PLAYA VISTA, CA – The Los Angeles Clippers officially announced the signing of Russell Westbrook on Wednesday night. The nine-time NBA All-Star joins the team led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for a championship run.
“I’m super excited, man,” Russell Westbrook said. “I’m just excited to get back to playing. I love to play basketball and I just have a lot of fun while doing it. I get to stay home, see the wife and the kids and take them to school in the morning that’s a big part of my day and you know, nothing more important than that. And I’m happy to be here.”
I asked Russell Westbrook about how excited he looks to join the Clippers:
“I’m super excited. I love to play basketball. Not just that, but love to have fun while doing it.”
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 23, 2023
Paul George was a staunch advocate for the Clippers to sign Russell Westbrook after the NBA’s trade deadline sent his former teammate to the Utah Jazz. The duo played two years together with the Oklahoma City Thunder, where George had the best season of his career, finishing third in MVP voting.
“I just think we in particular, we got enough shooting to surround Russ where Russ can be Russ, and I think the floor will be open for him, spacing will be there for him,” Paul George said of Russell Westbrook’s fit with the Clippers. “I’m a big believer in and fan of what Russ’s work is, you know, having one of my best seasons in my career alongside of him. I’ve seen what he can do, night in, night out and I think he’s still got a lot of game there. And so I’m biased, you know, when it comes to Russ and I really think he can improve the team. He’s such a big talent. He rebounds, he finds guys, he makes the game easy for everyone and, I mean, I think he’ll come and he’ll mesh. I think he’ll come and he’ll mesh and, and he’ll figure out how we play and he’ll adjust to it.”
Russell Westbrook heard the messages from Paul George, Marcus Morris, and Nicolas Batum advocating for his joining the Clippers if he secured a buyout from the Utah Jazz.
“I think that’s a huge part, man,” Westbrook continued. “For anybody, for any normal human being in any situation in the workplace is somebody that a lot of teammates and people that want you hear it’s very important to me. I value that a lot. Just I’ve been in this league a long time and being somewhere that people want you and they embrace you and that meant a lot to me.”
The love George has for Westbrook, however, goes beyond just the two years they had together in Oklahoma City. Paul George believes Russell Westbrook deserves respect
“I’m always a huge Russell supporter,” Paul George said earlier this saeson. “I won’t undermine the great moments we had in Oklahoma. He was tremendous for my career. Honestly, I don’t get the shade or the hate or the stuff that’s thrown at him. He’s one of the best players to ever play this game.”
Westbrook joins the Clippers after two relatively unsuccessful years with the crosstown rival Los Angeles Lakers. Westbrook struggled to find a consistent role under both head coaches Frank Vogel and Darvin Ham. One of the Westbrook’s strong suits is his availability, something that both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have struggled with over the last few years.
In addition to that, Westbrook feels he’s a good fit for the Clippers because the weapons already in place around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
“I think just the way the team is built, how they play, I think for me it’s just find my way to be able to help other guys is something I truly embrace and that’s what I will do to make sure I can make the game easy for all these guys that are here. Find out their spots, what they like, what they don’t like, and that’s gonna be a process of me but I’m ready for the challenge and looking forward to it.”
“We want Russ to be Russ. If he’s doing too much or not enough, I’ll let him know. We want him to be the MVP, the Hall of Famer that he is. We just gotta make sure it’s in the confines of our team… He’s excited, he just wants to win.”
– Tyronn Lue on Russ
(via @TomerAzarly) pic.twitter.com/Z5ODajrLhr
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 23, 2023
Tyronn Lue says he plans to just, ‘let Russ be Russ,’ with the Clippers, but wouldn’t say if he views him as a starter or not.
“Just doing what he does,” Lue said of his strategy for using Westbrook. “I think we want to Russ to be Russ. And so if he’s doing too much, or not enough, I’ll let him know. But we wanted him to be the player that he is, you know, the MVP, the Hall of Famer, everything he brings every single night. And so we want him to be that person, that player. Then we just got to make sure that it’s in the confines of our team and what we’re trying to do team wise. So I’m just talking to him about those expectations, and what we want to do. I’m excited. He just wants to win. When you have a Hall of Fame player that was willing to come off the bench with the Lakers and try something different to help the team win, that means a lot. Just showed you about how much he wants to win. So we’re just excited.”
The Clippers will play their first game after the All-Star break on Friday night against the Sacramento Kings. It remains to be seen how much Russell Westbrook will be used, but there certainly appears to be a sizable role on the horizon for the former MVP and nine-time NBA All-Star.