Russell Westbrook

Wizards Notes: Westbrook, Bryant, Neto, Mathews

Improved play from Russell Westbrook has sparked the Wizards‘ move up the Eastern Conference standings, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. The former MVP says the difference involves recovering from a left quad injury that had been bothering him since he was acquired from the Rockets in December.

“Well, I can move and jump now,” Westbrook said. “So, there ya go.”

Westbrook’s quickness has returned, Katz adds, and he has become more aggressive in attacking the basket. He took 55% of his shots at the rim during the team’s recent four-game road trip after shooting just 26% of them from there earlier in the season.

“He just does a great job of staying in attack mode. We’re better when he does that,” Bradley Beal said. “He’s just being able to put pressure on the rim, getting to the basket, letting our bigs be able to follow up for offensive tip-backs if that’s the case. So, we just need him always in that mode. He never stops.”

There’s more on the Wizards:

  • Thomas Bryant joined his teammates on the bench Saturday for the first time since suffering a season-ending ACL tear in January, Katz tweets“That was definitely the best part about the first half, just seeing him in the locker room,” coach Scott Brooks said. “… He’s definitely missed, loved by all of us.”
  • Backup point guard Raul Neto had to leave Saturday’s game with a left knee contusion, but Brooks doesn’t believe it’s serious, Katz adds (via Twitter). The team will check on Neto’s condition today.
  • The Wizards have won seven of their eight games since Brooks inserted Garrison Mathews and Moritz Wagner into the starting lineup, notes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports. Both are among the top 10 in the league in drawing charges, and they have raised the team’s energy level. Brooks is particularly impressed with Mathews, who earned a two-way contract last year after going undrafted. “He’s a fighter,” Brooks said. “I remember the pre-draft workout. We did this running drill and he has our record. I thought his lungs were going to explode he was running so hard. You could tell that he wanted to slow down, but he was determined. That got my attention right there.”

Southeast Notes: Young, Magic, Wizards, Biyombo

Unlike some other probable All-Stars who have expressed reluctance about playing in a potential March 7 All-Star Game in Atlanta, Hawks point guard Trae Young has said he would relish the opportunity to participate if he earns a second straight All-Star berth, according to Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I understand both sides,” said Young, who is averaging 26.7 PPG, 9.2 APG, and 4.0 RPG for the 11-12 Hawks. “Obviously, it’s in Atlanta, I’d love to be a part of it, if there is a game.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Magic assistant general manager Matt Lloyd spoke with Josh Robbins of The Athletic about how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Orlando’s scouting process. “We’ve gotten to the point with technology where we have so much to study,” Lloyd acknowledged. “Every game is on film… But there is still an advantage of being able to see how prospects look in person. There’s always going to be that one element of being in an arena or in a gym and being able to size players up to get some sort of sense of their real physicality, their size, their length and how fast they are.”
  • The Wizards have been performing better when $41.4MM point guard Russell Westbrook sits, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic. In a somewhat alarming trend, Washington is 4-3 without Westbrook and 2-12 with him this season. Washington is 7.7 points per 100 possessions worse when Westbrook plays for the club this year.
  • Hornets center Bismack Biyombo is relishing his role as a mentor with a scrappy Charlotte team, according to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports. Biyombo has become a key advisor to rookie guard LaMelo Ball, the No. 3 pick in the 2020 draft. “I was telling LaMelo when I first got to the league I was his age because I came from overseas as well,” Biyombo said. “The transition, how far you grow from playing overseas versus when you see kids who come out of college, it’s totally two different mindsets.”

Southeast Notes: Westbrook, Herro, Anthony, Hunter

Frustrations may be boiling over for Wizards guard Russell Westbrook, who was involved in his second on-court incident of the week Friday night, writes Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports. Westbrook was ejected from the loss to the Hawks after a game-long battle with Rajon Rondo. They both received technicals for a second-quarter altercation, then Westbrook picked up another one after shoving Rondo in the fourth quarter.

Westbrook was also involved in a double-technical incident Tuesday in Houston during an exchange with John Wall, the player he was traded for in December. The combination of losing and a sub-par shooting year are undoubtedly contributing to Westbrook’s short fuse.

