Perhaps more than any other playoff hopeful, the Chicago Bulls are in dire need of help at the point guard position. With Lonzo Ball’s return looking increasingly unlikely, the team has been linked to just about every veteran floor general on the buyout market. Clearly, though, Russell Westbrook has been the top target.
“I would say my sense… this is the informed speculation that I have based on my conversations — is they are waiting on [Russell Westbrook] to see what he decides,” NBC Sports Chicago’s KC Johnson said last week. “If they don’t get him then they would move on to John Wall or Patrick Beverley…”
Fast-forward to now and, after finally coming to terms on a contract buyout with the Utah Jazz during All-Star Weekend, Westbrook appears to have made his decision.
Unfortunately — if you’re among the crowd that wanted to see the former NBA MVP in the Windy City, anyway — he’ll be casting his lot with a club on the opposite side of the country.
Woj: Russell Westbrook Has Agreed to Sign With LA Clippers After Completion of Buyout
According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday morning, Westbrook — who averaged 15.9 points, 7.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds in 52 appearances with the Los Angeles Lakers this season before getting traded — will be staying in SoCal.
“After finalizing a contract buyout with the Utah Jazz, nine-time All-Star guard Russell Westbrook plans to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers,” tweeted Wojnarowski, who confirmed the baller’s plans with his agent, excelsports’ Jeff Schwartz.
Westbrook now heads to a Clippers team that currently sits in fourth place in the Western Conference with a record of 33-28. Not only that — he’ll be reuniting with All-Star forward Paul George, with whom he spent two seasons as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2017-19.
George made little effort to conceal his recruitment of Westbrook when it became clear that he would be hitting the open market.
“I’ve talked to him just to kind of see where his head is and to see if there is anything I can do…” George said recently, via the Associated Press. “I’m a big believer and a fan of what Russ’ work is, having one of my best seasons in my career alongside of him. I’ve seen what he can do night in and night out.
“I really think he can improve the team. He’s such a big talent. He rebounds, he finds guys, he makes the game easy for everyone. I think he will come in, mesh, figure out how we play, and adjust to it.”
Bulls Need to Makea Decision Sooner Rather Than Later
With just 23 games remaining on their 2022-23 schedule, the Bulls should have a sense of urgency in responding to the Westbrook news. Either they’re adding a Wall or Beverley type to stand in for Ball down the stretch in an attempt to sneak into the playoff mix, or they’re going all-in on attempting to keep their first-round draft pick.
As part of the deal to bring in Nikola Vucevic two years ago, Chicago sent their 2023 first-rounder to the Orlando Magic with top-four protection. And while getting into the mix for a top-four pick seemed a fool’s errand when the Bulls were zeroing in on the .500 mark a few weeks back, they’re now nine games below the 50/50 split.
If they forgo adding a battle-tested floor general, play it cautious to the extreme with Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan’s health and start giving more minutes to their young guys, the Bulls may just be able to tank their way into keeping the selection.
On the other hand, they’re just close enough to the bottom half of the playoff bracket that the right acquisition could see them climb back into the play-in mix before the season ends.