Bones Hyland

Robert Covington Approaching 2023/24 Season With “Vendetta”

Robert Covington feels like he has a lot to prove to the Clippers after being kept out of the rotation for nearly all of last season, writes Law Murray of The Athletic.

The 32-year-old forward appeared in just 48 games and averaged 16.2 minutes per night, the lowest total since his rookie season. He doesn’t understand why he spent so much time on the bench, adding that he hasn’t talked to head coach Tyronn Lue since the playoffs ended.

L.A. was Covington’s fifth team in four years when the Clippers acquired him shortly before the 2022 trade deadline. He became the primary backup at power forward and believed the fit was so good that he didn’t test free agency, opting for a two-year extension with L.A. instead.

Covington had a regular role at the beginning of last season while starting center Ivica Zubac was injured. But after entering health and safety protocols at the end of October, Covington didn’t see consistent playing time again. He was expecting to be traded before the February deadline, Murray adds, but he remained on the roster, although he was stuck behind Marcus Morris and Nicolas Batum. Even when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were sidelined with late-season injuries, Lue didn’t insert Covington back into the rotation.

“I got a vendetta. It’s a bigger chip on my shoulder,” Covington said of his approach to the upcoming season. “Not playing that much last year really put me in a place — all right. I got to force them. So, come back, do what I got to do. They say this is the mentality of, you know, come back strong, get better. That way, it won’t be none of that. Won’t be no issues of, whatever the case. … It’s the way the year went. It wasn’t how I expected, but I said it’s come back, go to the drawing board, and get better.”

Covington addresses a few other topics in his interview with Murray. Here are some highlights:

On getting ready to enter another season with an expiring contract:

“It ain’t no difference. Only difference is that I didn’t play last year. I mean, that’s the only difference. I approach every chance, every opportunity like that —it’s no different. So my mentality don’t shift, I don’t get discouraged or anything. I got to do what I do. And I do what I do best. So I’m never going to stray away. Never going to stray away from anything of that nature. I am going to be who I am, and that’s just what it is.”

On whether there was anything to learn from spending so much time on the bench:

“I didn’t take nothing from last year. Last year didn’t go how I expected, so I didn’t take nothing from it. I just wash it away and start over, a new year. That’s just my mentality of it. … It’s nothing that could be talked about. I mean, I really haven’t had much feedback besides, you know, what I’ve been doing now. I haven’t talked about last year. I’ve put that behind me and focused on right now and moving forward. That’s what it’s all about. Can’t dwell on what happened last year, whatever the case may be. It happened. So I’m just gonna wash, move forward.”

On his early impressions of offseason additions Kenyon Martin Jr., Jordan Miller and Kobe Brown, along with other workout partners such as Bones Hyland and Brandon Boston Jr.:

“Those guys are going to be special. I like Jordan’s tenacity, his pressure on defense, I like his cutting off ball. I like the plays and reads he made. The other guys came up here and played really well. You know, BB is starting to get better. Bones is getting better. KJ is athletic as hell. He’s gotten so much better. It is great to sit up here and see them dudes sit up here and prosper.”

Nuggets Notes: Potential Dynasty, Jackson, Reserves, Kamagate

The Nuggets are one victory away from their first NBA title, but they have the foundation in place to win several more, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hollinger notes that the team’s core players are all in their prime with Nikola Jokic at 28, Aaron Gordon at 27, Jamal Murray at 26 and Michael Porter Jr. at 24. All four are signed for at least two more seasons, and Denver isn’t facing any significant tax issues despite having three max contracts.

The only expected loss from this year’s rotation is Bruce Brown, a free agent addition last summer, who’s expected to turn down his $6.8MM player option and test the market again. The Nuggets don’t own Brown’s Bird rights and won’t be able to compete with the offers he’s likely to receive.

They may be in the same position with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope next year, Hollinger adds. Denver worked out an extension with the veteran guard after acquiring him from Washington, but he has a $15.4MM player option for 2024/25 that he might decide to decline.

Hollinger points out that Nuggets have navigated the cap by amassing young talent on affordable contracts. Late first-round picks Christian Braun and Peyton Watson will make a combined $4.5MM next season, and they both appear ready to become consistent rotation pieces.

