NUGGETS

Russell Westbrook is already hanging out with a Serbian GOAT

Jul 9, 2024, 6:25 PM

If it’s to be believed that Nikola Jokic is the one who is directing the Denver Nuggets to pick up Russell Westbrook, then the three-time MVP phoned in the big guns.

Multiple reports have tied the Nuggets to Westbrook with many saying it’s Jokic asking the team to pick up the future Hall of Fame guard. The 2016-17 MVP is a nine-time All-NBA player, nine-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion and has already been named to the NBA’s 75 best-players of all-time team a few years ago.

The sportsmen more accomplished than Westbrook is a short list, and Jokic is on it. So too is Jokic’s good buddy and somebody Westbrook bumped into in London—Novak Djokovic. The Serbian tennis star is the current world No. 2 and has a record 428 weeks as the No. 1 plus a record 24 major titles. The 37-year-old is the lone man to achieve a triple Career Grand Slam, and the only player to complete a Career Golden Masters, a feat he has achieved twice. Ahead of Djokovic’s quarter-final matchup against Alex de Minaur on Wednesday, Wimbledon shared a photo of the tennis star with the current Clippers backup point guard Westbrook.

Djokovic hung out with the Nuggets in Los Angeles earlier this year during the tennis star’s stint at Indian Wells earlier this spring. The Serbian is a good enough friend of Jokic that the two have been captured in photos partying together. In California, Jokic introduced Djokovic to the Nuggets to which the two took pictures with a bunch of Nuggets teammates and staff and everyone looked genuinely thrilled to be there. Meanwhile the possible GOAT of tennis and athletes in his country, Djokovic is humble enough to toss that type of love at the Nuggets big.

Funny enough, if the Nuggets do indeed get Westbrook it would be in a strange sequence of events, where the Nuggets won’t be the first recent champion to lose Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and add Westbrook the same summer. Nor will the Nuggets be the first pick to pick Westbrook over Reggie Jackson. Calvin Booth will hope that unlike the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder who made those transactions in the past that this move for Westbrook will be the outlier.

Even stranger, the Nuggets would be dropping their biggest tennis fan in KCP for apparently another in Westbrook, who now twice has had photos shot of him with Djokovic, nearly a decade apart on the two.

Westbrook opted into his $4 million contract with the Clippers earlier this summer but that seems to have come with the caveat that the sides would look for a trade. The Nuggets soon emerged as a suitor with later reports sharing that a lot of interest was driven by Jokic. Westbrook opted back in despite wanting out because in the NBA it’s sometimes easier to find a new home while keeping a few extra bucks via trade rather than hitting the market outright. This seems to be the case with this circumstance where the Nuggets are heavily limited in free agency by being in the luxury tax but could’ve maneuvered a trade using several mechanisms for Westbrook.

The 35-year-old UCLA Bruin has been in the league for 16 years and has bounced between five franchises, with his most legendary stint coming for the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s for the Nuggets division rival that Westbrook won the NBA MVP and hit a famous buzzer-beater in Denver three to cap the first of his four unreal triple-double averaging seasons. But that was a rare deep shot for Westbrook who is one of 269 players to attempt 2,000 threes in his career and his percentage is 268th. Those shooting issues have really come to light as Brodie’s athleticism has declined. As told by his more recent playoff failures and his bouncing around the league a bit.

Westbrook’s lone trip to the NBA Finals came in his fourth season all the way back in 2012. Since blowing a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals to the 2016 Warriors, Westbrook’s teams have gone 1-7 in playoff series with the lone win coming in a bubble series where the guard missed four games and they were subsequently gentlemanly swept by the Lakers. After 11 seasons in OKC, he was thought to be a solution for James Harden in Houston and LeBron James in Los Angeles.

In going to the Lakers, Los Angeles split up their recent champion team that had beaten Westbrook’s Rockets and to do they sent out Caldwell-Pope. The trade was such a failure that the Lakers missed the playoffs and Westbrook would end up being bought out.

It’s that final move that ended with Westbrook going across town to the star-studded Clippers, where he changed roles into a strong bench player. It’s this transaction that led the Nuggets to acquire Reggie Jackson as the Clippers moved off that veteran guard to open up space for Westbrook. And that’s not the first time Jackson and Westbrook crossed paths. Jackson was drafted by the Thunder where Westbrook starred and the two famously beefed there, forcing the backup point Jackson to be shipped to Detroit away from the team’s star. At the time, a much younger Jackson was adamant about being a starter in the NBA—something he would easily prove to be with the Pistons.

Last season Westbrook played in 68 games, starting 11, and he averaged 22.5 minutes, 11.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists a night. He shot just 27% from three but still puts a lot of pressure on the rim and is a decent defender at 6-foot-4 thanks to his high motor.

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