Associated Press

Three Things to Know: Russell Westbrook steps into history books with 100th triple double


Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Russell Westbrook joins Hall of Fame company with 100th triple-double. Oscar Robertson. Magic Johnson. Jason Kidd.

And now Russell Westbrook.

The 100 triple-double club is small and filled with some of the best to ever play the game. Westbrook got his 100th triple-double Tuesday night vs. Atlanta, racking up 32 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds during an easy Thunder win.

For those of you scoring at home, that’s a league-leading 21 triple-doubles this season for Westbrook, coming on the heels of last season when he averaged a triple-double for the entire season (and won the MVP award).

Robertson owns the record for most triple-doubles in a career with 181. Is that a number Westbrook can hit? Can Westbrook average 20 triple-doubles for four more seasons beyond this one? It’s a big ask, but tell Westbrook he can’t do something and he’s likely to do it.

2) Injury updates: Kevin Love could be back on the court before Stephen Curry or Kawhi Leonard.
At this point in the season, playoff-bound teams prioritize getting healthy and entering the postseason rested over everything else — unless they need to worry about just making the playoffs. That brings us to our injury updates of three key players, and we will go in projected order of return.

Kevin Love could return to the Cleveland Cavaliers lineup next week. He has been out with a fractured hand since Jan. 30, but when I saw him the other day in Los Angeles (while the Cavaliers were in town for a couple games) he was working out and getting shots up with the cast off. He says he will be back next week — and the Cavaliers need him. They are 2-2 so far on a seven-game road trip, and their offense lacks anyone outside LeBron James who can be trusted to create shots or get consistent buckets. Love helps with those issues. Plus they need time to integrate him into the rotation — he’s been out since before the trade deadline and Tyronn Lue needs to see where Love fits with Larry Nance Jr. and the rest of the new Cavaliers.

Stephen Curry will remain out the rest of this week and be re-evaluated March 20. The Warriors are not falling below the two seed in the West, they don’t care about catching Houston for the top seed, and they have a soft schedule the rest of the way — there is no reason to rush Curry back from his third ankle injury of the season. Let Kevin Durant rack up numbers, the Warriors epitomize the kind of team focused on health and rest over everything else right now.

Kawhi Leonard will be back when his own medical team clears him to return. Nobody knows when that will be — not even Gregg Popovich. Like any smart player with a significant injury, Leonard got a second opinion from someone other than the team doctor (team doctors are generally very good at their job, but they are paid by the team and that can create a conflict of interest). It’s not the Spurs doctors, it’s Leonard’s doctors who have not cleared him fully yet. Leonard is frustrated, the Spurs are frustrated, but he will be back when he is back. Whenever that will be.

3) West playoff update after Tuesday: Denver loss to Lakers a tough setback. In a brutal Western Conference playoff race, the cardinal sin is losing to below .500 teams — which makes the Lakers the ultimate spoilers. They are a below .500 team that is playing like a playoff team, having gone 20-12 in 2018 (and 20-9 since LaVar Ball said the guys were not playing for Luke Walton).

Denver found that out the hard way in a 112-103 loss that included Isaiah Thomas making a little jab at Jamal Murry on the final play.

The loss drops the Nuggets to the 10 seed, a game back of the Spurs and Jazz who are tied for the eighth seed and final playoff spot. Both San Antonio (108-72) and Utah (110-79) had comfortable wins over non-playoff teams on Tuesday night.

In other West action, Minnesota beat Washington, Oklahoma City easily beat Atlanta (Westbrook’s triple-double game), the Clippers beat the Bulls, and the Pelicans beat the Hornets. All of that means there was little movement in the West playoff standings on Tuesday night, save for Denver taking a step back.

Kevin Love returns to Cavaliers lineup Monday vs. Bucks

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The last time Kevin Love suited up for the Cavaliers, it was still January and Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Jae Crowder were still on the team.

That is about to change tonight — Love will return from a fractured hand and play for the Cavaliers, but on a minutes restriction to start, interim coach Larry Drew confirmed.

Cleveland needs Love back. The Cavaliers went 11-9 without him in this stretch (and 6-7 since the All-Star break) with an offense that has still been top 10 in the NBA but a defense that is holding them back. The Cavaliers’ defense is just not on the same page right now, and the more time the regular rotations guys get to play together, the better they should be before the playoffs start.

