LeBron James and Anthony Davis pushed for the Lakers to trade for Russell Westbrook, the Lakers front office was convinced by their arguments and went along with the plan. Later, when it backfired, Rob Pelinka was called out for not being the adult in the room who stood up to James and shot down what was obviously going to be a poor fit with the roster as constructed.
Now Russell Westbrook has moved about 30 yards down the hall at the Crypto.com Arena to the Clippers’ locker room, with the other Los Angeles team signing him after the Lakers traded him to the Jazz, who bought him out. Another team where Westbrook’s game seems an uneasy fit, and the effort to sign him was driven by a player. In this case, Paul George, reports Brian Windhosrt on ESPN’s Hoop Collective podcast:
“The Clippers are pretty much admitting Paul George drove this decision. And from what I understand, they were internally against it at the start. Paul pushed for it publicly and privately. Kawhi supported it. And they looked more into it and they were like ‘Well, you know, there are some things he can potentially help us with. One of the things that’s a factor for us is we tend to kind of get a little loafy.’ They talked themselves into it is the long story short.”
While George was the public face and the most vocal, there was support for and a desire to bring in Westbrook up and down the Clippers roster — they are a player-friendly organization, and this was something the players wanted. The front office was not unanimous in supporting the move, but they came around enough to go for it.
“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,” was how President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank put it.
Frank also said the Clippers had an “upfront, honest dialogue” with Westbrook about his role and expectations. The Lakers did that as well.
The advantage the Clippers have over the Lakers with Westbrook is they are not paying him $47 million — if things go sour with the Clippers they can just walk away and return to the existing roster that sits fourth in the Western Conference. The Clippers don’t need him. They can walk away.
Starting Friday night, however, the Russell Westbrook experiment with the Clippers begins. Which is what the players wanted.