LOS ANGELES (AP) – It didn’t take long for Russell Westbrook (NEW YORK POST, pic below) to join the Los Angeles Clippers.
The nine-time All-Star signed with the Clippers on Wednesday night after he cleared waivers, then hit the practice court as the team gathered for the first time since the All-Star break.
“I’m super excited. I love to play basketball and I just have a lot of fun while doing it,” Westbrook said. “I get to stay home, see the wife and the kids and take them to school in the morning. That’s a big part of my day and you know, nothing more important than that.”
Coach Tyronn Lue said Westbrook will play on Friday when the Clippers host the Sacramento Kings. When asked how he views what role Westbrook will play and if he would be a starter, Lue said, “I view him as what you will see on Friday.”
Westbrook is from the Los Angeles area, was a standout at UCLA and played less than two seasons for the Lakers before being traded to the Jazz on February 10 as part of a three-team deal.
The Jazz waived him on Monday. Westbrook cleared waivers because no team had the salary-cap space to take on the remaining USD47 million he was owed on his expiring contract.
The 15-year veteran is averaging 15.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 28.7 minutes per game. He is one of only six players in the NBA this season averaging at least 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
Clippers’ director of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said both sides are on the same page about how Westbrook can help the team.
“We had an upfront and honest dialogue. I thought it was a really clean process, in that we talked through a lot of different possibilities to make sure that this could be a good relationship,” Frank said.
Westbrook is reuniting with Paul George, his former teammate in Oklahoma City. George had lobbied the front office to add a point guard before the trade deadline.
George then stepped up the recruiting effort for Westbrook after he was traded to Utah and it appeared he could become a free agent.
“I’ve been in this league a long time and being somewhere that people want you and they embrace you meant a lot to me,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook brings something the Clippers lack – a fast, attacking guard who can get to the rim either to score or kick it out to the perimeter. Lue is hoping Westbrook can manufacture some easy baskets for George and Kawhi Leonard, a role the Clippers were hoping John Wall could play before he was traded to Houston.
“I think that the most important part for me is just coming in, keeping the pace high, using my speed and the ability to be able to get into the paint and get those guys easy shots,” Westbrook said.
“I’ll fit right in and continue doing what they have going on right now and everything else will play out itself.”
Westbrook’s signing completes a busy three-week period during which the Clippers made plenty of changes to their lineup. They reacquired Eric Gordon, who began his career with them in 2008, from Houston and got Bones Hyland from Denver.
They also acquired center Mason Plumlee from Charlotte for Reggie Jackson. LA also traded Luke Kennard to Memphis and Wall back to Houston.
The Clippers are fourth in the Western Conference with a 33-28 record. They don’t have much time to get all of their new pieces acclimated since they are in the middle of a playoff push.
“The most important thing is winning the game. And so my job as a coach is to make sure we win the game and whoever is playing well that night will play,” Lue said.