Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is not a fan of the media. He has made his skepticism and distaste for the media abundantly clear throughout his NBA career.
Westbrook was jovial and often quotable during his first training camp with the Lakers. However, since his opening night struggles and through a shaky first quarter of the 2021-22 NBA season—for him and the Lakers—Westbrook’s disposition towards the media has shifted. He’s been terse after losses, frustrated about repeatedly answering questions about the Lakers’ progress, and has tended to look at his phone throughout press conferences.
During a post-practice media session on Thursday—one day before the Lakers face the Los Angeles Clippers—things got unexpectedly testy between Westbrook and reporters.
It began when Westbrook was asked by The Athletic’s Bill Oram (over Zoom) about the previous reporting that Westbrook privately talked with Kawhi Leonard about joining the Clippers a few years ago. In August, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne revealed that Westbrook and Leonard spoke before Leonard set his sights on Paul George, then with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The back-and-forth led Westbrook into a diatribe on journalism practices and sourcing. Unfortunately, the Lakers cut the interaction out of the video they posted, but here’s a transcript of the conversation.
Oram: Hey Russ, on the PG front, before he ended up with the Clippers, there was some reporting that you had some interest maybe in joining up with Kawhi. I’m just curious how you look back at it, and how you think that story has played out for the two of you since that moment.
Russ: Reports from who?
Oram: I think there were a couple of different reports over this summer that you had maybe had some conversations with Kawhi and then that was used maybe to faciliate PG coming to the Clippers.
Russ: I know. You didn’t tell me who it was from. If you can’t tell me who you got it from then I can’t answer the question.
Oram: Like what outlets?
Russ: Yeah. I want to know who you got it from.
Oram: I think there was an ESPN report, there was an Athletic report. It’s been out there.
Russ: I know. From who, though?
Oram: Uhh. I don’t have the in—
Russ: Ahh. Well then I don’t got an answer for you, neither. You can’t tell me who you got it from, then I don’t really know.
Oram: So is that not true?
Russ: I asked you who you got it from, you can’t give me an answer, right? You gotta find a different question.
Oram: That was a different question.
Russ: Well, sorry for you Bill.
Oram: Is it true?
Russ: Where do you get your question from? Who’s your source?
Oram: I got it from reading about the NBA.
Russ: OK, and who did they get it from, do you know?
Oram: They got it from the people they talked to.
Russ: And who was that?
Oram: For all I know it was you. Was it you?
Russ (laughs): I don’t talk to the media, can’t be me.
Dan Woike (Los Angeles Times): Honestly, were you interested in coming to play in LA with Kawhi Leonard?
Westbrook said he sits back and waits for people to call him, and has “no answer as it pertains to that.” A few minutes later, Woike tried to broach the topic again, leading to this conversation on the state of journalism.
Russ: You asked me a question based off a story that someone else had written, but you don’t know where they got it from, or you don’t know if it’s true.
Woike: I would say the erosion of relationships between athletes and reporters has made this awkward.
Russ: I’m talking about for me. I don’t know what nobody else do. I have no relations with no media outlet where they come to me and go, ‘here, Russ, I got a source for you.’ That’s not what I do, and now you guys know that.
Reporter: I understand that. Like I said, I think that’s where, like, people speak for you or speak around you and that’s what happens.
Russ: I don’t let nobody speak for me. If you don’t hear it from me, don’t go with, ‘the source said.’ Sources will get you in trouble.
Kyle Goon (SCNG): Don’t you think it’s fair that now that reports are out there, that we come to you and ask?
Russ: You can ask. It’s how you ask it, though. It’s how you ask the question. Where you get it from. That’s very important. How you ask it, it’s different, it’s very direct. Bill asked it with a bunch of b*llshit in the question. There’s just a difference. You ask me very direct, ‘Hey, you know duh duh duh?’ Simple. I can tell you ‘nah’ or I can keep it to myself.
Woike: To be fair, you didn’t really answer the original question.
Russ: I didn’t, and he didn’t answer mine either. So, if Bill don’t know where he got his question from, his source from, then I guess I don’t know anything either.
Reporter: It’s just like, as we deal with agents and stuff like that, that’s where this shit happens. This is like part of it.
Cross talk and laughter around the room.
Russ: It’s just important that you know where your sources of information are coming from. I understand that there are a lot of sources. Ramona reported a story about Kawhi. I never talked to Ramona.
Westbrook repeated that if a reporter asks him about information he or she hears, Westbrook will ask who the source is.
Reporter: What if Kawhi said it?
Russ: I doubt it.
Then he smiled and everybody laughed.