Russell Westbrook

Pacific Notes: O’Neale, Allen, Hyland, Leonard, Monk, Sabonis

Suns coach Frank Vogel switched up his rotation in the team’s 124-108 win over the Clippers on Wednesday, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports. Royce O’Neale was inserted into the lineup in place of Grayson Allen, while Thaddeus Young replaced Drew Eubanks as the backup center.

However, the Suns could go right back to Allen as the starter against Sacramento on Friday. “It’s just something we’ve been talking about,” Vogel said. “If we get into a playoff matchup where we have a bigger opponent, then we feel like (O’Neale’s) size in the starting lineup is something that would make sense. We didn’t want to go to that with Grayson coming off the bench for the first time having never done it. We used this one game to let Grayson just feel the rhythm of coming off the bench, if it’s needed in the playoffs.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Ivica Zubac and Norman Powell sat out the second game of a back-to-back on Wednesday. Bones Hyland carried the Clippers‘ offense in their absence, pumping in a career-high 37 points, Janis Carr of the Orange County Register notes. Leonard sat out his sixth consecutive game because of inflammation in his right knee. He might not return until the postseason but coach Tyronn Lue believes his superstar forward will be ready to go by that point.
  • Kings guard Malik Monk was the solid frontrunner for the Sixth Man of the Year award until he suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee late last month. Center Domantas Sabonis said Monk still deserves the honor. “Monk has to win it,” Sabonis told HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto. “If he doesn’t win it, it’s rigged. He definitely brings energy and light. If we’re down, he’s always up and in a good mood off the court, too, so that really helps during a long season with ups and downs.” Coach Mike Brown concurs. “It should not even be a debate on Sixth Man of the Year with Malik’s body of work and us fighting for a playoff spot,” Brown said. “He should be the hands-down winner.”
  • Monk will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Sacramento has Early Bird rights on Monk and can sign him up to $78MM over four years. “I’d love to play here again, for sure. I’ve been here for two years and made friends with everyone, including the training staff and front office,” Monk told Scotto. Sabonis said the organization can’t afford to lose him: “We’ve got to keep him. He’s a big piece for us moving forward.”
  • Sabonis saw his 61-game double-double streak end on Tuesday, Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press writes. He had eight points and 13 rebounds against Oklahoma City. It’s the seventh-longest streak in league history and the longest since the NBA and ABA merged prior to the 1976/77 season.

Los Angeles Notes: James, Davis, Lue, Westbrook

Perhaps it’s been somewhat overlooked but the Lakers’ LeBron James is shooting better from the perimeter than he ever has, ESPN’s Chris Herring notes.

A career 34.8% shooter from deep, James has knocked down a career-best 41.3% from 3-point range this season. His overall field goal percentage of 53.6% is his best since the 2017/18 campaign. Herring breaks down how James’ form has improved, noting that the longtime star attributes the uptick to better health.

“I’ve been able to be on the floor a lot more during non-game days,” James said. “My foot has felt a lot better. I didn’t have much time to really rep a lot last year because I couldn’t be on the floor running around or put much pounding on the floor with my foot.”

We have more on the Los Angeles teams:

  • The Lakers are listing Anthony Davis and James as questionable heading into their showdown with the Warriors tonight, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin tweets. Davis has a left eye injury, while James is battling flu-like symptoms.
  • Tyronn Lue says he has no plans to rest players for the remainder of the regular season unless the Clippers’ seeding is already decided. “We’re still fighting for that four seed, so (not) until we are able to clinch that, or we understand that we have a chance to clinch it or we don’t have a chance to clinch it,” he told Janis Carr of the Orange County Register. “Right now, our focus is on just playing better basketball, continuing to keep getting better and ending up the best we can as far as seeding.”
  • Russell Westbrook has revamped his mentality. A three-time scoring champion, Westbrook has focused on the other end of the floor for the Clippers this season, according to Carr. “Well, all year long, honestly, I’ve been depending on my defense and holding people and stopping people when time is needed,” Westbrook said. Westbrook has been a bargain for the Clippers this season and holds a $4MM option on his contract for next season.

Tyronn Lue Calls Clippers ‘Soft’ Following Monday’s Loss

Russell Westbrook returned to action on Monday at home vs. Indiana following a 12-game absence due to a left hand fracture, but it wasn’t enough for the Clippers, who lost for the sixth time in their past nine games and are now 10-12 since getting off to a 34-15 start.

Monday’s defeat at the hands of the Pacers moved the Clippers out of the top four in the Western Conference for the first time since December — the Pelicans now control the No. 4 seed, with an identical 44-27 record and a tiebreaker edge over Los Angeles.

