As much as it’s become a joke and meme throughout the years, Russell Westbrook’s on-court play has not negatively impacted his demeanor with teammates. Throughout the years, regardless of the ups and downs in his play, teammates have always had his back at each stop he’s made.
The most recent example of the impact he can quickly have an impact on teammates has come through Juan Toscano-Anderson’s comments and actions in the last week. As Westbrook has gotten off to a start so bad that he appears likely to lose his starting job, Toscano-Anderson has stood up by his side multiple times.
First, it came in his postgame scrum with media following the Lakers loss to the Clippers in the second game of the season when, unprompted, he stood up for Westbrook.
The following day after practice, Toscano-Anderson wore Westbrook’s jersey and, shortly thereafter, tweeted a fairly cryptic tweet that could pretty easily be interpreted as something related to the Russ situation.
Juan Toscano-Anderson is wearing Russell Westbrook’s practice jersey post-practice. Westbrook is wearing a black t-shirt. pic.twitter.com/HHjpe5z2Ih— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) October 22, 2022
It’s only news because yall make it news.— Juan Toscano Anderson (@juanonjuan10) October 22, 2022
Ahead of the team’s game against Denver, JTA spoke with Kyle Goon of the OC Register about his relationship with Russ and gave a lengthy answer.
At shootaround this morning, asked Juan Toscano-Anderson about his relationship with Russell Westbrook. He was wearing Westbrook's practice jersey the other day, and his locker is next to Russ. Lot of insight here: pic.twitter.com/pSchX3W3Ri— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) October 27, 2022
For Russ’ sake, having someone publicly defend him like this has to be a welcome sight. Amid so much public criticism, having someone publicly in his corner is notable.
Multiple things can be true in this scenario. Russ could be — and by basically every account possible — is a great teammate off the court. JTA, likewise, is a great teammate for sticking up for Russ in this situation.
However, that doesn’t mean Russ hasn’t been a bad player this year as well. And given his profession, the team he plays for and the contract he has, that’s going to come with a lot of criticism. Some of it can cross the line, as Russ pointed out last year, but there should be an expectation of criticism.
There should also be an expectation of teammates standing up for one another amid that criticism. It’s two diametrically opposed notions but both can exist at the same time.