As Love rounds into form, the Cavaliers have to figure out their rotations. Does Love start Love next to Larry Nance Jr., or does Nance come off the bench again? Probably the latter, but the Cavaliers will toy with the rotations (and do that more when Tristan Thompson returns).

Former NBA All-Star Steve Francis cited for public intoxication

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What happened to Steve Francis [after his playing days]? I was drinking heavily, is what happened. And that can be just as bad (as drug use). In the span of a few years I lost basketball, I lost my whole identity, and I lost my stepfather, who committed suicide.”
—Steve Francis, writing in the Players’ Tribune earlier this month, about his journey from selling crack to the NBA, and what happened after.

Addiction, once it’s got you, never goes away. The fight to stay sober/clean is a new one every day.

Steve Francis was cited for public intoxication in Burbank, Calif., after an incident at a hotel bar, according to TMZ (since confirmed by other reports).

Francis, 41, was arrested around 11:40 PM after police were called for a disturbance between two men at a hotel in Burbank.

Law enforcement sources tell us when cops arrived, Francis was intoxicated. He was arrested for being drunk in public.

Francis was transported to jail … before being given a citation and released around 7 AM Monday morning.

Francis denied in the Players’ Tribune article rumors he had a drug problem, but he owned up to drinking.

Lakers coach Luke Walton: I thought Pacers’ Paul George trade was ‘lopsided’ in favor of Thunder

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Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said the Pacers “could have done better” than trading Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Gilbert would have company with egg on their face if more people shared their views on the deal when it happened.

Lakers coach Luke Walton – whose team plays Indiana tonight – joined the club with an admission.



Originally, I thought it was kind of a lopsided trade, but I’m man enough to admit that I was wrong. Indiana has, I think they’re probably the surprise team of the season so far. They’re playing unbelievable. They have that three seed. And both of those players they got in the trade, they’re playing some really, really good basketball. So, obviously, a good trade for both teams.

Me too, Luke. Me too.

George is basically who we thought he was. But Oladipo and Sabonis have taken major steps forward. Sabonis’ growth as a second-year player was more predictable. Oladipo’s breakthrough seemed far less likely – and has carried far larger ramifications.

Oladipo was fine in Oklahoma City and Orlando, but he got into the best shape of his life and developed his outside shooting, particularly off the dribble. He has become a true star, putting up big offensive numbers while remaining a plus defender.

All the credit goes to Oladipo for making it happen and Pacers president Kevin Pritchard for ensuring Indiana reaped the rewards. I bet even Pritchard is surprised by Oladipo’s level of play, but Pritchard bet on Oladipo. Pritchard gets credit for the outcome.

People like Walton and myself eat crow.

Rajon Rondo on Ray Allen’s book: ‘He just wants attention’

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Ray Allen wrote a book that spills a lot of dirt on Rajon Rondo – how Rondo told Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Allen and other Celtics he carried them to the 2008 title, how Rondo clashed with Doc Rivers.

Rondo, via Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:

“He just wants attention,” Rondo said. “I need actually some sales from [the book], only [publicity] it’s been getting is from my name. I need some percentage or something.”

“Obviously, that man is hurting,” Rondo said of Allen. “I don’t know if it’s financially, I don’t know if it’s mentally. He wants to stay relevant. I am who I am. I don’t try to be something I’m not. I can’t say the same for him. He’s looking for attention. I’m a better human being than that. I take accountability for my actions. Certain [stuff] happens in my life, I man up. But he has a whole other agenda.”

“He’s been retired for whatever years, and now he comes out with a book,” Rondo said of Allen. “People do that in that situation they need money. He should have hit me up and asked me for a loan or something. It’s no hard feelings.”

Obviously, Allen wants attention. He’s promoting a book.

But that doesn’t make the stories in the book inaccurate.

Allen and Rondo, now with the Pelicans, have feuded for a while. Neither is completely reliable about the other. Both are too colored by their dislike for each other.

I doubt Rondo knows about Allen’s financial situation. Rondo is just trying to dig at Allen, like Allen dug at Rondo in the book. Famous people write books for many reasons. Financial gain isn’t necessarily Allen’s primary motivation. Allen has a lot of time in retirement.

I’d rather hear Rondo address the book’s claims. He’s extremely forthright, even admitting he’s difficult to coach. He might corroborate the stories involving himself and Rivers. Telling Garnett, Pierce and Allen he led them to the championship? I’d like to know Rondo’s side of that story.