Speaking after the game to reporters, including Ohm Youngmiusk of ESPN and Law Murray of The Athletic, James Harden said the Clippers “gotta find” their identity, adding that teams are scoring too easily on them. Asked about the team’s identity, head coach Tyronn Lue offered a blunt assessment.

“Right now, do we have an identity? I think, yeah. We’re soft,” Lue said. “That could be an identity, if you want to call (it) that. Like, we got to be tougher, mentally and physically.”

The Clippers got off to a 3-7 start this season, struggling initially to adjust following the acquisition of Harden from Philadelphia. Lue expressed confidence at that time that his team would be fine, and the Clippers rewarded that confidence with a 26-5 midseason stretch. The veteran coach is once again optimistic that his club will ultimately figure things out, but suggested on Monday that it will take a change to their mindset and approach.

“When we were 26-5, we had a great identity,” Lue said. “So you can’t pick and choose when you want to lead. You can’t pick and choose when you want to have identity. You can’t pick and choose when you want to do things the right way.”

The Clippers were just 6-6 during Westbrook’s absence in recent weeks, and there’s hope that the return of the former MVP will help invigorate a second unit that dipped to 18th in scoring while he was out. Westbrook spoke on Monday about the role he believes he can play in helping the club reestablish its identity.

“You don’t point fingers, you don’t point blame,” Westbrook said. “Each individual, I think we got to look within, look within ourselves, and figure out how we can better help our team. I think that’s where we start, we start with ourselves. I start with myself. And then come together collectively and figure out how we now bring what we all have and bring to the table.

“As we’ve seen when we’ve done it the right way, it shows that we’re a hard team to stop. And we know where our ceiling is, we know how we need to get there. And I think ultimately, as a leader, it’s my job just to hold guys accountable, hold myself accountable, and make sure that we stay together through this tough little patch that we’re having. And to me, it’s as simple as that.”

Clippers Notes: Westbrook, George, Harden, Tucker

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue confirmed a report that Russell Westbrook is close to returning from a fractured left hand, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Westbrook has been out of action since suffering the injury on March 1, but a source tells Turner that he could be back on the court for Monday’s game against Indiana. If he’s not ready by then, he’ll likely return Wednesday at Philadelphia or Friday at Orlando.

Lue didn’t confirm a specific timeline, but he told reporters, “Russ is doing well. He’ll play sometime next week.”

The Clippers have posted a 6-5 record since losing Westbrook, who is averaging 11.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 58 games, mostly in a reserve role. James Harden said the team will benefit from Westbrook’s “veteran leadership, which helps us on the court. Also, he’s on the same mission we’re on, I mean, that’s to win a championship. So, glad to have him back.”

There’s more on the Clippers:

  • L.A. is locked in a tight race with New Orleans for fourth place in the West and home court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. However, Paul George tells Turner that the players aren’t too focused on how the Pelicans are doing. “We’re not looking at them,” he said. “I mean, it’s more so about us. We got to play well and not worry about, ‘We’re in the driver’s seat.’” 
  • George has reached the 20-point mark in nine straight games, and more importantly, he’s fully healthy with the playoffs approaching, per Law Murray of The Athletic. “My body’s just been feeling great, which is allowing me to be aggressive and take the bumps and live in the paint,” George said. “So a lot of that has to do with just, you know, this time of the year. Feeling good, body starting to come together, and just conditioning. So that part feels good, but that’s just the emphasis period. Trying to find success in the paint, getting easy ones at the basket. And that point, jump shots start falling.”
  • Harden got a lot of reaction to his recent attempt to block a shot by teammate Kawhi Leonard (video link), and he believes it was necessary to inject some levity into the locker room, Murray states in a separate story. “Got to bring some excitement to the team, you know what I mean?” Harden said. “I think these last few weeks has been a fog for us. And I think every team goes through it. So I think just me just trying to create a good energy, a good vibe for this team. Maybe it would have been better if he made the shot, but it gives (us) something to laugh about … some excitement for us.”
  • P.J. Tucker had to leave Friday’s game with soreness in his right calf, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. He’s listed as questionable for Sunday’s contest against Philadelphia, the team he began the season with.

Russell Westbrook Expected To Return Next Week For Clippers

Clippers guard Russell Westbrook is expected to return to action next week, possibly as soon as Monday against Indiana, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

The 2017 MVP sustained a left hand fracture on March 1 and underwent surgery a few days later. Potentially returning in under four weeks certainly seems like a quick recovery, and Wojnarowski suggests Westbrook is progressing ahead of schedule (Twitter link).

Westbrook has primarily come off the bench in 2023/24, averaging 11.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.4 APG and 1.1 SPG on .452/.268/.677 shooting in 58 games (22.6 MPG).

