Boylen on Westbrook flap with fan: 'We've got to protect the guys'

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook gets into a heated verbal altercation with a fan in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Monday, March 11, 2019, in Salt Lake City.

    Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook gets into a heated verbal altercation with a fan in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Monday, March 11, 2019, in Salt Lake City. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/12/2019 7:43 PM

The talk of the NBA after Monday's slate of games was the verbal altercation between Russell Westbrook and a fan seated near the Oklahoma City bench in Salt Lake City.

Westbrook was caught on video threatening a fan and his wife. The Utah Jazz released a statement Tuesday saying the fan involved has been permanently banned from the arena.

 

Before Tuesday's game at the United Center, both coaches weighed in on the situation.

"They (the players) are our greatest asset, so I'm sure they'll figure it out," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "We've got to protect the guys. It's their league, they're our biggest asset. From what I know about Russell Westbrook, he's a worker. He cares about the game. He was MVP of the league. I've heard he has a great heart.

"I've been in those situations. Back in the day (as a Rockets assistant) when Vernon Maxwell had an altercation with a fan in Portland, that's not good. I'm sure they'll figure it out."

Boylen was head coach at the University of Utah for five seasons, so he's been a Salt Lake City resident. Lakers coach Luke Walton is also close to the situation, playing in the Western Conference.

"The NBA, they do a pretty good job of taking care of everyone in their family," Walton said. "Tolerance and acceptance is a huge thing and there are times when fans cross the line. I think the safety and the respect should always be the No. 1 thing."

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Walton mutes the noise:

The Lakers are way behind in the playoff race with 16 games left in the regular season. This is certainly not what they had in mind when they added LeBron James last summer, holding the same record (30-36) after 66 games as they did last season.

Before the game, coach Luke Walton was asked for his reaction if he had been told of the Lakers' lack of progress last summer.

"I would have assumed that we got hit with a lot of injuries," Walton said. "If you told me we were healthy and had that, I would have said there's something wrong. It's where we're at right now as a group and it's our job to come out and give everything we can to get better and win what games we do have left."

The Lakers have had plenty of injuries, from losing James for five weeks with a groin strain to now Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball done for the year.

There was been plenty of harsh reaction to the Lakers' plight, but the team was clearly saving cap room for another potential big move this summer. Whether Walton is still the coach by then is anyone's guess.

"I'm fine," Walton said. "We talked about before this season even started, there's going to be outside noise all year long. Some will be about me, some will be about the players, some will be about the front office, and our job, if we're going to be a team, is to ignore all that. That's what I preach, so I try to live that."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

LaVine shows progress:

Zach LaVine missed his second straight game Tuesday with a sore right knee, but Bulls coach Jim Boylen felt good about where LaVine is at.

"I'm optimistic. I'm not eyeing a return date, but I'm optimistic," Boylen said. "He was bright-eyed today. His eyes looked better like he had more confidence in that thing's getting better. Our training and medical staff is optimistic.

"He wants to play. He was in a nice groove, a nice rhythm. I think he wants to get back at it. He's done his treatment. He's been in early and he's stayed after. So he's done his stuff. So he'll be back. When you're 24, you heal pretty quick most of the time. I used to anyways."

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