Virtually nothing about Russell Westbrook’s preseason and opening two games of the regular have given reason for hope that his second season in purple and gold will be better than his first. However, oddly, there has been a growing sentiment that the Lakers are doing wrong by Russ.
It was one parroted by Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley on the TNT broadcast during the team’s first two games. Paul George, former teammate of Russ — and certainly more on that later — in Oklahoma City and a foe on Friday now as a member of the Clippers, defended him as well postgame.
“I just want him to keep having that joy. Keep having that excitement that fun that’s what makes him special, the fact he can do that on a nightly basis. I hate to see that it doesn’t look like that’s there for him. But hopefully in the end it works out for him in his favor.”— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) October 21, 2022
This Paul George quote echoes what Charles Barkley said. ...Russell Westbrook doesn't look like himself. pic.twitter.com/2t8S0SktUv— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) October 21, 2022
Let’s start off with Paul George’s history with Russ. The two were teammates in Oklahoma City before both basically tried to leave the franchise. Westbrook was reportedly unsuccessful in joining forces with Kawhi Leonard, but Paul George seized the opportunity to leave behind Russ for Los Angeles.
As a result, it falls on some deaf ears to see PG defend Russ after playing with him and deciding his best option to win was not playing with Russ and seeking a trade to do so.
On top of that, this idea that Russ is an innocent victim in this scenario is wild. Sure, the Lakers aren’t handling any of this particularly well, but they wouldn’t be in this position if not for how Russ played and handled his first season in Los Angeles either. This is two parties who have, at the very least, equal blame here.
Present day, the Lakers aren’t doing right by Russell Westbrook, but that comes a year after he hardly did right by them. And that’s not even taking into account the whole hamstring injury/non-injury in the preseason finale as well.
In some sense, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising to see former players defending current players, but considering how openly the TNT crew goes after players, this just feels bizarre.
Westbrook is not simply a victim of his circumstances. He’s guilty of helping create these circumstances that he now can’t get out of.