There’s more from Denver:

  • Reggie Jackson hasn’t played much since signing with the Nuggets after a trade and a buyout in February, but the 33-year-old guard is happy to still be in the league, per Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Jackson thought about retiring when he was with the Pistons as persistent ankle injuries kept him off the court. “I can’t believe I’m here now,” he said. “Especially after Detroit, I wasn’t sure I wanted to play anymore and then being resurrected in L.A. (with the Clippers). The build-up there, the fun there. Then being traded, it’s coming full circle.”’
  • Denver’s bench players have contributed to the championship run by not making waves about their playing time, observes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jackson, DeAndre Jordan, Thomas Bryant, Ish Smith and others have been content with limited minutes and sometimes none at all. Jones adds that the only Nuggets player who has been unhappy with his role this season was Bones Hyland, who was traded in February.
  • Ismael Kamagate, whom the Nuggets selected with the 46th pick last year, is finalizing an agreement to play for EA7 Emporio Armani Milan next season, tweets Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews. A recent report indicated that he likely wasn’t in Denver’s plans for 2023/24.

Pacific Notes: Paul, Thompson, Davis, Hyland

A championship is the only thing missing from Chris Paul‘s Hall of Fame résumé, but the Suns guard may be running out of time to get one, writes Doug Haller of The Athletic. Paul will turn 38 next month, and his contract for 2023/24 is only 50% guaranteed at $15.4MM. The acquisition of Kevin Durant in February puts Phoenix among the favorites in the West, but there’s a chance this could be Paul’s last year with the team.

The veteran point guard said Saturday that he’s trying to block out those concerns, focusing only on the playoff challenges that lie ahead.

 “For me, I’m going to compete day-in and day-out. And right now we got a one-track mind, and that’s to focus on Game 1 against the Clippers,’’ he said. “All that other stuff, that ain’t it right now.”

Paul addressed the championship issue after the Suns were eliminated last spring, Haller adds, saying that it bothered him more earlier in his career but now he feels fortunate to be able to play at a high level for so long. However, now that playoff season is here again, he’s ready to go all out.

“When you play for a while and it doesn’t go the way you want it to, you basically wait a whole year for another opportunity at it,’’ he said. “It starts now.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Klay Thompson “has an expectation” that the Warriors will offer him a max-level contract extension this summer, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Saturday’s “NBA Countdown” (video link). Thompson has one more year on his current deal at $43.2 MM and can become a free agent in 2024 if he doesn’t get an offer that he likes. Wojnarowski notes that the extension decision for Thompson will be influenced by luxury tax concerns, the uncertain status of general manager Bob Myers, whose contract will expire after this season, and punitive restrictions in the new CBA against the highest-spending teams.
  • The seventh-seeded Lakers had to go through the play-in tournament to reach the playoffs, but they don’t feel like underdogs against No. 2 seed Memphis, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. L.A. is playing its best basketball of the season, winning 10 of its last 12 games. “I think seeding doesn’t matter,” Anthony Davis said. “Once you get in, it’s all about matchups and things like that.”
  • Trade deadline acquisition Bones Hyland could be a difference maker for the Clippers in their playoff run, according to Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. The second-year guard averaged 12.8 points and 4.3 assists off the bench in his last nine games to help the team wrap up the fifth seed. “He’s not scared and that’s the first step in being a good player is just not being scared, not being afraid of the moment,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “He’s not afraid of the moment. He’s not afraid of the big shots.”

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, Durant, Hyland, Plumlee, Ranadive

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were teammates with the Thunder for eight seasons. Heading into the Clippers’ first round series against Durant and the Suns, Westbrook addressed the notion that they have a strained relationship, suggesting that’s a false assumption, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.

“I think people still think like there’s some beef or something. There’s no beef of any [kind], so I think that’s the good narrative for media, for people to talk about,” Westbrook said. “But there’s no beef. I got nothing but respect for him and things he’s done with his career and having to see him back from injury. There’s no beef at all. But he knows I’m going to compete and I know he’s going to compete and that’s all it is.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • On a similar topic, Clippers guard Bones Hyland said he has no issues with teammate Mason Plumlee in the aftermath of their dustup on Sunday, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes. “Me and him talked on the plane. It’s nothing. It’s quashed,” Hyland said. “People create their own narratives of what’s going on, but me and Mason know what’s going on, the team knows what’s going on. We deaded it literally in Phoenix. It’s nothing to worry about. We’re focused on Phoenix right now and trying to win the series.”
  • Durant played 41 minutes against Denver last week and says he expects to log a similar workload throughout the playoffs, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “Forty is the number I love,” the Suns‘ star said. “I like hovering around that number.”
  • In a wide-ranging interview with Andscape’s Marc Spears, Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said the blockbuster trade with Indiana last season involving Tyrese Haliburton and Domantas Sabonis worked to the benefit of both organizations. “If we didn’t have Tyrese, we couldn’t have gotten Domantas. It ended up being a win-win trade for everybody,” he said. “It’s one of those rare trades where it created three All-Stars. And so, Tyrese was an All-Star. De’Aaron (Fox) an All-Star. Domas an All-Star. So, it took a lot of courage on the part of my front office to pull the trigger and make that trade, but I applauded them for doing that.”

