Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook said the two viral videos that show him not talking to teammates during Wednesday’s preseason game don’t have proper context. The former league MVP said he’s been doing the same pregame ritual since he’s been in the league, and during the game he was talking to a coach and that’s why he wasn’t in that huddle. Reasonable explanations, but this isn’t good long term.
“Pregame, I’ve been doing that since I’ve been in the league for years, man,” Westbrook said after practice Thursday. “I think they just cut the video and, obviously, the internet is going to take it and run with whatever they need to run with. But I’ve been doing the same ritual since I’ve been in the league.”
Russell Westbrook on all the huddle speculation: pic.twitter.com/kx4cd50pPB
— Melissa Rohlin (@melissarohlin) October 13, 2022
Westbrook’s wife Nina took to Twitter to defend her husband.
Smh… and it begins…
— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) October 13, 2022
Westbrook is a frequent target for the ire of Lakers fans that are angry the team missed the playoffs last season. Westbrook was not good last year, but he was available. He played in 78 of 82 games. More than you can say for LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who played in 56 and 40 games, respectively.
But LeBron and Davis won a title for the Lakers in 2020, so they’re a bit teflon in that respect. Westbrook was brought in last season to help them get back to the Finals, and they failed miserably.
He was bad, to be clear. But a Lakers team with just Westbrook was never going to be good even if he played at the level he did with the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards.
It’s easy to look at a video of Westbrook set apart from the team and run rampant with speculation. The narrative is that Westbrook is a big reason why the Lakers were bad and the team tried to trade him and was unsuccessful. So if fans see a video and he’s away from his teammates it becomes a form of confirmation bias.
“See, we knew Westbrook was the problem. Look how he’s not supporting his teammates.”
Don’t feel bad for Westbrook, he’s earning $47 million this season and for his career he’ll have earned $335 million. As he often says, he’s “blessed” to play this game. But if he doesn’t change some things about his game, he won’t be playing it in the NBA for much longer.
“Honestly I’m just trying to compete and do my job. Everything, videos, get nitpicked. You can cut any video and make anything you want out of it. It’s not up to me to be able to judge that. I know I’m a genuine team player. I’ve never had a problem being with my teammates, so I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing.”
Westbrook is a good teammate and supported by his current and former teammates. But the idea that he’s just going to keep doing what he does is wrong. He needs to adapt to his new reality and what this team needs from him.
When he shares the floor with LeBron and Davis he needs to move without the ball and cut to the basket. He’s not a good shooter, so defenses don’t have to respect him when he’s parked in the corner behind the three-point line.
He also needs to engage on defense and use his athleticism to get out in transition and score easy buckets.
There are ways he can be very helpful and productive for this team. He just needs to stop doing what he’s been doing and do what this team needs.
Read More TSL Stories: