The rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers has really ramped up over the last few seasons with playoff level intensity between the sides every time they take the court. This year, the L.A. rivalry encompassed
a pre-existing one between former teammates and the two starting point guards, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson.
Jackson was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder and served as the team’s sixth man behind Westbrook, who was one of the best guards in the league at the time. But Jackson’s desire to be a starter and expand his role led to some issues and he was eventually traded to the Detroit Pistons.
The rivalry seemed to be in full effect during the most recent Lakers-Clippers contest, especially as Jackson yelled in Westbrook’s ear following what looked to be an attempted trip of Jackson by Westbrook. But as Jackson revealed in an interview Sam Amick of The Athletic, it was more about Westbrook’s recent actions in earlier games and not any long-term issues with the Lakers point guard:
“I kind of understood the moment once the yell and all that kind of happened (after that play), but it was more so frustration. People don’t understand how I felt […] I definitely feel like protecting my teammates at all times, and that’s what I’ve tried to do, so what had angered me was that people had missed how when (Clippers forward Marcus Morris’) big shot the game before (in a Clippers win over the Lakers on Dec. 3), (Westbrook) he had tried to trip him, and then Zu (Clippers big man Ivica Zubac) got tripped a play earlier so when I felt like (when he) tried to (trip him) I was pretty upset. That’s always been big brother, (and) letting all the emotion out, being excited.”
“But people don’t understand, like, I had a great time when I was in OKC. Russ was my biggest advocate […] I know when people (talk about) the ‘SPG’ thing, or things like that — I just wish we had dealt (with things) better as a team, as an organization. I thought we were highly talented […] It was just frustrating.”
Coming to the aid of teammates is understandable and if Jackson felt Westbrook was disrespectful towards his teammates, it makes sense why he had the reactions he did. But Jackson remains appreciative of what Westbrook did for him in the early part of his career:
“There’s no problem (laughs) — at all. I always wish him well, always tell him to tell his family what’s up for me. He was definitely — even though we were around the same age — he was definitely my vet, showing me the ropes, taking me around, making me comfortable. I think a lot of my aggression and my fire, and the way I play is because we’re all a product of our environment. So I also felt like I was raised under him as well. I’m always appreciative of Russ and thankful for all he’s done for me during my career. He raised me and showed me the ropes, especially preparing me for… what it was going to be like being a starter in the league and taking your lumps, the ups and downs and staying confident in yourself and even keel. I think a lot of that was from watching him and just getting to pick his brain and talk to him. But when we get out there and it’s time to compete, there’s no friends (laughs).”
When the ball goes up on the court all friendships go out the window, especially when it comes to the Lakers and Clippers squaring off. Jackson and Westbrook have quite the history together and at times it feels like it threatens to boil over.
But Jackson has never lost sight of what Westbrook did for him in his younger years. Even still, these things just continue to make the Lakers-Clippers rivalry one of the best in the NBA today.
Westbrook says Lakers must stick to their work to turn things around
Westbrook surely isn’t thinking about Jackson as he is focused on trying to help the Lakers turn their floundering season around. The Lakers point guard believes the Lakers must stick to putting in the work they have been to build that confidence back.
“You just got to stick to your work, stick to your principles and what you know. Try to find a way to play the right type of basketball, that’s it.”
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