Clippers, Russell Westbrook agree on 2-year, $7.8 million deal

ByOhm Youngmisuk ESPN logo
Sunday, July 2, 2023

Free agent guard Russell Westbrook has agreed on a new two-year, $7.8 million deal to stay with the LA Clippers, his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Basketball, told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday.

The deal includes a player option after the 2023-2024 season for Westbrook, Schwartz said, and clears the way for him to return as the franchise's starting point guard. The Clippers were eager to bring back the nine-time All-Star after his productive post-trade deadline run as a starter.

The Clippers were only able to offer the 2016-17 MVP the $3.8 million non-Bird exception, but the Los Angeles native found a home with them in the second half of the season after a short but rocky tenure with theLos Angeles Lakers.

"One thing I do tell you is that I love it here," Westbrook said after the Clippers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns in late April. "I love the people, just the fans overall embracing not just me but my family and close friends. I know, end of the year, a lot of things have happened, but I'm grateful. I definitely love being here."

The Clippers have been looking to upgrade their roster around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George through trade this summer. In addition to having interest in a potential deal for James Harden, the Clippers are also among the teams interested in exploring a deal for Damian Lillard, sources told Wojnarowski on Saturday.

Westbrook exceeded all expectations after his tenure with the Lakers fell short of what the team had hoped for when he teamed up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Following a season and a half with the Lakers, Westbrook was traded at the February deadline to Utah, which bought him out.

George vigorously campaigned for the Clippers to sign his former Oklahoma City teammate once he became a free agent. With George, Leonard and head coach Ty Lue all vouching for Westbrook, the Clippers signed him during the All-Star break.

With a role clearly defined by management and Lue, Westbrook averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds in 21 games. He shot career highs of 48.9% from the field and 35.6% from behind the arc in his limited time with the Clippers.

While George out due to injury, Westbrook helped the Clippers steal Game 1 in Phoenix with 11 rebounds, five coming on the offensive glass, and a key stop late in the win despite shooting 3-for-19 and finishing with nine points. When Leonard was lost for the series with a torn MCL following Game 2, Westbrook scored 30 and 37 points in Games 3 and 4 before the Suns won in five games.

With the Clippers plagued by injuries to Leonard and George ever since the duo joined forces in L.A. during the summer of 2019, Westbrook gives the franchise something it sorely needs -- availability. Leonard played in 52 games last regular season while George played in 56 before suffering a sprained right knee that knocked him out for the remainder of the campaign.

"He's played himself back into the Russ that he was," George said in late April. "That we all knew that he still has. ... He brings so much to his team and I mean it's amazing to watch him.

"I just think he's the leader that we need at the point guard position going forward and would love to have him back."

Lue said he felt validated after Westbrook's play in the first round.

"I hope everybody can see just different teams," Lue said after the Clippers were eliminated in Game 5. "Different situations where guys play differently in different spots. Hopefully, guys can see that Russ still has a lot left in the tank ... this has opened eyes for a lot of teams, give him an opportunity if he can go out there and really get paid. But I want him back for sure."

Westbrook, 34, was happy with his change of scenery and raved about the Clippers, his fourth team since spending his first 11 seasons in Oklahoma City.

"A well-, well-ran organization from top to bottom," Westbrook said in April. "Been in the league a long time. You understand the value of the small things, the staff, the people that they have here to take care of the players day in and day out. It's something that I really noticed since day one.

"Not just that, but a happy and enjoyable environment is something that you don't see everywhere. Happy to come to work, being around people that actually enjoy their job, enjoy what they're doing. That's trying to keep all of us as players, not just that, but making sure we have everything we need to be successful on the floor."

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