Quantcast
Connect with us

Russell Westbrook reacts to joining LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Lakers

lakers russell westbrook carmelo anthony lebron james anthony davis lakers

Growing up in Los Angeles, Russell Westbrook dreamt of winning championships for the Lakers. He would even (try) sneaking out of school to attend the parades after the triumphs of his idol and future friend Kobe Bryant.

14 years into his NBA career, he’ll finally have a chance to compete for a title in the purple-and-gold, and he’ll do so alongside fellow future Hall of Famers LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

At his introductory press conference with the Lakers on Tuesday at Staples Center, Russ called it “surreal” to be a member of his hometown squad.

“I think it still kind of hasn’t hit me yet,” Westbrook said, sitting next to Lakers VP of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka and head coach Frank Vogel. “Being from L.A., growing up not too far from here. Being able to watch the parades. Missed school to try to go to them. Being a Lakers fan … Everything’s coming full circle for me, it’s a blessing. It’s a lot of things I can’t put into actual words, just because some of these dreams don’t come true for people like myself. I’m truly blessed and thankful for this opportunity and I can’t wait to get started.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMmgdiEMWp4

Westbrook was acquired by the Lakers in what amounted to a five-team blockbuster that was announced on draft night and formalized this past Friday. Before Russ took questions, Pelinka expanded on precisely what attracted the Lakers to the nine-time All-Star — one of the game’s most intense competitors.

That competitiveness resembles Bryant, who believed Westbrook was one of the few elite athletes who truly embodied the Mamba Mentality. The two developed a close bond over the years. Westbrook said Bryant “hasn’t left my head” and he’ll “be with me every time I put that Lakers jersey on.”

As for any concerns about meshing with James — like Russ, one of the most ball-dominant players in basketball — and Davis, neither Westbrook nor Vogel seem too concerned, though they don’t expect things to be smooth sailing from the jump.

“Bron is one of the best players to play this game, and his ability to be able to kinda do everything on the floor allows me to be able to just figure it out,” Westbrook noted. “I’m coming to a championship-caliber team, and my job is to make sure that I’m able to make his game easy for him, and I’ll find ways to do that throughout the game.

As it pertains to ball-handling and all that, it really doesn’t matter. There’s many ways you can impact the game without having the ball in your hands, and I’ve been able to do that for many years, and we’ll figure it out.”

At the very least, Westbrook is confident he can “uplift” his superstar teammates.

“Each year I try to find ways to be able to uplift and make my teammates better around me. And AD and Bron are friends of mine first. And me being their teammate, my job is to come in and uplift them. And they’ll do the same with me, vice versa. And as the season prolongs, we will figure it out. There will be ups, there will be downs. That’s normal, that’s OK. We gonna figure out how to play the best way we want to play in order to win a championship.”

Vogel believes the talent and intelligence of the Lakers’ new Big Three will make up for the imprecise fit.

“I think anytime you have three great players like this, there is an element of sacrifice required,” Vogel said. “We’ve all talked about that and are all-in on that. But these three guys can do it all. What I love about our group — Bron, AD, and Russ — is they’re all ‘make the right play’ players. It’s not just about scoring or being a one-dimensional player — they can all do it all. I’m most excited about seeing what the three of them on the court at the same time looks like.”

Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game in 2020-21 for the Washington Wizards. Westbrook has the second-highest usage rate of all time. LeBron is 5th.

One place Vogel sees the Lakers dominating? In transition. Few players in history have been more unstoppable than Westbrook and James in the open floor.

“I think we’re going to be an extremely dynamic fast-breaking team, and one that can play off-the-ball three guys, in many different ways,” Vogel added. “So, I think with the speed and athleticism of those guys, plus the complementary parts we put together — the shooters and the defenders — I think we got a real chance this year to do something special. It’s on us now to put in the work.”

Vogel echoed the sentiments of multiple players in their Friday introductory remarks as well as Carmelo Anthony and Kent Bazemore on Monday: the Lakers’ age is a good thing.

“Age does equal experience,” Vogel said. “IQ, intelligence helps you win. In terms of motivation, the motivation for us is that trophy, not what people are saying. This group is highly driven to get back on top. I don’t really think anything about what anybody’s saying about our age. But I do agree that our experience will be necessary and help us win.”

Westbrook, 32, will join Anthony, Bazemore, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard, Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk, and Wayne Ellington as new additions to the Lakers roster. On Tuesday, Pelinka — addressing media for the first time since exit interviews — said the impetus for the shake-up was simply opportunistic.

“It was an opportunity to make an aggressive move that we felt like bettered our probability to bring the 18th title to the Los Angeles Lakers,” he said. “When an opportunity like that comes, you’re thoughtful, you analyze it, you look at the pros and cons and then you make a decision. That’s what leaders are tasked to do. And we felt like this was an opportunity to maximize our ability to do what we’re obsessed to do, and that’s to bring an 18th title to this city.”

Westbrook approves of the roster Pelinka has assembled.

“It’s amazing. The roster’s great. A bunch of guys I’ve already known, previous, which is even better … As I come into the season, I’m always looking at the roster and figuring out how I can make other guys better. It’s as simple as that. And I want to be able to leave an impact on people when they either play with me or come across me, obviously in a positive way. And I’ll find ways to do that with our roster. But I’m really looking forward to getting together with all the guys and figuring that out.”

Westbrook revealed that he discussed the Lakers’ move briefly with LeBron and Davis, but the process “happened so quickly”. As a native Angeleno, though, he always hoped for a chance to rep the Lakers.

“This happened so fast, last two weeks or so. But we’ve had brief conversations and talked about what we need to do and how we need to do it. And we’ll address that as training camp and as the season comes along, and we’ll figure it out.  … The biggest thing for me is … when you know teams that actually want you and actually want you to be a place. To me, that means more than anything else.”

“Being from LA, you always wish that you can play for your home team and be able to do that. But that’s definitely something that always kind of circled around in my mind, maybe one day. … Now we’re here and I’m gonna take full advantage of it.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Russell Westbrook (@russwest44)

Westbrook said his family was “very, very happy” about the move. He’s thrilled to be close to his parents, kids, and wife every day, and to be able to give back to the community where he grew up.

“That is kinda the most important thing about being back home: being able to inspire and impact people, especially our youth in our communities, especially our underserved communities, especially in the city of L.A. … My focus will be dialed into the community like it’s always been, and I’ll continue to find ways to uplift our communities as much as I can.”

Westbrook is going to “stay true to myself,” and, like Anthony, soak up the knowledge around him.

“I always want to stay true to who I am. And with that, making sure that I’m able to listen and be all ears because I am coming to an unbelievable organization, team, and players that I’m able to learn from. Each year I try to find things I can learn to be able to help improve my game and be a better player, and I will do that here as well.”

Russ will have his best opportunity to win that elusive ring since his Oklahoma City Thunder days. But does the NBA’s all-time triple-double leader believe he has anything left to prove?

No. I don’t. I’ve been blessed and thankful to be able to be in this league so long and lucky to be able to play and be healthy. When I got drafted in the NBA, that was me proving people wrong. When I was able to go to college … go to UCLA from inner city, that was me proving people wrong. Just making it out the hood was proving people wrong. I don’t need to do that anymore. I’ve been able to bless the people around me, my family. Been able to impact people all across the world with this platform that’s been given to me. I’ll continue to do that. Obviously, I want to win a championship, but the ultimate goal is to make sure we use what we have to impact those around you.”

Lakers training camp starts Sept. 28. Why not?