Marcus Morris

Pacific Notes: Okpala, Lakers, Clippers, Crowder

The Heat are happy that KZ Okpala has found a new home in Sacramento, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes.

Okpala was traded by Miami to Oklahoma City last season. The Thunder then waived him. Okpala signed with the Kings in September and earned a spot on the regular season roster.

“We’re rooting for him,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “because he really put in a lot of time with us and we saw improvement, and that’s a tough thing to do in this league is to carve out a niche, where you can see a vision of where you can make an impact. You also have to have the right fit and a coaching staff that values what you bring, and that’s clearly what he has there with (Mike Brown).”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Could the Lakers’ win over Denver on Sunday be a turning point for the season? First-year coach Darvin Ham certainly hopes so, Jovan Buha of The Athletic writes. “We needed to prove something to ourselves,” Ham said. “Not to the world. Not to the media. We had to prove it to ourselves — and I felt great about how we responded.”
  • The Clippers enter their game against Houston on Monday with a 2-4 record. They were very displeased with their effort in a 21-point loss to New Orleans in their previous game, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “Right now, I think we are just showing up,” forward Marcus Morris said. “And thinking we can win because of the talent we have, because of all the things we have on this team. That’s just not the case.”
  • Jae Crowder remains away from the Suns as the veteran forward awaits a trade. Crowder posted a hopeful message on his Twitter page that the situation will be resolved soon. “YEA NO WORRIES STAY PATIENT COMING SOON I PROMISE!” he wrote.

Los Angeles Notes: Westbrook, Schröder, Wall, Clippers

Russell Westbrook‘s availability for the Lakers season opener appears to be in jeopardy. Westbrook left the team’s preseason game against Sacramento with a left hamstring injury, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets.

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said after the game that Westbrook told him he’d be OK, according to ESPN. Westbrook came off the bench for the preseason finale, a move that Ham described as a “realignment.”

We have more on the Los Angeles teams:

  • The Lakers “essentially” paused Westbrook trade discussions at the start of training camp, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on NBA Today (Twitter link). They’re expected to start engaging potential suitors again during the season, once teams start to get a clearer sense of what their rosters and rotations look like and how they stack up against the rest of the league.
  • Dennis Schröder is being evaluated for a right finger injury and didn’t travel with the team to Sacramento, according to Shams Charania on The Rally (Twitter link). The Lakers have some concerns that it could be a long-term injury, Charania adds. Schröder returned to the Lakers for a second stint on a one-year, $2,641,682 free agent contract.
  • John Wall has not only boosted the Clippers’ backcourt but also the locker room, according to Marcus Morris. The veteran forward believes the Clippers’ camaraderie has improved due to Wall’s presence and his aggressive, talkative nature, a contrast to many of his new teammates, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets.
  • Clippers president of business operations Gillian Zucker says that most fans are “violently opposed” to the idea of changing the team’s name, Law Murray of The Athletic writes. “It means something to them,” Zucker said. “That this is a team that has direction, that has endured, that has been through a lot and has found its way forward and has a very, very clear North Star at this point. And there are people who have attached themselves to that idea and that notion, and it’s important to them, and they don’t want to see that disappear.”

Paul George Practices With Clippers

Clippers star Paul George practiced with the team on Thursday for the first time since he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. George hasn’t played in a game since December 22.

George is listed as out for Friday’s game against Philadelphia and there’s no official timetable for his return, but he’s clearly making progress as he recovers from the injury.

He is doing good,” coach Tyronn Lue said prior to Thursday’s practice. “He hasn’t felt any pain so that is a positive thing. Just working on his conditioning and just making sure he can continue to go through the minimal contact without having any issue. So as of right now, it hasn’t been a problem.”

Lue also said that Norman Powell has begun shooting on the court with the team, but is still limited to non-contact work. Powell broke a bone in his left foot after just three games with his new club. He was acquired in a trade with the Blazers ahead of the February deadline.

At 36-38, the Clippers are currently the No. 8 seed in the West. Despite losing four straight games, their place in the standings is pretty secure, as they trail the No. 7 Timberwolves by six games and hold a four-and-a-half game lead on the No. 9 Lakers with only eight games remaining.

Youngmisuk states that the Clippers hope to reduce the minutes for veterans Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris, and Reggie Jackson ahead of the play-in tournament.

Clippers Seek Point Guard; Bledsoe, Ibaka, Morris Available

The Clippers are shopping for a play-making point guard and are willing to move several veterans in order to achieve that goal, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports.

