Playing in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform in this modern age is no easy task given the constant attention the organization commands. While it is no secret that Russell Westbrook has been in the media spotlight for his lackluster performances, the poor evaluation of Westbrook has reached a new level.
With current and former players siding or criticizing Westbrook on social media, the 6-foot-3-inch point guard’s teammate Juan Toscano-Anderson recently voiced his thoughts without saying a word by wearing Westbrook’s jersey to practice.
While it was a very small gesture, it was a way for Toscano-Anderson to show support for his teammate. Even though they are fairly new teammates, it’s clear Toscano-Anderson and Westbrook have built a strong relationship, so much so that the former called the latter one of the best teammates he’s ever had, via Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group:
“It’s funny because before I met Russ, I didn’t really like Russ”, Toscano-Anderson said. “And I think a lot of people have that type of lens about Russ just because he’s so competitive. From the little time that I’ve known Russ – and I’ve had some hell of … I’ve had some great teammates – Russ is probably in my top five, top three teammates I’ve ever had. He’s an amazing teammate and an amazing person. And at the end of the day, I played overseas for five years before I made it to the NBA so I kind of have a wider view. I can differentiate between NBA life and real life. And he’s a human being, bro. Like he’s not perfect. He’s a human being. And I think people forget that. Or people think, ‘Oh, you make all this money and when you play this professional sport, you should be numb to these things.’ When in actuality, that’s not true. So, for me as a teammate, I feel like that’s my job. If I’m going to put on the same jersey as you, I’m going to have your back because I’m going to expect you to have my back. I’ve got two brothers and a sister, I grew up in a small, tight-knit family. So I’m going to live and die by my teammates, but I’m going to have his back along with all my other teammates while I have this Laker jersey on.”
The class Toscano-Anderson carries speaks more about him as a person than the player. Not only does he provide high energy and hustle on the court, but in the locker room, he can help boost a team’s morale and that’s exactly what makes a good teammate.
In the midst of the Westbrook saga, the Lakers faithful can come away with positive emotions in how his Purple and Gold teammates are siding and treating the situation with class and respect. If the Lakers do want to win in the future, having a guy like Toscano-Anderson in the locker room is a recipe for success.
Westbrook hopefully for return against Timberwolves, may come off bench
The Lakers cannot catch a break with injuries as Westbrook is battling a hamstring issue this early in the season. So far, the injury has only caused him to miss one game, and he is hopeful to return on Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
However, whenever Westbrook is able to return, it may be in a different role as reports are indicating he will come off the bench.
Managing a player’s preference versus what the team may need against a certain matchup is a juggling act that the Lakers first-year head coach Darvin Ham will continue to have to figure out while Westbrook is wearing a Laker jersey, but for now, the point guard will have to be accepting of a role change for the betterment of the team.
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