Welcome back to the NBA Star Index -- a weekly gauge of the players who are most controlling the buzz around the league. Reminder: Inclusion on this list isn't necessarily a good thing. It simply means that you're capturing the NBA world's attention. Also, this is not a ranking. The players listed are in no particular order as it pertains to the buzz they're generating. This column will run every week through the end of the regular season.
Russell Westbrook returned to OKC for the first time since being traded to Houston, and it didn't go terribly well. Personally, Westbrook played great with 34 points and got a from the fans before tipoff, but Houston got housed 113-92 in large part because Chris Paul (who we'll get to in a second, and who of course was traded for Westbrook) put on yet another clinic.
Let's not make too much of the loss, though. The Rockets have still won 12 of their past 15, and Westbrook has scored 20 or more points in each of the past 13 games on pretty decent efficiency. There are a lot of high-volume games in there, but he's eclipsed the 50-percent shooting mark in six of those 13 games.
As mentioned, Paul and the Thunder ruined Westbrook's homecoming with another dazzling performance. The Thunder have now won 11 of the past 13, and Paul is on a revenge tour against anyone and everyone who suggested he was done.
Paul had 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals on Thursday, and he saved a little something special, a message of sorts, at the end for the Rockets, who were so eager to get rid of him this past summer that they included two first-round picks and two future pick swaps in the deal with OKC.
Yep, that's a nutmeg midway through the fourth quarter with the Thunder up 24, and yes, that's a wave-off by Paul afterward. The man has a right to gloat. He's been nothing short of masterful this season, and the Thunder are streaking toward a playoff berth.
While Paul was upstaging Westbrook's Rockets on the court in OKC, Westbrook's old teammate Kevin Durant was stealing his Thunder -- you see what I did there? -- off the court, .
It started when Kendrick Perkins teased a scorching-hot take that he planned to share during a later appearance on SportsCenter, saying that Westbrook, not Durant, is the greatest player to ever wear a Thunder uniform. This is the very definition of insanity. Durant is so much better than Westbrook it's hard to put into words, and that's not a knock on Westbrook. Durant is in the upper-most tier of all-time legends.
But Perk made the claim anyway, which prompted Marc D'Amico -- manager of the Celtics' official team content, per his Twitter bio -- to respond by citing Westbrook's playoff shortcomings in the wake of Durant's departure, which in turn prompted Perk to remind everyone that Durant, too, lost in the second round of the playoffs the one year he played without Westbrook in OKC.
That's when Durant got involved.
Then back came Perkins:
Boy stop you did the weakest move in NBA History!!! Up on a team 3-1 in the western conference finals and then go join them the following season?! Heart of Champion right there— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 10, 2020
The back came Durant:
Weak is starting at center, playing real minutes with no production. Should’ve worked on your skills as much as I did— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) January 10, 2020
The back came Perk:
That’s fine!!! You worked that hard and still had to go join a 73-9 team. Truth be told you don’t even feel like a real Champ, you have hard time sleeping at night huh knowing that you took the coward way out!!!— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 10, 2020
And, well, you get the picture. I don't know how personal these guys take things like this, maybe it's just all fun and games, but it sure doesn't seem like that. Durant loves him some Twitter beefs and Perkins is already a known hot-take chemist, but this went to another level. One thing's for sure: It was certainly fun for everyone who was following the feud. Keep it going, gentlemen!
More beefing, this time on the court. Well, then in the locker room too. Long story short, Jimmy Butler who took on the entire Minnesota Timberwolves squad during a now infamous practice when he whipped up on the Wolves' starters with a bunch of third-stringers. Have a look:, the two came face to face, and shortly thereafter I feel like we got a glimpse of the
Here are Butler's comments after the game:
The NBA, man. The actual basketball is only half the fun.
First the Lakers on Tuesday, which he turned down. This sounds like a bigger deal than it is. Davis was never going to sign an extension before hitting free agency this summer, when he'll be eligible for a five-year. $202 million deal. It's just a financial decision. And a smart one. It doesn't mean that Davis has any intention of leaving the Lakers.
Later that night, Knicks.in the third quarter of the Lakers' win over the
Fortunately for Davis and the Lakers, the MRI came back clean and Davis was officially diagnosed with a gluteus maximus contusion, which means he bruised his backside pretty badly. He's expected to travel with the team on their upcoming two-game road trip to Dallas and Oklahoma City, and should be fine with some rest. But this was a certainly a LeBron James and Davis to the playoffs healthy.for the Lakers that their No. 1 priority needs to be getting
Another entry on the Star Index for the wrong reasons, Embiid ison a torn ligament in his left hand, and he's out indefinitely. Suffice it to say, this didn't look good from the start:
The Sixers notched a big-time win in Embiid's absence on Thursday, defeating the Celtics 109-98 to move to 25-14 on the season and 18-2 at home. However long Embiid is out, this will be a big stretch for the Sixers as they try to tread water in the East.
The good news is Trae Young hung 42 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists on the Rockets on Wednesday. The bad news is James Harden basically matched him with 41 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds as they became the first players in NBA history to each drop 40-point triple-doubles in the same game ... and the Rockets won.
Young's game is so nasty:
The hawks better figure out a way to put a competitive roster around this guy, because not only would it be a waste of a truly special talent to let Young keep languishing on a bad team, but to think about him potentially leaving the Hawks after his rookie deal expires, after they traded Luka Doncic to get him, is the stuff of nightmares in the Atlanta front office.
Chances are, that's not going to happen. First-contract stars up for max extensions pretty much never leave their incumbent teams, which can offer them significantly more money than anyone else. But it's still always a threat, and Young would have the whole league chasing him, even if his defense is as terrible as his offense is historic.