Russell Westbrook and the Los Angeles Clippers have their work cut out for them against Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns. Without Paul George, the Clippers will need a collective effort in their seven-game series with the Suns.
Ahead of Sunday’s Game 1, Chris Paul spoke at Suns practice, where he addressed a number of pressing topics involving the upcoming playoff series. Among them was Russell Westbrook and the new-look LA Clippers.
“I’m really close with Russ and probably one of his biggest fans just because of the energy that he brings,” Chris Paul said of Russell Westbrook. “Everybody wants to talk all that foolishness and whatnot but it’s a lot of people that don’t love to play the game like him. What he brought to their team is they got some really good players but guys who sort of keep to themselves. So Russ coming in there was just a burst of energy and I think he gave those guys a lot of confidence.”
“I’m really close with Russ & probably 1 of his biggest fans just cuz of the energy that he brings. Everybody wants to talk all that foolishness & whatnot but it’s a lot of people that don’t love to play the game like him. He only plays 1 way.”
Chris Paul on Russell Westbrook pic.twitter.com/7WrUxibnJ1
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 15, 2023
In 21 games with the Clippers, Russell Westbrook certainly has brought another edge to the team that wasn’t there before. Head coach Tyronn Lue has repeatedly credited him with firing up the team during some intense March practices. The pace and downhill pressure with which he plays with is also something that, especially at the point guard position, was lacking prior to his arrival.
In those 21 games, Westbrook averaged 15.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per game on 48.9 percent shooting from the field and 35.6 percent from three. The shooting percentages, albeit in a small portion of the season, would be career-highs for Westbrook over an 82-game season.
Chris Paul will also see another familiar face he didn’t see during the 2021 Western Conference Finals meeting between these two teams: Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard returns from a torn ACL, and has been playing lights out since January. Paul says he isn’t seeing anything new.
“It’s the usual,” Chris Paul chuckled. “Like I said, I done played against a lot of these guys for a long time and Kawhi is the ultimate competitor. He’s gonna make sure he’s prepared to play and we gotta be ready.”
Chris Paul, now in his 18th year in the NBA, had arguably the worst year of his career statistically. In 59 appearances for the Suns, Paul averaged 13.9 points. 4.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists on 44 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from three.
Game 1 between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers will tip off Sunday at 5PM PST. The two teams will play every other day until Game 4, and they have a two-day break until Game 5, if the game is necessary.
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