D'Angelo Russell

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Dort, Russell, Horton-Tucker

Following Wednesday’s win over Detroit, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault was asked by Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman how important it is to the team to make the play-in. Daigneault’s response didn’t exactly make it sound as if Oklahoma City is going all-out to secure a top-10 spot in the Western Conference.

“I think if it is an outcome that’s downstream of our process and the way that we’re trying to do things, it would be great, because it would be a marker along the way,” Daigneault said, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter links). “Not so important that it’s gonna distract us from our way of doing things. We need to bet on that day over day over day. We’ve done that for two or three years. That’s what’s put us in a position to compete for the play-in, so for us to abandon that at this point would be hasty.”

The Thunder were projected to finish at or near the bottom of the NBA standings coming into training camp, especially given that No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren had been sidelined with a season-ending injury. As a result, player development rather than short-term success has been the primary goal in OKC this year

Daigneault’s comments suggest player development is still the top priority, but some of the Thunder’s young players – including breakout rookie Jalen Williams – have been so good that the club may still find itself in a play-in game. With five contests left in their season, the Thunder hold the No. 10 seed in the West and hold a one-game lead over the 11th-place Mavericks.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Within a profile on Luguentz Dort, who is in the first season of a five-year contract with Oklahoma City, Jason Quick of The Athletic notes that the Thunder forward drew high praise from Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers star referred to Dort as the NBA’s best defender. “I think he has the perfect balance of strength, quickness, speed and desire to do it,” Lillard said. “And he’s young. So I just think he is the best at it.” Thunder All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also raved about his teammate, telling Quick that “every team needs a Lu Dort.”
  • As his Lakers prepare for a big game in Minnesota on Friday night, point guard D’Angelo Russell had nothing but praise for his former team and his former city, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune details. Russell was traded from the Timberwolves to L.A. at last month’s deadline. “Fans here were amazing. I have nothing bad to say about Minnesota,” Russell said. “If you’re not here or you haven’t lived here or anything like that, then you’re not aware of how good of a city (Minneapolis) is and a sports town, how committed fans are to their sports, things like that. So the city has a lot to offer. They treated me with great respect.”
  • Talen Horton-Tucker is still learning the ropes at point guard for the Jazz, but he has shown some “undeniable talent” in the process, including on Wednesday when he scored 41 points in 30 minutes in San Antonio, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. “There aren’t that many pure point guards left in the league,” head coach Will Hardy said of Horton-Tucker, who holds an $11MM player option for 2023/24. “Talen is dynamic. He knows how to run pick and roll. He has to know how to react when teams play him differently. He has to know to get off the ball when teams give him a lot of attention. But he’s very talented.”

L.A. Notes: Batum, Morris, Powell, D-Lo, Lakers, Schröder

Nicolas Batum is replacing Marcus Morris as the Clippers‘ starting forward and will stay in the role for the rest of the season, head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters, including Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times.

It was nothing that Marcus did wrong, just trying something different,” Lue said. “And when you’re not playing well, you want to try something different, and Marcus was all for it. We have to sacrifice if we want to win at a high level.”

As Greif writes, there’s less clarity about who will back up Batum. Morris and Robert Covington are the two primary options, and Lue was noncommittal on which player might have the edge. At least for the immediate future, Covington should receive playing time, as Morris has entered the league’s health and safety protocols and has been ruled out of Wednesday’s game in Memphis (Twitter link via ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk).

Here’s more on the two Los Angeles-based teams:

