Lakers News: Thomas Bryant Credits Russell Westbrook For Support During & After ACL Recovery
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Bryant is two years removed from a torn ACL that he suffered in Jan. 2021 while playing for the Washington Wizards. In the midst of his best stretch as a player up until that point, the ACL injury would set him back for the next full season and more until his next big opportunity came with the Los Angeles Lakers.

When Anthony Davis suffered an unfortunate stress reaction in his foot, L.A. turned to Bryant, who has been even more than what the Lakers could have ever hoped for. And the one common factor between the 2021 Wizards and today’s Lakers is Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook was playing alongside Bryant when he suffered the torn ACL and has been one of his keys to success in his recent dominant stretch.

Bryant spoke about some of the advice he’s received from Westbrook that has allowed him to not only improve as a player, but keep himself game-ready after a major injury, according to Dan Woike of The L.A. Times:

“What he used to tell me was to always stay prepared and always train like it was for a game,” Bryant said. “One thing I took from him was the amount of preparation he did, whether it was before practice, after practice, before games and after games. He always took great, great care of his body. And that’s what I always got from him too. The recovery needs to be … as much as you do out there on the court, you need to recover as much as you can as well.”

Bryant also said that simply being around Westbrook gave him a good example of how to take care of his physical health in between games:

“Absolutely. That was one thing that really, really helped,” Bryant said. “I always wondered, ‘Damn, what does Russ be doin, man?’ But it’s what he does to take care of his body, the intention and attention to detail about everything off the court with his body, maintenance, his preparation. I took that with me.”

Improved conditioning has absolutely been a factor in Bryant being so effective after seeing his minutes double from 14.4 prior to Davis’ injury, to 28.9 per game after. Since the injury to Davis, Bryant is averaging 16.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game on 64.8 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from three.

Despite not being an elite defender, Bryant has helped to alter the course of the Lakers’ season. Many assumed Davis’ injury would be a death sentence, but Bryant has helped to keep the team afloat, going 8-7 in their last 15 contests.

Wenyen Gabriel looking to build off strong performance

The Lakers’ de-facto backup center — Wenyen Gabriel — is also showing how effective he can be, putting together one of his best performances as a Laker against the Dallas Mavericks.

“Yeah, my name was called tonight and I always come prepared to play defense with an edge like I do. Try to find my niche in the offense and my teammates were finding me today and I was able to help the team to give us a chance to win. So hopefully I can continue to build off of that as well.”

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