It’s no secret that Russell Westbrook didn’t play up to standards in his first year with the Los Angeles Lakers, and because of that, he is under a microscope going into the 2022-23 season.
The Lakers were unsuccessful in their attempts to trade Westbrook this past summer so he will remain with the team at least to start the season. When asked at Media Day if he feels wanted by the organization, Westbrook stated that is not what’s important and he will continue to be a professional and do his job regardless.
That hasn’t stopped fans and people on the internet from psychoanalyzing every move from Westbrook though, and that was the case during Wednesday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Westbrook had his worst performance of the preseason with just five points, four assists and three rebounds on 1-of-3 shooting in 25 minutes. That wasn’t what he was criticized though as two videos circulated on Twitter that appear to show Westbrook being distant from his teammates both before the game and in the middle when Patrick Beverley was calling everyone over for a huddle:
Russell Westbrook appeared to stand off to the side during the Lakers’ pregame huddle on Wednesday against the Timberwolves.
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Patrick Beverley trying to be a defensive leader, but Russell Westbrook wasn't feeling it 👀
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Westbrook got the chance to address those videos after Thursday’s practice, via Mellisa Rohlin of Fox Sports:
“It’s really weird. Pregame, I’ve been doing that since I’ve been in the league, for years. They just cut the video and obviously the internet is gonna take it and run with whatever they need to run with. But I’ve been doing the same ritual since I’ve been in the league. I’m pretty sure y’all can attest to that. But as far as the other video, I was actually talking to the coaches and they cut that video in half as well. I was talking to the coaches about a missed coverage so I don’t pay no mind to it. Honestly, I’m just trying to go out and compete and do my job. I’ve seen those videos, y’all can cut anything y’all want and make anything y’all want out of it. It’s not up to me to judge that. I know I’m a genuine team player, I’ve never had a problem being with my teammates and I’ll continue to do what I’ve been doing.”
As he stated, Westbrook has a number of different pregame rituals that he’s done throughout the course of his career so this was nothing new. His second explanation also made sense as he appeared to be looking over at the Lakers’ bench when Beverley was trying to get the team huddled.
The 33-year-old is used to this type of scrutiny though and doesn’t believe it has been extra since coming to the Lakers:
“It’s been the same for me, honestly, in my career. I’m very used to it and I’m very accustomed to it. But I’ve just been blessed and thankful to be able to continue to play each year and I’ll continue to just put my head down and keep competing. Whatever comes with, the extra stuff, comes with it. It’s not up to me to be able to make videos or make things for the internet. I just go out there and do my job.”
Westbrook seems to be coming into the season with the right attitude, so hopefully Lakers fans are willing to give him another chance and don’t put his every move under a microscope as they did on Wednesday night.
If Westbrook is gonna have a successful season and help the Lakers turn things around, then having the support of the biggest fanbase in the world would go a long way in helping make that happen.
Ham outlines how Westbrook can be successful
As far as his on-court play, Westbrook will need to make some adjustments in Darvin Ham’s system and the Lakers head coach outlined how that can happen.
“In terms of Russ, there’s running lanes, there’s guy that are willing passers that are gonna find him, we just got to commit to our running habits and our spacing. He can find himself in the corner, he can find himself in the dunker, he can find himself pushing and leading the break. And I think you saw all of that when we played Phoenix in Vegas.”
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