Oh YoungmisukESPN staff writer5 minutes of reading
Free agent guard Russell Westbrook has agreed to 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, paving the way for him to return as the franchise’s starting point guard. The Clippers were eager to bring the nine-time All-Star back after his productive post-trade deadline as a starter.
The Clippers were only able to offer the former MVP point guard the $3.8 million non-Bird exception, but the Los Angeles native found a home with the Clippers in the second half of the season after a brief but rocky stint with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“One thing I’ll tell you is I love it here,” Westbrook said after the Clippers were eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Suns in late April. “I love the people, just the fans who generally embrace not only me, but my family and close friends. I know a lot of things have happened at the end of the year, but I’m grateful. I definitely love being here .”
The Clippers have looked 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 Damian Lillard trade, sources told Wojnarowski on Saturday.
Westbrook exceeded all expectations with the Clippers after his tenure with the Lakers fell short of what many thought would happen as he teamed up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. After a season and a half with the Lakers, Westbrook was traded at the February deadline to Utah, who bought out the veteran point guard.
George pushed hard for the Clippers to sign his former Oklahoma City teammate when he became a free agent. With George, Leonard and head coach Ty Lue all vouching for the former MVP, the Clippers signed Westbrook during the All-Star break.
With a role clearly defined for him by management and Lue, Westbrook averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds in 21 games. He shot a career-high 48.9% from the field and 35.6% from behind the arc in his limited time with the Clippers.
With George out with injury, Westbrook helped the Clippers steal Game 1 in Phoenix during their first-round sweep with 11 rebounds, five on the offensive glass and a key stop late in the Clippers’ victory despite shooting just 3-for-19 and finished with nine points. With Leonard lost for the series due to a torn MCL after 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 teamed up in LA during the summer of 2019, Westbrook gives the franchise something it could badly use — 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 rest of the season.
“He’s played back to the Russ he was,” George said in late April, when Westbrook turned things around with the Clippers. “That we all knew he still has… He brings so much to his team and I mean it’s great to see him.
“I just think he’s the leader we need at the point guard position going forward and I’d 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 in April. “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 the eyes of a lot of teams, gives him an opportunity if he can go out there and really get paid . But I definitely want him back.”
Westbrook, 34, was pleased with his change of scenery last season and raved about the Clippers, his fourth team since spending his first 11 seasons in Oklahoma City.
“A well-run organization from top to bottom,” Westbrook said in April. “Being in the league for a long time. You understand the value of the little things, the staff, the people that they have here to take care of the players day in and day out. That’s something I’ve really noticed since day one.
“Not only that, but a happy and comfortable environment is something you don’t see everywhere. Happy to come to work, be around people who actually enjoy their work, enjoy what they do. It tries to keep all of us together as players, not just that, but making sure we have everything we need to be successful on the floor.”