For the first time in his career, Russell Westbrook will face the Clippers as a member of the Lakers on Friday. A decade ago, that wouldn’t have been that notable, but in recent seasons, namely after the Clippers acquired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the summer of 2019, the two sides have had plenty of hype around their meetings as the media searches for a rivalry its been trying to force since the Chris Paul trade veto nearly 10 years ago.
However, for a variety of reasons — from the teams never being good at the same time, to in more recent years, injuries, or the Clippers’ playoff collapse in 2020 — this is still the only time the two teams have both been competitive at the same time for any significant period of time. And given that Westbrook is a Los Angeles native that grew up a fan of the Lakers, it was still relevant to ask him for his perspective on the matchup, and if he ever saw it as a “rivalry.”
It turns out the answer is, as anyone from Los Angeles might have predicted, not really.
“No, I didn’t view anything as a rivalry. I was viewing my grades as my rivalry,” Westbrook deadpanned with a laugh.
When a reporter followed-up, asking if that meant that he had a rivalry with math, Westbrook clarified that he was just fine at that subject, which makes sense given his astounding ability to rack up counting stats. It was another class that was his personal rival.
“Math? Nah, I killed math. It was me vs. biology, chemistry, that’s what I was worried about. I wasn’t worried about no Lakers or no Clippers, to be honest,” Westbrook said.
But while Westbrook was clearly joking around, he also might have been on to something, because while I don’t have access to his grades, it’s not a stretch to say that just about anything may have been more of a rivalry than Lakers vs. Clippers was during Westbrook’s formative years.
You see, in the 23 times the Lakers played the Clippers during the years Westbrook was in middle school and high school, the Lakers were 16-7 overall, and in even more lopsided stats, the Lakers had won 14 of the first 17 games in that span. Basically, it almost had to be a bigger rivalry between him and biology if he faced any difficulties at all, because the Lakers certainly didn’t deal with many while destroying that version of the Clippers.
And moving forward, if Westbrook can teach the Lakers to treat the Clippers more like math, and less like biology, they should be in pretty good shape for the rest of this season, too.
Jacob Rude contributed research to this story. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.