After losing six straight games since making the trade for James Harden, the Clippers finally got back into the win column over the weekend with a 106-100 win over the Rockets. That game featured some late Harden heroics, but it also saw Russell Westbrook make a move to the bench in an effort to create a bit more balance for the starting lineup.
It had become pretty clear that they had a spacing issue with four players that want the ball in their hands, and Westbrook is the one who doesn’t pose much of a threat as a spot-up shooter. While all of their former All-Stars are trying to adapt to a new role, Westbrook volunteered himself to move to the bench in a move that most everyone saw as necessary, but no one was quite sure if there would be someone (Harden or Westbrook) willing to make that move. Given how much Westbrook bristled at the idea of being a bench player with the Lakers a couple years ago, it’s quite the shift in perspective from him and signals how much he genuinely cares about trying to make this Clippers squad work to the best of its abilities — there is also the fact that playing with the bench means he’s far more likely to have the ball in his hands, so it’s not a completely selfless act, but it still is meaningful.
Paul George recognizes that and decided to open this week’s episode of Podcast P with a quick addendum that features George shouting out Russ for his willingness to sacrifice and talking about how vibes picked up after finally getting a win under their belts, as the full episode was recorded prior to to Saturday night’s win.
“[Russ] was the heart and soul for us last year,” George says. “Energy, leader, and I think Clipper nation came to love what he brought to the team. For us to go through this stretch of not winning and not knowing how to win with this squad yet, for him to take the initiative and be like, ‘You know what I’ll sacrifice and I’ll try to make this work and come off the bench,’ it just says a lot about him, bro. He never ceases to amaze me, as long as I’ve played on the same teams with him and as much as I’ve known him. Every day it’s something new. Shout out to him, man. That’s not an easy decision to make, especially when you still have so much game and value to this league and just for us.”
George goes on to talk about how all four of the Clippers stars are enjoying the challenge and process of trying to figure this out, even amid the losing streak. Things still aren’t perfect and they need to figure out how to keep things flowing on offense better than they have, but the good news for L.A. is they should have a good chance of turning this into a winning streak with back-to-back games in San Antonio against the scuffling Spurs.