge part of what we’ve talked about, just sacrificing wanting to win at a high level.

Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times further explored Westbrook’s move to the bench, writing that the lineup change is here to stay. Westbrook finished with just 17 minutes played, his fewest since joining the team. Norman Powell, P.J. Tucker and Daniel Theis, the latter of whom made his Clippers debut, also joined Westbrook off the bench. According to Greif, his teammates didn’t know about the change until he walked onto the practice court on Friday in the white jerseys worn by reserves.

We just got to get him used to it and get him accustomed to doing that, and it’s tough, it’s tough to go from starting to off the bench or from off the bench to starting, especially with the caliber player that he is,” Lue said. “So we just got to get him comfortable, make sure we got the right guys on the floor with him.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lue put Clippers guard Terance Mann in the starting lineup over Westbrook instead of other options like Tucker. He explained the decision on Friday. “We kind of went back and forth with T-Mann and P.J, but I think T-Mann can take the responsibility of guarding point guards every night … you can kind of put him on those guys to start the games and so we don’t have to wear PG and Kawhi down to start the games every single night,” Lue said (Twitter link via Justin Russo). “And so that’s why it kind of made sense to us.
  • Suns superstar guard Devin Booker is averaging a career-high 10.3 assists through his first four games, including a single-game career high of 15 on Friday against the Jazz. Even though the sample size is small, he’s looking much more comfortable as a distributor. His previous career-best average was 6.8 in 2018/19. The Suns brass is talking about him like a point guard. “He’s our most vocal guy,” head coach Frank Vogel said (Twitter link via PHNX Suns). “He’s really taken the reins of that this year with this team, and even more so on the floor as the point guard running the show.
  • Warriors forward Draymond Green was suspended after engaging in a physical confrontation with Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, and the last couple times Green has been involved in drama, frustrations in the locker room were tangible, according to The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II. However, his teammates are completely behind him this time, knowing he’s looking out for them on the court. The events that led to Green’s suspension began with Klay Thompson and Jaden McDaniels getting into an altercation with Green later stepping in. “We’ve got his back,Gary Payton II said. “And we gon’ hold him down until he gets back.” According to Thompson, Green apologized to his team and knows he took it too far.
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