Trade Breakdown: Clippers/Nuggets/Lakers/Magic Deal

This is the 11th entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into a four-team deal between the Clippers, Nuggets, Lakers and Magic.

Trade details

On February 9:

  • The Clippers acquired Bones Hyland.
  • The Nuggets acquired Thomas Bryant.
  • The Lakers acquired Mohamed Bamba, Davon Reed, the Clippers’ 2024 second-round pick, and the Clippers’ 2025 second-round pick.
  • The Magic acquired Patrick Beverley, the Nuggets’ 2024 second-round pick, and cash ($2MM; from Lakers).
  • Note: Both the Nuggets and the Lakers created a couple of small traded player exceptions as part of this deal, which can be found right here.

The Clippers’ perspective:

February’s trade deadline was unusual in that it featured several transactions that were originally reported as being between two teams, but were eventually folded into four-team deals.

For the Clippers, this transaction was very straightforward. They dealt away their 2024 and 2025 second-round picks to Denver and used a traded player exception to acquire Hyland, a second-year guard. That was the end of it for them.

The Nuggets flipped those two second-rounders — plus Reed and their own ’24 second — to the Lakers for Bryant. The Lakers then rerouted Denver’s second and Beverley to Orlando for Bamba. Three separate trades were folded into one because it made sense to do so.

The Clippers finished the regular season ranked 17th in the league on offense, and Hyland is a talented microwave-type offensive player – he can get hot in a hurry. He provides some flair and unpredictability to an offense that can be a little bland and stagnant at times.

When the deal was made, I was skeptical that the second-year guard would actually receive meaningful minutes, and that turned out to be accurate, at least initially. He only appeared in five of his first 14 games with the Clippers, averaging 7.0 PPG and 3.6 RPG on .297/.278/.800 shooting in 14.2 MPG.

The primary reason for that is Hyland is a combo guard whose size (he’s listed at 6’2″ and 169 pounds) makes it difficult to play him as anything but a point defensively. No matter where you play him on that end, he’s prone to making mistakes both on and off the ball.

However, injuries to Norman Powell (left shoulder subluxation) and Paul George (knee sprain) created an opening for Hyland, and he finished the season as a regular contributor off the bench, averaging 12.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG and 4.3 APG on .440/.375/.700 shooting in nine games (21.6 MPG).

Hyland’s immaturity (he left Denver’s bench out of frustration in the fourth quarter of a Jan. 22 game against the Thunder), defensive lapses, and displeasure with his role were reportedly factors in the Nuggets looking to move the former first-round pick. I’m sure Hyland shoving Mason Plumlee in the regular season finale raised a few eyebrows within the Clippers organization, even if it was a relatively minor incident.

Still, despite his flaws, adding a 22-year-old with some real offensive talent on a cheap, controllable contract through at least 2024/25 for just a couple of second-round picks was a worthwhile gamble for the Clippers. Even if it doesn’t work out in the long run, the cost was relatively low.

The Nuggets’ perspective:

When I write these trade breakdown articles, I treat it as a thought exercise where I try to put myself in the position of the respective teams’ front office. Of course I rely on reports and public statements as well, but NBA decision-makers aren’t always forthcoming with the media, which is understandable.

I try to be as objective as I can, which is challenging — I don’t necessarily personally agree with what I’m writing at times, and it’s hard to prevent my opinions from slipping through.

The reason I waited so long to write about this particular trade is I really didn’t like it from Denver’s perspective, and I still don’t.

