Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook found themselves on the same team again having signed with the Los Angeles Lakers — but in very different circumstances compared to their time on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder put together their own Big 3 in 2017-18, adding Anthony to a roster that already had Westbrook and Paul George leading the way. Oklahoma City finished the regular season in fourth and entered the 2018 NBA playoffs with high expectations. But the Utah Jazz stunned the Thunder in the first round, eliminating them in six games.
The shocking exit marked the end of Anthony’s time in Oklahoma City. The franchise’s front office thought the forward’s refusal to come off the bench coupled with his heavy contract offset the nine-time All-Star’s value.
But Westbrook has said he never held Anthony’s stipulations against him.
“Honestly, from the phone call I had with Melo to tell him to come to Oklahoma City when he was in New York until now, he’s always been willing to do what’s better for the team and what’s better for that particular situation at the time,” Westbrook said.
“Obviously some times may have not looked as if he was willing to do so, but the conversations we had as men and as brothers, he’s always been straight up and honest with me where he sees himself with the upcoming season.”
After leaving Oklahoma City, Anthony fell out of favor with NBA coaches and general managers. After a short spell in Houston, not a single team showed interest in his services for 12 long months — until November 2019, when the Portland Trail Blazers offered Anthony a chance to redeem himself.
The rest is history, and the forward is now making a serious case to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award as part of the Lakers organization. Anthony’s comeback story filled Westbrook with all the more respect for his acclaimed teammate.
“To see him just kind of really take in and own the space is just amazing because I know he’s at peace,” Westbrook said.
“That’s the only thing that matters for us as athletes. And as people start to realize that we are people, human beings like everybody else and we go through different things that are more difficult to handle. And for him to be able to see that he’s at a place of peace and comfort with himself is the most thing I’m most important about.
“Basketball stuff will take care of itself, he’s a Hall of Famer and he’ll leave this game with his head up regardless of what happens. But him as a person and who he has become over the last couple years is, to me, the most important part.”
Westbrook feels need to bring joy to basketball
Westbrook has been writing quite a story himself during his 14-year NBA career.
A colorful personality and often seemingly under-appreciated talent, the 32-year-old guard recently offered the Staples Center crowd a piece of his showman self. Westbrook broke into crip walking while dribbling the ball up the court in the middle of a fourth-quarter push that led to a 113-101 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“You’re like, I don’t know, all I heard was the music and I was like ‘oh, that’s my joy right here!’,” he said.
“That’s just how it works with me, I love to dance, that’s something that I kind of enjoy doing, kind of happened in the middle of the game, but enjoying it.”
Westbrook added joy and fun help him stay focused on his goals for the game.
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