He had already managed two double-double, 15 points and 11 rebounds (plus 9 assists) against Phoenix then 13 points and 13 assists to beat Memphis. But, extremely clumsy until then, Russell Westbrook had not yet managed a match worthy of his place in the Top 76 of the best players in history under his new colors.
Tuesday night in San Antonio, for their first trip of the year, Russell Westbrook and the Lakers felt at home, well supported by a public largely won over to their cause (in the middle of Texas). This astonishing outside support has in any case allowed the veteran leader to finish very strong, scoring 15 of his 33 points in the last quarter and in overtime, to help Los Angeles to garner a second success in a row.
“We knew that with the absence of James would come the responsibility of making the others better around us. [Hier] evening, I found that AD did a good job of being aggressive the whole game, successful or unsuccessful shot, to finish strong near the circle. It was huge for us ”, responded Russell Westbrook before specifying. “I’m not used to being encouraged on the move. It was a new experience for me. “
With 33 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists, Russell Westbrook has still not managed a triple-double this season but the most important thing was to keep the small dynamic triggered by this first victory against the Grizzlies on Sunday. And the leader’s mammoth performance, concluded by a big dunk on the head of Keita Bates-Diop in overtime, was not too much …
“That’s why we wanted to bring him in”, confirme Frank Vogel. “Last year, we lost LeBron and AD for a long time and we didn’t have enough qualities to withstand the shock in the regular season and to win in the playoffs. Having Russ in case one of those guys is injured is another player who is capable of pulling off a monstrous game, as we saw tonight. Its acquisition brings its first fruits. “
Ring or no ring, Russell Westbrook sees further
In his 14th NBA season, the third in a row in a third different franchise since leaving Oklahoma City in the summer of 2019, Russell Westbrook is still looking for benchmarks. But this match, without LeBron James, could well have served as a trigger for the former MVP.
Undisputed king of the triple-double in the history of the NBA, with 184 games concluded in three dimensions, the leader arrives in Los Angeles with a very ambivalent reputation. If he is obviously aware of the expectations that weigh around him, and of this overloaded team of stars in Los Angeles, Russell Westbrook prefers to put things into perspective.
“I do normal things”, he explained recently in the Los Angeles Times. “Literally every time I run into someone, I’m always like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were going to be like that.’ And I always say, ‘What was I going to be like? What were you expecting? That I shout at you? ‘ “
While the recently released documentary “Passion Play” has shown another side of his personality, Russell Westbrook doesn’t want his career to be reduced to his (for now) futile search for a ring. NBA. Other legends of the game have also ended their careers without having been able to land that Grail and Russell Westbrook has taken his side in this always haphazard definition of success in the NBA.
“I can name a lot of players who have rings, but what does that mean? A ring is great, but for me it’s mostly about using our platform to influence other people. That’s why if I win a ring or not, it doesn’t matter to me. “
The leader agreed to reveal himself a little
Back home in Los Angeles, Russell Westbrook appreciates above all the opportunity to be able to make the most of his family life, with his wife and their three children. “It’s crazy how the stars aligned”, he smiles.
Extremely protective of his private sphere, the leader agreed to make this documentary on his career and his mentality to split the armor precisely. To reveal himself more, something he had never allowed himself since his debut in the NBA.
“I can’t stand by saying nothing anymore when somebody who doesn’t know anything about me is going to make up a story or talk about me on TV without knowing.” Not that it touches me, but I have children. So you’re not going to disrespect me or scratch my character or my identity. I want to make sure it’s very clear ”, he specifies. “I had to let people understand and see my perspective. If they were in my place every day and they turned on the TV… Here, I could almost bet you what I have in my pocket that at this very moment when I speak to you, there is someone who talk badly about me or who I am. “
Touched by the many more or less justified criticisms that constantly fall on him, whether by his propensity to shoot indiscriminately, or to make stats to make stats, Russell Westbrook forgets nothing. In this case, he still remembers the criticisms of Magic Johnson who called him “Worst playmaker I have ever seen in an NBA Finals” after the failure of the Thunder in 2012. He had yet turned to 27 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds (plus 2 stray balls) in these Finals…
Almost ten years later, Russell Westbrook finds himself in the franchise where Magic Johnson shone, but the two men still have not burst the abscess. A whole character, but respected and appreciated by all on the NBA circuit – “He’s one of the most authentic guys in the NBA”, advances an anonymous leader, Russell Westbrook is gradually approaching the end of his career and he is gradually beginning to let his guard down.
But only off the pitch. Don’t count on him to reduce the level of intensity he deploys in each of his minutes on the boards!
Russell Westbrook, a unique phenomenon
Kid from Los Angeles who lives his dream of wearing the Lakers tunic, Russell Westbrook is also remembered by three of his missing friends: Khelcey Barrs, Nipssey Hustle and Kobe Bryant.
“It’s such an important part of my daily thinking that it’s not going to change, now that I’m [de retour à Los Angeles]. The only thing I’m more exposed to is Kobe because I’m now with the Lakers and I’m in this room. It’s still in me. I know exactly what these individuals would like me to do. They have all had a different influence on my life and I will always think of them in the back of my mind. “
Faithful in friendship, the former UCLA can in any case count on the support of the boss of the Lakers, “King James”: ” I want [qu’il gagne un titre]. More than he thinks. ” And, in return, Russell Westbrook is ready to do whatever he can to make it easier for LeBron James in his quest for a new ring.
“I want my partner, whoever he is, to be a better player when I’m on the pitch with him. If I can manage to do this, I have succeeded in part of my job. “
As he did with Kevin Durant, but also Paul George in Oklahoma City, with James Harden in Houston or even Bradley Beal in Washington recently, Russell Westbrook will continue to do what he knows how to do, that is to- say playing hard all the time. And this even if his intensity can take over his discipline.
“I didn’t do what I did [dans ma carrière] for people to talk about me. I didn’t do anything about it. In my personal life, I have never had a problem with the law or anyone. I haven’t done anything other than playing my sport with a competitiveness that people don’t understand. In sports, when people have no point of comparison, anything you can do is going to seem abnormal to them. And they don’t understand it or they don’t know how to express themselves except by speaking badly to you because they don’t understand. They just haven’t seen anything like it before. “