Moving on from Hyland for a couple of second-round picks was reasonable enough; I’m sure the Nuggets did their due diligence, and that’s what his market value was. All the trade rumors coming out about how motivated they were to move him certainly did not help on that front.

My issue was that they rerouted those second-rounders and included one of their own to add a player on an expiring minimum-salary contract who doesn’t fit well on the roster. It’s not that Bryant is a bad player, he just doesn’t make sense on the Nuggets.

Part of the reason Denver’s bench has struggled so much all season long is because of the team’s reliance on Nikola Jokic. What he does on the court is impossible to replicate, particularly offensively – he’s the most efficient high-volume scorer in the league, unguardable one-on-one in the post, and one of the best passers in league history.

That reliance has proven to be a double-edged sword, as they lack an identity without him. His on/off numbers are staggering: plus-12.5 with him, and minus-10.4 without, a net difference of 22.9 points per 100 possessions. Every reserve has very poor on/off numbers.

Bryant has a lot of positive qualities. He hustles for loose balls, competes, sprints down the floor and is a skilled offensive player who can really shoot for a center, though his three-point percentages are somewhat misleading, as it’s low volume.

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook were very good at setting him up quality looks, and Bryant was highly efficient at converting them. He averaged 12.1 PPG and 6.8 RPG on .654/.440/.741 shooting in 41 games with the Lakers (25 starts, 21.4 MPG).

However, he is much more of a finisher as opposed to someone who can create for himself and others, and the Nuggets don’t really have anyone who can reliably feed him in the pick-and-roll. Head coach Michael Malone has been playing Jamal Murray with the second unit lately after abandoning the Reggie Jackson experiment, but they’re both score-first point guards. Bruce Brown isn’t a natural point either.

Bryant is a limited defensive player who – like Jokic – doesn’t protect the rim, and he also doesn’t possess Jokic’s basketball IQ or quick hands to be disruptive. He tries, but Bryant doesn’t move very well laterally and he’s on the small side for a center.

Long story short, Bryant’s skill set doesn’t fit well with Denver because he doesn’t have anyone who can reliably set him up on offense, and while he is a solid rebounder, he is an overall poor defensive player. It’s just a bad mix.

At the end of March, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports asked Malone (Twitter video link) why he thought Bryant hasn’t been able to find a rhythm with the Nuggets.

No idea. I can’t answer it. Maybe ask him that,” Malone replied.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. It was also a little strange considering Bryant isn’t the first backup center who has been productive on other teams and struggled in Denver over the past few seasons, joining JaVale McGee and Isaiah Hartenstein. That tells me the coaches deserve some blame for failing to utilize those players as well.

In 18 games with Denver, Bryant has averaged 4.6 PPG and 3.3 RPG on .485/.444/.722 shooting in just 11.4 MPG. He has been buried on the depth chart behind Zeke Nnaji and DeAndre Jordan since Malone made those comments.

I really liked some of the moves the Nuggets made over the past year, including trading for (and extending) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, signing Brown, and drafting Christian Braun and Peyton Watson. All are players who filled roster needs.

As I said, I understand trading Hyland if he was causing problems in the locker room, and if that was the end of it, that would have been fine. But flipping those two second-rounders and including an additional one to acquire Bryant – who almost certainly won’t be retained – was a poor decision, in my opinion.

The Magic’s perspective:

It’s hard to say that Bamba’s tenure with the Magic was anything but a disappointment. He was selected No. 6 overall in the 2018 draft, ahead of players like Wendell Carter Jr., Mikal Bridges, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Michael Porter Jr., Kevin Huerter, Robert Williams and Jalen Brunson, among several others.

Bamba dealt with injuries and never seemed to gain former coach Steve Clifford’s trust in his first three seasons, as he averaged just 15.3 minutes per game in 155 games from 2018-2001. He averaged 6.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 1.3 BPG on .471/.325/.646 shooting over that same span.

You could say being behind All-Star center Nikola Vucevic was partly to blame, but there were times when Bamba was outplayed by Khem Birch and Moritz Wagner as well. Draft status doesn’t mean much if you aren’t contributing at a high level.

After Orlando traded Vucevic and hired Jamahl Mosley to be the new head coach, Bamba emerged as the team’s starting center in 2021/22, which was the fourth and final season of his rookie scale contract. He averaged 10.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG and 1.7 BPG on .480/.381/.781 shooting in 71 games (25.7 MPG), re-signing with the Magic on a two-year, $20.6MM deal, though only his ’22/23 salary is guaranteed.

