Russell Westbrook will face plenty of scrutiny in 2022-23 after returning to the Los Angeles Lakers for another season.
Westbrook has been deemed an awkward fit in L.A. ever since he arrived from the Washington Wizards in the summer of 2020. Those concerns proved to be justified during the 2021-22 season when the 33-year-old struggled to develop chemistry with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Westbrook’s attitude only added fuel to the criticism of the veteran playmaker as he appeared unwilling to hold himself accountable for the things he did wrong last year. Perhaps that’s why he made the headlines again when he seemed to purposefully stay away from his teammates during the penultimate preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In a viral video from the game, Patrick Beverley is seen calling a distant Westbrook for a team huddle. Another clip appears to show Westbrook uninterested in staying around his teammates during starting lineup presentations, causing the Lakers faithful to question the 2017 NBA MVP’s commitment.
But Beverley has downplayed the situation on his new podcast, explaining Westbrook joined the huddle late because of his discussions with the referees and coaches:
Pat Bev on what REALLY went down with the Russ huddle situation. Episode 01 out tomorrow pic.twitter.com/8YqJCVuADq
— Pat Bev Pod (@PatBevPod) October 17, 2022
In a video trailer for the second episode of the show, Beverley points out the amount of attention Westbrook attracts — emphasizing how such heavy scrutiny could be difficult to handle. However, Beverley said that his foe-turned-teammate has been “mentally solid and strong.”
Westbrook does have a habit of distancing himself from huddles — even during timeouts — which showed on several occasions during the 2021-22 season.
But even if it’s not a new issue, the fact that the guard doesn’t participate in impromptu team meetings to discuss game strategy still feels far from ideal.
Westbrook probable for Opening Night matchup with Warriors
In addition to the video controversy, Westbrook found himself on the bench at the start of the final preseason game, the blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings. And then, he suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter that ruled him out for the remainder of the clash.
However, Westbrook has been listed as “probable” for the Opening Night game against the Golden State Warriors.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!