Los Angeles has gone 5-5 in 10 games thus far without Westbrook, and he will provide a jolt of energy, play-making and rebounding to the Clips’ backcourt once he returns.

The nine-time All-NBA member had appeared in every game for L.A. prior to the injury. Third-year guard Bones Hyland will likely be removed from the rotation again when Westbrook comes back.

The Clippers are currently 43-25, the No. 4 seed in the West.

Los Angeles Notes: Powell, Westbrook, Lue, Davis

The Clippers are a little banged up going into the game against Atlanta tonight, according to Janis Carr of the Orange County Register.

Norman Powell left Friday’s game against New Orleans on crutches and won’t play due tonight due to a left leg contusion.  Terance Mann limped into the locker room during the first half on Friday but is in the starting lineup. Russell Westbrook is still out with a fractured left hand.

James Harden was listed as questionable but will play despite with a strained left shoulder. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are also showing signs of wear after a rugged stretch of the schedule.

We have more on the Los Angeles teams:

  • The Clippers have lost four of their last seven games and their margin for error is shrinking, Law Murray of The Athletic notes. They have fallen to fourth place in the Western Conference standings and the oldest team in the league is now forced to rely on their depth.
  • Coach Tyronn Lue showed signs of frustration with his team after the eight-point loss to the Pelicans, Murray tweets. He expressed that some of his players may not be as competitive as he is. “What do you mean, falls on my shoulders? I’m competitive. I’m ready to compete right now. … I don’t play, they know what we’re supposed to do. So they got to do it,” he said.
  • Anthony Davis suffered an eye injury during the Lakers’ loss to the Warriors. The Lakers’ struggles after he left the game proved they can’t win any meaningful games without him, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times opines. They were outscored by 13 points after he left the game, Plaschke notes, and were outscored by 18 in the paint.

Russell Westbrook Undergoes Surgery On Fractured Hand

Clippers guard Russell Westbrook underwent surgery on his fractured left hand on Monday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The hope is that Westbrook will be able to return before the playoffs, Wojnarowski adds.

Westbrook suffered his broken right hand on Friday in a game against Washington. According to Wojnarowski, he’s now starting rehabilitation so he can be back before the postseason starts in April.

Westbrook, 35, has been one of the league’s top bench players after accepting the role change earlier this season. He’s averaging 11.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 58 games.

Bones Hyland took over for Westbrook after he went down and played the backup point guard spot in L.A.’s win over the Timberwolves on Sunday.

It has been a roller coaster season for Hyland, who admitted the season was “challenging” and was sent home before the All-Star break. He’s averaging 5.7 points and 2.0 assists this season.

L.A. Notes: Hyland, Zubac, Westbrook, Dinwiddie, Giles

The fractured left hand that Russell Westbrook suffered Friday night has created an opportunity for Bones Hyland, writes Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Hyland played 16 minutes after Westbrook left the game, and he may have a spot in the Clippers‘ rotation for the foreseeable future.

“It’s been a long time,” Hyland said, “but honestly I’m just ready to keep contributing to the team, build up these wins and carry this momentum into the thing that we all want to do.”

Carr points out that Hyland averaged 26.2 minutes and 13.6 points in the season’s first five games. But he became a forgotten man after the James Harden trade was completed, logging 34 DNPs since November 10 and being listed as inactive five times. He admits it has been “challenging” and credits Westbrook for providing encouragement while he waited for playing time.

“Russ has been a great leader to me, man, since I came here, even before I got here,” Hyland said. “He’s always been that guy I can go talk to. … In this whole process, he told me to stay down, stay hungry, stay in the gym, just keep being myself and it’ll come back around full circle.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Center Ivica Zubac was able to travel with the Clippers after missing the past two games with an undisclosed illness, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. He’s listed as questionable for Sunday afternoon’s contest in Minnesota. “I hope I can play,” Zubac said. “I didn’t come all this way not to play. But I guess it’s up to the medical staff, but I hope I can play.”
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue talked about the effect that losing Westbrook will have on the team, Turner adds. “Russ plays every night, so just to see him go through something like this is tough on everybody,” Lue said. “He wants to compete in practice, in games, in everything.”
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, who signed with the Lakers last month after being waived by Toronto, is becoming more comfortable with his new team, according to Khobi Price of The Orange County Register. Coach Darvin Ham said his advice to Dinwiddie was “be aggressive and let us figure it out around you.”
  • Harry Giles will report to the Lakers Sunday on his new two-way contract, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Ham told reporters that he’s happy to find a promising talent to fortify the frontcourt (video link). “I think he’s a really good young player,” Ham said. “He was available and we saw an opportunity to gain a little insurance at that position. … He’s also someone we can take a long, hard look at as far as implementing him into the program.”

