Russell Westbrook: a tale of two teams

(News4usonline) – Russell Westbrook has officially made his mark in Los Angeles after being traded from the Lakers to the Clippers. It was as if he stayed within the neighborhood and moved down the block.

With the Clippers, Westbrook is chasing the one thing that has eluded him throughout his stellar career: a championship. When Westbrook was traded to the Lakers from the Washington Wizards, it was highly anticipated that the mercurial point guard would be the missing piece to help the purple and gold win another NBA title.

Los Angeles Clippers guard Russell Westbrook in action against the Orlando Magic at Crypto.Com Arena on March 18, 2023. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

After little more than a year and a half of unequal play, that partnership didn’t work out so well for either the Lakers or Westbrook. He was essentially traded to the Utah Jazz.

But with his Southern California roots deeply planted in him, Westbrook decided to buy out his contract with the Jazz and finish out the season (and maybe career) playing in Los Angeles. Only it would not be with the Lakers. Westbrook is now an official member of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Although his numbers (13.5 points, 4.5 rebounds) have come down a bit since his playing days with the Lakers (15.9 points, 6.2 rebounds), Westbrook as he showed in the Clippers’ 134-126 win against the Golden State Warriors at Arena, is still a viable impact player.

In 27 minutes of action, Westbrook produced 15 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and handed out seven assists, putting his effectiveness as a playmaker on grand display.

“He was just great,” teammate Paul George said. “He was great. He took what they gave him. And he played towards the second side and played towards his strength.”

The lateral move from the Lakers to the Clippers appears to be working out well for Westbrook. It also makes sense. Southern California was Westbrook’s home before he made it to the big time. Westbrook hails from Long Beach. He attended Leuzinger High School in Lawndale.

He then pursued his basketball career at UCLA, where he helped the team reach the Final Four in the two seasons he played for the Bruins. Westbrook then went on to build his Hall of Fame resume playing mostly for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

When things started to go south, Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets before getting shipped to Washington. It wasn’t until 2021 when he found himself back in his hometown to play for the Lakers that a realistic title chance for Westbrook was supposed to happen. It has not happened. Yet.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Although the point guard has slowed down, he still is seen as a clutch player and has impressive career stats.

Westbrook has a lock on triple-doubles in the NBA, with the former league MVP being at the top of the list in that category. Westbrook has the most triple-doubles in a season, the most consecutive triple-doubles, and the most all-time triple-doubles in a single season.

He is the only player in NBA history to win the scoring title, an MVP award, and average a triple-double in the same season. Westbrook is also one out of 26 players in NBA history to hit the 24,000-career points mark.

Throughout his career, Westbrook has hit milestones as well as stirred up controversy on and off the court. This may be a reason the Lakers decided to let him go despite his status as a playmaker.

However, with the Clippers signing him to a contract, this could be a sign that Westbrook is aiming to end his career in Los Angeles where his basketball career began. The union didn’t start off smoothly.

After the Clippers added Westbrook to not only their roster but to their starting five, they lost five games in a row. The Clippers broke the losing streak and embarked on a four-game win streak before falling to the Orlando Magic in a matinee home game.

Westbrook, who shot 5 of 14 from the field (15 points) and had six turnovers in 37 minutes of playing time, put the onus of the team’s loss on his shoulders.

“Honestly, this one was on me,” Westbrook said after the game. “I could’ve been better. It started off well, but the second half was terrible and I have to do a better job of helping the guys out during the second half and in the fourth quarter. But honestly, it’s just on me, more focus and closing the game.”

Los Angeles Clippers guard Russell Westbrook looks for the open player to pass the ball against the Orlando Magic on March 18, 2023. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline
Los Angeles Clippers guard Russell Westbrook looks for the open player to pass the ball against the Orlando Magic on March 18, 2023. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Despite the loss to Orlando, the Clippers are currently in a good position to make the playoffs. The Clippers are the No. 5 team in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Lakers have been moving up the list of playoff predictions since removing Westbrook from the roster.

The Lakers improved their chances to continue into the postseason all while LeBron James is out with a foot injury. Lakers center and forward Anthony Davis has taken his game to another level.

Davis has had an impressive past five games with at least 28 points in each game. He really came to play on March 3 when he earned 39 points in the 38 minutes that he was on the court. With all of that said, the Lakers are in the No. 11 spot in the Western Conference.

The Lakers are no longer a concern for Westbrook. His job now is to help the Clippers down the stretch of the regular season and assist in guiding the team to a possible deep run in the postseason. Navigating successfully through the postseason, however, might be a bit of a challenge given that true parity now rule the landscape of the NBA.

After losing to the Magic, Westbrook talked about the possible scenarios of the postseason.

“I’ve seen it many times when there wasn’t no play-in,” Westbrook remarked. “So, nine [seed] and ten [seed] didn’t matter, but eight [seed] and up was trying to figure it out. Maybe one game you’re 8 and maybe the next game you’re a three. I’ve definitely seen it before.”

Reporter Dennis J. Freeman contributed to this article

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