The Los Angeles Clippers' 2022-23 season came to an end on Tuesday night, as the Phoenix Suns eliminated them with a 136-130 victory in Game 5.
Now, the focus shifts to the Clippers' offseason and where the team goes from here.
After the game, head coach Ty Lue was asked about Russell Westbrook's playoff production and upcoming free agency. Lue admitted that he feels validated after Westbrook's strong postseason, and he hopes the 34-year-old free agent will be back with the Clippers next season.
"Hopefully you guys can see that Russ still has a lot left in the tank. Hopefully he's back with us next year," Lue said of Westbrook. "Then again, this has opened eyes for a lot of the teams [who may want to] give him an opportunity, if he can go out there and really get paid. But I want him back, for sure."
In 21 regular-season games with the Clippers, Westbrook averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.2 threes and 1.1 steals, while shooting 48.9% from the field, 35.6% from three-point range and 65.8% from the free-throw line.
Westbrook stepped up in the postseason, making plays on both ends of the floor, averaging 23.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 2.0 threes, 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals. Even when his shot wasn't falling, he found other ways to make an impact.
Westbrook in the playoffs:— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 26, 2023
14 PTS | 8 REB | 8 AST
37 PTS | 6 REB | 4 AST
30 PTS | 8 REB | 12 AST
28 PTS | 5 REB | 5 AST
9 PTS | 11 REB | 8 AST
Led the Clippers in points, assists, steals and blocks. pic.twitter.com/0GUfwUcQgs
Lue shouted out Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, president of business operations Gillian Zucker and president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank for signing Westbrook midseason after he was bought out by the Utah Jazz. Now, he's hoping they can figure out a way to re-sign the veteran guard.
"Usually when I ask for something, they usually try to make sure they get it done," Lue said of Los Angeles' front office. "[Russ] was huge for us. So I hope everybody can see just [in] different situations, [on] different teams, guys play differently in different spots."
Westbrook earned just $784,914 from the Clippers this season, as he signed a veteran-minimum deal following his huge buyout with the Jazz. Given his production in Los Angeles, the former MVP will likely ask for a significant raise this summer.
Since Ballmer purchased the team, the Clippers haven't been afraid to spend a ton of money in hopes of building a contender. This season, their $192,905,421 payroll was the highest in the NBA.
It remains to be seen what kind of market Westbrook will have in free agency and whether he will be back with his hometown team next season.
"You know what, this will be probably my first time actually in my career being able to make a [free-agency] decision," Westbrook said when asked about his future. "One thing I'll tell you is that I love it here. I love the people, just the fans embracing not just me but my family and close friends. I know [it's the] end of the year, a lot of things have happened, but I'm grateful. I definitely love being here.
"As far as making a decision, I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I don't really know my process because it's kind of my first time doing this, so we'll see what happens."
Westbrook raved about the Clippers organization and how it differs from other franchises.
"A well, well-ran organization from top to bottom," Westbrook said. "Been in the league a long time. You understand the value of the small things, the staff, the people that they have here to take care of the players day in and day out. It's something that I really noticed since day one.
"Not just that, but it's a happy and enjoyable environment [and that] is something that you don't see everywhere. [People are] happy to come to work, being around people that actually enjoy their job, enjoy what they're doing, and making sure we have everything we need to be successful on the floor."