Russell Westbrook

Western Notes: Westbrook, Ryan, Pelicans, Ayton, Mavs

Russell Westbrook fit in even better than expected down the stretch with the Clippers last season, according to Law Murray of The Athletic, who notes that the veteran point guard was an effective change-of-pace option for a slow team and showed a willingness to work off the ball more than he has in the past.

With Westbrook returning to the Clippers after re-signing as a free agent, Murray explores whether the former MVP can have the same sort of impact in 2023/24 and what the team’s contingency options look like if Westbrook isn’t as effective or gets injured.

Terance Mann and Bones Hyland look like the best in-house alternatives at the point if the Clippers are unable to trade for James Harden or another veteran. However, the team still wants to see more aggression out of Mann as a play-maker and creator, while Hyland is an undersized defender, Murray writes.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Although Matt Ryan is signing a new two-way contract with the Timberwolves, he’s not necessarily guaranteed to keep that roster spot into the regular season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that Ryan will compete for a two-way spot with Minnesota’s other camp invitees. Krawczynski adds (via Twitter) that the sharpshooter worked out for the Pelicans last week before agreeing to re-sign with the Wolves.
  • Following up on the recent Deandre Ayton trade rumors, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports puts together 10 hypothetical multi-team deals that send Ayton to the Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard to a third team, and other assets to the Suns.
  • Mavericks director of player health and performance Casey Smith, who has been on the team’s bench for the last two decades, will have his role adjusted this season, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). Smith won’t travel with the Mavs on a regular basis or be on their bench, MacMahon says.

Pacific Notes: Howard, Clippers, Westbrook, Davis

Dwight Howard completed his two-day interview with the Warriors on Wednesday and a decision on his future with the team could be made as soon as today, tweets Jason Dumas of KRON4 News.

Howard will travel to Los Angeles for a workout later today with Draymond Green and Chris Paul, according to Dumas, who states that the team’s veterans have already endorsed the idea of signing the 37-year-old big man.

With 13 players on standard contracts, Golden State is hoping to fill out its roster with a reliable backup for center Kevon Looney. Dewayne DedmonDerrick Favors and Harry Giles are among the players who were brought in for workouts, while the team also reportedly had interest in JaVale McGee before he signed with Sacramento.

Howard wants to return to the NBA after playing last season in Taiwan. He’s an eight-time All-Star, but has changed teams every year since 2016/17.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Clippers shouldn’t be considered the face of the NBA’s new player participation policy, contends Law Murray of The Athletic. Although Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have missed a lot of games over the past few years, Murray argues that the PPP wouldn’t have affected the team very much if it had been in place last season. He points out that the two stars missed the same game 12 times in 2022/23. Only two of those games were nationally televised, and Leonard and George were legitimately injured for both contests — Leonard with a sprained ankle and George with a strained hamstring.
  • In a KTLA segment (Instagram link), Leonard says the Clippers will benefit from having Russell Westbrook on their roster from the start of training camp (hat tip to Fan Nation). The veteran guard made a late-season impact after joining the team in February. “It’s very important having him back,” Leonard said. “… Now we got a Hall-of-Fame point guard that’s been through it. I think that’s going to be big for us coming into the year.”
  • Appearing on the Athletic NBA Show (video link), Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said the team was able to overcome its slow start last season because of stellar play from Anthony Davis. Davis was limited to 56 games, but he averaged 25.9 points and 12.5 rebounds and L.A. was much better when he was on the court. “Anthony Davis being healthy, there’s an argument to be made that he was the best player in the NBA when he was playing,” Buss said.

Clippers Notes: Lue, Leonard, George, Westbrook, Plumlee, Coffey

After battling injuries for much of last season, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George should be fully healthy for the beginning of training camp, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said in an appearance on Chris Haynes and Marc Stein’s #thisleague UNCUT podcast.

“They’re both on track to be 100% by the time training camp starts, and that’s what we need,” Lue said. “You know, our best players will be healthy, and we’ve just been in an unfortunate situation where our two best players (haven’t had) a full season together the last three years and that’s been tough on us.”

The Clippers thought they were ready to compete for a title when they signed Leonard and traded for George during the 2019 offseason, but bad luck with injuries has prevented them from making a serious run. Returning from an ACL injury, Leonard was limited to 52 games last season, then tore his meniscus during a first-round playoff series. George appeared in 56 games and missed the playoffs entirely due to a sprained right knee.

Lue also indicated that he doesn’t plan to do as much load management with his two stars this season.

“We have to, like I say, start respecting the regular season and giving our fans what they want to see and playing hard every single night, putting our best product on the floor,” he said. “And you know, our guys are ready to do that this year.”

