James Harden, P.J. Tucker arrive in Clippers locker room before win over Magic

James Harden looks on.
James Harden looks on during a basketball game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers.
(Chris Szagola / Associated Press)
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When All-Star guard James Harden and P.J. Tucker entered the Arena, they were met by Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, and soon Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was embracing both of his new players.

Harden then eased his way into the Clippers’ locker room Tuesday wearing a white hoodie and white shorts, a smile on his face, shaking hands with reporters he passed by a few hours before the Clippers defeated the Orlando Magic 118-102.

A reporter asked whether Harden was excited to have been traded to the Clippers late Monday night, a trade that actually hasn’t become official yet.


“You don’t understand,” Harden said.

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Oct. 31, 2023

Harden had forced his way out of Philadelphia and was joined by Tucker, the two of them coming here in exchange for Nicolos Batum, Marcus Morris Sr., Robert Covington, Kenyon Martin Jr. and a slew of future draft picks.

Before the game, Clippers coach Ty Lue was unable to talk about the trade because it had not become official.

And even if it does late Tuesday or early Wednesday, Harden and Tucker were not expected to play against the Lakers on Wednesday night in the back-to-back affair.

Westbrook seemed to be enjoying the moment the most, cracking jokes with Harden, the two former teammates in Oklahoma City and Houston coming alive in the other’s presence.

Clippers forward Paul George drives to the basket against the Orlando Magic.
Clippers forward Paul George drives to the basket against the Orlando Magic during the third quarter at Arena.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

“You all right?” Westbrook said to Harden.

Westbrook then smiled and said to Harden, ”Stay on that side.”

“Stay here?” Harden responded, smiling.

“You know where you at?” Westbrook said, still joking with Harden.

A few seconds later, Harden walked toward Westbrook anyway and the two embraced.

Next, Tucker walked over Westbrook and the two of them also embraced.

It wasn’t long before Westbrook, Paul George, Harden and Tucker were all sitting next to each other in the locker room, obviously excited about what the future holds for the Clippers as they seek the franchise’s first-ever NBA championship.


James Harden, who led the NBA in assists last season, is the right player at the right time for the Clippers as they push to win a championship.

Oct. 31, 2023

Paul gave his new teammates a glimpse of what he is going to offer to the cause by scoring 27 points on eight-for-17 shooting, six-for-nine on three-pointers.

Westbrook showed his former teammates what’s in store with 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

And then he stuck with the company line while talking about Harden and Tucker visiting the locker room.

“Right now, James and PJ are off limits,” Westbrook said, smiling. “I got nothing for you until it’s official. James and PJ are off limits.”

Though he couldn’t say anything about Harden and Tucker, Westbrook was reminded that he was smiling when he started off his postgame news conference.

So, he was asked whether that meant he was happy with his two new teammates.

“Yeah. Yeah,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I be? Definitely, definitely happy.”

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Oct. 23, 2023

Westbrook was even willing to discuss why he looks happier since joining the Clippers after a tumultuous time playing for the Lakers, the team he will face Wednesday night.


The Lakers traded him to the Jazz last season because it just wasn’t working out for the two. The Jazz bought Westbrook out and he joined the Clippers last season.

What has changed with the Clippers that wasn’t with the Lakers?

“Long list, but we don’t have enough time for that today,” Westbrook said. “But honestly, man, I think, one, I’m just — and I know I reiterated this — but I’m very grateful for an opportunity and a team that wanted me during the tough times. Just overall for myself and basketball-wise being able to come to a spot where I was embraced and felt welcomed. From then, I had told myself that I will give like I’ve always done, give everything I have and be the best I can possibly be.

“This game is supposed to be fun. That’s who I am. That’s the energy I bring. That’s the game that I’ve grown to love since I was little, and that joy to me is what makes me who I am.”