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Russell Westbrook reportedly asks to come off bench, Mann to start for Clippers

Things clearly were not working: The Los Angeles Clippers were 0-5 since James Harden stepped on the court, with the 25th-ranked defense and 26th-ranked offense. It’s been hard to watch. The foursome of James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook have not meshed well and the team has a -16.5 net rating when all four share the court.

On paper, it always seemed the best fit was to start Terance Mann for his defense and off-ball comfort level, then bring Westbrook off the bench to change the tempo and lead the second unit. However, coach Tyronn Lue understood the internal politics of that idea — it had to come from the players themselves, it couldn’t be top-down, or it wouldn’t have the same buy-in. So he started his big four, and through five games, the Clippers were -36 in 85 minutes Westbrook and Harden shared the court. Anyone watching knew those two needed to be staggered. It was obvious.

It finally happened. Westbrook approached Lue and asked to come off the bench, reports Chris Haynes of TNT/Bleacher Report. Mann will get the start Friday when the Clippers host the Rockets in an In-Season Tournament game.

Westbrook approached the coaching staff with the idea to help the first unit develop some chemistry and to provide the second unit with spirited play, sources say. Westbrook, the vocal leader of the team, told the coaching staff he wants to do whatever it takes to win, sources say.

Lue has been clear from the start that his players would all need to sacrifice to make this work, but this is the biggest sacrifice so far.

Will it work? Or are the pieces the Clippers have just not good enough no matter how Lue arranges them? Time will tell, Harden is starting to get his legs under him and looked better in the Clippers’ most recent loss to the shorthanded Nuggets. Things need to turn around quickly because the 3-7 Clippers have dug themselves a hole in a deep West, and while there are 72 games left it’s not going to be easy to set themselves up for postseason success if they keep digging the hole deeper.