“Honestly, it’s more on me,” he responded when asked about the dispute with Rondo. “I cannot allow myself to stoop down to anybody’s level. That’s not my character, who I am.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat may have another looming COVID-19 problem, according to an ESPN story. Tyler Herro learned at halftime Saturday night that someone he lives with has tested positive for the virus. He’s not sure yet if he’ll have to quarantine. Kendrick Nunn didn’t play Saturday because the team was awaiting his test results, but he was cleared by the second quarter. Jimmy Butler returned after missing 10 games due to health and safety protocols.
  • The Magic are being patient with first-round pick Cole Anthony as he goes through the ups and downs of being a rookie, notes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Anthony, who has moved into the starting lineup for the past 12 games, has impressed teammates with his desire to improve. “He’s hard on himself,” said James Ennis, who serves as a mentor to Anthony. “He doesn’t like making mistakes. I give him credit. He’s tough. It’s hard to find young guys like that. He listens, also. So it’s hard to find young guys that come in and listen and want to compete and just want to be perfect.”
  • The Magic aren’t likely to re-sign Evan Fournier when he becomes a free agent after this season, Robbins adds in the same piece. Although Fournier is only 28, Orlando has some cap concerns after giving extensions to Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz. Robbins expects the team to explore trade offers for Fournier if it falls out of the playoff race before the March 25 deadline.
  • De’Andre Hunter‘s condition will be reviewed this week after an MRI Saturday showed articular wear and tear in his right knee, the Hawks announced in a press release. Hunter will be held out of Monday’s game against the Lakers.

Southeast Notes: Young, Wizards, Westbrook, Isaac

Hawks guard Trae Young says rumors of a dispute between him and John Collins earlier this month were exaggerated, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The incident reportedly involved a film session in which Collins criticized Young’s decision making and long-distance shots early in possessions. Young contends there was never a serious dispute with Collins.

“As for the John incident, me and him talked about it as soon as it got out the next day and we were both confused,” Young said. “It just got out and it was over a regular film session. So there’s no beef or anything in there to begin with. There hasn’t been any locker room issues on my side. Anything that people were saying about locker room issues, there hasn’t been one. It’s all about our team and how we’ve been trying to get better in film sessions.”

Young also addressed the controversy that has arisen about his technique for drawing fouls. Nets coach Steve Nash and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau are among those who have complained about how he manages to get to the foul line so often.

“I’ve always been able to know how to get to the free-throw line,” Young said. “It’s little things like that people are pointing out this year, but it’s stuff I’ve been doing my whole life.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN takes a look at the Wizards‘ experiences through nearly two full weeks of contact tracing and postponed games. Coach Scott Brooks said he had little contact with his players, other than waving to them from inside his car as they arrived for their COVID-19 tests each day. “(The NBA is) learning things as we are going. And I am assuming they learned a lot from us,” Brooks said. “I see that more often now, somebody has (the virus) and they shut it down for a couple of games. Because I think it is better to miss two than to miss six.”
  • The Wizards are big losers so far in the trade that brought Russell Westbrook from Houston in exchange for John Wall and a draft pick, contends Zach Lowe of ESPN. Westbrook’s stats are down across the board and he’s averaging 5.2 turnovers per game, which would be one of the worst marks ever if it lasts the entire season.
  • Magic forward Jonathan Isaac provided an update on his recovery from a torn ACL, tweets Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Isaac told reporters he has started jumping while shooting, and the ACL doesn’t feel as stiff as it used to. He wants to strengthen his quad, hamstring and calf muscles before he resumes running. Isaac is expected to miss the entire season.

Wizards Notes: Len, Bell, Westbrook, Bertans

After finalizing contracts with Alex Len and Jordan Bell earlier today, the Wizards have enough eligible players to resume their season, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports. Washington has been among the teams hardest hit by COVID-19 and hasn’t played since January 11. After six postponed games and with a still-depleted roster, the Wizards appear ready for Sunday’s game in San Antonio.

The addition of the two big men should make that possible, with Len signing as a free agent after being waived by Toronto and Bell inking a 10-day deal after being ticketed for Washington’s G League affiliate.

“I’m happy to have them. We need bodies,” coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “Both have good experience. Both will get opportunities, probably, for sure Alex will. Right now we only have one five. He gives us good experience, he gives us good length, defensive protection.”

