Clippers Rumors

L.A. Notes: Westbrook, Howard, THT, Mann, Batum

Before squaring off against Paul George in Friday’s Lakers-Clippers matchup, Russell Westbrook spoke to the media about the way their partnership with the Thunder ended, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. They developed a friendship in Oklahoma City that still exists, and Westbrook was one of the reasons that George decided to re-sign with the Thunder in 2018.

According to ESPN and The Athletic, Westbrook approached free agent Kawhi Leonard the following summer about possibly teaming up in L.A., with Leonard signing and Westbrook being traded. Leonard reportedly took that idea and presented to George, which resulted in them both joining the Clippers.

When asked about the situation Thursday, Westbrook challenged the media to reveal the source of the report, then cast doubt on its veracity.

“That’s a lesson for all y’all,” he said. “Just always remember, just because somebody writes something … you don’t know where they got it from. That’s the truth. That’s the problem. That’s how rumors and things get started.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers used their 12th starting lineup in 24 games Friday, with Dwight Howard and Talen Horton-Tucker replacing DeAndre Jordan and Avery Bradley, notes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. It’s a clear upgrade based on performance, Buha adds, but the group was minus-7 in its 11 minutes on the court. “Dwight changed the game for us in Sacramento,” Anthony Davis said. “He was really good for us, and Coach wanted to go back to that. And I think he played well tonight as well. Protecting the paint, rebounding, setting screens, doing everything he’s supposed to do.”
  • Clippers swingman Terance Mann tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that the two-year, $22MM extension he received in training camp was meaningful because of how hard it was to get NBA scouts to notice him. Mann took part in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and the G League Elite Camp, then received a last-minute invitation to the draft combine.
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is optimistic about Nicolas Batum, who has missed the past seven games while in health and safety protocols, tweets Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. “I don’t know (when he’ll return),” Lue said. “… but it was good seeing him back in the building, I can tell you that. It’s getting close and we definitely need him.”

Batum's Defensive Presence Missed

  • Nicolas Batum missed his seventh consecutive game on Friday and the Clippers have suffered without his defensive versatility, according to Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register. The Clippers had the league’s second-best defensive rating before losing Batum, who has remained in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Their defensive rating has sagged dramatically since he tested positive. “He’s very valuable to what we do,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. Batum re-signed with the Clippers in August on a two-year deal.

Ibaka Offers Silver Lining For Slumping Clippers

  • Veteran big man Serge Ibaka, recently returned from back surgery, gave the Clippers‘ offense a boost as they battle through a slump, writes Mirjam Swanson of the Southern California News Group. Ibaka had 13 points and six rebounds Monday against the Pelicans, shooting 5-of-7 from the field and 3-of-4 from deep. The Clips could really use more of that type of output, as they currently rank 25th in the league in offensive rating. The Clippers are 2-5 in their last seven games and 11-10 on the season.

Western Notes: Looney, Kerr, Lue, Williams, Cousins

Kevon Looney will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and thus far, he’s enhanced his résumé. Head coach Steve Kerr said the Warriors’ big man is underappreciated and that his contributions go far beyond stats, Mark Medina of tweets. “Looney is playing fantastic basketball,” Kerr said. “He’s totally underrated. He’ll never get the credit he deserves.” Looney, an afterthought in the offensive scheme, is averaging 5.5 PPG and 6.6 RPG.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Kerr and Clippers coach Tyronn Lue have a mutual admiration, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register tweets. Lue says he hears from Kerr often. “He’s always checking up on me … very positive, motivating guy,” Lue said. “I don’t cheer for too many guys, but I do cheer for Steve… a genuine good person. He is one of my friends in coaching, which is pretty rare, for me.”
  • Thunder forward Kenrich Williams is dealing with an ankle injury suffered in Friday’s loss to Washington, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets. Williams, who is averaging 6.8 PPG, has been ruled out of Monday’s game against Houston.
  • The Nuggets, who have been decimated by injuries, worked out DeMarcus Cousins last week, Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated tweets. Cousins opted to sign a non-guaranteed deal with Bucks. Nikola Jokic has been dealing with a wrist injury and JaMychal Green is his primary backup.

Paul George Belongs In MVP Race

  • Clippers star Paul George deserves to be included in the MVP discussion, contends Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. With Kawhi Leonard sidelined, George has become an outspoken leader of the team. He’s also putting up MVP-level numbers with 25.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game, along with the highest usage rate of his career. “We need him to do everything that he’s doing for us to be in position that we are,” Reggie Jackson said. “I think he’s playing at the best level and he’s in the best mindset that he’s been in.”

And-Ones: Ferrell, Red Sox Owners, Mobley, Allen

Former NBA guard Yogi Ferrell has left Greece’s Panathinaikos in order to seek a better opportunity, per Stavros Barbarousis of Ferrell was unhappy with his limited role — he was averaging just eight minutes in five EuroLeague games. The 28-year-old point guard was waived by the Clippers in September after spending the last five years in the NBA.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Fenway Sports Group wants to buy an NBA team once its acquisition of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins is completed, Axios’ Dan Primack reports. FSG has been buying marquee franchises in different geographic markets. It not only owns the Boston Red Sox, it also has also acquired a NASCAR team and the Liverpool F.C. soccer club. Additionally, it has an investment in Spring Hill Group, a content production firm co-founded by LeBron James.
  • Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley tops ESPN’s first rookie power rankings this season. Writer Mike Schmitz ranks the Raptors’ Scottie Barnes and the Pistons’ Cade Cunningham second and third, respectively. Mobley is currently out due to an elbow injury.
  • Tony Allen has asked the Grizzlies to postpone his jersey retirement until next season, according to Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Allen is currently dealing with federal charges for his alleged role in a multi-million dollar health insurance fraud scheme. Allen’s jersey retirement was scheduled for January 28.

