The Los Angeles Lakers’ decision to rid themselves of Russell Westbrook has paid dividends so far.
Without him, the team is 4-1 and just recorded a legitimately impressive come-from-behind victory against a Dallas Mavericks group that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season.
After getting dealt away by the Lakers and bought out by the Utah Jazz, Westbrook joined the Clippers. How has he fared with them? It has been something of a mixed bag.
The Clippers are 0-2 in the Russell Westbrook Era, with both outings being offensively-spectacular and defensively-porous.
And while Westbrook’s numbers look fine, 17.0 points, 9.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds in two games, it’s hard to ignore what happened in the Clippers’ most recent loss against the Denver Nuggets.
Head coach Ty Lue opted to bench Westbrook late in the game on Sunday. Afterward, he explained why.
Ty Lue said he’d kept Russell Westbrook out in the 4th and OT because he felt the team had caught a good rhythm and wanted to keep it rolling. He said he could have played Russ more.
— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) February 27, 2023
Ty Lue sat Terrance Mann in favor of Russell Westbrook in double OT loss vs Kings
Ty Lue sat Russell Westbrook in favor of Terrance Mann in OT loss to the Nuggets
— Dr. Lös Real Polyamorous Tantric Sex Guru (@LosRealAli) February 27, 2023
Skip Bayless offered something of a polarizing take on the matter afterwards:
NOW WE SEE: Ty Lue chose not to play starter Westbrook in the 4th quarteR, Clips battled back to force overtime. Looked like Westbrook sat at end of bench not participating in sideline huddles or bench cheering. WILL HE START CAUSING LUE THE SAME PROBLEMS HE CAUSED DARVIN HAM?
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) February 27, 2023
And while people can quibble on whether he was mischaracterizing Westbrook’s behavior on the bench or not, what is objectively true is that Westbrook was on the bench when the game mattered most.
That of course gets to the root of Westbrook’s problem with the Lakers, too. Jarred Vanderbilt only scored 15 points in the Mavericks victory, but his impact was felt continuously throughout the game beyond the stat sheet.
That was never the case with Westbrook when he was on the Lakers, and it doesn’t appear to be the case now that he is on the Clippers.
Both guys were over it.
Simone Biles had herself a bachelorette party. https://t.co/Y0kgOhtwZr
— Game 7 (@game7__) February 27, 2023
And now with these first two games on the Clippers, it’s easy to see why.
Westbrook brings all the stats and flashiness you would expect from him based on his reputation. What he doesn’t bring, unfortunately, is meaningful production.
Will Westbrook and Lue be able to fix that, or is he already doomed to repeat his Lakers experience with the Clippers? An answer one way or the other will emerge in the next few weeks.