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Austin Reaves says Russell Westbrook ‘gets a bad rap’

Despite their time as Lakers teammates being long in the past, Austin Reaves is still defending Russell Westbrook.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Reaves’ days as a teammate of Russell Westbrook are almost assuredly finished. With Reaves locked up long-term by the Lakers and Westbrook almost guaranteed to never suit up in purple and gold again, there isn’t much of a chance the pair are on the same side of the court together again.

But that hasn’t stopped Reaves from offering support of the enigmatic Westbrook. To Reaves’ credit, even as things looked like they were crumbling to the ground heading into last offseason, he was still showing support of Westbrook then.

And on a recent appearance on the All The Smoke podcast, Reaves discussed Westbrook once more and, unsurprisingly, once again was complimentary.

“He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. As a person, you can’t get much better. I got COVID like December of my rookie year in Minnesota. I was stuck in Minnesota for like 7 days so it was rough. He reached out like three or four times, asked if I need anything. Offered to send me stuff, whatever I needed. As a person, you couldn’t get better. Same as a teammate. He was always empowering everybody to be better, do better and want more. Like you said, he gets a bad rap and I don’t understand why.”

As someone who has firsthand experience of being stuck in a hotel room with COVID, it’s a truly awful experience and any human contact, even if just through the phone, was much appreciated. And I can’t imagine doing that in Minnesota. The only place I could envision worse than that is, like, Indiana or something.

The disconnect always seems to be Russ the person vs. Russ the player. By every account, Russ is a good person. A great person even.

That doesn’t make him a great or even good player in 2023. That’s where his “bad rap” comes from, and it’s deserved in that sense. You can understand the players defending him as a teammate, but how many of those defenses are based on him as a person and not him as a player?

It’s nice to see Westbrook had an impact on the Lakers in a positive manner. It’s also nice to be speaking about him in the past tense.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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