Russell Westbrook was not feeling talkative on Tuesday night. After shooting 4-13 from the field and turning the ball over four times in the Lakers’ season-opening loss to the Warriors, Westbrook’s postgame chat with the media was a picture of lexical efficiency, lasting just under two-and-a-half minutes and spanning just 50 total words, not including the “Jesus Lord” he coughed under his breath at approximately the 1:55 mark when told there would be one more question.
To keep things as brief as Westbrook, he did not appear happy. Not when he was asked what it meant to him that Anthony Davis and LeBron James told him it was going to be okay in the locker room — “We talked” — nor when he was asked what it was like to put on a Laker uniform in a game that counted for the first time.
“I wasn’t paying attention to all that,” Westbrook said. “Nothing different from a normal game other than having it be at home.”
Westbrook also didn’t seem comforted by his teammates saying they want him to play like he always plays — “I just have to figure it out” — nor did he feel like he could learn much from his first time sharing the floor with Davis, LeBron James and the rest of his new teammates for the first time.
“I’ll look at it and see,” Westbrook said. “But we didn’t win, so maybe some stuff, but not that much.”
The Lakers will have to hope that last part isn’t fully true, and was just the frustration talking. Because they’re going to need to take some stuff from games like these when they have film sessions like the one they’re planning for Thursday, because it’s not just Westbrook that has to adjust. The team also has to make things easier on him, from playing him in lineups that better suit his skills — i.e. without Rajon Rondo alongside him — to actually giving him the ball a bit more when he is on the floor.
Westbrook is not blameless, of course. He has been guilty of overpassing and forcing feeds since the preseason as he tries to set his teammates up for success. But his intentions appear to be noble, and it’s hard to blame him for being frustrated right now. He may say that he’s fulfilled with or without a ring, but Westbrook has a rep as a top-one-percentile competitor in a league full of them for a reason. He clearly burns to win, and deeply so. This is also surely not how the kid from Hawthorne saw his debut for the team he grew up rooting for going. He deserves more patience than the one-game overreactions he clearly knew were coming.
Still, as long as he and the team learn from games like this, they can still ultimately give his homecoming a storybook ending. Maybe at that point he’ll be feeling a bit more verbose.