Much of the focus surrounding Russell Westbrook’s arrival in Los Angeles has been focused on how the enigmatic guard will have to bend and mold his game to fit with the Lakers, who are less than a year removed from an NBA title. To that point, Westbrook has acknowledged a need (and desire) to sacrifice elements of his game this season as he looks to capture his first title.
But what hasn’t been discussed quite as much is what Westbrook can bring to the Lakers, specifically when it comes to a non-X’s and O’s aspect. What has long made Westbrook uniquely great has been his motor and energy level. As he joins his fourth team in as many years, Westbrook will look to inject that energy and enthusiasm into yet another franchise, this one with more superstars and talent than ever before.
“That’s what I bring to the table,” Westbrook said after practice last week. “It’s one of my things that I take pride in, making sure that each and every night I bring energy and effort and speed and pace, and alongside that, I make sure that I can continue to bring those guys along and help them along the way.”
That passion is part of what made James seek out Westbrook via trade this summer, and is something that has already rubbed off on him even prior to the start of training camp as the two worked out together extensively this summer.
“As far as Russ, we need Russ to be Russ,” James said on media day. “We don’t need Russ to change for anybody, that’s why we got him. And it’s our job to all help him feel comfortable in our system, and he’s going to be as dynamic as he’s always been, so I look forward to that.
“He’s very passionate about the sport, passionate about his craft and very passionate about putting in the work,” James continued. “I can respect all those things. We’ve been tied at the hip pretty much since we made the acquisition, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Now that the Lakers have had a chance to see Westbrook in action on the court, the excitement has only grown.
“I like teammates who want to push me,” said Westbrook’s other Lakers co-star, Anthony Davis. “I want guys to tell me when I’m messing up. Me and Russ had numerous times conversations in this first practice alone about things that we can do together as a duo when we’re both on the floor. That’s what I want and I got six, seven guys that’s going at it. Russ, Bron, (Rondo), (Melo), DJ, Dwight. I got numerous guys that’s always in my ear about things. You can’t ask for more as a player who wants to get better.”
At each of his stops in recent years, Westbrook’s relentless energy has rubbed off on his teammates. It’s not a coincidence, as Westbrook has consistently embraced that role, and his tenure with the Lakers will be no different.
“When you come to a team and guys welcome you with open arms... to me I just take it as a sense of, I know I have a job, I know I have to go out and compete, but alongside it I’m going to make sure that I take that and that I make those guys better,” Westbrook said. “My job is to make sure that LeBron, AD, those guys are competing at the highest level and making sure that I make my teammates around me better.”
Westbrook’s energy will certainly be amplified this season by playing back in his hometown in front of fans, supporters that will be excited not just for his return to Los Angeles, but their return to the stadium. If he can inject that sort of passion into the Lakers this season and, specifically, their superstars, this contender could be elevated to another level.