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Rockets, 76ers finish restart without key players

Thu Aug 13 9:46pm ET

All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook will not only miss the Houston Rockets' final seeding game on Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers, Westbrook will also be unavailable for the start of the Rockets' playoff series against his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to published reports.

Westbrook logged 27 minutes in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, but an MRI exam the following day revealed a quad strain that could potentially sideline him into next week. Westbrook has been ruled out against the 76ers (42-30) in the regular-season finale for both teams in the NBA bubble near Orlando.

The Rockets (44-27) are 8-6 without Westbrook in the starting lineup this season. Houston acquired Westbrook last offseason in part because their former point guard, 10-time All-Star Chris Paul, had a protracted playoff injury history that included a hamstring strain that sidelined Paul for the final two games of the 2018 Western Conference Finals, a series Houston led 3-2 before losing to the Golden State Warriors.

Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said Thursday that Westbrook will be re-evaluated this weekend in advance of the series with the Thunder, which opens Tuesday. Houston has dropped consecutive games following a 4-1 start at the bubble, with its postseason seeding essentially locked in.

"The last two, three games really, in reality, we weren't fighting for anything," D'Antoni said. "We're locked into fourth or fifth which makes no difference so we didn't have the energy that we've had. We're trying to rest guys; Friday will be the same thing. It's more just who needs the work, who needs the rest, reduced minutes if any minutes at all. That's where we are right now."

The Rockets welcomed back guard Eric Gordon in their 108-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. Gordon had been sidelined with an ankle sprain suffered in the final scrimmage in the bubble, and with Westbrook injured, Gordon will play an even more critical role for Houston.

"He didn't look real good but that's normal," D'Antoni said of Gordon, who missed 8 of 9 3-pointers and committed six turnovers over 20 minutes against the Pacers. "We knew that. That's why it was good he played (Wednesday) and he'll play some Friday and then have a couple practices and hopefully get back in rhythm."

Houston has spent the majority of this unusual season attempting to set a regular rotation. But injuries to Gordon and Westbrook, combined with a midseason shift to a small-ball lineup, has undermined that goal. Now, once again, Houston must prepare for an unexpected circumstance.

"We have a good enough team that we should be able to beat a team without someone," Gordon said. "Of course we're going to need Russ, but we've got to be able to be a good enough team to make adjustments and win."

The 76ers are peering into a void of their own with guard Ben Simmons lost for the season following knee surgery. With their playoff opponent set -- Philadelphia will face the Boston Celtics in a first-round Eastern Conference series starting Monday -- the 76ers are likely to rest or limit the minutes of several key contributors Friday. Both Joel Embiid (ankle, hand) and Glenn Robinson III (hip) are listed as questionable.

Philadelphia has labored developing continuity and is pinning its hopes against the Celtics on the chemistry fostered during the league restart in the bubble. Without Simmons, that cohesion will be tested.

"We truly understand that when playoffs come, with our team and our depth, that (chemistry is) going to be needed throughout our run," 76ers forward Tobias Harris said.

It has been a tough week for Embiid. He departed Sunday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers with an ankle injury that forced him to miss Tuesday's contest against the Phoenix Suns.

He returned on Wednesday and lasted just 14 minutes against the Toronto Raptors before injuring his right hand. X-rays were negative.

"I do know it was whacked twice," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said of Embiid's hand injury. "As it relates to what's next, or the evaluation of it, I am sorry, I can't comment on that."

--Field Level Media

Player Notes
Jerami Grant Sep 29 12:20pm ET

Denver Nuggets forward Jerami Grant is expected to opt-out of the final year of his contract. He is set to make $9.4 million next season, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Grant was one of the best players during the Nuggets playoff run, so it's not surprising to see him testing the open market. After Saturday's loss, Grant did express interest in playing with Denver next season. Grant obviously believes he is worth more money, so we'll see if the Nuggets plan on giving it to him. He has significantly raised his fantasy value this season.