Bamba played alongside Carter in the frontcourt last season after Orlando acquired the former Duke big man as part of the Vucevic deal. However, the Magic landed the No. 1 overall pick last June and selected Paolo Banchero, a skilled power forward, which moved Carter up to center and put Bamba back on the bench.

The 24-year-old was mostly outplayed by Wagner again this season once the German big man returned from injury, burying Bamba further on the depth chart. The short-lived return of Jonathan Isaac, who later went down with season-ending adductor surgery, also likely played a factor in Orlando’s willingness to move Bamba.

The Magic gave Bamba opportunities — things just didn’t work out. He’s on a pseudo-expiring contract (non-guaranteed $10.3MM salary for ‘23/24), essentially making him a rental player.

It turns out he didn’t have a ton of league-wide value, which is why Orlando only got a second-round pick back. Taking on some additional salary in the form of Beverley didn’t affect the Magic’s cap situation, as they’re well below the luxury tax (they also received $2MM in cash from the Lakers). Beverley was later bought out and signed with the Bulls.

The Lakers’ perspective:

You can’t really look at this trade in isolation for the Lakers, as they completely revamped the roster with a series of moves in January and February.

The Lakers have gone 18-8 over their last 26 games despite missing LeBron James for 13 of those contests, so clearly the moves were beneficial in the short term.

They also recently signed Tristan Thompson and Shaquille Harrison to fortify their depth ahead of the postseason. They had one open roster spot and waived Reed to accommodate the second addition (he only played 27 garbage-time minutes across eight games with Los Angeles).

Bryant reportedly requested a trade after Anthony Davis returned from his foot injury. He played well as a fill-in starter for the Lakers, but wanted a bigger opportunity. Obviously, things have not worked out with Denver.

As for Beverley, moving him saved money toward the tax and created more playing time for the new additions as well as Austin Reaves, who has excelled over the past few months. Beverley had a rough start with the Lakers and although he eventually turned things around, he’s still a limited offensive player who is much older than Russell, Beasley, Reaves and Dennis Schröder.

Unfortunately, Bamba sustained a high left ankle sprain that sidelined him for a month not long after the Lakers acquired him, so it’s hard to get much of a read on how the team views him. He does bring a different skill set than Wenyen Gabriel, who has been the primary backup center following Bryant’s exit.

Bamba is listed at 7’0″ and 231 pounds with an enormous 7’10” wingspan, making him one of the longest recorded players in NBA history. He’s also shot 38.3% on threes over the past two seasons – an above-average mark, particularly for a center.

Gabriel, meanwhile, is 6’9″ and 205 pounds. He makes up for his lack of size by relentlessly going after rebounds and being a solid, versatile defensive player. He has outperformed his minimum-salary contract, but he’s still limited offensively and rough around the edges at times.

Bamba is more of a pick-and-pop threat, and obviously he has the size and length to be a deterrent in the paint – opponents shot 57.9% at the rim against Bamba, a solid mark.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Bamba is an overall positive defensively, however, as he’s prone to attempting blocks he has no chance of reaching, leaving the weak side open for offensive rebounds and easy put-backs. Still, his physical tools are enviable, and he won’t turn 25 until May.

Bamba’s $10.3MM salary for ‘23/24 will become guaranteed if the Lakers don’t waive him by the end of June. If they do release him and want to bring him back, they’ll have to re-sign him using something besides his Bird rights, which would be lost if he’s cut (he would regain his Bird rights for 2024 and beyond if he did re-sign with the Lakers in that scenario).

Bones Hyland, Mason Plumlee Have Dustup During Clippers’ Game

It didn’t rise to the level of the altercation between Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson but Bones Hyland shoved Mason Plumlee during the Clippers’ game against Phoenix on Sunday.

Plumlee and Hyland got into an argument after the third quarter, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The Clippers defeated the Suns 119-114 and coach Tyronn Lue made light of the situation afterward.

“After that little skirmish we took off and played a lot better. So maybe we should do that more often,” he said.

Plumlee told Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link) that he was frustrated because the team hadn’t matched up properly on a couple of defensive possessions near the end of the quarter. Plumlee also said he and Hyland had “moved on” from the incident.

Lue, whose team will face Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs, also said everything was fine between them afterward.

