The biggest move of a busy NBA offseason was Russell Westbrook’s return to his native Los Angeles to join the LA Lakers franchise he grew up worshipping. As soon as the trade was announced, questions sprung up about how the ball-dominant guard would fit in alongside demanding floor general LeBron James in an offense built around maximizing the generational talent of Anthony Davis.
The nine-time All-Star from Long Beach who played college ball at UCLA said he was still eager to learn on Tuesday. “I will always stay true to who I am. But I’ll also make sure that I am able to listen and be all ears because I am coming to an unbelievable organisation and a team with players that I’m able to learn from.”
Westbrook called James one of the best to play the game and said he wanted to make life easy for the four-time champion, who led the Lakers to a championship inside the bubble two seasons ago. “I’m coming to a championship-caliber team and my job is make sure I’m able to make his game easy for him,” he said. “As it pertains to ball handling and all that, it really doesn’t matter. There are many different ways you can impact the game without having the ball in your hands.”
The 32-year-old is a uniquely gifted player. In 2017, he became the second player to average a triple-double during the regular season en route to picking up league MVP honors. He has averaged a triple-double in four seasons and is the all-time leader in the category. Last season with the Washington Wizards, he averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.7 assists per game.
The fiercely competitive Westbrook has also been criticised for his lack of post-season success, where his willingness to take on opponents by himself has sometimes put his team at a disadvantage.
Westbrook, who is entering his 14th season, said he is clear on his role and determined to help the franchise to hang its 18th championship banner at the end of next season. “It’s my job to do what I’m supposed to do and make sure we have a chance to compete for a championship,” he said.