Russell Westbrook debut fell flat



Los Angeles, CA - October 19: New Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook waves with excitement as he plays his first season game with the Lakers before the start of the season opener with the Golden State Warriors at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times).
Lakers guard Russell Westbrook waves to fans during warmups before the season opener on Tuesday night at Staples Center. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Russell Westbrook walked into the Lakers postgame interview room Tuesday night wearing a gold T-shirt and red pants while talking on his cell, his answers to the media curt.

At times he had his hand on his chin and pecked at his phone.

It obviously was not the Lakers debut that Westbrook envisioned, his first game beside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, his first game back in his hometown, his first game to show the basketball world and those inside Staples Center why he was acquired from the Washington Wizards.

He missed nine of 13 shots, all four of his three-pointers, and finished with just eight points.

When asked about James and Davis offering words of encouragement following the Lakers’ season-opening 121-114 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook responded with a two-word answer.

“We talked,” he said.

Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ loss:

1. Westbrook never looked comfortable

He had five rebounds and four assists, but he was a minus-23 in the plus-minus department.

Because he attended Leuzinger High in Lawndale and UCLA, he was asked about playing for a Lakers team that he followed in high school and in front of all the courtside stars with 17 NBA championship banners in the rafters.

“Um, I would say I wasn’t paying much mind, to be honest,” Westbrook said. “Nothing different than a normal gameday. Just happy to be home.”

Was he trying to do the right thing to fit in with James and Davis?

“I just got to figure it out,” Westbrook said. “That’s all.”

Was there anything you can take out of this game?

“Um, I’ll look at it and see,” Westbrook said. “Watch the film and see. But you know we didn’t win so there may be some stuff, but not much. At least from my perspective.”

2. Comic relief

Since Westbrook wasn’t forthcoming about his conversations with his teammates, James was willing to share what he told his teammate.

“I told Russ to go home and watch a comedy,” James said. “Do something that can put a smile on his face. He’s so hard on himself. I told him, ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s one game. I understand the competitor that you were. We’re all competitors and we all feel like s— when we don’t play well and play to our abilities. So, I completely understand that as well.’

“I just don’t want him to be so hard on himself. That was the one thing that I hoped to get through to him — don’t be so hard on himself.”

3. The Big Two

James (34 points) and Davis (33 points) were the only Lakers to score in double figures.

That’s not going to get it done for the Lakers.

They were a combined 28 for 49 from the field. They both had 11 rebounds.

“Those two guys were spectacular,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Obviously big nights for both of them. We’re going to be pretty good if we get those type of performances.”

4. Bradley boost

The Lakers got a big lift from veteran guard Avery Bradley.

He entered the game in the fourth quarter and went made two of three shots from three-point range.

The Lakers were awarded Bradley on a waiver claim last week after he had been released by the Warriors.

He played 49 games for the Lakers during the 2019-20 championship season but declined to join the team in the bubble because of health concerns for his son. He averaged 8.6 points and 2.3 rebounds while he was a strong defender.

His ability to play defense was a big reason why the Lakers brought him back.

5. Defenseless at the finish

At the end of the third quarter, the Lakers led 85-83.

Then their defense went away in the fourth quarter, giving up 38 points.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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