John Collins Sep 29 12:20pm ET

Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins made 100 consecutive free throws at the end of Sunday's practice. He has improved his free throw percentage each season in the NBA. Collins hit 71.5 percent as a rookie, 76.3 percent in his second season, and 80.0 percent in 2019-20. He continues to become a better player each and every season. Collins is a fantasy star in the making and will get plenty of looks in the first round of drafts.

Gordon Hayward Sep 29 12:10pm ET

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is expected to accept his player option for next season. The option is worth $34 million, which is much higher than Hayward would receive on the open market. His time in Boston has been disappointing, but injuries have derailed him for most of it. He averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists this season, which is his best season in Boston. He could be someone worth looking at late in drafts next season.

Jayson Tatum Sep 29 12:00pm ET

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is expected to receive a max contract extension from the organization this offseason. This is a no-brainer for the Celtics after the 22-year-old proved himself to be a superstar this season. He averaged 25.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals and 2.8 triples during the playoffs. It appears the Celtics have a superstar forward for the foreseeable future. Expect Tatum to be someone coming off early in the first round of many fantasy draft boards.

Zach LaVine Sep 29 12:00pm ET

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine is excited to begin working with new head coach Billy Donovan. I was extremely happy, LaVine said of the hire. He continued by saying if you want to be great then you need to be coached extremely well. Former head coach Jim Boylen failed to get the most of his young core during his time in Chicago. LaVine is one of many young Bulls players who should benefit from the hiring of Donovan. The Bulls have a legitimate shot at the playoffs with Donovan running the show. Some of these young Bulls players could be climbing up draft boards in fantasy leagues pretty quick.

Victor Oladipo Sep 29 11:50am ET

Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is reportedly looking to play elsewhere after the two sides failed to agree on terms for a contract extension. Oladipo reportedly turned down an offer of four years $80 million as he believes that he is worth more than that. Sadly, Oladipo has not looked the same since his quad injury. He averaged 17.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 39 percent shooting during the playoffs. Oladipo still has one year left on his contract. However, the team is likely going to shop him around if Oladipo plans to walk after next season.

Danny Green Sep 23 5:10pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green (finger) is listed as probable for Thursday's Game 4 versus the Denver Nuggets. He tweaked his left ring finger on his non-shooting hand. Green is fully expected to suit up for this one. He hasn't put together great fantasy value during the playoffs, but has had his moments. Alex Caruso (wrist) and Rajon Rondo might see more minutes if Green does sit out. Fantasy owners should check back for another update closer to tip-off on Thursday.

Mitchell Robinson Sep 23 5:00pm ET

New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has decided to sit out the upcoming voluntary workouts in the bubble. He did go through some individual workouts last week, but has chosen to not attend these events. The workouts start on Wednesday, but Robinson won't participate due to personal reasons. It would've been nice to see Robinson get in some extra work with head coach Tom Thibodeau. However, there is plenty of time for that with the season likely not starting until January. Robinson should have promising upside for fantasy leagues next season.

Buddy Hield Sep 23 5:00pm ET

Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield had a fairly rocky season, but did find some success coming off the bench with the second unit. Kings general manager Monte McNair praised Hield and mentioned that he is an important piece to their vision. Hield didn't seem too happy about playing off the bench, so we'll see if that changes going forward. McNair mentioned that he wants head coach Luke Walton to increase the pace next season. Whether he's starting or off the bench, Hield is worth grabbing in the middle rounds of most drafts next season.

Alex Caruso Sep 23 5:00pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso (wrist) is listed as probable for Thursday's Game 4 contest against the Denver Nuggets. Caruso mentioned that his left wrist felt a little stiff after Tuesday's loss. He'll get an MRI on Wednesday, but Caruso is expected to play through the issue. Fantasy owners should check back for another update before tip-off on Thursday. Rajon Rondo would likely see more minutes coming his way if Caruso sits out.

Dion Waiters Sep 22 5:40pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers guard Dion Waiters (groin) is expected to miss Tuesday's Game 3 contest against the Denver Nuggets. Waiters has missed each of the last five games due to a left groin injury. He is currently listed as doubtful for this game, so it's unlikely that he suits up here. His absence won't mean a whole lot for the Lakers rotation. Alex Caruso and Rajon Rondo could see a few extra minutes coming their way.

