LOS ANGELES - Staying in Los Angeles.
Westbrook was traded to the Utah Jazz in a three-team trade earlier this month the night before the NBA trade deadline. In the trade, Westbrook was sent to Utah, the Lakers reacquired D’Angelo Russell from Minnesota, and Utah's Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker along with three second-round picks were sent to Minnesota.
The 2016-17 league MVP’s time with the Lakers was turbulent. After an enthusiastic welcome from the Lake Show and the city of LA, he struggled to find his rhythm and couldn’t quite fit in with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. This season, Lakers' head coach Darvin Ham moved Westbrook to the bench and it appeared his career was having a resurgence. However, the Lakers continued to struggle and found themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference going into the All-Star break.
Following the trade, the nine-time All-Star weighed his options. He was reportedly open to the idea of staying in Utah, but was informed they would prioritize its young players, and a contract buyout seemed inevitable.
The LA Clippers also made some moves at the trade deadline, leaving them without a pure point guard after trading fan-favorite Reggie Jackson and John Wall. Unable to land a point guard at the trade deadline, there was speculation the Clippers would look to the buyout market.
Alas, the opportunity came knocking for Westbrook to avenge the Lakers.
"Russell is one of the most explosive and competitive players in the NBA," said Lawrence Frank, Clippers president of basketball operations in a press release. "He has many strengths that can benefit the team and a shared desire to win a championship. We’re delighted to welcome him and his family to the organization."
Westbrook and the Clippers’ Paul George played together in Oklahoma City and following Westbrook’s trade from the Lakers, George publicity defended Westbrook, saying he would welcome him to the Clippers.
"As much as he’s been through... the way they paint the picture of him, he is absolutely one of the best people in the league and it’ll be nice to see him get decorated," he said during a press conference during NBA All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City.
The Clippers' front office then had several conversations with Westbrook.
"Those discussions centered on Westbrook’s willingness to fit into a clear and specific role with the Clippers built around his playmaking, rebounding and toughness," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
It’s worth noting Westbrook has been a candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
"I gotta tell you, I was very proud of Russell Westbrook this year," ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said on "First Take" Monday. "I thought he had far more good games than bad for the Los Angeles Lakers. I thought he was exponentially more effective than he was last year. We all know his athleticism is still there."
It’s too soon to tell what Westbrook’s role will be with the Clippers. Terance Mann has done an outstanding job at the point guard position and had an impressive 26-point performance against the Phoenix Suns last Thursday.
The Clippers are currently ranked fourth in the West and are hungry to win the franchise's first title.
Can they do it with Westbrook? With the mastermind of Ty Lue, a healthy Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, anything is possible.