There’s more on the Clippers:

  • On the same podcast, Lue said he’s looking forward to coaching Russell Westbrook for an entire season after the veteran guard re-signed this summer. Lue revealed that Westbrook and Mason Plumlee both had other options, but they wanted to say in L.A. “That just says a lot about the Clippers organization and what we’re trying to build there,” Lue added. “They both could have went other places for more money, but they like what we’re doing with the Clippers.”
  • Appearing recently on Stephen A. Smith’s podcast, George ranked the Clippers second in the West behind the defending champion Nuggets. “I’m gonna give Denver their credit,” George said. “They’re the champions until beaten. If healthy, we got one of the biggest chances to win it, if healthy.” 
  • Amir Coffey has been charged with one count of carrying a loaded firearm and one count of carrying a concealed firearm, according to TMZ Sports. Coffey was arrested in late July following a traffic stop in Hollywood. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for later this month.

Lakers Notes: Reaves, Westbrook, Castleton, Gay

Austin Reaves went into free agency hoping to re-sign with the Lakers, but he considered both the Rockets and Spurs before the process began. Reaves explained his approach in an appearance on Showtime’s “All the Smoke” with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson (video link).

“I really wanted to be in L.A. the whole time,” Reaves said. “There were a couple of situations that were close, but like I said, I really wanted to be in L.A. L.A. feels like home to me so that’s really where I wanted to be.”

Reaves was a restricted free agent, and the Lakers were limited to an offer of about $54MM over four years with his Early Bird rights. Because of the Arenas provision, L.A. would have been able to match a larger offer sheet from another team, and both Houston and San Antonio had enough cap room to give Reaves a contract that could have made it a tough decision. Both teams decided to spend their money in other areas, so L.A. was able to keep the 25-year-old shooting guard at a relative bargain price.

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • In the same interview (video link), Reaves discusses Russell Westbrook, who had a stormy tenure with the team before being traded in February. Westbrook became a controversial figure during his time with the Lakers, but Reaves only had good things to say about him. “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Reaves said. “As a person, you can’t get much better. … He was always empowering everybody to be better and do better and want more.”
  • Colin Castleton would love to eventually be promoted from his two-way contract to the 15-man roster, but he told Lakers Nation that he’s more concerned with improving his game and learning as much as possible from his veteran teammates. “I was focused on killing Summer League, and I feel like I did a good job there,” Castleton said. “Now I can focus on getting ready for training camp and put myself in the right mindset so I can have an opportunity later in the year. That’s my mindset.”
  • In case you missed it, the Lakers are among several teams with interest in veteran forward Rudy Gay, who was waived by the Thunder on Thursday.

Russell Westbrook Re-Signs With Clippers

JULY 6: Westbrook’s new deal with the Clippers is official, according to’s transaction log.

JULY 1: Russell Westbrook will re-sign with the Clippers for nearly $8MM over two years, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Westbrook will receive a player option for the second season, Wojnarowski adds.

L.A. will use the Non-Bird exception for Westbrook, who joined the team in February after being traded to the Jazz and negotiating a buyout. The Clippers are limited to a 20% raise for Westbrook over the veteran’s minimum contract he played under last season.

He will receive $3,835,738 for the 2023/24 season and $4,027,525 for the following year if he exercises the option. The deal gives Westbrook a chance to opt out and test the market again next summer as an unrestricted free agent.

Westbrook struggled through the season and a half he spent with the Lakers, but he was able to revive his reputation somewhat with the cross-town Clippers. He became a full-time starter again after the move and averaged 15.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists in 21 games while helping the team avoid falling into the play-in tournament.

The Clippers were “eager” to keep Westbrook after his late-season performance, Wojnarowski adds.

The former MVP and nine-time All-Star is considered a shoo-in Hall of Famer, but his standing around the league has fallen in recent years due to his declining shooting percentage, his penchant for turnovers and the number of times he has changed teams. After spending the first 11 seasons of his career in Oklahoma City, the Clippers marked Westbrook’s fifth team in six years.

He also became a scapegoat for an underachieving Lakers team, and trade rumors started circulating shortly after he was acquired in a 2021 deal. The Lakers had to part with a future first-round pick to send him to Utah, but before that happened, he experienced a coaching change and was made a full-time bench player for the first time in his career.

Clippers management was originally cool on the idea of adding Westbrook in February, but they relented after lobbying from Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

L.A. was considered to be among the front-runners to land Chris Paul after the Suns traded him to Washington last month, but the Warriors snagged Paul by agreeing to part with Jordan Poole. The Clippers indicated that they would have considered re-signing Westbrook even if they had traded for Paul.

