Nine-time All-Star guard Russell Westbrook intends to join the LA Clippers after completing a contract buyout, according to his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports.
The former NBA MVP will return to Los Angeles, this time with the Clippers after Westbrook and the Utah Jazz completed the buyout of the remaining $47 million owing on his expiring contract. The Jazz formally released him on Monday afternoon, the league reported.
According to reports, as club executives, like coach Ty Lue and head of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, delved into a series of talks with Westbrook, the Clippers grew more and more interested in him. According to insiders, the focus of those negotiations was Westbrook’s readiness to play a clear and defined position with the Clippers that was based on his playmaking, rebounding, and toughness.
The 34-year-old Westbrook joins a Clippers core that includes his former Thunder colleague Paul George and his championship hopes.
According to reports, Westbrook had recently discussed agreements with the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Washington Wizards, but his choice to sign with the Clippers was mostly influenced by the opportunity to contend for a championship while staying in Los Angeles.
As part of a three-team transaction on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers sent Westbrook and a 2027 first-round draft selection to the Jazz. Following a turbulent season and a half with the Lakers, Westbrook took some time to unwind and think about his options. In 28.7 minutes per game, Westbrook played the sixth man for the Lakers, averaging 15.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 7.5 assists.
According to sources, Jazz CEO Danny Ainge, General Manager Justin Zanik, and Coach Will Hardy informed Westbrook on Friday that they would welcome him to report to the team but that they were prioritizing and playing their younger players and would not provide any guarantees regarding minutes or role size.
On the other hand, let’s discuss Zion Williamson’s possible return to the NBA. In January, the Pelicans played the league’s hardest schedule while missing its top two players for most of the month. Williamson is now expected to miss “several weeks” due to a worsening of his hamstring injury even though Ingram is back.
How will that affect the Pelicans’ bid for the playoffs? These are three crucial questions that New Orleans must answer before traveling to Canada to take on the Toronto Raptors to begin the second half (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET).
Williamson’s original plan indicated that he would undergo another evaluation in three weeks after suffering a right hamstring injury against the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 2. Williamson was at that point “making good progress with his rehabilitation,” according to the team, and another assessment will take place in two weeks.
Williamson had advanced to 3-on-3 play and had a remote possibility of playing before the All-Star break, but five weeks after the first injury, he reaggravated it while participating in a 3-on-3 game.
“I think we’re looking at multiple weeks past the All-Star break that he’ll be back.” Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said at a press conference on February 12.
Griffin did not elaborate further on what “many weeks” specifically entails, but he did state that the club intends to reevaluate Williamson after everyone returns from the All-Star break this week.
Williamson’s comeback would occur somewhere in mid-March if his recovery follows the same timeframe that was anticipated when the first injury occurred, though he may return sooner.
Nonetheless, Williamson has missed significant time for the third time in four seasons. He missed the entirety of the 2021–22 season due to a foot ailment after being sidelined for what would have been the first 44 games of his rookie season due to a preseason meniscus tear.
Before preparing for the playoffs or the play-in tournament, the Pelicans would want to give Williamson as much time on the floor as they can with Ingram and CJ McCollum.
Since McCollum was added at the trade deadline in the previous season, the trio has not frequently played together. Williamson, Ingram, and McCollum have shared the floor for a total of 172 minutes in only 10 games this season. In those minutes, the Pelicans are plus-60, scoring 120.9 points for every 100 possessions while allowing 104.4 points for every 100 possessions.