When he was approached about adding Russell Westbrook to the team, Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum was all for it. Batum, of course, came from a rough situation with the Charlotte Hornets to joining a championship contender in the Clippers, and the trajectory of his career completely changed.
Russell Westbrook was traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Utah Jazz after a relatively ugly year-and-a-half. His NBA future was unclear given how poorly he’d fit alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers.
Westbrook signed with the LA Clippers after the 2023 All-Star break, played in all 21 games with after the break. He averaged 15.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. The team went 11-10 in those 21 games, including three one-point losses and an overtime loss, each of which easily could’ve gone the other way.
In his short time, he’s had a number of big performance for the Clippers. The first was against the Memphis Grizzlies on March 29th in a road game the team had to play without Kawhi Leonard due to a family emergency. Westbrook scored 36 points and dished out 10 assists on 72 percent shooting in the much-needed win. Another came against the Lakers on April 5th, where he scored 10 first quarter points to set the tone for the remainder of the testy game.
Nicolas Batum joined Tomer Azarly and the ‘I Got Next Podcast‘ crew on their latest episode to talk about everything from his development from a young, skinny French prospect to the ultimate glue guy on a championship contending team. Among the topics discussed was Russell Westbrook’s addition to the Clippers amid concerns about his fit.
“I’m not shocked,” Batum said of Westbrook on the ‘I Got Next’ Podcast. “When they asked me, ‘what do you guys think about having him?’ It’s pretty much what I’m envisioning. Is he going to take shots and turn the ball over? Yes, like every point guard in this league! It feels like when you talk about Westbrook, it feels like all the other players in the NBA are perfect, nobody else misses shots, everyone averages like 95 percent from three, and lose 0.2 turnovers per game.
Westbrook has certainly brought elements to the team that either weren’t necessarily there or helped helped heighten them. For one, his downhill attacks and rum pressure were things the Clippers didn’t consistently have at the point guard position. John Wall brought it as times, as did Terance Mann, but Russell Westbrook has been able to provide it at a much better level.
Not at all known for his efficiency, Westbrook has shot 48.9 percent from the field and 35.6 from three, both of which would be career-highs over the course of an 82-game season.
“We’ve got to stop focusing on the negative of that guy,” Batum added on the ‘I Got Next’ Podcast. “I think we focus way too much on the negative of that guy. I understand situations. It didn’t work in the last situation. And that’s okay. And whether that’s his fault, the team’s fault. I don’t know. And I don’t care. It happened. It’s over. He moved on. Now he’s with us. And he’s doing good. I mean, he’s doing good.
“Yes. He has some stretches when he’s got bad turnovers. Yes, but he has way more stretches where he does way more good stuff for us, too. And I’m just focusing on that.”
Nicolas Batum was named the starting power forward for the Clippers late in the season and hasn’t relinquished the spot since. The Clippers won five of their final seven games with Russell Westbrook and Batum starting together.
You can watch or listen to the full ‘I Got Next’ podcast interview with Nicolas Batum here, YouTube, Apple, and Spotify.
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