Russell Westbrook was not part of the final rotation for the Los Angeles Clippers last game. He also reportedly won’t be in the starting lineup for the team’s tournament game on Friday against the Houston Rockets.
According to Bleacher Report, Terance Mann will start in Westbrook’s place for the first time this season Chris Haynes.
Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star, asked to come off the bench to strengthen the second unit and allow the team to come together, Haynes added. The 35-year-old reportedly told the Clippers staff that he was willing to make sacrifices for the good of the team, which is on a six-game losing streak.
Five of those losses came after the addition of James Harden. The starting lineup of Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Westbrook was already looking like a bust on Wednesday when Haynes reported that head coach Ty Lue would try out other rotations.
“The biggest thing is getting these guys to sacrifice for the guys, whether it’s starting the game, ending the game, shots, touches, who’s running pick-and-rolls, things like that,” Lue said to Haynes. “Getting these guys to make sacrifices will be the biggest challenge of the entire season.”
While Lue has reportedly spoken with third-year guard Bones Hyland about a potentially reduced role in the coming weeks, Westbrook appears to have a similar vision for himself.
It’s possible that the Clippers’ 108-111 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday influenced Westbrook’s perspective. Lue was vague leading up to the game when reporters asked who the primary ballplayer would be. He said He wanted Harden to control the ball after making baskets. But he remained open to anyone taking control after mistakes as long as he picked up the pace.
With Lue under pressure to get a win, he let Westbrook play for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Los Angeles was ahead by five points before Lue Westbrook subbed in for Harden. The game ended with Harden, Leonard and Mann on the court when Norman Powell and PJ Tucker were substituted.
Westbrook’s reported desire to become a sixth man looks better than the alternative, which would have been to express dissatisfaction over the reduced minutes. Given the Clippers’ sacrifice theme, it’s likely we’ll see more reports on their stars’ usage throughout the season.