  • Clippers guard Norman Powell, who is questionable for Wednesday’s contest after missing the past 11 games with a left shoulder subluxation, will be reinserted into the rotation once he returns, Greif writes in the same piece. “We need him back. We need his juice. We need his scoring,” Lue said of Powell.
  • Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (hip) and big man Anthony Davis (foot) are probable to play in Wednesday’s game at Chicago, tweets Mark Medina of NBA.com. Forward LeBron James (foot) is questionable. Russell missed the past two games with his injury, while James just returned Sunday after a 13-game absence.
  • Guard Dennis Schröder, who is playing on a veteran’s minimum contract in his second stint with the Lakers, has provided a valuable spark all season long, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. “It’s a lot of energy, man. He plays with such a good passion. He’s energetic,” Davis said. “That’s how he plays, he’s scrappy and he saves a fastbreak, comes back down and draws a foul. He’s kind of another spark. Got the crowd into it. But that’s Dennis. That’s how he plays. … He’s leaving it all on the floor. Everyone is. I mean, the position that we’re in, you got to be able to leave it all on the floor, give 110%. And he’s giving like 150. He’s leaving it all on the floor, laying everything out on the line for us to get a win. And it’s contagious.”
  • Mirjam Swanson of the Southern California News Group is skeptical the Clippers and Lakers can make deep playoff runs in the West, noting that injuries have played a role in the two teams’ inconsistency. She believes the Nuggets, Grizzlies and even the Kings should be favored over the two L.A. teams due to their continuity.

L.A. Notes: Russell, SGA, AD, George, Clippers

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell will miss Friday’s key matchup against the Thunder due to a right hip injury. Dennis Schröder will start in his place.

It’s not too serious, but serious enough where we need to manage him,” Ham said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin (Twitter link). Ham added that Russell is considered day-to-day.

The Thunder, meanwhile, will have their best player available, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is active after previously being listed as questionable with a nagging abdominal strain (Twitter links via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman).

The Mavericks, Lakers, Thunder and Pelicans are all currently tied at 36-37 in the Nos. 8-11 spots in the West. The Wolves (No. 7) sit at 37-37, while the Jazz (No. 12) are 35-37.

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • In a lengthy interview with McMenamin, Lakers star Anthony Davis expressed confidence in the team’s retooled roster, and it sounds as though he would like to see the group stick together beyond this season. “If we actually have a full summer, full training camp, go through an entire season, who knows the position we’ll be in,” Davis said. ” … The team we have now, we feel like not only can we make noise this year, and I like our chance against anybody to be honest. You put anybody against us, I like our chances. … Who knows what we could be, what threat we could be next year and then years to come if they work it out and are able to keep this group together.” As McMenamin notes, beyond Davis, LeBron James and Max Christie, no other player has a fully guaranteed contract for 2023/24, so the Lakers will have a lot of decisions to make this summer.
  • The Clippers were glad that Paul George avoided a major injury when he sprained his knee. He’s expected to be reevaluated in two-to-three weeks, but if the Clippers clinch a top-six seed and a berth in the playoffs, George potentially returning in a first-round series is considered “optimistic,” according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Eric Gordon will start in George’s stead for the rest of the season, Youngmisuk writes.
  • It’s impossible to replace a player of George’s caliber, so multiple players will have to step up to make up for his lost production on both ends of the court. Law Murray of The Athletic believes Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, Gordon, Terance Mann and Norman Powell are the top candidates for more responsibilities with George sidelined. Powell has been out with a shoulder injury, but he has been getting on-court work in and is close to a return, per Murray.

Lakers Notes: Reaves, Russell, LeBron, Davis, M. Leonard

After scoring a career-high 35 points Sunday night, Austin Reaves was rewarded with a spot in the Lakers‘ starting lineup, writes Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. With two days off between games, coach Darvin Ham and his staff had time to prepare Reaves for starting duties as he took the place of Malik Beasley. Woike notes that it’s Ham’s first change to the starting unit since the trade deadline that wasn’t forced by injuries.

Reaves delivered 25 points and a career-best 11 assists in his first start since January 4 as the Lakers topped the Suns to move into a tie for ninth in the Western Conference playoff race.

