Russell Westbrook happy to join Clippers after Lakers trade

Russell Westbrook entered the final chapter of his career Wednesday through a side door of the Clippers’ training facility, taking a seat on a podium surrounded by more cameras and microphones than had appeared at Playa Vista headquarters in five months.

Over the next 10 minutes, when Westbrook wasn’t smiling, he repeated a promise.

“Whatever they ask of me,” Westbrook said, “I will do it and do it to the best of my ability.”

Westbrook is a clipper because coach Tyronn Lue, stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, and top basketball manager Lawrence Frank still believe in the 34-year-old former MVP’s ability. They believe these skills will fill in gaps and provide things the team lacked, from attacking defense with punches in the paint to rebounds and athleticism.

“We want Russ to stay Russ,” Lue said, “and if he’s doing too much or too little, I’ll let him know. But we wanted him to be the player he is, you know, the MVP, the Hall of Famer, everything that he brings every night.”

The Clippers are his fifth team in five seasons, the youngest stop in a 130-game sample size at the Lakers, which never realized the heralded potential of a star trio featuring Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. At the end of his tenure earlier this month, James described his disappointment that the Lakers had not been able to trade for Kyrie Irving – a trade that would only have been possible if Westbrook’s salary had been factored in.

Days later, after Westbrook was dropped to Utah with a first-round pick, George — a defenseman for his former Oklahoma City teammate during Westbrook’s up-and-down tenure with the Lakers — and starting forward Marcus Morris Sr. publicly competed for Westbrook’s signing.

George hoped Westbrook would see Clippers support. He has.

Knowing the Clippers wanted him “meant a lot to me” and factored him into his signing, Westbrook said.

“That’s a big part, man, for anyone, for any normal person in any situation in the workplace,” Westbrook said. “A lot of teammates and people who want you here, that’s very important to me. I really appreciate it.”

When asked why his fit didn’t work with the Lakers and why he thinks it might be different with the Clippers, Westbrook deliberately avoided mentioning his former team and said he plans to “give all these guys that are here to make the game easier.”

Frank called Westbrook, the squad’s oldest player, probably his most athletic and praised his stamina. Frank described the guard’s rebound, willingness to defend larger players, and his inside drives as elements the Clippers didn’t have.

But Westbrook’s strengths and weaknesses — his 29% three-pointer shooting to make going distance a challenge, with the Clippers even protecting him with a center during a matchup this season — are well known. How effectively Westbrook can adapt his game to the needs of this new roster is the looming, yet unanswerable question. Westbrook was initially reluctant to play off the bench with the Lakers that season, saying it led to an injury, but coach Darvin Ham repeatedly praised him in the months that followed for his willingness to switch roles.

Frank said he and Lue had an “open, honest dialogue” with Westbrook, “and I think my few takeaways, without going into too much depth, are that Russ wants to win, no matter the role.”

“The dialogue is all about winning,” Westbrook said. “I think the most important thing is that the ultimate goal is to win a championship.”

Russell Westbrook looks to hit a layup while being defended by Brooklyn Nets center Nic Claxton and guard Kyrie Irving.

Russell Westbrook (0) looks to make a layup while being defended by Brooklyn Nets center Nic Claxton (33) and guard Kyrie Irving (11) in the second half January 30 in New York.

(Corey Sipkin/Associated Press)

In discussions with team officials leading up to his signing, he was not promised a regular role, but such a job was seen as the end result. Lue sees Terance Mann, a nominal starter since the beginning of January, more as a small striker. The Clippers own the sixth-best offensive rating in the NBA, scoring 119 points per 100 possessions since Mann started the lineup. When Mann, Leonard, and George play together, this offensive rating increases to 129 points per 100 possessions. Frank said the team is aware of this success.

However, with one last roster spot open, the team’s key stakeholders lobbied for Westbrook’s addition, believing his explosiveness and ability to get the color made him valuable. These talks changed the team’s initial plan of patiently evaluating a 14-man roster that was already adding three new players
Close of trading on February 9th.

Lue said he’s not yet sure how the ripple effect of Westbrook’s addition will translate to the use of Mann, who admitted to struggling to find a foothold as his role kept changing over the first few months of the season, and des new reserve Bones Hyland, who wanted a bigger role in Denver before joining the Clippers. As practice opened on Wednesday, Lue and Hyland chatted while seated at the side of a seat.

How the team incorporates Westbrook is made more difficult by timing, with just 21 games remaining in the regular season and most of the Clippers’ upcoming schedule filled with opponents in the Western Conference playoff standings. Westbrook will debut Friday against Sacramento in a non-low-stakes game: Third in the West, the Kings are a spot and just one game ahead of the Clippers and with the teams so far 1-1 in their four-game season streak, Friday will make a big contribution to determine a tiebreaker.

Meanwhile, Westbrook’s old Lakers team was also moving forward.

“I appreciate Russ for everything he’s tried to do for us, for sacrificing himself, following my vision, coming off the bench and having a more balanced lineup,” Ham told reporters at Wednesday’s practice session lakers “I wish him well.”

Lakers center Anthony Davis was hesitant when asked if Westbrook would join the Clippers because he didn’t know the team’s chemistry.

“I know they got rid of John [Wall] and Reggie [Jackson], so it’s another point guard for them,” Davis said. “I’m not sure how T-Lue and the coaching staff are going to use him, but I’m pretty sure he’s happy to stay in LA.”

Very happy even. Westbrook took his kids to school and vacationed with his family during recess. It was time well spent. But he wishes he could spend the coming months with a competitor.

“I’m excited,” he said, “to get back to work.”

Times contributor Dan Woike contributed to this report. Russell Westbrook happy to join Clippers after Lakers trade

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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