After two games Russell Westbrook’s role changeThe Hair clippers The former starting point guard and reserve player said that while he’s “actually not sure” if his job description has changed, his intentions on the field have not.
“Just go out there and do what’s best for our team to be able to win games,” Westbrook said after the game Clippers’ 124-99 victory over San Antonio improve to 5-7. “And that’s it.”
In his debut as a substitute on Friday, Westbrook played 17 minutes, his fewest since January, ending the Clippers’ six-game losing streak since then Acquired from Philadelphia by James Harden. In Monday’s win, Westbrook played 25 minutes and the Clippers won his minutes by seven points as he scored 10 points with six assists, three steals and zero turnovers.
When asked how he adjusted to coming off the bench – something he experienced for the first time last season, 15 years into his career with the Lakers – and also the hardest part of the transition Westbrook with similar answers He reiterated that his job is to “go out there and compete.”
In the two wins since the new starting lineup and bench rotation was established – a change that has also resulted in former backup Bones Hyland not having a clear chance of playing time for the time being – the Clippers have succeeded in both cases. The new starters, with Terance Mann replacing Westbrook, outscored their opponents by a combined 38 points in 30 minutes. The main bench lineup of Westbrook, new center Daniel Theis, forward PJ Tucker, guard Norm Powell and starter Paul George is plus-15 in 17 minutes.
Coach Tyronn Lue said he communicated with Westbrook that he wanted the reserve team to play faster with him at point guard and that Westbrook should try to play outside the post.
“It’s an adjustment period for him,” Lue said. “Being a starter with PG and Kawhi is a little different, but he’s done great and it’s good.”
Lue added that Westbrook “is the guy that needs the ball in his hands to create and execute plays, and in that second unit it was good for us.”
Westbrook was added to the Clippers’ starting lineup as a former NBA Most Valuable Player signed with the team This was particularly the case last February because the coaching staff wanted to immediately use his rapid pace and undisputed intensity to get the starting eleven out of the doldrums.
As soon as this season began in October, an offense was installed that took advantage of Westbrook’s strengths in speed and quickness.
But 11 games into the season, in which his responsibilities and Harden’s overlapped and the team was sometimes slower to get its offense going, Westbrook’s role changed as Harden took over as the primary ball handler.
Lue has structured his substitution pattern so that George exits early enough in the first quarter to return in time to pair with Westbrook. The two are comfortable playing together since they were teammates in Oklahoma City. Since the line-up change last week, they have shared the spot for 29 minutes.
“Just get us in a rhythm,” Westbrook said, “simple as that.”
And while the change was made to separate Harden’s minutes from Westbrook’s as much as possible, they still play together in spurts — 15 minutes total.
Asked if he had had conversations with the team’s other stars in Harden, Leonard and George about what each could do to get the new squad ready, Westbrook said: “There are no conversations, just go out there and “Do what’s best for the team and that’s it.”
“I think it’s going to take some time,” said Kawhi Leonard, who played 28 minutes and scored 21 points. “Everyone has a new role. It’s not just me, the boys who played aren’t playing anymore. And then the guys who played a lot of minutes are playing fewer minutes, so I think he gets it.
“But we still need time and consistency and just playing with each other.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.