Russell Westbrook and the Los Angeles Clippers entered a mid-season partnership uncertain of what their futures would look like. In just a few short months, it’s become increasingly clear to Paul George and the Clippers needed a player of Westbrook’s caliber if only from a leadership standpoint.
Westbrook has appeared in every game for the Clippers since signing with the team after the trade deadline. He’s become a vocal leader for a team that lacked that form of leadership. Kawhi Leonard has always been a, ‘lead by example’ type of leader while Paul George is more a peripheral leader. Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, has helped keep everyone on track throughout what’s been a rough stretch of the season.
Regardless of whether or not the season ends for the Clippers on Tuesday night, Russell Westbrook has played himself into a much more favorable situation entering free agency. There were a number of suitors for Westbrook when he was initially bought out by the Utah Jazz, and that number could increase this offseason depending on teams cap situations.
Paul George, however, made it very clear he believes Russell Westbrook is the point guard the Clippers need in order to compete for an NBA Championship.
“He’s played himself back into the Russ that he was and that we all knew that he still was,” the Clippers’ star said of Westbrook. “Definitely gonna be some decisions. I definitely vouched for him to be here. I’m definitely vouching for him to come back. 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 and would love to have him back.”
Paul George on Russell Westbrook:
“I’m definitely vouching for him to come back. I just think he brings so much to his team… I just think he’s the leader that we need at the point guard position going forward and would love to have him back.”pic.twitter.com/Ai7e0oAiNM
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 25, 2023
Paul George was the only player to publicly advocate for Russell Westbrook when he was on the verge of becoming available on the buyout market. In a postgame interview on February 10th, George made his feelings public, calling for Westbrook to consider the Clippers as a destination.
“If there’s you know, somebody out there — Russell — you know, if it makes sense and, obviously it goes with our team, we’re all for it. You know, we need a point guard. But you know, in the same, I think we’re good as well. If nothing happened, I think, you know, we got enough in this locker room to be able to make it work but you know, it would definitely improve our team if we had that traditional point guard, you know, to kind of get us in things and make the game easy. So hopefully Russell sees this and, you know, we figure something out.”
“If there is somebody out there — Russell [Westbrook] — if it makes sense and it goes with our team, we’re all for it… Hopefully Russell sees this and we figure something out.”
Paul George on the Clippers adding a traditional point guard pic.twitter.com/vvox3xTTFU
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 11, 2023
It’s no surprise then that George feels somewhat vindicated by his calling for Westbrook.
“Yeah, yeah, I do,” George smirked when asked about his public comments being vindicated. “You know, I do think my GM skills went up a little bit with the addition of Russ.
“But again, I just saw it, I knew playing with him, I knew what he brings. Performance, I knew he was gonna be okay. But, you know, as I told L, it’s the stuff that he does off the court. It’s the stuff that he does in the locker room. That’s just so valuable to a team. And, I mean, I think you’ve seen it, where everybody’s rallying behind him. And it’s reason you know, we’ve been, you know, playing well. The crappy part about it is I’m not out there, Kawhi is not out there to help close games out. But we’re in the games every night. And a lot of – a huge part of that is because of Russ.”
Due to the new CBA agreements, the Clippers all but likely won’t have their taxpayer mid-level exception to offer Westbrook in free agency. It remains to be seen whether Westbrook will accept a minimum contract, but the opportunity to stay home as well as with a team that fit.
Factoring in the ability to compete for a championship, Russell Westbrook and the Clippers continuing partnership might be a no-brainer.
“We’ve just had a short window,” George said. “We’ve seen when we’re at our best with everybody healthy and what we’re capable of. Just a small window of not being able to put it all together at the same time for a long period. But I think it’s enough to go forward and be very optimistic of what we can be in years to come.”
in 21 regular season appearances for the Clippers, Russell Westbrook averaged 15.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per game on 48.9 percent shooting from the field and 35.6 percent from three. Those percentages, over an 82-game season, would be career-highs.
In four playoff games with the Clippers, Westbrook is averaging 26 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game on 46 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent from three.
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