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Clippers’ Russell Westbrook “Ready for the Challenge” of Stretch Run



Russell Westbrook

Los Angeles Clippers newly signed point guard Russell Westbrook was formally introduced during a press conference on Wednesday and said that he was “ready for the challenge” as the Clippers embark on the stretch run for the remainder of the season.

The Clippers have just 21 games remaining on their schedule and are hoping that the signing of Westbrook, who as bought out by the Utah Jazz, will give them a big boost as they enter a loaded Western Conference playoff race.

“For me, it’s just finding my way to be able to help other guys,” Westbrook said, according to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes. “It’s something I truly embrace, and that’s what I will do — make sure I can make the game easy for all these guys that are here, find out their spots, what they like, what they don’t like. And that’s going to be a process for me, but I’m ready for the challenge and looking forward to it.”

Clippers coach Ty Lue says that the team wants “Russ to be Russ”.

“If he’s doing too much or not enough, I’ll let him know,” Lue said. “But we want him to be the player that he is, the MVP, the Hall of Famer, everything he brings every single night. We want him to be that person, that player. And then we’ve just got to make sure that it’s in the confines of our team and what we’re trying to do teamwise.”

Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank also spoke about bringing Westbrook into the fold.

“We always listen,” Frank said. “Everyone brings different perspectives. And I think with every decision you make, you listen to your partners. With Kawhi [Leonard] and [George], their opinion matters. Ty Lue’s opinion matters. The evaluator’s opinion matters. The front [office’s opinion matters]. So what you do is, you put it all together, and then, ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s my job to do what’s the best decision for the Clippers.”

“I think this process was really healthy in the sense that we had really up-front, honest dialogue — not just internally but also with Russ and his agent, Jeff Schwartz,” Frank added. “I thought it was a really clean process in that we talked through a lot of different possibilities to make sure that this could be a really good relationship. We value the voices, and I think it’s very important to have that open dialogue, and I’m happy with the outcome.”

“Russ is one of the most explosive and intense competitors in the league,” Frank said, “and we think the many strengths he has will augment and really help our team.”

We know that the style of play that we play, a lot of time it’s a grind-out game, with PG and Kawhi getting easy shots,” Lue said. “But I think Russ can help manufacture some of those easy baskets like John [Wall] did for us. … And it’s my job to make sure everything works out. So I’m excited for the challenge.”

“You don’t average a triple-double without having the ball in your hands,” Lue said. “We know he can make plays and make the right plays. The biggest thing is, when he is off the ball, what we’re going to do with him, how we’re going to use him. It’s going to take a little time. When you’re the MVP of the league and a Hall of Famer, you’ve got to change your game in some areas. So we’ve got to help him.

“It’s going to take a little time, because you’ve been used to playing a certain way, a certain style of basketball your whole career, and that’s what makes him Russell Westbrook. So we don’t want to take that away from him at all. But when he is off the ball, just finding things he can do off the ball that impacts the game and impacts winning and impacts our team, as well. So we will do that.”

Westbrook shared his thoughts, adding that he was glad to be reunited with George, his former teammate, and Lue, a longtime friend.

“I think the most important thing is coming in, keeping the pace high, using my speed and ability to get into the paint [and] get those guys easy shots [is] where I think I can help out a lot,” Westbrook said. “Everything else, I’ll fit right in and continue what they have going on right now.”

“Whatever is asked of me, whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it and do it to the best of my ability,” he added. “I hope everything goes well with that.”

Anthony DiMoro is the creator of Sports Rants and the CEO of Elite Rank Media. He is a former Contributor for Forbes and the Huffington Post where he covered sports, social media, and SEO. Anthony formerly hosted the 'Forbes SportsMoney Podcast'.