Free Agent Rumors: Pacers, Strus, Brown, Kyrie, Westbrook, QOs

After reporting on Wednesday that the Pacers are “strongly weighing” a three-year offer worth upwards of $48MM for Max Strus, Marc Stein (Twitter links) cautions that the free agent wing shouldn’t be viewed as a slam dunk to end up in Indiana. While it seems likely that Strus will leave the Heat, there still appear to be multiple suitors in play for him, according to Stein.

Who might the Pacers pursue using their cap room if not Strus? Stein says Indiana has emerged as a team to watch in the Bruce Brown sweepstakes, joining the Lakers, Mavericks, and Nuggets, among others. Indiana will have the ability to offer either Strus or Brown more than the $12.4MM non-taxpayer mid-level exception that over-the-cap teams are limited to.

Here are a few more free agent rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • In addition to the Suns, Kyrie Irving has the Lakers, Sixers, and Heat on his list of teams to meet with in free agency, sources tell Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Based on Rankin’s wording, the cap situations for those teams, and a report that cast doubts on whether Kyrie’s meeting with Phoenix will actually happen, it sounds like that list of meetings may be aspirational rather than set in stone.
  • Russell Westbrook won’t be in a rush to make a decision when free agency opens on Friday, so he’s unlikely to be one of the first players off the board, tweets Law Murray of The Athletic, adding that the former MVP isn’t a “dead set lock” to return to the Clippers.
  • Johnny Juzang of the Jazz and Julian Champagnie of the Spurs are among the players on two-way contracts who received qualifying offers by Thursday’s deadline, making them restricted free agents, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter links).

Clippers Notes: George, Leonard, Westbrook, Brown, Miller

Paul George‘s name has surfaced in trade rumors a few times this month, but Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank told reporters this week that the team intends to continue building its roster around George and Kawhi Leonard, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“It’s still the plan,” Frank said. “What we are trying to do is how can we put together the best team around these guys? And we look at the different things, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, the job that we have to do better, the job that we challenge our players to continue to do better. We are trying to maximize these two and figure out ways we can get better.”

There has been some speculation that the trade rumors involving George have popped up because he’ll become extension-eligible this offseason and the Clippers may be reluctant to offer him another maximum-salary deal, given his injury history. The same thinking applies to Leonard, who will also become eligible for an extension. Asked about possible new contracts for the team’s two star forwards, Frank referred to the conversation as “premature.”

“We do talk [about] what the plan is, but we really can’t get into those specifics until the appropriate date and we will have the dialogues like we do,” he said, according to Youngmisuk. “We are very, very honest and [have] open conversations and see if there is something that makes sense for both sides.”

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • Frank made it clear during this week’s press conference that the club wants to re-sign point guard Russell Westbrook, despite only having the ability to offer him a salary of $3.8MM using the Non-Bird exception. “Russ is a free agent and gets to choose,” Frank said, per Youngmisuk. “As he’s shown, he did a phenomenal job during his time with the Clippers. … We want Russ back but also respect the fact that he’s a free agent. But hopefully we can keep him a Clipper.”
  • Veteran NBA reporter Howard Beck is treating Frank’s comments about wanting to build around George and Leonard with a grain of salt, suggesting during an appearance on the FnA podcast that the Clippers aren’t “trying to give (George) away,” but that he’s “certainly available” via trade. “Lawrence Frank is going to say what he has to say,” Beck said (hat tip to Bleacher Report). “Team GMs and presidents always say that, ‘No, we love our guys,’ right up until the moment that they trade them. That’s just how this thing goes.”
  • Law Murray of The Athletic takes a look at what the Clippers are getting in No. 30 pick Kobe Brown and No. 48 pick Jordan Miller and what lies ahead for the team in free agency. As Murray notes, Los Angeles’ two draft picks reflect the team’s win-now mindset — both Brown and Miller are already 23 years old.

Trade Rumors: Brogdon, Ayton, Blazers, Zion, CP3, More

With Bradley Beal headed to Phoenix, the Suns are no longer likely to be players for Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon, whom they were linked to last week, writes Brian Robb of

As Robb notes, the Suns still have Deandre Ayton as a trade chip and could theoretically send him out in a Brogdon trade. But the Celtics aren’t interested in Ayton due to his pricey multiyear contract, Robb says, so a third team would have to be involved to take Ayton and send something to Boston. Even if the Suns and Celtics could find a third team, it seems unlikely that Phoenix would want to trade Ayton for another guard, given the current make-up of the team’s core.

