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George pushes for Westbrook

To contend that the trade deadline was not kind to Russell Westbrook would be to understate the obvious. The erstwhile Laker found himself packing his bags for the Jazz and subsequently facing a buyout, not exactly a scenario the nine-time All-Star envisioned even in the face of ever-mounting criticisms on his play. He was, of course, ripe for a change in address given his poor fit with purple-and-gold stalwarts LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That said, his evident fall from grace cannot but be hard to accept for a Maurice Podoloff Trophy recipient.

Not that the Jazz are wrong to give Westbrook three options: 1) accepting even less minutes on the floor after the bitter pill that was his sixth man role with the Lakers; 2) staying away for the rest of the season with the rest of his $47-million salary intact; and 3) agreeing to be a free agent at a discount on his separation pay. After all, they’re still in rebuilding mode following an offseason that had them dealing former vital cogs Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. They’re angling for the buildup of their young prospects, and his advancing age and ball-dominant style simply does not jibe with their plans.

Westbrook is said to be thinking about the immediate term, and if he chooses to be free of any contract encumbrance, he can at least look to a handful of possibilities. In fact, the Clippers’ Paul George, with whom he burned rubber in Thunder jerseys, has already lobbied for his acquisition. “[I]t would definitely improve our team if we had that traditional point guard to kind of get us in things and make the game easy. So hopefully Russell sees this and we figure something out.” To be sure, he’s hardly a “traditional point guard,” which head coach Tyronn Lue has gone on record as saying they need badly.

George’s push for Westbrook is, needless to say, rooted in his extremely positive experience as a teammate. He had arguably the best season of his career when they were together, emerging as a bona fide candidate for the Most Valuable Player award while norming 28, eight, and four. Whether the Clippers will actually benefit from the reunion is another matter altogether, however. They need look no further than their Arena co-tenants to see the pitfalls of such a move. The Lakers got burned, badly, and they would do well to learn from the development.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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