PHOENIX — One of the few bright spots in the Los Angeles Clippers’ early-season exit was the development of Russell Westbrook into a legitimate complementary piece after a struggle to appear serviceable with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Westbrook attempted to carry the Clippers as far as he could without injured stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who both dealt with a sprained right knee. Ultimately, the team fell short in a five-game first-round series against Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns.
In his postgame press conference, however, it became very clear that Russell Westbrook was much happier as a member of the Clippers than he ever was with the Lakers.
“Man, it started off difficult honestly,” Russell Westbrook said when asked to reflect on his season. “I’m so grateful and blessed to end up in a situation where I’m just allowed to be myself, be able to be brought in with open arms, allow me to go out and play and compete. I’m super grateful just for that.
“I’m happy and blessed to be able to finish another season. Not the result that myself or nobody wanted, but just for me personally it’s been a roller coaster mentally, emotionally. Not just for me, but for my family, for my close ones, even my kids, man. It’s a lot of emotions for me honestly.”
Last summer, the nine-time NBA All-Star opted into the final year of his deal and began the season with the Lakers. Within a couple of weeks, it was clear that Westbrook was not a great fit with the Lakers considering the ball-dominant stars already on their team in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the lack of shooting around him, as well as the overall drop-off in athleticism.
Westbrook was traded to the Utah Jazz prior to the trade deadline, allowing the Lakers to reshape their roster and putting his future in jeopardy.
While still a member of the Jazz but reportedly mulling over his decision, Paul George publicly advocated for signing Russell Westbrook. In a postgame interview on Feb. 10, 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.”
Westbrook agreed to join the Los Angeles Clippers shortly after the end of the All-Star break. He arrived to his new team with the understanding that his role would depend on just how well he’d fit in with the rest of the players. The point guard quickly won over a lot of Clippers fans while continuing to displease others.
Without him, however, the Clippers probably don’t reach the NBA Playoffs and certainly aren’t as competitive as the games wound up being.
“Bringing Russ here really, really saved our season as far as making the playoffs, having this run we had in the playoffs,” said head coach Tyronn Lue. “He really saved us. Hats off to Russ for bringing it every single night.”
Clearly, peace of mind is something Westbrook lacked in his previous stints, but especially so with the Lakers.
“Once I got traded,” Russell Westbrook said regarding when the peace of mind really hit him.. “Immediately, to be honest. From that moment, mentally, I was in a better place.”
“Once I got traded. Immediately, to be honest. From that moment, mentally, I was in a better place.”
Russell Westbrook on when he felt like he could be himself again.
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— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 26, 2023
In 21 regular-season appearances for the Clippers, Westbrook averaged 15.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.2 steals on 48.9 percent shooting from the field and 35.6 percent from 3-point range. Those percentages, over an 82-game season, would have been career-high marks.
In five playoff games with the Clippers, he averaged 23.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.2 steals while shooting 41.0 percent shooting overall and 35.7 percent from 3-point range. While he had a couple of shooting clunkers, including 3-of-18 in the season-ending Game 5, Russell Westbrook’s relentless energy all series played a key factor in LA keeping things close without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
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Courtesy : https://clutchpoints.com/clippers-russell-westbrook-reveals-exact-moment-he-felt-like-himself-again-after-lakers-disaster