The Clippers’ dynamic during the 2022-2023 NBA season took an unexpected turn when Russell Westbrook joined the team in February. The move was met with skepticism, but Clippers coach Tyronn Lue believed Westbrook was a valuable addition to the roster. Here’s what you need to know about this intriguing partnership.
Westbrook’s Impact on Clippers’ Practice Intensity
Amidst concerns about the Clippers’ inconsistent regular-season performance, Westbrook’s arrival injected a dose of intensity into the team’s practice sessions. Despite being one of the NBA’s oldest rosters, the Clippers practiced harder than expected, and Coach Lue attributed this change to Westbrook’s leadership.
Lue stated, "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 Relentless Effort and Impact
One of the initial concerns surrounding Westbrook’s arrival was his consistency in effort and availability. However, Westbrook silenced doubters by consistently playing hard and maintaining high energy levels throughout his brief tenure with the Clippers.
Lue acknowledged Westbrook’s contribution, saying, "He really saved us. Hats off to Russ for bringing it every single night."
Westbrook’s impact extended beyond motivation; his performance on the court improved significantly. His shooting numbers, especially in the midrange game, saw notable increases. Notably, he improved his shooting percentage on shots between three-10 feet by 17 percentage points and between 10-16 feet by 15 percentage points.
Contract Considerations and Player Support
While the Clippers are eager to retain Westbrook, contract limitations might come into play. With the team lacking Westbrook’s Bird rights, their offer is restricted to the minimum salary, projected at around $3.8 million. Lue expressed his desire to have Westbrook back, and teammate Paul George also vouched for Westbrook’s return, emphasizing his leadership and dedication.
George stated, "I just think he’s the leader that we need at the point guard position going forward."
Adaptability and Value
Westbrook’s willingness to adapt to changing circumstances became evident during the playoffs when both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were sidelined due to injuries. He stepped up as a top scoring option and averaged 23.6 points, his highest postseason average in five years. Even in challenging situations, Westbrook’s field-goal percentage remained commendable.
Besides on-court performance, Westbrook appreciated the positive atmosphere within the Clippers organization. He noted, "A happy and enjoyable environment is something that you don’t see everywhere."
The success of the Westbrook-Clippers partnership has raised hopes for the future. Westbrook’s remarkable impact on and off the court has left both sides interested in continuing the collaboration. As an unrestricted free agent, Westbrook’s decision in July will determine if this exciting partnership will continue to flourish.
In conclusion, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue’s belief that Russell Westbrook is a perfect fit proved to be well-founded. Westbrook’s leadership, intensity, and adaptability breathed new life into the Clippers’ season, and his future with the team remains a subject of anticipation as the offseason approaches.
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