Los Angeles Notes: James, Westbrook, Anthony, Morris

LeBron James missed the Lakers’ game against the Knicks on Tuesday and felt his one-game suspension was unwarranted, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes. James struck the Pistons’ Isaiah Stewart in the face on Sunday and was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul. The league suspended James on Monday and handed Stewart a two-game ban for repeated “unsportsmanlike acts.” They were battling for position on a free throw attempt.

“When I swung down on his arm, he got off balance and the left side of my hand grazed his face. And I knew right away,” James said. “So, I knew right away I had caught some part of his head. So, I went over to apologize to him, and obviously, you guys saw what happened after that. But definitely accidental.”

We have more on the Los Angeles teams:

  • Lakers guard Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double against the Knicks and a near triple-double against the Pistons. Anthony Davis wants to see Westbrook play with an aggressive style, McMenamin relays in a separate story. “I tell him before every game: ‘Be nobody but yourself. That’s why we brought you here,'” Davis said. “I think a lot of times, he tries to go passive and to start passing the basketball, looking for other guys, which is great, but kind of takes him out of a rhythm. And he can do the same for guys while being aggressive.”
  • Carmelo Anthony is averaging 15 PPG in his new role as the Lakers’ top reserve. Anthony, who is playing for the veteran’s minimum, has proven he can be effective off the bench after being the No. 1 scoring option most of his career, as McMenamin notes at “I’m still here doing it,” Anthony said. “I think that’s what I’m honestly excited about. I’m here in Year 19 still doing what I’m able to do. Still passionate about the game. Still passionate about coming to work every day and getting better.”
  • Marcus Morris felt good after playing 31 minutes for the Clippers on Tuesday, according to Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. Morris had missed a month due to knee soreness. “Take a month off, I think I looked good myself,” he said. “Shots will come, rhythm will come, I’m a veteran, just felt great to be out there.”

Clippers Cancel Shootaround Due To Protocols, Expect To Play Tonight

The Clippers canceled today’s morning shootaround due to precautionary concerns related to COVID-19, but tonight’s game against the Mavericks shouldn’t be affected, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register.

The team’s training center was quiet this morning, Swanson adds, and a formal announcement from the organization was made at 9:15 Pacific Time, citing issues involving the league’s health and safety protocols.

Veteran swingman Nicolas Batum entered the protocols on Sunday after being a late scratch for that night’s game. No one has stated whether Batum tested positive for the virus, but he is projected to miss at least 10 days. That timeline suggests a positive test.

“I’m not sure the days, but I expect him to be out for (a while),” coach Tyronn Lue said. “I’m not sure the timetable, though.”

Nicolas Batum Enters Health And Safety Protocols

Clippers veteran Nicolas Batum has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, according to Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets that Batum is expected to miss at least 10 days of action.

Batum, 32, is a key cog in Los Angeles’ rotation. In 14 games this season (13 starts), he’s averaged 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest, shooting 52% from the floor and 44% from three-point range.

In addition to Batum, Marcus Morris (left knee), Jason Preston (right foot surgery) and Kawhi Leonard (right knee; ACL reconstruction) remain sidelined for the Clippers. The team started third-year player Amir Coffey — who went undrafted in 2019 — against Dallas on Sunday in Batum’s place.

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue previously said the club was fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Los Angeles currently owns a 10-7 record, good for the fourth-best in the Western Conference.

Clippers Notes: Ibaka, Batum, Morris, Leonard

Clippers center Serge Ibaka had never been in the G League before, but he thought it was the best way to get playing time after returning from offseason back surgery, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. The team already had an established center rotation with Ibaka out, as Ivica Zubac and Isaiah Hartenstein split time in the middle. Ibaka only saw eight and five minutes in his first two games, so he volunteered to join the Clippers’ Agua Caliente affiliate.

“At least if you’re Kawhi (Leonard) or Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry, those kind of guys they can sit for three years and they’re going to come back, (teams are) going to give them minutes, they’re going to give them — they’re going to try to get them their confidence,” Ibaka said. “At least if you are one of those guys, you can stay, but if you’re not one of those guys, one of those names out there, sometimes you have to work for yourself to go get your confidence because nobody is going to give you that.”

Ibaka was productive during his four games in the G League, averaging 15.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per night while shooting 43% from the floor. It was his first significant playing time in several months, as back issues limited him to 41 games last season and 18 total minutes in two playoff games. He believes he made a mistake by not having the operation on his back sooner.

“A lot of things were happening last year, a lot of information,” Ibaka said. “… Most important thing, I’m good and back, so I learned from that. I’m sure we all learned from that.”

There’s more Clippers news to pass along:

  • Nicolas Batum is playing with a sore Achilles, but he doesn’t want to take time off because the team is already short handed and is facing a challenging part of the schedule, per Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register“We miss so many key guys, we don’t have the luxury to really relax,” Batum said after Friday’s loss in New Orleans. “We don’t have Kawhi, we don’t have (Marcus Morris), we don’t have Serge yet. So we still really have to focus on those big leads, stay focused and keep playing the right way – don’t change the way we play.”
  • Morris isn’t considering knee surgery and his plans to recondition it haven’t changed since training camp opened, according to Law Murray of The Athletic. Morris, who hasn’t played since October 23, has been participating in five-on-five scrimmages and may be ready for the next homestand.
  • There’s at least an even-money chance that Leonard will return before the end of the season, Murray speculates.