“It’s going to be hectic,” Reaves said of the competition for postseason spots. “But this is why you play the game. You want high-pressure moments and you really want to play under the lights.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • D’Angelo Russell says he’s “at peace” after returning to the Lakers in a trade last month, but he’ll also be able to adjust if his long-term future isn’t in L.A., according to Helene Elliott of The Los Angeles Times. Russell, who has provided a scoring spark, topped 25 points Wednesday for the fourth time in his 11 games with the team. He’s enjoying the chance to display how much he has grown as a player and a person since L.A. drafted him in 2015, but he also knows more change could be coming in a few months. “I’m a free agent this summer. I’ve been traded midseason, so to get comfortable somewhere it’s not easy for me,” he said. “So, until I am, I won’t be comfortable. I won’t feel like it’s home.”
  • LeBron James will have his right foot tendon injury reevaluated this week, but there’s still no set timetable for him to return, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Ham believes the team is benefiting by responding to challenges with James sidelined. “Bron, with him being out, it’s revealed that we have a lot of different weapons that are very capable players on both sides of the ball that can help us achieve the goal we’re trying to achieve,” he said. “And when he comes back, he’s just going to add to it.”
  • Buha notes that the medical staff still considers the right foot stress condition that caused Anthony Davis to miss 20 games earlier this season to be an “active injury,” and it hasn’t been decided whether he’ll play in both games of the team’s lone remaining back-to-back on April 4 and 5.
  • Sources tell Buha that the Lakers were interested in signing Meyers Leonard, who worked out with them in January, before he joined the Bucks. L.A. is opting to keep its open roster spot for now after workouts with Tristan Thompson and Tony Bradley earlier this week.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Russell, Reaves, Beasley, Bamba, Irving

LeBron James likely won’t be back until the final week of the regular season if he returns at all before the playoffs, Jovan Buha of The Athletic said during a discussion about the team with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. James missed his ninth straight game with a right foot injury Wednesday night, but there have been some positive signs regarding his recovery.

Buha notes that James was able to shed his walking boot this week and was seen dribbling the ball and shooting layups during Tuesday’s shootaround. The Lakers have been cautious about releasing information on James, but Buha hears he’s ahead of schedule and will be reevaluated next week.

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Buha and Scotto believe D’Angelo Russell and the team have mutual interest in a new contract this summer. The Lakers brought back their former draft pick in a trade last month, and he has been productive apart from injury, averaging 18.8 points and 5.9 assists in the eight games he has played for L.A. The Lakers could have received Mike Conley from the Jazz in the trade, according to Buha, but they opted for Russell because they see him as part of their future. Scotto believes Russell is motivated to succeed with the team that drafted him.
  • The Lakers are hoping to re-sign Austin Reaves, but multiple teams are planning to make a run at him in free agency, Scotto states. L.A. can offer up to $50MM over four years, and Scotto believes his floor will be the mid-level exception. Buha points out that Reaves’ flexibility has been extremely valuable for the Lakers, noting that he has played everywhere from point guard to small forward and brings a high IQ to the game. He adds that the team has to be careful about getting into a situation similar what it did with Alex Caruso, adding that another team might be willing to offer Reaves $12-15MM per season. The Lakers would have the ability to match a higher offer via the Arenas provision.
  • Another free agent, Rui Hachimura, is also likely to get offers in the non-taxpayer MLE range, which will be about $10MM per year, according to Buha. He believes the Lakers are willing to make that offer, but another team may be able to outbid them.
  • General manager Rob Pelinka had been interested in Malik Beasley for some time before acquiring him, so the team is likely to pick up his $16.5MM option for next season, Scotto states. Mohamed Bamba, who has a $10.3MM team option, is more “on the bubble,” Scotto adds, because the Lakers can probably find a more affordable backup center.
  • The Lakers were strongly interested in Kyrie Irving when he asked the Nets for a trade in February, but that seems to have changed in light of their moves at the deadline, Buha adds. He hears that the front office likes the current look of the team and doesn’t plan to pursue Irving in free agency.

Pacific Notes: Curry, Hartenstein, Brown, Russell

Warriors star Stephen Curry turned 35 years old on Tuesday, but he’s not even close to thinking about retirement, as he told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears. He’s hoping to play into his 40s, if all goes well.

“How I feel right now is not how I thought I’d feel at 35. That number sounds crazy, but in my head, I feel like I got a lot left,” he said. “The work I put into this I still enjoy. Who knows how [the future] looks?

“I talked to Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and other guys who have been on the other side of the halfway point. I know quarterbacking is different, but you can check yourself [mentally] into not fast-forwarding too far. They really did a good job of disciplining themselves for what is happening in real time. They’re 40 feeling like they can still play. I’m trying to stay in that mode. Thirty-five is a big milestone, but the next one is 40. The way I feel right now, who knows?””

