Russell Westbrook – about to start his stint with the LA Clippers — is a surefire Hall of Famer. In 2017, the NBA vouched that there was no better basketball player on earth, handing Westbrook that season’s NBA MVP Award. All of that is in the books, unalterable.
What’s not yet written is the next chapter, though plenty in the media have already made their outline — and it includes Westbrook failing. Why are the predictions so grim when it comes to Westbrook’s joining the playoff-bound LA Clippers?
Throwback to LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer's reaction to Russell Westbrook's dunk:pic.twitter.com/0GZsDoIm5d— russ×lewis (@MVPWestbrodie44) February 21, 2023
Because Westbrook plays a game that seems erratic and hard to pin down — yet ironically it’s not unlike the style that won him the MVP.
[Note: Westbrook’s shooting percentage in his MVP year was .425 and last season it was .444. In both seasons he averaged just over 34 minutes per game — in his MVP season he committed 5.4 turnovers per game; last season it was 3.8.]
Still, hoops talking heads have a hard time envisioning Westbrook’s style working again in the future.
Here’s an example of the classic doubter, writer Brad Botkin at CBS Sports. Botkin asks:
Where exactly does a guy who, despite being one of the worst shooters in history, takes bad shots at bad times, a guy who turns the ball over, who doesn’t play defense, a guy who doesn’t have any of the skills necessary to succeed away from the ball and doesn’t have much interest in filling that role anyway, fit?Brad Botkin CBS Sports
Westbrook, if history is any guide, disagrees, as he heads to a team with welcoming teammate Paul George and the player with the NBA’s all-time greatest win-loss percentage, Kawhi Leonard.
J.J. Redick, a retired highly respected NBA star and current media personality and NBA insider, doesn’t know how well Westbrook fits with the Clippers either, given that George and Leonard are also both ball-dominant players.
But Redick understands what Westbrook can do, having been on the other end of it. He has this vision for Russ-as-Clipper: “I could see him, especially come playoffs, winning a playoff game. Where he just comes in, he’s a madman, he’s running around, he’s grabbing loose balls, getting rebounds, taking it into transition, attacking the rim, 22 points, eight rebounds, six assists in 24 minutes. They win a game. Turns the series around.”
Westbrook and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer must like that vision, especially if it’s more than the one game Redick sees.