Russell Westbrook is ending the 2021-22 season on a high note after difficult first months in his debut year with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Westbrook faced constant criticism for two-thirds of the current campaign, failing to live up to expectations set by his arrival in L.A. The 33-year-old and his family even experienced harassment that needed to be addressed publicly by his wife, head coach Frank Vogel, the guard himself, and others.
Bradley Beal has joined in defending the 2017 NBA MVP. Beal spoke against the “disrespect” toward his former Washington Wizards teammate in an appearance on Draymond Green’s podcast, adding the Lakers playmaker is still a “Hall of Famer,” per The Volume:
“That shit pisses me off. I ain’t gone lie, bro. It really frustrates me, especially being a guy that played with him. The disrespect — that shit gotta stop, bro. It’s gotta stop because we acting like this man is not a Hall of Famer.”
Beal emphasized Westbrook’s versatility and hustle, saying the guard is “going to play winning basketball”:
“Russ is going to go get rebounds. Russ is going to make assists. Russ is going to take advantage of matchups he feels like he can.
And he’s going to play 100 miles per hour. He’s going to play hard. If that’s not your cup of tea, don’t watch him.”
Westbrook’s form has surged in recent weeks, as shown by leading L.A. to an essential win over the Toronto Raptors last week — when he converted his last-second steal into a game-tying triple to offer the Lakers a second life and send the clash to overtime.
Westbrook expects Pelicans have to have playoff-like atmosphere
The Lakers are taking on the New Orleans Pelicans in a vital game for both teams’ Play-In Tournament hopes. Westbrook thinks the clash will have a playoff-like feel to it, considering the stakes.
“It’s a game that we definitely want to win,” he said.
“I think if we have our mindset in the right place and do what we’ve been doing, play the right type of basketball, it will put us in position to be able to win the game. It’s gonna be a playoffs type of atmosphere for us because it’s definitely a must-win, I believe in our group.”