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Knicks big man Isaiah Hartenstein suggested that if the Clippers had offered him the taxpayer mid-level exception last summer, he would have taken it, Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints.com reports. Hartenstein wound up signing a two-year contract worth up to $18.1MM with New York. “I mean, they gave the only thing they really could’ve offered me to John Wall. I was — I can’t take that big of a pay cut,” he said. “I think I was actually gonna come back, but I can’t take that big of a pay cut. So they picked John Wall over me and I got to live with that.”
  • Head coach Mike Brown has raised the bar for the Kings and they’ve responded, as Sam Amick of The Athletic details. Brown ripped his team for giving up 23 offensive rebounds to the Knicks on Thursday, even though Sacramento won. Holding his players accountable has paid off. “That’s why we’re in the position we’re in right now, because he wants us to be perfect,” guard Malik Monk said. “He knows we can’t be perfect, but he wants us to be perfect. So I think that’s why we’re succeeding right now. He’s pushing us, coming in and telling us that was B.S. You would’ve thought we lost if you heard what was going on, but he just wants the best for us, man. Like I said, he wants us to be perfect in a world that’s not perfect.”
  • D’Angelo Russell is hopeful of re-signing with the Lakers this offseason when he hits free agency, Jacob Rude of SilverScreenAndRoll.com relays. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said at halftime of the Knicks-Lakers game on Sunday night that Russell wants to extend his second stint with the franchise. “D’Angelo Russell very much wanted a second chance in LA with the Lakers and you’ve seen the impact he made coming back against Toronto the other night, playing great in a win, and again (Sunday). He wants to be the point guard of the future for this organization.”

California Notes: Mann, Kawhi, PG, Green, Russell

Clippers reserve guard Terance Mann is adjusting to his new gig behind starting point guard Russell Westbrook, writes Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Having replaced Reggie Jackson, Mann had been the team’s starter at the point until Westbrook joined the club.

“It’s all right,” Mann said of the change. “Kind of reminds me of the position I had (before). I think I’ve been here before earlier in the year. Same sort of role if I can recall. But it’s been going all right. Just figuring it out. New unit. New voices out there. Different looks. So just sifting it out, sifting through it.

“… You know, they just want me to go out there and bring energy,” Mann continued. “I think I can do a way better job defensively than I had been doing. But just bring energy on the offensive. Make shots and play defense. And I think that’s going to be my role on this team, from here on out.”

There’s more out of California:

  • Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue is counting on star wings Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to help the team hone its defense in the home stretch of the season, says Law Murray of The Athletic. “The last two days, we challenged our team to be better defensively, and I thought tonight with [George] setting the tone early, I just thought our defense tonight was really good,” Lue said. “I thought we really got into the ball. We were physical… I thought PG and Kawhi really set the tone early, and everyone else I thought was really good defensively.”
  • Ahead of Wednesday’s Golden State/Memphis game, Warriors forward Draymond Green took to his podcast via The Volume and launched into a lengthy tirade against Grizzlies small forward Dillon Brooks, who had previously talked derisively about Green, writes Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “This idiot said, ‘I don’t know what Draymond does out there, I just don’t like Golden State,'”  Green said said. “I, quite frankly, wouldn’t like a team that beats me all the time, either.”
  • Lakers starting point guard D’Angelo Russell is expected to return to action on Friday for the team’s game against the Raptors, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link). McMenamin adds that Russell will immediately move ahead of Dennis Schröder, who had been starting while D-Lo was hurt.

Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell Could Return Friday

D’Angelo Russell missed his sixth consecutive game on Tuesday due to a right ankle sprain. However, the Lakers point guard could return as early as this week, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin (Twitter link).

Head coach Darvin Ham said prior to the team’s game against the Grizzlies that Russell is “progressing according to plan.” McMenamin learned that Russell went through a contact workout with Lakers coaches on Monday. Los Angeles doesn’t play again until Friday, giving Russell more time to ramp up before the team faces Toronto.

Russell, who is headed to free agency, was acquired in a three-way deal at the trade deadline. It was reported shortly after he joined the Lakers for a second stint that there was mutual interest in an extension.

Russell’s play the rest of the way could build his case for an extension or a big offer in free agency. He’s in the final year of a four-year, $117MM contract.

He only played four games for the Lakers before he was injured. He’s averaging 17.6 points and 6.1 assists in 58 combined starts with Minnesota and the Lakers this season.  He averaged 18.1 points and 7.1 assists last season for the Timberwolves.