“They worked it out,” he said. “That’s OK. Everything’s good.”

Both players were acquired during the trade deadline and have been part of the rotation in recent weeks. Plumlee will be a free agent after the season, while Hyland is on a rookie contract that runs through 2024/25.

Pacific Notes: Payton, Westbrook, Lue, M. Brown

Gary Payton II‘s long wait to get back on the court with the Warriors will end on Sunday, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Payton has been listed as probable to play against the Timberwolves, and sources tell Haynes that he’ll be ready to go.

Payton was able to scrimmage on Friday and participated fully in Saturday’s light practice, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. An official decision may not be made until after warm-ups, but it appears the intention is for Payton to play.

“I’m starting to feel like myself,” he said. “I missed a lot of games this year, so I’m just ready to get back out on the court with the guys and wrap this up for the homestretch.”

After being an important part of Golden State’s title team last season, Payton signed with the Trail Blazers over the summer. The Warriors reached an agreement to bring him back at the trade deadline, but the deal was delayed for three days because Payton had an adductor injury that Golden State claimed the Blazers didn’t disclose. Payton, who hasn’t played since February 8, says he feels good now and he’s ready to contribute.

“Every day getting my body right, a little maintenance, fine-tuning, we had a little extra time to do all of that and get (my body) where it needs to be,” he said.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Russell Westbrook has taken on a mentorship role since signing with the Clippers, according to Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Westbrook’s main students are young guards Terance Mann and Bones Hyland, who are eager to learn from a future Hall of Famer. “I got so much love and just, just everything for Russ, man. I love watching him play, his energy,” Hyland said. “… He gives it his all. So just being alongside Russ, I learned so much and he’s always in my ear telling me the good things, what he sees out there for me. I’m glad to be a teammate alongside Russ.”
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue could “remove himself” from the team if things don’t go well in the playoffs, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggested in the first episode of his “No Cap Room” podcast. However, sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype that Lue, who has multiple years left on his contract, hasn’t engaged in any discussions with management about an early exit.
  • Mike Brown, who’s among the favorites for Coach of the Year honors, said the award would be important because of the recognition it would bring to the Kings and the city of Sacramento (video link).

Los Angeles Notes: Jackson, Hyland, Westbrook, Vanderbilt, Russell

Reggie Jackson anticipated he’d get traded by the Clippers, he told Law Murray of The Athletic. Jackson was dealt to the Hornets, who waived him. He then signed with another Western Conference contender, the Nuggets.

“I’ve been in the game for 12 years,” Jackson said. “I was the only expiring contract (the Clippers had). Got to get better. Can’t really move anything. … So, the writing was on the wall for me. Being a pretty smart guy, I kind of knew. Either we were going to stay put, play small-ball, or, if anything was going to happen, I was ready to be the one that would probably be moved.”

We have more on the Los Angeles teams:

  • In the same story, Bones Hyland told Murray that he’s glad Russell Westbrook signed with the Clippers, even though his playing time might be cut. “I always was a fan of Russ’ game,” Hyland said. “Fan of Russ off the court as well. Great human being, great to be around. Great to talk to. Was the MVP of this league. Going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. … So, I’m glad we got him. He brings a lot to the team.”
  • Jarred Vanderbilt lifted the Lakers during their comeback from a 27-point deficit against Dallas with 15 points. 17 rebounds and four steals. The deadline addition from Utah has already impacted the team’s season, Anthony Davis told Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times. “His value for our team, you can’t even put it into words what he brings and does for us,” Davis said. Vanderbilt looks like a steal in the three-way trade with Minnesota and the Jazz, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, because he addresses the Lakers’ need for a long, athletic, dirty-work forward.
  • D’Angelo Russell (right ankle sprain) is listed as doubtful for the Lakers’ game against Memphis on Tuesday, according to Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register (Twitter link).
  • In case you missed it, LeBron James is expected to miss multiple weeks due to a foot injury. Get the details here.

Clippers Notes: Westbrook, George, Zubac, Hyland

The day after the trade deadline, star forward Paul George told reporters that he wanted Russell Westbrook to end up with the Clippers. Two weeks later, with Westbrook on the verge of making his Clippers debut, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested on his Hoop Collective podcast that George’s advocacy for the former MVP was the driving force behind the team’s decision to sign him.

