A team rarely makes a major addition on the buyout market and their betting odds of winning the championship get longer, yet that’s what happened when the Clippers added Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook brings skills the Clippers could use — he pushes the pace as a point guard, he can find open shooters, and he can still penetrate and get to the rim against nearly any defender — but the negatives of his lack of outside shooting, defense, and the fact he needs the ball in his hands to be effective didn’t seem a natural fit with his new Los Angeles team. Just like they weren’t with his old Los Angeles team.
Why did the Clippers bring Westbrook in? Here is what Clippers head of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said at the press conference introducing Westbrook:
“Russ is one the most explosive and intense competitors in the league, and we think that the many strengths he has will augment and really help our team…” Frank said.
“Russ’ strengths in terms of the force, the intensity, the rim pressure, the ability to get downhill, just his general style of play and just who he is we felt that those strengths can also help our team.”
The Clippers are not the first team to picture those strengths, with Westbrook being disciplined within their system, and envision a strong addition. But Westbrook doesn’t always color within the lines — for every drive that breaks down the defense, there is a long jumper where he is left wide open by the defense for a reason.
Frank and the other Clippers brass talked about wanting “Russ to be Russ,” something the Lakers said verbatim. For Darvin Ham and the Lakers that meant ultimately moving him into a sixth-man role and largely staggering his minutes with LeBron James. There has been talk of the Clippers starting Westbrook and moving Terance Mann to the bench, but that decision is ultimately Tyronn Lue’s, and the Clippers let Westbrook know everything was on the table.
“We had really upfront, honest dialogue,” Frank said. “Not just internally but also with Russ and his agent, Jeff Schwartz. I thought it was a really, really clean process in that we talked through a lot of different possibilities to make sure that this could be a really good relationship.”
Unlike the Lakers, who needed Westbrook to play at a high level to be a threat, the Clippers do not — they are the fourth seed and won 10 of their last 14 without him. They can bench him or waive him with little consequence.
However, that’s not why they picked him up — this was a move the Clippers’ entire locker room wanted. This wasn’t just a Paul George thing, it was a Clippers team decision. We will see whether it’s one that makes them better in the coming weeks.
But the betting public is skeptical.
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Clippers Lawrence Frank on why team brought in Westbrook originally appeared on NBCSports.com