Russell Westbrook Sustains Left Hand Fracture

Clippers guard Russell Westbrook sustained a broken left hand on Friday vs. Washington, the team announced (Twitter link via ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk).

Head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters after the game that he’s not yet sure whether Westbrook will require surgery or how much time he might miss (Twitter link via Youngmisuk).

The 2016/17 league MVP, Westbrook has made nine All-NBA teams over the course of his 16-year career. After the Clips traded for James Harden, Westbrook has primarily come off the bench in 2023/24, averaging 11.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.5 APG and 1.1 SPG on .451/.268/.672 shooting in 57 games (22.8 MPG).

Unfortunately, Westbrook is the second noteworthy player to suffer a fractured left hand tonight, joining Raptors forward Scottie Barnes.

While Westbrook, 35, is clearly no longer in his prime, he’s still a terrific rebounder for a guard who can get in the paint and make plays. Earlier in the season, he talked about being keyed in defensively.

Before the Harden trade, Bones Hyland was the team’s backup point guard, and now that Westbrook is injured, he’ll likely receive some rotation minutes.

Westbrook holds a $4MM player option for ’24/25.

Pacific Notes: LeBron, AD, Westbrook, Harden, Little, Beal

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Lakers superstar LeBron James declined to elaborate on what he meant by sending out an hourglass emoji after Tuesday’s loss to Atlanta, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

On Friday, Rich Paul, James’ agent, publicly said his most famous client won’t seek a trade and won’t be dealt ahead of the February 8 deadline.

There was no reputable reporting suggesting James would seek a trade, but there had been some speculation from fans and media members about his future, given the Lakers’ middling record (25-25) this season, his age (39), and his contract situation (he can become an unrestricted free agent this summer).

James said he hasn’t thought about whether or not he’s going to exercise his $51.4MM player option for 2024/25, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin relays.

The Lakers were without James (left ankle peroneal tendinopathy) and Anthony Davis (bilateral Achilles tendinopathy and left hip spasms) for Thursday’s upset victory over Boston, and both players are questionable for Saturday’s contest in New York. James, who said he was “very proud” of the team’s effort vs. the Celtics, is “hoping” to play against the Knicks.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • According to Buha, James also addressed Jarred Vanderbilt‘s foot injury, which is expected to keep him out for several weeks. “Well, honestly, obviously, we took a big hit with Vando last game,” James said. “Our team has always been constructed around how healthy we can be and how much chemistry we can put on the floor. So, obviously, that’s a big-time hit, big-time blow for us. But guys have to pick it up in his absence. If we can play some good basketball, string a couple wins together, and not be so Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on any given night, then we’ll be OK.”
  • Clippers guard Russell Westbrook reached a historic milestone in Friday’s win over Detroit, as he became just the 25th player in NBA history to score 25,000 career points (Twitter link via the league). The former league MVP is also only the second player to record at least 25,000 points, 9,000 assists and 8,000 rebounds — James is the other.
  • Regarding his omission from the All-Star game, Clippers guard James Harden says he’s focused on a bigger prize, per Law Murray of The Athletic. “I’ve got bigger goals,” Harden said. “None of that — scoring titles and assists and All-Stars and MVPs — right now. I’ve done it all. I’m here for one reason. And I think everybody knows what the reason is.” Harden, of course, is looking for his first NBA championship. The 34-year-old is averaging 16.9 PPG, 8.5 APG, 4.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG and 0.9 BPG in 42 games for the Clips this season (34.1 MPG). He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in the summer.
  • Suns forward Nassir Little is nonplussed by hearing his name in trade rumors, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “I’m doing good,” Little said. “It’s a normal thing in the league. It’s been like that since I’ve gotten into the league. Your name is always going to be thrown around in trade rumors. It’s part of the business. So I don’t really be seeing it that much, but I just chill until something happens. I get a text from my agent or somebody call me in the office, I’m going to keep doing what I got to do.” Little, 23, is in the first season of a four-year, $28MM rookie scale extension.
  • Suns star Kevin Durant praised Bradley Beal‘s toughness for playing through a broken nose he sustained last week against the Pacers, Rankin tweets. He’s a soldier out there,” Durant said of Beal. “He could’ve easily took a game off in Orlando. Taken the rest of the game off in Indiana. … We’re behind him. We want him to continue to be aggressive.” Beal has missed 24 games this season due to back and ankle injuries and has struggled to get comfortable with the protective masks he’s wearing due to the nasal fracture, averaging 13.3 PPG (on .345/.125/.733 shooting), 7.0 APG and 4.5 RPG in the past four games (37.6 MPG).