“From what I understand, they were internally against (signing Westbrook) at the start,” Windhorst said, per RealGM. “Paul pushed for it publicly and privately. Kawhi (Leonard) supported it. And they looked more into it and they were like ‘Well, you know, there are some things he can potentially help us with. One of the things that’s a factor for us is we tend to kind of get a little loaf-y.’ They talked themselves into it, is the long story short.”

Windhorst’s reporting doesn’t come as a real surprise — comments made by president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank after the trade deadline indicated he wasn’t initially targeting a player like Westbrook. Frank spoke about wanting a point guard who wouldn’t be very ball dominant and who has “got to be able to shoot.” Westbrook, a 29.6% three-point shooter this season, is at his best with the ball in his hands.

Still, as Windhorst alluded to, and as ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes in an Insider-only story, the Clippers only rank 20th in the NBA in drives this season and are tied for 23rd in shots at the rim. Plus, they have more shooting around Westbrook than the Lakers did, so there are reasons to believe the veteran’s fit could be better with L.A. other’s team.

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • Ahead of Westbrook’s debut with the Clippers, Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, and Jovan Buha and Law Murray of The Athletic all evaluated the 34-year-old’s potential fit and discussed whether or not they think the match will be a good one.
  • The Westbrook signing should be viewed as an endorsement for head coach Tyronn Lue and the Clippers’ stars, Murray writes for The Athletic. As Murray explains, the move signals that the front office is willing to listen to its players and trusts Lue to make the best decisions for the team.
  • The Clippers will be without starting center Ivica Zubac in their first game after the All-Star break on Friday due to a right calf strain, tweets Greif. The injury should open the door for recently acquired big man Mason Plumlee, who played 17 and 18 minutes in his first two games with the Clippers, to take on a bigger role.
  • Former Nuggets and current Clippers guard Bones Hyland repeatedly cited “miscommunication” as an issue that led to his exit from Denver, where he felt “kicked to the curb,” according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. So far though, communication hasn’t been a problem for Hyland with the Clippers, even though his playing time may take a hit following the addition of Westbrook. “I understand (Lue) has a good plan for me,” Hyland said. “I know he’s not just going to leave me in a desert, man, just by myself. … The first thing he did (after the Westbrook signing) was call me over and talk to me one-on-one. That’s something I respect about Ty Lue.”

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Wolves, Hyland, Jackson, Sexton

The Trail Blazers continued to deal with a number of injury absences as the second half of their season got underway on Thursday night. As Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian writes, Jusuf Nurkic (calf), Justise Winslow (ankle), and Anfernee Simons (ankle) are still on the shelf for Portland.

Nurkic hasn’t returned to practice yet, though Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups said the veteran center is “getting better.” Winslow, meanwhile, has begun taking part in non-contact drills, while Simons is doing weight-bearing activities but no on-court work.

The Trail Blazers opted to give Damian Lillard and Jerami Grant the night off on Thursday following a series of weather-related travel days that saw Portland players spend several hours on the team plane on both Wednesday and Thursday. The club’s resulting starting lineup in Sacramento was an odd one that featured three trade-deadline additions (Cam Reddish, Matisse Thybulle, and Ryan Arcidiacono) along with two reserves (Drew Eubanks and Nassir Little).

While the Blazers lost in Sacramento, Billups liked what he saw from Little, whose 26 points were easily a season high (story via Fentress). Reddish also continued his solid play following the trade that sent him from New York to Portland, scoring 24 points of his own.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Timberwolves came close to acquiring Bones Hyland from the Nuggets at this month’s trade deadline, Darren Wolfson of SKOR North said in his podcast The Scoop (hat tip to HoopsHype). According to Wolfson, Minnesota “would have done what the Clippers did” (given up two second-round picks) or even more than that. However, Wolfson believes Denver’s ownership group was reluctant to do any favors for former Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, who now runs Minnesota’s front office.
  • Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports spoke to Ish Smith, who previously played with Reggie Jackson in Oklahoma City and Detroit, about what the Nuggets‘ newest point guard can bring to the team. Jackson played 18 minutes in his Denver debut on Thursday, scoring seven points to go along with four rebounds and a pair of assists.
  • Jazz guard Collin Sexton, who strained his left hamstring in the team’s final game before the All-Star break, remains sidelined as a result of that injury. The expectation it that Sexton will be reevaluated on Monday, says Sarah Todd of The Deseret News.