Washington has been depleted at center by a season-ending ACL injury to Thomas Bryant and the loss of Moritz Wagner due to health and safety protocols. Veteran Robin Lopez has taken over as the starter, and Len is expected to be his primary backup.

There’s more from Washington, D.C.:

  • In addition to Wagner, Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura and Ish Smith are unavailable due to coronavirus-related reasons. Brooks expects their returns to be staggered as they’re cleared one or two at a time, Hughes tweets.
  • If there’s a bright spot to the way the virus has hit the Wizards, it’s that Russell Westbrook has only missed two games after aggravating a quadriceps injury he suffered in the preseason, observes Jackson Filyo of NBA.com. Westbrook has been practicing in a limited capacity and is listed as questionable for Sunday. “(I’ve been) just running through a few things with the team,” he said. “Trying to get myself back in shape a little bit, seeing how I feel each day – trying to ramp up and making sure I take my time.”
  • Bertans will miss his second return to San Antonio since the Spurs traded him to Washington, notes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News. Bertans was spectacular against his former teammates last season, scoring 23 points and hitting all seven of his shots from the field. “We definitely brought something out in him that I don’t want to see again,” said LaMarcus Aldridge.

Westbrook Expected To Miss At Least One Week With Quad Injury

Wizards point guard Russell Westbrook is expected to miss the next week due to a left quadriceps injury, the team announced today (Twitter link).

According to the Wizards, the injury is a result of repeated contact to the area since the start of the season. The former MVP will be re-evaluated at the end of the week, per the club.

While Westbrook has been posting his usual lofty averages in his first seven games as a Wizard (19.3 PPG, 11.3 APG, 9.7 RPG), he has lacked his usual explosiveness on drives to the basket and his shooting percentage so far is a career-worst 37.8%.

The Wizards have looked to manage Westbrook’s workload and health this season by resting him in back-to-back sets. However, in the games he has played, he’s seeing plenty of action — his 37.1 minutes per game would be a career high.

Southeast Notes: Young/Collins, Westbrook, Heat, LaMelo

After Hawks power forward John Collins reportedly voiced his frustration with the way the club has been running its offense through All-Star point guard Trae Young, Young addressed their issues with a measured response.

“I know me and John have set the bar high for ourselves, but we’re still 22 and 23 years old,” Young said of their early Hawks tenure, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). “There’s a lot we can get better at. There’s going to be times where we are going to talk and there’s going to be times when teammates are going to talk about what we see.”

The revamped Hawks are currently 4-4, good for the No. 9 seed in the East.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Fred Katz of The Athletic details the Wizards‘ “load management” plan for new starting point guard Russell Westbrook. Washington GM Tommy Sheppard tells Katz that the club’s process for resting Westbrook will be fluid going forward. “We’ve adhered to a schedule thus far and a lot of it just kinda evolves on how he’s feeling, how he’s responding to the rigors of the season,” Sheppard said. “It’s way too early right now to say, ‘OK, well this is how it’s going to be the entire year.’”
  • The Sioux Falls Sky Force, the G League affiliate of the Heat, will not be partaking in the 2020/21 G League “bubble” this season. Miami GM Andy Elisburg addressed the decision, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “For us, just for the quick turnaround, it just became a lot on everyone’s plate, and dealing with the fact that it’s an unusual season, managing the COVID,” Elisburg said. “There’s a lot of different things that were on the plate. That’s where we made the decision.”
  • Hornets rookie point guard LaMelo Ball has had to grow up quickly on the hardwood for Charlotte, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Ball’s size and on-court versatility has allowed the Hornets to experiment with intriguing lineups. “I definitely knew I had to rebound,” the 6’7″ Ball said of being played in an ultra-small lineup alongside Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham for the team’s last two contests.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Hawks, Westbrook, Richards

In the wake of the season-ending ACL tear suffered by Magic point guard Markelle Fultz this week, Josh Robbins of The Athletic weighs in on what the injury means for Orlando’s future. The Magic’s hot 6-2 start to the 2020/21 season suggested that perhaps Fultz and the rest of the club’s available young core might have taken the next step in their development.

With Fultz now sidelined and reserve Michael Carter-Williams currently absent as well, rookie Cole Anthony takes his place at the point. Two-way second-year point guard Jordan Bone will be Anthony’s primary backup.

Frank Urbina of HoopsHype brainstorms some potential free agent candidates to shore up the club’s point guard depth, including former two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas, Yogi Ferrell, and new Santa Cruz Warriors guard Jeremy Lin.

“It was really tough just to see your teammate go down — but of all people, Markelle,” Bone said of his Magic teammate. “He’s set the intensity since Day 1 for us guards and the team collectively.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • In a wide-ranging new mailbag, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic ponders the possibility of a Hawks trade to clear up roster minutes for the club’s many solid players, among other hot topics. Kirschner notes that GM Travis Schlenk and owner Tony Ressler would need to both think making a move could significantly improve the roster for a deal to get done.
  • Wizards star point guard Russell Westbrook dislocated an unspecified finger on his right hand during a 141-136 loss to the Sixers, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Hughes later added (Twitter link) that Westbrook is currently day-to-day, and his status for tomorrow’s game against the Celtics is thus up in the air.
  • Hornets rookie center Nick Richards has cleared the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and is now available for Charlotte’s contest against the Pelicans tomorrow, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer tweets.

Wizards Notes: Hachimura, Beal, Westbrook

The Wizards announced on December 21 that forward Rui Hachimura would be sidelined for approximately three weeks due to an eye issue (bi-lateral epidemic keratoconjunctivitis). However, he’s set to easily beat that recovery timeline.

Head coach Scott Brooks told reporters today that Hachimura will play on Thursday night vs. Chicago, as Ava Wallace of The Washington Post tweets. The second-year forward is expected to see about 20 minutes of action, Brooks added (Twitter link via Fred Katz of The Athletic).

While Hachimura isn’t exactly a star-caliber difference-maker, the Wizards will welcome any reinforcements they can get, given their slow start. Washington is tied for the NBA’s worst record at 0-4 so far.

Here’s more out of D.C.:

  • Bradley Beal‘s frustration was evident after Tuesday’s loss to Chicago, as he left without speaking to the media, a rarity for the Wizards star, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Beal explained to reporters today that he was watching film and said he doesn’t intend to let his frustrations carry over (link via Fred Katz). Still, it’s worth keeping a close eye on Beal this season, especially if the Wizards keep losing — if his commitment to the team wavers, there will be plenty of rival clubs ready to inquire on his availability.
  • Here’s more from Beal on the energy in the Wizards’ locker room following the 0-4 start:Nobody’s mad at their teammate or hates the next man. It’s not that type of emotion or feeling. I feel like everybody’s pissed off, I feel like that’s a good thing (Twitter link via Ava Wallace).
  • The Wizards should make a stronger effort to surround Russell Westbrook with more three-point shooters during his minutes, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic, who notes that Westbrook has played some of his minutes alongside three non-shooters.
  • In case you missed it, the Wizards picked up their 2021/22 options on Hachimura and Troy Brown, but opted to pass on their options for Jerome Robinson and Moritz Wagner.

Southeast Notes: Fournier, Gordon, Anthony, Adebayo, Westbrook

The rookie scale extensions handed to Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac could impact the futures of Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon with the Magic, Josh Robbins of The Athletic opines. Fournier is entering his walk year and with the money expended on Fultz and Isaac, it would be tough for the club to re-sign Fournier and remain under the luxury tax, Robbins notes. Gordon and Isaac are best suited as power forwards, so when Isaac returns from his knee injury after this season, Gordon is likely to be dealt, Robbins adds.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • In a separate piece, Robbins examines how various players on the Magic saw their stock drop or fall during training camp. Notably, rookies Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke saw their stock rise as members of the second unit in preseason games.
  • The Heat locked up Bam Adebayo with a five-year max extension last month. The big money won’t make Adebayo stop looking for ways to improve his game, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. “Just because I got money doesn’t mean that I got complacent,” Adebayo said.
  • There’s a feeling of familiarity for Russell Westbrook with the Wizards, starting with his former coach with the Thunder, Scott Brooks, Michael Lee of The Washington Post writes. Westbrook is seeking a comfort zone while playing for his third organization in as many seasons. “Really, it’s just being at peace,” Donnell Beverly, Westbrook’s business partner, told Lee. “I don’t think that’s where he’s been the last few years. I don’t think he’s been at peace.”