Russell Westbrook wasn't part of the closing rotation Tuesday during the Los Angeles Clippers' last contest. He wasn't in the starting lineup for the team's NBA in-season tournament game Friday against the Houston Rockets, either.
Terance Mann got his first start of the season in Westbrook's place. Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star, asked to come off the bench to boost the second unit and allow the team to jell, Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes reported earlier Friday.
The 35-year-old reportedly told Clippers personnel he was willing to sacrifice for the good of the team, which was on a six-game losing streak before James Harden's winning 3-pointer Friday snapped the skid.
Five of those losses came after the addition of Harden. The starting lineup of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Harden and Westbrook was already looking like a bust Wednesday, when Haynes reported head coach Ty Lue would be trying different rotations.
"The biggest thing is getting these guys to sacrifice for guys, whether that's starting the game, finishing the game, shots, touches, who's running pick-and-rolls, and things like that," Lue told Haynes. "Getting these guys to sacrifice will be the biggest challenge all season."
While Lue reportedly spoke with third-year guard Bones Hyland about a potentially reduced role in the coming weeks, it appears Westbrook had a similar vision for himself.
It's possible the Clippers' 111-108 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday swayed Westbrook's perspective. Lue was vague ahead of the matchup when reporters asked who the primary ball-handler would be. He said he wanted Harden to control the ball after made baskets. But he remained open to anyone taking control after misses, as long as he pushed the pace.
Hard-pressed for a win, Lue allowed Westbrook to play in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Los Angeles was leading by five points before Lue subbed Westbrook out for Harden. The game closed with Harden, Leonard and Mann on the court as Norman Powell and P.J. Tucker were exchanged.
Westbrook's reported request to become a sixth man is a better look than the alternative, which would've been expressing discontent about the decreased minutes. Considering the Clippers' theme of sacrifice, it seems likely we'll get more reports surrounding the utilization of their stars throughout the campaign.