The Clippers believe a starting point guard is the missing piece to become a championship contender when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George return to action, even though it’s uncertain whether they’ll be back this season or next year.

The front office has made Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka, and Marcus Morris available to acquire another floor leader, O’Connor says. The team views current starter Reggie Jackson as more of a scorer than a pure point guard.

Bledsoe is signed through next season but his $19.38MM salary next season is only guaranteed for $3.9MM. Ibaka is making $9.7MM this season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Clippers would prefer to hold onto Morris, who is in the second year of a four-year, $64MM contract, but the forward may be their most attractive trade piece.

O’Connor suggests the Clippers would also be willing to part with Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Ivica Zubac, Jason Preston, Brandon Boston Jr., or Keon Johnson if the right deal came along.

As O’Connor notes, the Clippers have been linked in some fashion to Jalen Brunson, Dennis Schröder, Kemba Walker, Goran Dragic, Spencer Dinwiddie and John Wall in recent weeks. Brunson would seemingly be the best fit, though the Mavericks aren’t inclined to deal him, despite the fact that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Dragic, currently in limbo, might be a good short-term fit. Wall, who hasn’t played this season while the Rockets seek a new home for him, could also be an intriguing possibility. The salaries of Bledsoe, Ibaka and Morris could be matched up to obtain Wall. The Clippers could also simply wait to see if Wall winds up on the buyout market and make a play for him at that point.

Clippers Rumors: Leonard, George, Morris, Ibaka, Winslow

In the latest episode of the HoopsHype podcast, Michael Scotto said the Clippers remain focused on being competitive when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard get back on the floor.

However, despite a recent report stating that Leonard is ahead of schedule in his rehab from an ACL tear, Scotto has heard that some people within the organization believe the star forward is unlikely to return this season. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report echoes that sentiment, writing that there’s a “healthy dose of skepticism” around the NBA about Leonard playing in 2021/22.

“He’s always played things methodically and cautiously,” a source with knowledge of Leonard’s thinking told Fischer. “I knew he was ahead of schedule [in his rehab], but I wouldn’t bet on it. Kawhi is always focused on the long term. If they’re not in the playoff picture, I think the chances he comes back are slim to none.”

Fischer also shared an ominous update on George, writing that the Clippers are prepared for the possibility that the forward’s elbow injury will keep him sidelined far beyond the three-to-four week timeline the team initially announced for a reevaluation. It’s not out of the question that George’s injury could keep him out of action for the rest of the season, according to Fischer.

If the Clippers believe there’s a chance George and Leonard may both be unavailable for the rest of the season, there’s a reasonable chance they’ll pivot to becoming sellers at the deadline, Fischer adds.

Here’s more on the team from both Scotto and Fischer:

  • Following Leonard’s ACL tear in the 2021 playoffs, the Clippers’ front office broached the possibility of treating the 2021/22 season as more of a “gap year” before pushing again for a title in ’22/23, and owner Steve Ballmer was on board with that idea, Fischer says. The team didn’t initially go all-in on that plan, with head coach Tyronn Lue given no mandate to find minutes for young prospects, but George’s injury could push L.A. further in that direction.
  • Rival executives believe the Clippers will be willing to discuss many of their veteran players at the trade deadline, per Fischer. “They’re pretty much open for business for anyone except their main guys and Terance Mann. I think they really are fine falling out of the playoffs and regrouping for next year,” a Western Conference official told Bleacher Report. “I think they’re trying to shed the Marcus Morrises of the world, guys that have some value and maybe can replace them with younger talent, maybe cheaper [contracts], to free them to get someone else this summer.” 
  • The Jazz would be a good fit for Morris, in Fischer’s view, but he cautions that the Clippers may be hesitant to send the veteran forward to a key Western Conference rival like Utah, since even if the Clips are sellers this season, the two teams could face one another again in the playoffs again as soon as next year.
  • Serge Ibaka and Justise Winslow are among the players the Clippers have received inquiries about, Scotto said on the HoopsHype podcast. Fischer suggests that Ibaka may be the top trade candidate on L.A.’s roster, since offloading his $9.7MM salary would save the team a ton of money on its year-end tax bill. The Thunder, one of the only teams that can accommodate a salary-dump trade without sending out a player, are a team to watch, per Fischer. The Clippers could incentivize them with cash and/or second-round picks.

