In a season filled with ups and downs for the Los Angeles Clippers, one of the most remarkable and unexpected stories emerged in the form of Russell Westbrook’s impact on the team. As Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ top basketball executive, expressed his disappointment with the team’s lack of regular-season intensity, it became clear that Westbrook had played a pivotal role in changing the team’s dynamic.
Westbrook’s Practice Prowess
After a grueling stretch of playing 61 games before the All-Star break, the Clippers had an opportunity for something unusual in the NBA – practice time. Coach Tyronn Lue was pleasantly surprised by the intensity of these practices, and he credited Russell Westbrook for leading the charge. Despite being part of one of the NBA’s oldest rosters, Westbrook’s relentless work ethic inspired the team to practice harder than expected.
Lue noted, "I credit Russ for a lot of that because you wouldn’t get a veteran team like this to practice as hard as we did in March but for those six, seven practices we had. We went hard. And so he led that charge as far as just getting everybody going, doing it full speed."
Westbrook’s Consistency and Effort
One of the lingering questions when Westbrook joined the Clippers was whether he could maintain a high level of effort consistently. Westbrook not only answered those doubts but also earned the respect of his teammates by consistently playing hard. He brought an energy and spirit to the team that was sorely needed.
Coach Lue acknowledged Westbrook’s impact, stating, "He really saved us. Hats off to Russ for bringing it every single night."
On-Court Performance Improvement
Westbrook’s contributions extended beyond his leadership and work ethic. His on-court performance significantly improved during his tenure with the Clippers. His shooting numbers, particularly in the midrange, showed remarkable growth. He boosted his midrange shooting percentage by 17 percentage points between three to ten feet and by 15 percentage points between ten to sixteen feet.
Free Agency Dilemma
Looking ahead, the Clippers face a dilemma as Westbrook approaches free agency. While both sides have expressed their desire to continue the partnership, financial constraints may pose a challenge. The Clippers do not possess Westbrook’s Bird rights, limiting their ability to offer him a substantial contract. It is projected that they can offer him around $3.8 million, significantly less than what Westbrook might command elsewhere.
Coach Lue is unequivocal about his desire to retain Westbrook, saying, "This has opened eyes for a lot of the teams, give him an opportunity if he can go out there and really get paid. But I want him back, for sure."
Westbrook’s impact isn’t lost on his teammates either. Paul George, who vocally supported Westbrook’s addition to the team, sees him as the ideal leader for the Clippers. George emphasized, "I just think he brings so much to his team, and I mean it’s amazing to watch him. He’s older than me and he’s putting his body on the line. He’s giving literally everything he’s got to our franchise during this playoff run. So I just think he’s the leader that we need at the point guard position going forward."
Adaptation and Valued Contributor
As the season progressed, Westbrook demonstrated remarkable adaptability. With stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sidelined due to injuries during the playoffs, he had to step up as a top scoring option. Westbrook averaged 23.6 points, his highest postseason average in five years.
Moreover, his sense of being valued within the Clippers’ organization stood in stark contrast to his tumultuous start of the season with the Lakers. Westbrook was impressed by the team’s positive atmosphere, stating, "A happy and enjoyable environment is something that you don’t see everywhere. Happy to come to work, being around people that actually enjoy their job, enjoy what they’re doing."
A Decision Awaits
As the NBA offseason approaches, the question on everyone’s mind is whether Russell Westbrook will remain a Clipper. His energy, leadership, and performance have left an indelible mark on the team. However, the financial realities of the NBA may complicate the Clippers’ efforts to keep him in Los Angeles. The decision regarding Westbrook’s future with the Clippers will be revealed in July.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue believes that Russell Westbrook is not just a valuable asset but a vital component of the team’s future success. Westbrook’s impact on and off the court has reshaped the Clippers’ narrative, leaving fans eagerly awaiting news of his next move in the basketball world.
Relevant Matters Worth Exploring
Will Russell Westbrook help the Clippers win a championship?
The Los Angeles Clippers have pinned their championship hopes on Russell Westbrook, their recently acquired point guard. However, head coach Tyronn Lue isn’t burdening the veteran with excessive expectations. He emphasized, "We want Russ to be Russ." Lue’s approach is clear: allowing Westbrook to play his game without undue pressure. He added, "If he’s doing too much or not enough, we’ll let him know." This balanced perspective reflects the Clippers’ strategy, aiming to harness Westbrook’s skills while maintaining flexibility in their championship pursuit.
Why did the Clippers promote Mike Lue in 2020?
In 2020, the Clippers made the decision to promote Tyronn Lue over other candidates, such as future Lakers coach Darvin Ham and future Sacramento coach Mike Brown. Their choice was based on the belief that Lue was the most suitable candidate to lead a team with two superstars and championship aspirations. Importantly, this conviction in Lue’s abilities has remained unchanged.
Who is Russell Westbrook?
Who is Russell Westbrook? Russell Westbrook is set to make his debut for the LA Clippers this week, marking his fifth NBA team in his career. The possibility of his first appearance with the Clippers is scheduled for Friday night, as they face the Sacramento Kings at home. Westbrook’s journey to the Clippers began with a trade, as he was moved from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Utah Jazz in a three-team trade that also involved the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Do the Clippers have a player-run retreat?
Do the Clippers have a player-run retreat? Indeed, like many other teams, the Clippers have organized informal player-run retreats in the past, with one such instance being their gathering in San Diego last August. However, what sets this apart is their recent experience in Vegas. Center Mason Plumlee, as the Clippers kicked off their training camp, expressed his admiration for Russell Westbrook’s role as an exceptional host during their time in Vegas, making it a unique and memorable event for the team.