Report: Clippers to debut new starting lineup vs. Rockets in wake of Russell Westbrook’s request

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers are most certainly struggling in the early stages of the 2023-24 NBA season, and Russell Westbrook will now come off the bench after reportedly making that suggestion to the coaching staff in an effort to turn things around.

“The Los Angeles Clippers will bring Russell Westbrook off the bench in Friday’s in-season tournament game against the Houston Rockets, league sources tell Bleacher Report,” wrote Chris Haynes.

“Swingman Terance Mann will start for the first time this season in place of Westbrook, sources say.

“Westbrook approached the coaching staff with the idea to help the first unit develop some chemistry and to provide the second unit with spirited play, sources say.

“Westbrook, the vocal leader of the team, told the coaching staff he wants to do whatever it takes to win, sources say.”

The Clippers have not won a game since acquiring James Harden and will carry a six-game losing streak into their meeting with the Rockets, which is part of the NBA In-Season Tournament.

Los Angeles is 0-5 since Harden joined the lineup after arriving in a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers. The Clippers are 3-7 overall so far this season after beginning the season with three wins in their first four games.

Westbrook has been in the starting lineup for all 10 games and is averaging 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game. The 35-year-old seemingly believes the change will benefit both the starting five and second unit.

It is the latest effort to keep the Clippers’ season from going completely off the rails. Earlier this month, one player reportedly questioned the decision to stay overnight after a game against the Brooklyn Nets because of the distractions of New York City. Also, Tyronn Lue has admitted that this season has become the biggest challenge of his NBA head coaching career.

The Clippers roster is loaded with talented veteran players, including Westbrook, Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but it has not jelled since Harden’s debut on Nov. 6. The 34-year-old former NBA MVP is averaging 15.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game with L.A., well below his usual career norms.

Last season, Westbrook faced a similar situation with the Los Angeles Lakers, with the coaching staff moving him from the starting lineup into a reserve role after a slow start to the season. He eventually was traded by the Lakers, who rallied to reach the playoffs and advanced all the way to the 2023 Western Conference Finals.

The former All-Star is hoping for the same type of team success while also aiming to be a part of the solution for the full season this time around.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.