Russell Westbrook took the biggest pay cut in NBA history return to the Los Angeles Clippers over the summer. Westbrook was making almost $47 million last season as he finished up an extension he originally signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017. Westbrook was traded from the Los Angeles Lakers at the deadline, was bought out by the Utah Jazz, and signed with the Clippers. After a strong showing in the playoffs, Westbrook and the Clippers agreed to a two-year, $7.9 million deal.
At age-35, Westbrook’s MVP prime is now in the distant past, but he’s still been a quality player for the Clippers. He’s averaging 14 points, seven rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.9 steals per game this year, struggling to score efficiently but still packing the box score on a regular basis.
The Clippers made a big move early in the season when the franchise traded for James Harden. Los Angeles was off to a 3-1 start when it made the move, and now the team hasn’t won since. With six straight losses adding new pressure to the team every day, something had to change. Westbrook decided to step up and be the person willing to sacrifice.
Westbrook is moving to the bench for the Clippers, according to league insider Chris Haynes. He had started every game for LA this season. The starting lineup with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Harden, and Westbrook all sharing the floor just wasn’t working, and now Russ is accepting a reduced role.
The Clippers are off to a 3-7 start, so something had to change. The starting lineup of Harden-Westbrook-George-Leonard and Ivica Zubac has posted a -14.1 net rating so far, per NBA.com. The offense has been the real issue, and replacing Westbrook in the lineup with a better shooter seems like a sharp move at the onset.
It also shows Westbrook is willing to sacrifice for the team. Truthfully, Westbrook has been better than Harden since he arrived in LA. Both players are former MVP winners who rightfully have a lot of pride. Westbrook is the one willing to make this sacrifice.
Westbrook has been called a selfish player at times throughout his career despite routinely placing near the top of the league in assists. This move shows that the veteran point guard is still willing to do what’s best for his team.
The Harden trade looks like a complete disaster for the Clippers so far, but credit Westbrook for doing everything he can to make it work for his team.