COVID-19 Updates: Suns, Blazers, Rockets, Wolves, More

Here are the latest health and safety protocols updates from around the NBA:

Entering the protocols:

  • Jae Crowder and Elfrid Payton have become the first two Suns players to enter the COVID-19 protocols, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
  • The Trail Blazers‘ outbreak continues to grow, with Jusuf Nurkic and Cody Zeller among the players now in the protocols, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Seven Portland players have been placed in the protocols since Friday.
  • Rockets guard Garrison Mathews became the second Houston guard to enter the protocols today, joining teammate D.J. Augustin, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Timberwolves big man Naz Reid is now in the health and safety protocols, bringing Minnesota’s list of affected players up to eight, tweets Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.
  • The Thunder announced today that they’ve placed rookie guard Tre Mann in the protocols. Oklahoma City now has two players affected — Mann and Darius Bazley.

Exiting the protocols:

  • Point guard De’Aaron Fox returned to action on Sunday when the Kings hosted Memphis. Fox had been in the health and safety protocols since December 16.
  • A pair of TimberwolvesPatrick Beverley and Josh Okogie – are no longer in the health and safety protocols, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. They’re both listed as questionable for Monday’s game vs. Boston.
  • Clippers forward Marcus Morris has cleared the health and safety protocols, though he remained inactive on Sunday as he goes through a reconditioning period, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
  • Cavaliers wing RJ Nembhard was no longer listed on the team’s injury report on Sunday and played vs. Toronto, so he’s out of the protocols. Isaac Okoro has exited the protocols too, though he’s still working his way back, according to head coach J.B. Bickerstaff (Twitter link via Kelsey Russo of The Athletic).

Pacific Notes: Thomas, Booker, Morris, Thompson

Isaiah Thomas‘ 19-point debut Friday night in Minnesota was one of the bright spots of the Lakers‘ season, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Thomas signed a 10-day contract under the hardship provision because L.A. is shorthanded due to a mix of injuries and players in health and safety protocols. Thomas understands that he may not be with the Lakers very long, but he’s enjoying the opportunity to play without the pain in his hip that bothered him for so long.

“That was very frustrating, when your mind is telling you to do something but your body won’t allow you to do it,” said Thomas, whose career was derailed by a hip injury in the 2017 playoffs. “And that was my first major injury so that was like, ‘Basketball is everything to me.’ so it really stopped me from being who I am. It really stopped me from being happy.”

The Lakers brought in Thomas for a workout during the summer, but decided against giving him one of the open roster spots that eventually went to Austin Reaves and Avery Bradley. LeBron James said he’s happy to have Thomas as a teammate again, even though their previous partnership with the Cavaliers didn’t work out.

“He wasn’t healthy in Cleveland and he was playing out of just pure grit and his hip was just not allowing him to be who he was before the injury,” James said. “Obviously he has his pop back, has his shot back, and it’s good to have him.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Devin Booker was a full participant in today’s practice and is optimistic about returning Sunday after missing the Suns‘ last seven games with a strained left hamstring, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic“We’ve still got to be careful and see how he responds to the day before and the next day, how do you feel,” coach Monty Williams said. “When you’re dealing with a hamstring, it’s a weird deal because some people have the low, some people have the mid, some people have the high. I’ve only done like the high one so I only know how that felt like. It’s just a tricky, tricky injury.”
  • Marcus Morris entered health and safety protocols this morning, but none of his Clippers teammates have been affected by the virus, per Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Morris, who was with the team in Oklahoma City, returned to Los Angeles on a private flight and wasn’t experiencing any symptoms, coach Tyronn Lue said.
  • The Warriors issued a statement Friday that Klay Thompson completed his latest G League assignment and his recovery timeline is still on schedule. Thompson is expected to debut at a home game some time in January.

Evan Mobley, Marcus Morris, Miles McBride Enter Protocols

Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley (Twitter link), Clippers forward Marcus Morris and Knicks guard Miles McBride (Twitter link) have all entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to their respective teams. All three updates were released on Saturday morning.

Mobley, Morris and McBride join a growing list of players in the league’s protocols. A total of 58 players are currently waiting to return, according to our tracker. Assuming the trio tested positive for COVID-19, they’ll be out for at least 10 days unless they register consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

Mobley, 20, is currently enjoying a stellar rookie season. In 25 games, he’s averaged 13.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 33.6 minutes, starting in every one of his contests.

Morris, an 11-year veteran, is one of many Clippers players on the team’s injury report for Saturday’s game against Oklahoma City, but he’s the only player listed out due to the protocols.

McBride shined in the Knicks’ 116-103 win over Houston on Thursday, recording 15 points, nine rebounds and four steals as a starter. New York now has six players in the protocols.

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 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.