LOS ANGELES – Russell Westbrook’s dream debut with his home team, the Los Angeles Lakers, has finally arrived. With more than 18,000 fans present at Staples Center on Tuesday night, there was a full house for the first time, something that had not happened since before the pandemic, in March 2020. With the excitement of the public present, Westbrook jumped onto the floor dressed in purple and gold in the first game of the season. However, neither the result in the game, which they lost to Golden State Warriors 121-114, nor their individual performance, left him satisfied.
“Russell more than anyone else will have an adjustment period that he has to overcome,” shared coach Frank Vogel. “It is the new one, it has to assimilate our system and culture. He will find his way, but it is not easy when you are used like him to having the ball and now having to play from others like LeBron (James) and AD (Anthony Davis) ”.
Russell finished his first official game with the Angels with 8 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, with 4 of 13 shooting from the field, 0-4 on triples and four turnovers in 35 minutes on the floor. Except for the years 2013 and 2018, when Westbrook was inactive for a start to the season, it is the worst Opening Game of his career in terms of points. In all of his previous 12 seasons, he had hit double digits.
“It was probably the nerves from the first game,” LeBron James shared about Russell. “Surely a lot was going through his mind, he is a native of Los Angeles, he watched the Lakers as a child, now you put on your uniform, you go to Staples Center and I can’t even imagine how many family and friends contacted him in the last 48 hours to come see your first game as Laker. Those demands will subside as the games go by, I don’t worry about Russ, we just need him to be himself and not worry. He’s a veteran in this league, he’ll be fine. “
Westbrook has always had a complex personality, many times described as the NBA villain. He is a player of few words before the media, but without fear of expressing his feelings. This time, in his first post-game conference with the Angelenos, he limited himself to curt answers for complying with being there.
“I have to figure it out, it’s that simple,” said a frustrated Russell Westbrook post-game.
And while Russell refused to put into words what the night of October 19, 2021, meant to him, it was certainly an emotional moment for the 32-year-old basketball player. It is enough to see the personal frustration that he radiated, because if he cannot be blamed for something, it is his passion and dedication.
“Russ is very tough on himself, but I told him I think I’m 0-3 in my first season opener games as Laker, it’s game 1. The way he feels right now, that’s how I felt when I arrived. We will be fine. He will draw it, me too, we will all figure it out as a team, “said Anthony Davis, who finished with a double-double of 33 points and 11 rebounds.
Certainly, in the last three opening games of the season, Anthony Davis has taken the loss. In 2019 and 2020, they fell at the hands of city rival, Clippers, and this 2021 facing Warriors. Obviously, that did not dictate the course of the campaigns for him, because in 2020, AD achieved the first championship of his career as a Lakers player; something Westbrook wishes to emulate.
“We want him to be himself, to be aggressive, to be Russell Westbrook, to be the reason we traded for him. Once you do that, everyone will find a way to play around you, it’s a learning curve. We will continue to build around him to make him feel more comfortable and see those games that we are used to from him, ”Davis said.
This is not the time to sound an alarm. The reality is that there were many changes and few minutes in preseason for the Lakers, so you have to give time to work so that, as the games go by, the stellar trio appears as intended.
“(Russell) He needs time and minutes on the court with his teammates. There was not much opportunity of that in preseason because it is a veteran team, but that will continue to happen ”, declared the coach from Los Angeles.
The Lakers will take to the Staples Center court again on Friday against the Phoenix Suns for Game 2 of the season.