Lakers Notes: Brown, Schröder, Russell, LeBron

Troy Brown Jr. expected a larger role with LeBron James sidelined, but even he was surprised by how much time he spent on the court on Sunday, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Brown logged 41 minutes and 11 seconds, more than any other player, in the Lakers‘ win over the Warriors.

“To be honest, I didn’t know I had played that many minutes,” Brown said. “I had no idea. Obviously with the rotations, I thought I was coming out and then going back in, but I wasn’t looking at stat sheets. It’s a blessing, honestly, just to get that opportunity, especially right now playing with time and with us playing for something and being able to be out there with those guys and make big plays. I’m grateful for it.”

James’ foot tendon injury resulted in Brown returning to the starting lineup after being moved to the bench when the Lakers shook up their roster at the trade deadline. Brown, who signed with L.A. as a free agent last summer, is willing to accept either role.

“It’s not really taking anything personal, trying to be professional and just know that they have a plan and the coaching staff has a plan and they are trying to put together their stuff,” he said. “So, for me, I just try to come out every night and do what I can do and make sure I’m locked in and give the team what I need on my end.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Dennis Schröder is playing with pain after injuring his left ankle in Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma City, Turner adds. The Lakers are missing their other primary ball-handlers because James is out and D’Angelo Russell hasn’t returned from a right ankle sprain. “Yeah, I got a lot of treatment on my ankle. I feel good now,” Schröder said Sunday. “Last game was a little … was still thinking about it a little bit. But right now, I think I feel in a good place.”
  • Russell is “trending in the right direction,” coach Darvin Ham said (video link from Spectrum SportsNet). Russell, who has missed the past five games, is going through a series of steps that will lead to his return, Ham adds.
  • James has started rehab work, but it’s still too early to predict when he’ll be able to play again, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Pacific Notes: Durant Vs. Irving, Clippers, Huerter, Russell

Kevin Durant is downplaying Sunday’s matchup against Kyrie Irving, calling it “just another game,” writes Jamal Collier of ESPN. The former teammates shocked the league when they signed with the Nets as free agents in 2019. They went through nearly four tumultuous seasons before both requesting trades last month, with Durant going to the Suns and Irving being sent to the Mavericks.

“I understand the entertainment aspect and a lot of people on the outside got the game circled on their calendar, but for both teams, just regularly scheduled programming,” Durant said. “Getting back to work and seeing how you can get better as a unit.”

Sunday’s game will be just the third for Durant with Phoenix, which has posted two comfortable wins since he returned from an MCL sprain. Irving is a little more established in Dallas, and he’s excited about facing Durant for the first time since their partnership dissolved.

“I’m looking forward to it — playing against the Suns, playing against the new-look Suns with KD,” Irving said. “I think it’ll be an exciting time just for us to compete again with each other. He’s my brother for life, but when we’re stepping out there, I’m looking forward to the competition, friendly competition.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is trying to stave off any panic after watching his team fall to .500 with five straight losses, writes Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. L.A. is suddenly in the midst of a tight race just to make the playoffs, but Lue believes the team is close to putting things together. “The losses hurt, but we have played some good basketball in stretches and we’ve played against some good teams as well,” Lue said. “So (my job) is to challenge us to see where we are at after acquiring our new pieces through trades (who came in) not knowing what we want to do offensively and defensively. I thought our new guys have done a good job. (I need to) just try to get those guys up to speed and keep doing the good things we have been doing.”
  • Kevin Huerter wasn’t around for any of the Kings‘ darkest days, but he’s thrilled to be part of the group that’s about to break a 16-year playoff drought, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Acquired from the Hawks last summer, Huerter is impressed by the passion he’s witnessed from Kings fans. “I haven’t seen the lows that this city has gone through, so for me it’s great,” he said. “There’s so much excitement around the city. It feels like everybody here is following us. You can’t go in public without everybody saying they’re seeing the Kings.”
  • D’Angelo Russell was hoping to return from a sprained right ankle on Sunday, but the Lakers have already ruled him out, tweets Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Russell, who has played in just four games since being acquired at the trade deadline, was able to scrimmage this week.