Russell Westbrook has faced a great deal of pressure since signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer.
Many criticized L.A. for adding Westbrook to the roster, questioning the 32-year-old’s compatibility with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Initially, the 2017 NBA MVP did struggle to figure out how to co-exist next to the two Lakers’ All-Stars.
And when the team’s Big 3 finally showed glimpses of potential after a rough beginning of the 2021-22 season, James suffered his second injury of the year with an abdominal strain ruling the four-time NBA champion for about a week. Then, Anthony sprained his thumb and dealt with stomach issues in the recent loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The injuries severely impacted the Lakers’ first weeks of the current campaign — as well as Westbrook’s familiarization with his new team. The guard has suggested L.A.’s health issues played a bigger role in the Lakers’ 5-5 start than many think.
“I think any new team that’s trying to figure it out with lineup changes and things like that, the different obstacles you may face as a team, that’s all normal and I understand that just playing this game throughout the season,” Westbrook said.
“Adversity may start at the start of the season, middle of the season, end, wherever, you never know. But nobody really cares, nobody care that that’s happening, that guys are hurt, guys are not it, nobody cares.”
Having played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards in his career, Westbrook pointed out he has been on teams that just turned the page, starting a completely new project. The guard said that the experience, combined with his skillset, can help him — and the Lakers — prevail over adversity early in the season.
“If you just kind of look back and you see the last three or four years, I’ve always been on new teams, so I’m always just kind like figuring out the best way to better play,” he said.
“The good part about it is I’m so blessed and thankful that I can do so many different things on the floor, that I can do whatever, with anybody. I can play with anybody. And I’m very comfortable with that.
“But also I take a lot of pride, and I take a lot of just energy and effort to making sure I can be the best I can be with the guys we have on this team and make the best of this situation.”
Westbrook ‘doesn’t put extra pressure’ on himself despite tough spell
James and Davis emphasized Westbrook’s propensity for setting high standards for himself last month. The All-Star duo has also called on the athletic guard to be himself on the court rather than beat himself up if things don’t go his way.
But Westbrook says he doesn’t subject himself to extra pressure despite the Lakers’ problems — although admits he holds himself accountable when L.A. loses.
“I’m very elite at what I do and I believe that every single night and that’s how I need to play, simple as that,” he said.
“There’s no extra pressure of any sort for me. Like I said, I’ve been doing this every year. It’s not like a new thing, so when I figure it out, then I’ll be in a better position. But right now there’s so many different things happening with the lineup changes and so many different people in and out, the way we’re playing and we’re not winning, which is primarily the reason why I always feel like I need to do something better for our team when we don’t win, that’s just how I am as a player.”
“So losing definitely doesn’t help anything. When we win, then shit I don’t care what I do, but when we lose, me personally I always take ownership in my play because if I’m not playing the best way that I can play then I feel like it’s on me to play better to give us a better chance of winning ballgames.”
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