Free agent point guard Russell Westbrook is returning to the Clippers after agreeing to a two-year deal worth just under $8 million that includes a player option for the second season. A person with knowledge of the agreement but not authorized to speak publicly confirmed this to The Times on Saturday.
Finally, after gaining full free rein for the first time in his career, it took Westbrook less than two days to return to the Clippers, the team where he left after a rocky stint with the Lakers that ended in a trade, ” grateful” for the touchdown was to Utah, which bought out his contract.
The Clippers, who didn’t hold Westbrook’s Bird rights, could only offer him $3.8 million in the first season. The team reported to Westbrook on the first day of free agency and then waited for the point guards market to settle down and Westbrook settled on a reunion that would keep him in his hometown.
With Kawhi Leonard expected to be healthy by the start of camp, according to team president Lawrence Frank, and Paul George expected to be healthy by the start of the season, Westbrook is being asked to do what he had little opportunity to do last season and set the table for his co-stars.
“I feel like I can really help them and make the game easier for them,” Westbrook said in April. “I think when I got here I don’t know how many games we all played together, but it started slowly. Took some time. I just help them to make the game easier for them.
“I know I can make the game [easy]. Take an entire season, an entire camp, an entire summer to re-evaluate what we are trying to achieve as a team. Hopefully that can happen.”
Westbrook’s return fills a gaping need on the Clippers’ standings as a point guard. The Clippers quickly dealt with another offseason priority Saturday by trading for Houston forward KJ Martin, whose team option for next season had been accepted by the Rockets two days earlier.
As part of the deal, the Clippers sent the Rockets a 2026 second-round pick and a 2027 second-round pick from the Memphis Grizzlies, according to a person with knowledge of the terms.
The son of longtime NBA forward Kenyon Martin, who was coached in New Jersey by Frank, KJ was valued by the Clippers because his springy, energetic athleticism is a quality that last season’s roster was completely lacking. The Clippers like that he poses a threat, completing lob dunks behind defense and creating second chance points on the glass and also playing wing defense. Able to play both forward positions, he also brings a new face to a position the Clippers have been looking to improve.