JJ Redick Sep 22 5:30pm ET

New Orleans Pelicans guard J.J. Redick mentioned that he'd like to play another four years in the league. "I realized this year I want to keep playing as long as possible. My goal is to play four more years," said Redick. He'll walk away from the game when he turns 40 years old, assuming his body can hold up until then. It's not unrealistic to think that Redick can play four more seasons after averaging 15.3 points this season. He has one year left on his current deal with the Pelicans. Redick usually carries some low-end fantasy value, assuming he continues to play like he did this season.

Tristan Thompson Sep 22 5:30pm ET

Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson has shown interest in staying with the organization next season. It sounds like there is mutual interest between both sides, but it's unclear if a deal will happen. Bringing back Thompson wouldn't make much sense if Andre Drummond accepts his player option, which he is expected to do. Thompson might be forced to test his luck on the free agent market. He won't have much value in fantasy hoops if stays in Cleveland alongside Drummond.

Romeo Langford Sep 22 5:20pm ET

Boston Celtics guard Romeo Langford (wrist) is scheduled to undergo surgery on Tuesday and will miss the rest of the postseason. He'll undergo surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament in his right wrist. The Celtics have not given a timetable for the young guards return yet. However, the season isn't expected to start until around December, so Langford should have plenty of time to recover. His absence won't mean much for the Celtics rotation. Hopefully he'll be able to contribute to the team next season.

Paul George Sep 21 4:10pm ET

Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George and forward Kawhi Leonard are committed to playing alongside each other. Both players have one year left on their deals, but have player options for the following season. Obviously, they didn't get the result they wanted this season, but they'll have another shot at it soon. The Clippers are desperate to make this core work after trading seven first-rounders and a future star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for George. Both players should remain top tier fantasy options in leagues next season.

Will Barton Sep 21 2:30pm ET

Denver Nuggets guard/forward Will Barton (knee) is not expected to return to the team at any point of the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The 29-year-old has not appeared in a game since the NBA restart in Orlando as he continues to rehabilitate from a knee injury that he suffered earlier in the season. With the Nuggets two games away from elimination in the Western Conference Finals, Barton's next game action will likely be delayed to the start of the 2020-21 season after averaging 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.1 steals on 45% shooting from field goal range through 58 games during the 2019-20 season.

Dylan Windler Sep 20 12:50pm ET

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dylan Windler (leg) is ready to participate in 5-on-5 workouts. He was a first round pick by the Cavs in 2019, but didn't play in a single game for the team. Windler suffered a leg injury that resulted in surgery, which cost him the entire season. It sounds like he is making progress and getting ready for next year. However, he'll face an uphill battle for minutes after the emergence of Kevin Porter Jr. towards the end of the regular season. Windler could find some minutes in Cleveland next season, but probably won't play enough to warrant drafting in most formats.

Davis Bertans Sep 16 4:30pm ET

Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans decided to sit out the Orlando bubble in order to preserve his health for free agency. Bertans is an upcoming free agent and the Wizards had a slim chance of making the playoffs. He didn't believe it was worth the risk after not playing basketball for almost two months. Bertans sitting out shouldn't hinder his value whatsoever on the free agent market. He'll be a highly coveted player, but the Wizards are likely going to be aggressive to keep him in Washington.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Sep 15 5:40pm ET

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had a three-hour meeting with co-owner Marc Lasry on Saturday. They reportedly discussed the season and how the Bucks can improve their roster. Lasry confirmed that he is willing to go over the luxury tax this offseason. It sounds like the Bucks are trying everything to keep Antetokounmpo happy in Milwaukee. We'll see what happens during the offseason.

Gordon Hayward Sep 15 5:40pm ET

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (ankle) has been ruled out for Tuesday's Game 1 against the Miami Heat. He was listed as doubtful, but it appears Hayward will remain sidelined for this one. Hayward is likely going to need to go through a full practice before being allowed back on the court. The team is hopeful that Hayward will be able to play at some point during this series. It's unclear whether or not he'll be limited when he does return. Fantasy owners should keep an eye out for updates. In the meantime, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart will benefit with increased playing time.