Despite us being five days removed from the NBA trade deadline, talk of new acquisitions hasn’t slowed down for the Los Angeles Clippers.
As we edge ever closer to first appearances for Eric Gordon, Mason Plumlee and Bones Hyland, the excitement coming from the locker room has extended further than the trio of new faces. The buyout market has even managed to capture the imagination of some of the star players, with one name in particular being the talk of the 213: Russell Westbrook.
Though the levels of persuasion have differed between the players who have spoken publicly on the idea of acquiring the former Los Angeles Laker, all of Paul George, Marcus Morris Sr. and Nicolas Batum have either been asked about the possibility of him being added to the roster or — in PG’s case — just brought it up off their own backs.
From George’s point of view it’s easy to see why he is advocating the move. Though you’d imagine he acknowledges his role as a star on the team and appreciates that he will have to step up his efforts as the team gets closer to crunch time this year, he is only human and knows that he will go through some rough moments on the court. The team being better equipped, in his eyes, to deal with those spells is a no brainer and means that he can find the time to not only catch his breath but also pose opponents different kinds of problems.
The biggest counter-problem with that is that Westbrook is no longer the player he was when he was leading the OKC Thunder alongside MVPG. As Head of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank alluded to, he has too many weaknesses in his game in the present day to be a key contributor (or a contributor at all) during such crucial moments for the Clippers.
The idea of Russ bringing his best attributes to the floor, being able to handle the ball, put pressure on the rim and open up space for the stars would be all well good if he wasn’t so ball dominant that the stars would suffer and such a minus on defense that the team would have to work overtime just to cover him. Even those best attributes are a best-case scenario of Russ, recent evidence has been very different.
It’s frustrating for fans because we can’t help but feel like we’ve been here before. The organization traded away a fan favorite in Lou Williams for Rajon Rondo because they believed he could bring the best attributes of his game and make life easier for the stars.
We all saw how that ended. John Wall’s pickup was less tainted by sentiment, though you could argue it had a direct correlation on Isaiah Hartenstein being let go, but it was no less unsuccessful because he couldn’t be trusted to be on the floor when things got tight — the weaknesses were too glaring, despite some of the strengths he brought. It feels a little like there is only one man that is able to communicate those problems publicly who is actually doing so, and that is L-Frank.
I say “able to” communicate because I don’t expect guys like Morris and Batum to come out and openly throw dirt on a guy whose future is currently hanging in the balance, after all the latter has been there himself. However, it would be helpful if there was at least some acknowledgement from George and even Tyronn Lue that we have already struck out on two occasions when recruiting former All-Star point guards to come and take up a more traditional role.
Those guys being so stubborn in their views, despite overwhelming past evidence to the contrary, is causing a conflict for fans. Of course it’s positive that all parties are keeping an open dialogue on this, but it feels like one side will only end up disappointed if they can’t see the wood for trees.
We almost lost Terance Mann, who has been a huge contributor especially since his transition to the one spot, by chasing a problematic, traditional option. We can’t lose the harmony behind the scenes by chasing a less problematic but ultimately less talented player.