PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- As Bones Hyland was completing his post-practice workout on Thursday, Russell Westbrook walked by in his new blue LA Clippers jersey.
The addition of Westbrook, the former MVP point guard, has left some uncertainty surrounding Hyland's role and minutes moving forward with his new team as the Clippers return to the floor on Friday night against Sacramento. But Hyland says he is "not stressing about it" after Clippers coach Ty Lue sat down and talked to him this week.
"T-Lue, man, I respect him," Hyland, a second-year guard, told ESPN on Thursday. "I understand he has a good plan for me. I know he's not just going to leave me in a desert, man, just by myself. ... The first thing he did [after the Westbrook signing] was call me over and talk to me one-on-one. That's something I respect about Ty Lue."
Communication is something that Hyland says was missing in Denver this season as his role dwindled. In a Jan. 22 loss to Oklahoma City, he left the team bench in frustration in the fourth quarter and later was inactive for five straight games before being dealt to the Clippers for two second-round picks.
Hyland, the 26th overall pick in the 2021 draft, returns to Denver on Sunday for the first time since the trade deadline deal when the Clippers and Nuggets meet. He described both the Nuggets and Clippers as "great organizations," but he said he was ecstatic to be traded to the Clippers and remains in the dark over what led to his diminished role in Denver. This was supposed to be a promising year for him after starting point guard Monte Morris was traded to Washington in July.
"Who knows? Don't know, man," Hyland told ESPN when asked what happened to his role in Denver. "I feel like it's just miscommunication. We all thought the same thing [after the Morris trade] -- it would be more opportunity, more minutes for myself. ... But it just changed up so fast. It's hard to put it in words because I'm so lost like everybody else."
After averaging 10.1 points and 19.0 minutes as a rookie, Hyland averaged 12.1 points in 19.5 minutes per game this season in 42 games for the Nuggets.
"Man, I just didn't like how everything went down over there," Hyland said. "Honestly. Just felt like I [was] just being treated worse than I was my rookie [season], and I felt like I was playing way better than my rookie [season]. I felt like s--- just [hit me] from [the] blindside."
Hyland, 22, will be the first to admit he let his emotions get the best of him when he left the Nuggets' bench on Jan. 22.
The Denver Post reported that the Nuggets punished Hyland by having him fly commercial and joining the team in New Orleans for a three-game road swing. Hyland called that frustrating moment a learning experience.
"I'm a very emotional type of player," Hyland said. "I'm a very emotional kid, but I love very hard. And I feel like it's been miscommunication and I just feel like I'm just being pushed [and] kicked to the curb. Like, damn, bro. Just let me know what's going on.
"I grew up rough [in Delaware]. I can take hard criticism, hard coaching and stuff like that. I can take that, bro. Just keep it 100 with me. But I got none of that over there. ... It just came out of nowhere."
Denver head coach Michael Malone recently spoke about how important relationships are with his players when asked by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski about his relationship with Nuggets MVP Nikola Jokic.
"My father taught me a long time ago," Malone said on "The Woj Pod." "As a coach you have to know X's and O's. You got to be able to draw up a play at the end of game, you have to be able to make adjustments to your defensive game plan. ... But like Tony La Russa would always say, if you don't have the relationships, none of that matters. Whether it is Nikola or Jamal [Murray] or Michael Porter or anybody else on our roster, one through 17, I think those relationships matter."
While some have speculated about Hyland's relationship with Murray on social media, Hyland said he and Murray have texted since the trade and that he isn't at odds with his former teammates.
"I feel like it ended good," Hyland said of his relationship with Murray. "Like a lot of people thought me and Jamal and a lot of players were beefing. But we were just laughing at everything that was going down. Everybody felt like they knew what was going on. They didn't know anything. We laughing at all the [social media] comments that was going on. We were talking in the locker room, seeing them every day.
"But there was a point in time where I had to come out and say something. Because we're not going to keep doing this and trying to paint me like I'm a villain, like I'm just beefing with my teammates. That's not me, bro. It's not what's going on."
Hyland said he isn't sure what will happen with his minutes now with Westbrook slated to make his Clippers debut on Friday. Hyland averaged 7.5 points in 16 minutes per game in his first two contests with the Clippers.
"He is good," Lue said after sitting down with Hyland. "Just talking to him and keeping him positive, making sure that he's ready to go and we're going to see what it looks like. He handled it well. Only two games, but I love what he brings to this team. It's not over for him, so I just told him to be ready."
Hyland said he would love to play at Denver in a game that he says will be emotional for him.
"Whether they chant or they don't, it's always love on my end," Hyland said of the Nuggets fans. "It'll be a lot of emotions.
"I know, like, I love Mile High City, so I hope it's love on that end, too."
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