John Wall was glad to get a rare win over Russell Westbrook – as well as coming out on top against his former team – after helping the Houston Rockets prevail against the Washington Wizards.

Wall had 24 points as the Rockets triumphed 107-88 despite the best efforts of his former back-court partner Bradley Beal, who finished with a game-high 33 for the short-handed Wizards.

For Wall, this was his first time going up against the franchise that drafted him with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. The point guard was traded prior to this season, swapping places with Westbrook.

Not for the first time in their careers, the pair exchanged words during Tuesday's contest, leading to both receiving technical fouls.

"Trash talking, that's what two competitive guys do," Wall explained in his post-game interview.

"Russ has been kicking my a** for years - I think this is only my third win against Russ since I've been in the league, so he's a hell of a talent.

"I know he's dealing with injuries the same as I was, we just keep trying to get better and lead our team.

"It's just competitive guys trash talking. This isn't the first time; we've trash talked before. We knew how good he could be."

As for Westbrook, he is looking forward to the opportunity of coming up against Houston again later in the season - Washington will have home advantage when the teams meet on February 15.

The nine-time NBA All-Star contributed 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the defeat at Toyota Center, his former home before the trade that sent him to the Wizards.

"Now listen, I don't start talking s***," Westbrook said. "I defend myself because I don't just allow people to say just anything, especially when I know the facts as it pertains to anybody on the court playing against [me].

"So, I think [they] just started talking s*** because they just started to win, started winning at that time. You know, it's cool, though. We play them again."

Wall, playing restricted minutes as he comes back after two injury plagued years, admits he is having fun with Houston, declaring he is just happy to be on a team where he feels wanted.

Victor Oladipo had 20 points while DeMarcus Cousins contributed 19 as well as 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who are starting afresh following the departure of disgruntled superstar James Harden.

"I haven't played in two years so this is fun," Wall said. "To be somewhere where you're wanted, that's the most important thing.

"I never want to be anywhere where I'm not wanted, and I feel like this organisation wanted me here and they've shown nothing but love and trust for me since day one."

Defeat was particularly tough on Beal, who now has 413 points for the struggling Wizards, who own a 3-10 record in the East. 

The shooting guard is the third player in NBA history to score at least 400 points during his first 12 games but have three or fewer wins. The others were both in 1959-60 - Elgin Baylor and Jack Twyman.

Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook will return from injury to face the San Antonio Spurs in Sunday's clash, the NBA franchise announced.

Westbrook – a blockbuster arrival in a trade with the Houston Rockets in December – has been sidelined for almost two weeks due to a left quadriceps injury.

But the former MVP and nine-time All-Star will suit up for the struggling Wizards (3-8) against the Spurs.

Westbrook is averaging 19.3 points, 11.3 assists and 9.7 rebounds per game in seven appearances for the Wizards this season.

Meanwhile, there has already been speculation the Wizards could trade the 32-year-old Westbrook.

The Wizards continue to struggle despite Westbrook's presence, and they could reportedly part with the guard if he does not impress alongside Bradley Beal.

The Washington Wizards will be without star Russell Westbrook for at least a week due to a left quadriceps injury.

Westbrook will be re-evaluated at the end of the week after suffering repeated contact to the area since the start of the NBA season, the Wizards announced on Monday.

It is a blow for the Wizards, who have slumped to 2-8 amid high expectations following Westbrook's arrival from the Houston Rockets.

Former MVP Westbrook is averaging 19.3 points, 11.3 assists and 9.7 rebounds per game in seven appearances for the Wizards this season.

Westbrook has already made some history since swapping the Rockets for the Wizards in a blockbuster trade.

The nine-time All-Star joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to open a season with four triple-doubles in their first four games.

These are uncertain times for the NBA as it continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 protocols have left rosters lighter in number and, with contract tracing having a major impact, it is far from surprising to see games being postponed.

The absences have offered some players greater opportunities to impress in the embryonic stages of a shortened season that will require adaptability from all involved.

After an eventful week, Stats Perform assesses those performers who have stood out - for good and bad reasons - in games from January 4-10.

 

RUNNING HOT...

Bradley Beal 

It has been a tough start for the Wizards, who are stuck in the basement of the Eastern Conference. Beal, however, has excelled amid the defeats. He is averaging 35 points per game for the season but has been particularly spectacular in recent outings, including dropping 60 against the Philadelphia 76ers. While it set a new career best for points - and tied a franchise record too - Beal made clear he is not interested in personal milestones: "I just want to win. Sometimes you might be able to score 40, 50, 60, whatever the case may be, but I just want to win".

Tyrese Maxey 

The 21st pick in the 2020 draft had scored a combined tally of 52 points through his first nine NBA appearances. Then, amid injuries, positive COVID tests and coronavirus-enforced isolations, Maxey was thrust into a leading role as one of just seven players available against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. His response to the situation was to score 39 points in just under 44 minutes of action, having taken 33 shots but no free throw attempts. In doing so, he became the first 76ers rookie with at least 35 points in a game since franchise legend Allen Iverson in 1997. 

Jimmy Butler 

Butler has begun to heat up after a cold start to the new campaign for Miami. The five-time All-Star had been hampered by injury issues but has looked back to somewhere near his best of late, managing 18, 26 and 26 points in his past three games. Surprisingly, though, Butler is still yet to manage a successful three-point attempt, missing on his seven shots from deep so far. It is a different story from the free-throw line, though, going 28 of 29 from the charity stripe.

