When Russell Westbrook's career as a Los Angeles Laker ended earlier this month encompassed by rumors, a three-team trade with the Utah Jazz made the NBA veteran a focal point of the buyout market. Now it appears that he is signing with the Los Angeles Clippers, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
In sending the league’s 2017 MVP to the Jazz, the Lakers acquired D'Angelo Russell from the Timberwolves and Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt from the Jazz. In addition to Westbrook, Utah received Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones and a lightly protected 2027 Lakers first-round pick. The Jazz sent Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker to Minnesota, which will also received draft picks.
As soon as the trade was complete, Westbrook was linked to the Clippers in multiple reports. After the Los Angeles team traded veteran guards John Wall and Reggie Jackson at the deadline, it was reportedly already recruiting Westbrook in an effort to increase depth at the point beyond Terance Mann and Bones Hyland.
For Westbrook, the move back to Los Angeles is better than remaining in Utah for the team's rebuild. Additionally, he will not have to be consistently reminded of his experience with racially offensive trash talk from a Jazz fan in 2019.
Instead, the nine-time All-Star can channel any potential frustrations from his time as a Laker into the crosstown rivalry. The motivating material is definitely there. Even before his former team leaked rumors of his “toxicity” and “vampirism” in the locker room, Westbrook was subject to public pleas for him to be traded for months. Not to mention the friction that saw Lakers head coach Frank Vogel fired, reportedly due in part to his failure to integrate Westbrook.
At 34 years old, Westbrook had his moments from the Lakers bench, averaging 16.2 points, 7.7 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game. His shooting splits of 42.4/30.8/64.9 leave plenty of room for improvement, but he can still contribute offensively.
While the Clippers boast weapons in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, Westbrook's past shows that nothing can be predicted before we get a glimpse at team chemistry and fit.