Here are a few more trade rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer has gotten the sense from league sources that if the Trail Blazers were to make a trade with the Pelicans involving the No. 3 pick, they’d rather acquire Zion Williamson than Brandon Ingram. Shams Charania of The Athletic previously reported that the Hornets (at No. 2) would likely prefer Ingram to Williamson.
  • Although he expects Williamson to open the 2023/24 season with the Pelicans, Ian Begley of explores potential pathways for the Knicks to acquire the former No. 1 overall pick.
  • During an appearance on FanDuel TV (Twitter video link), Charania says the Warriors were among the teams to discuss a Chris Paul trade with the Suns before Phoenix agreed to acquire Beal from Washington. With the Wizards exploring the possibility of flipping Paul to a third team, it’s unclear whether or not they’ve touched base with Golden State.
  • The Clippers, previously identified as a possible trade partner for Paul, wouldn’t shut the door on re-signing Russell Westbrook if they were able to land CP3, according to Law Murray of The Athletic, who hears from sources that the Clips would still offer Westbrook the biggest deal they can using his Non-Bird rights (120% of the veteran’s minimum).

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, Vezenkov, Suns, Dunleavy, Lakers

Russell Westbrook will have to balance money vs. playing time when he makes his decision in free agency, write Law Murray and Danny Leroux of The Athletic.

Westbrook took over as the starting point guard after he signed with the Clippers in February and raised his value by averaging 15.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists in 21 games. Leroux speculates that there may not be another team willing to give him a starting role, although opportunities exist if he’s willing to be the first guard off the bench.

The Clippers would prefer to keep Westbrook, but without his Bird rights, they’re limited to an offer of 120% of the veteran’s minimum. Although L.A. could theoretically trim enough salary below the $179.5MM second apron to offer Westbrook the mid-level exception, that wouldn’t be a huge raise because it’s being lowered to $5MM in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Leroux suggests that owner Steve Ballmer could try to re-sign Westbrook with an unspoken understanding that he’ll get a bigger deal next summer when the team will have his Early Bird rights.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings are determined to bring Sasha Vezenkov  to Sacramento next season, according to Christos Tsaltas of Sportal. High-ranking team officials traveled to Greece this season to watch Vezenkov in action and to learn more about his character and work habits. The Kings see Vezenkov as a back-up to Keegan Murray and believe they’re versatile enough to play together, Tsaltas adds.
  • Miles Simon and John Lucas III are the latest additions to Frank Vogel‘s coaching staff with the Suns, tweets Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report. Simon was the head coach of the South Bay Lakers in the G League, and they both worked under Vogel in L.A.
  • New general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. was brought to the Warriors‘ management team by his former agent, Bob Myers, shortly after he retired as a player, notes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Myers hired Dunleavy as a scout in 2018, and he worked his way up through the organization. He has been taking on more of Myers’ duties over the past two years, including attending the league’s gatherings of general managers.
  • The Lakers hosted six players for a pre-draft workout on Saturday, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. On hand were UConn’s Andre Jackson Jr., Stetson’s Sam Peek, Chattanooga’s Jake Stephens, Overtime Elite’s Jazian Gortman, Texas’ Timmy Allen and Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis. L.A. has the 17th and 47th picks in this year’s draft.

And-Ones: Irving, VanVleet, Lakers’ Arena, Jackson, Crawford, Gelfand

Kyrie Irving and Fred VanVleet — who is declining his player option — are the top free agent point guards, John Hollinger of The Athletic opines. According to Hollinger, they’re the only max or near-max point guards on the market. Hollinger rates D’Angelo Russell and Tre Jones as the only other free agent floor leaders worth more than the mid-level exception, with Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schröder warranting a mid-level investment.

We have more from the around the basketball world:

  • is closing part of its business but it won’t impact its naming rights deal for Arena in Los Angeles, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports. AEG, which owns and operates the home arena for the Lakers and Clippers, entered into a 20-year, $700MM naming rights agreement with Singapore-based in November 2021.
  • ABC and ESPN analyst Mark Jackson deserves another shot at coaching, an unnamed general manager told Marc Berman in a story. Jackson, the Warriors’ head coach before going into broadcasting, interviewed for the Bucks’ head coaching job that went to Adrian Griffin. He has also been passed over for a number of other head coaching jobs in recent years. “He needs to be open to be an associate head coach,” the GM said. “If he was on the bench in Memphis or New Orleans, he’d be perfect for Ja Morant or Zion Williamson.’’
  • The Suns are looking to hire Mavericks assistant Quinton Crawford as an assistant on Frank Vogel‘s staff, Marc Stein of The Stein Line tweets. In another coaching note, the Wizards are close to hiring Pelicans analytics expert Sammy Gelfand.