LaMelo Ball 

The rise and rise of the youngest Ball brother continues. The point guard became the youngest player in NBA history to score a triple-double as Charlotte Hornets beat the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. At 19 years and 140 days old, Ball had 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. He had narrowly missed out on achieving the feat in his team's previous outing, against a New Orleans Pelicans team that included older sibling Lonzo. His rebounding average has gone from 4.33 a game to 9.25 across the past week. 

GOING COLD...

James Harden  

The NBA's scoring champion for the previous three seasons, Harden is still averaging 26 points per game despite continued doubts over his long-term future in Houston. However, it has not been a particularly productive week for the guard, who has not reached double digits in terms of field goals made in four straight outings. There were 15-point displays against both the Pacers and the Magic, then 20 points in a defeat to the Lakers. Across that stretch, Harden was six for 22 from three-point range. Astonishingly, he did not attempt a solitary free throw against Orlando. 

Trae Young 

To say Young has gone cold from deep recently is an understatement. The Atlanta Hawk landed five of six attempts in the season-opener against the Bulls, but since then has managed just nine successful long-range shots, including going a combined one for 14 in his most recent three appearances. Understandably, then, his average for points per game has dipped from 28.17 on January 3 to 17.67 for the past week.

Russell Westbrook 

A quadriceps injury will keep Westbrook sidelined for at least a week. His early form with the Wizards has been steady, including reaching double digits for points in all of his seven games for the franchise. Where there has been a dip for the former NBA MVP is in rebounding. He was up at 11.20 per game for the season by January 3, but he has averaged 6.00 for the past week following reduced contributions in defeats to the 76ers and the Celtics.

Blake Griffin  

Griffin hit with eight of 16 three-point shots for Detroit against the Cavaliers on December 26, but his output from long range since suggests that number could prove to be a post-Christmas outlier when compared to the rest of the season. In the past week, the 31-year-old has landed two from deep out of 18 tries for the struggling Pistons. His overall field goal percentage is down on his career mark too (37.6 per cent from 49.7 per cent), explaining why he is averaging 13.9 points per game. 

Russell Westbrook, Doc Rivers and Billie Jean King reacted with revulsion to the assault on the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing president Donald Trump, united in the view there would have been a deadlier outcome had the rioters been black people.

On a dark day for the United States, thousands of Trump backers descended on Washington for a protest rally, refusing to accept the result of November's election that saw Joe Biden sweep to power.

Two weeks out from Biden's inauguration, many violent protesters breached security and accessed the Capitol, causing carnage and destruction as they appeared to go largely unchallenged.

There were a number of casualties, with four dead including a woman who was shot, while reports said a number of explosive devices were discovered.

Washington Wizards star Westbrook said: "It's very unfortunate to see. If those roles were reversed, if those were African-Americans, black people, it would be totally different."

He said the chaos was "just crazy, almost like a movie", and team-mate Bradley Beal agreed it was hard to stomach the scenes, given his view that police took a far less lenient approach to protesters during last year's Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

"It's very disheartening in a lot of ways - a lack of sense of urgency to respond to what was going on, versus protesters at Black Lives Matter over the summer," Beal said.

"The people who were invading our Capitol, that's unheard of and it's disheartening this is where we're at as a country."

Veteran Philadelphia 76ers coach Rivers called the insurgency "pretty disturbing" but vowed that "democracy will prevail".

"It shows a lot, though," Rivers said. "When you saw the [Black Lives Matter] protests in the summer, you saw the riots or more the police and the national guard and the army. And then you see this and you saw nothing.

"It basically proves the point about a privileged life in a lot of ways. I'll say it because I don’t think a lot of people want to: could you imagine today if those were all black people storming the Capitol and what would have happened?

"So that to me is a picture that’s worth a thousand words for all of us to see and probably something for us to reckon with again."

Tennis great King, a long-time activist for equality in sport and society, added on Twitter: "If the rioters storming the Capitol building today were Black and Brown people, the police response would be much different."

Footballer Megan Rapinoe became embroiled in a war of words with Trump during USA's triumph at the 2019 Women's World Cup.

Looking at footage of how seemingly easily the protesters were able to break into the Capitol, Rapinoe offered her opinion, writing: "This is crazy, how did they even get through the..... ohhhhh it was opened for them."

Trump had addressed the crowds earlier in the day, forcefully standing by his view that he was fraudulently robbed of an election win.

In the hours after the Capitol was cleared, Congress confirmed Biden's victory.

Richard Sherman, the San Francisco 49ers cornerback, described the rioters as "terrorists".

He wrote on Twitter: "Never thought Americans would let terrorists into the capital without a fight....sad day. There are certain things my brain could never imagine.... and one of them is black ppl storming a government building and taking things without deadly consequences. But that’s just my brain."

It was not just Sherman's brain thinking along those lines, though. Far from it.

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard took the same stance, saying: "You just see the privilege, the privilege in America. "It's sad to see, because if any of us was out there, I think we would've been tear-gassed, Maced, probably gunshots, you know?"

And American track and field legend Michael Johnson said the scenes were only to be expected, given the nature of the Trump presidency.

"The alarms were sounded for four years. Republicans ignored them. Many in the media ignored them and normalized dangerous behavior," Johnson wrote on Twitter.

"Sadly, today it all came to be. Shameful! This president and his supporters. Shame on you! And take responsibility!

"People on Twitter (of course) literally equating BLM protesters fighting for justice and equality to White Supremacist Trump supporters (supposed Patriots) gleefully and violently desecrating America's oldest and greatest institutions of democracy. Sadly, this is typical America."

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