LA Clippers in review: The beating heart of LA, Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook, LA Clippers - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Russell Westbrook, LA Clippers - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Unmatched passion, ceaseless motor, fearless drive — none other than the LA Clippers’ floor general, Russell Westbrook.

The UCLA product started his season playing for the neighboring Los Angeles Lakers. In 52 games and 3 starts, Westbrook put up underwhelming numbers in purple and gold — 15.9 points on 41.7 percent shooting from the field and 29.6 percent from deep alongside 3.5 turnovers.

Under the hefty expectations that burdened this team, Westbrook was quick to be pointed as the scapegoat for the Lakers’ 25-31 record before the trade deadline.

So, after being dealt then waived by the Utah Jazz, the veteran point guard found his way back in LA — this time suiting up in blue and red.

A lot of controversy surrounded this signing, however — and rightfully so. Westbrook was seen as a declining star that could immediately jeapordaize any team’s spacing. At age 34, it was also commonly viewed that the former NBA MVP’s best days were over — he was averaging close to half as many points from his best scoring season (he averaged 31.6 points).

At the same time, Westbrook did check a lot of the boxes for what the Clippers needed, and so did the Clippers for the athletic guard.

Having traded both of their point guards in Reggie Jackson and John Wall, the Clippers assigned Terance Mann as the interim point guard. While he adapted to this role quickly, the team could’ve used a more traditional and experienced floor general.

Likewise, the team desperately needed a true leader. The team’s first option, Kawhi Leonard, is famous for how unspeaking and unexpressive he can be. And it also doesn’t help that both Leonard and Paul George are prone to injuries and often are not on the court.

Russell Westbrook benfited heavily by signing with the LA Clippers.

For Russell Westbrook, the LA Clippers offered elite shooting and spacing — at least, a lot more than the Lakers. Also, Tyronn Lue, an experienced coach unafraid to bench the star; also, George, Westbrook’s former teammate; also, not as half as much pressure as the Lakers; most importantly, a much-needed fresh start.

And that’s why, the Clippers (and Wesbtrook) took a gamble.

‘Mr. Triple Double’ made his debut against the Sacramento Kings in what would be the second-highest scoring game in NBA history. He served the Clippers with 17 points, 14 assists and five rebounds — sprinkled with seven turnovers and six personal fouls on top. Not perfect but not bad.

Then things turned bad. Pretty bad.

The Clippers would lose all four games after. A ball that slipped out of Westbrook’s hands would result in the Clippers’ loss in a rematch against the Kings, their fifth consecutive loss since the signing of the now-notorious point guard.

But he slowly turned the ship around, finding his rhythm as a Clipper.

In the first of a two-game series at Memphis, Westbrook pulled off his best regular season performance as a Clipper. With unbridled confidence, the Long Beach, Calif. native put up 36 points, 10 assists and 4 rebounds to go alongside an iconic picture of him celebrating an and-one in pure ecstasy.

And come playoff time, Westbrook shined the brightest.

On a rough shooting night (3-of-19 from the field), the 34-year-old still found a way to lead the injury-stricken Clippers team to a win against the star-laden Phoenix Suns. His game-winning block against Devin Booker was only the cherry on top to a clutch, energizing late performance from Westbrook. He finished with nine points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and two steals.

After Leonard’s unexpected injury, Westbrook, despite being the shortest-tenured Clipper, emerged as the true leader. He made up for his abysmal shooting in game one with a scoring showdown in the next three games: he logged 28, 30 and 37 points consecutively.

With the team’s two superstars sidelined, Westbrook and the Clippers did come up short in five games against the Suns. But even in a short-lived run, it didn’t take long for the nine-time All-Star to win the hearts of Clippers’ fans.

Next. LA Clippers resign Russell Westbrook. dark

And while Westbrook’s long-term future with the team is unclear, he again proved to the world the type of dominant force he can be, if and when surrounded with the right pieces.