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Russell Westbrook Could Not Look Happier To Finally Be Free From The Lakers

After a busy trade deadline and a rather lengthy All Star break, it feels great that the real games are starting back up again tonight. For the Clippers, their stretch run begins tomorrow night against the Kings (a B2B for SAC) and we'll get our first look at the Russell Westbrook Experience: Clipper Edition. I think it's fair to say how this all shakes out is going to be one of the more intriguing storylines the rest of the way, and for my money, it's either going to work seamlessly or be a complete disaster. That's sort of the game you play when you hitch your wagon to Russ, his playstyle isn't exactly for everyone.

If I were to try and give Clippers fans some reasons for optimism, I suppose we can start with those short clips. Obviously, guys are going to be on their best behavior and whatnot on their new team, but watching those clips don't you get the sense that Russ looks like a guy that just removed a 10,000 lb weight from his back? He finally has that Lakers stench off him and look how happy he looks! I would love to know his true thoughts about a franchise that couldn't wait to talk shit about him and slander who he is as a person and player the second he left the Lakers. That was very embarrassing for a once proud franchise to do, but it was expected. They blamed Russ for everything that went wrong, regardless of how much was actually on him. Not having to deal with that must be refreshing.

So right off the bat, there's the motivation factor. You heard how Pat Bev talked about his approach now that he's on the Bulls and how much he wants to destroy the Lakers, and I imagine the same is true for Russ. Never underestimate the power of spite, and I imagine Russ is filled to the brim with spite right now.

Does this mean he'll change his playstyle? Not completely. Don't be silly. You don't bring in Russell Westbrook and then ask him to not play like Russell Westbrook. That's what I meant when I said it's not for everyone. You need a certain type of roster to have the right fit for a guy who does stuff like this

The good news is the Clippers could not have a more different roster than the Lakers, and the fit potential is in theory much, much better. 

When you play next to LeBron, you have to be able to shoot. That is not something the Lakers had on their roster before the trades, and it is not something I would say Westbrook is good at. That's why their experiment was cooked before it even got going. But the Clippers roster? Shooters everywhere. 

Even when you subtract Kennard and Jackson, between Powell, Mann, George, Mook, Kawhi, Batum, Gordon, etc there are way more proven and consistent shootiers on this roster to help give Russ the space he needs so he can provide one of his greatest strengths, rim pressure.

Both Kawhi and George lead the Clippers with around 10 drives a game. As a team, the Clippers ranked 20th in drives (45.0). Westbrook alone, even coming off the bench, averages 15 drives per game. If you compare that to the guards that Westbrook is replacing (Wall 8.6 and Jackson 6.7), you can see it's nowhere close. The Clippers now are going to be much more equipped to put out lineups with 3 guys who are aggressive and elite at attacking the rim, thus forcing defenses to rotate to the point where in theory their spot up shooters will have plenty of space to catch and shoot. We see the drive & kick offense thrive in today's NBA, and the idea must be that with added consistent rim pressure from Westbrook it will only help their shooters. 

Not to mention, Russ shoots 47.4% from the floor on drives, and since he should be sharing the floor with more scoring, I can see a world where he gets rid of his midrange jumper in favor of more rim attempts. This Clippers roster is deep enough to the point where he won't need to have the offensive scoring load he had on the Lakers, which should help.

If the Basketball Gods are real, somehow some way we'll get either a Play In game or a playoff series between the Lakers and Clippers. Something tells me their April 5th matchup will be pretty important, and that's what makes this stretch run so exciting. The Lakers wanted to pin all their problems on Russ and shipped him off. Now he's with the better team in the same city and looks happier than ever. Will it matter? I can't wait to find out.