He smiled. He scowled. He was candy. He was curt.
He was in all places.
Meting out disparate solutions whereas dribbling by way of various narratives, he was tough to nook and not possible to learn.
Is he going to be a savior or destroyer? Couldn’t inform.
Will his angle be conducive to a championship or collapse? No concept.
Was it actually good for Rob Pelinka to deliver such a robust, ball-dominant, shoot-from-the-hip persona right into a group that actually solely wanted well being? Tuesday supplied no solutions.
In a single breath, whereas wearing a Hollywood pin-striped short-pants go well with and white excessive tops, Westbrook lapsed into the neat sentimentality of returning residence to play for his childhood heroes. He assembled his household within the entrance row of the Chick Hearn press room, grinned down at them in the course of the questioning after which warmly posed for photos with them afterward
“It’s surreal,” mentioned Westbrook, 32, later including, “Being a Laker fan and being from LA… every thing coming full circle for me, it’s a blessing … plenty of issues I can’t put into precise phrases as a result of a few of these desires don’t come true for folks like myself and I’m actually blessed and grateful for this chance.”
But within the subsequent breath, he confirmed the tough actuality of his dream, the molding of his recreation into the championship résumés of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That is the principle fear of the numerous on the town who questioned the commerce that despatched Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell to the Washington Wizards for Westbrook.
“There can be ups and there can be downs,” Westbrook acknowledged. “That’s regular, that’s OK, however we’re going to determine the way to play the easiest way that we wish to play to have the ability to win a championship.”
Um, James and Davis have already got it discovered. They’ve received championships. Westbrook hasn’t. It’s as much as him to do the figuring. He supplied few clues as as to whether he’ll.
One minute he mentioned he’s open to letting James management the ball.
“’Bron is among the greatest gamers to play this recreation and his capacity to have the ability to type of do every thing on the ground permits me to have the ability to simply determine it out … I’m coming to a championship-caliber group and my job is to ensure that I’m in a position to make his recreation simpler for him and I’ll discover methods to do this all through the sport,” Westbrook mentioned. “Because it pertains to ballhandling and all that, it actually doesn’t matter. There’s many alternative methods you possibly can impression the sport with out having the ball in your palms and I’ve been ready to do this for a few years and we’ll determine it out.”
The subsequent minute he mentioned he won’t ever actually change an overbearing model that, whereas it made him the best triple-double machine ever, has additionally resulted in him enjoying for 4 groups in 4 years.
“One factor I at all times have carried out and at all times will do is keep true to myself,” Westbrook mentioned. “I feel you possibly can by no means waver — and I may by no means waver — on this league. … I at all times wish to keep true to who I’m, and with that, ensuring that I’m in a position to hear and be all ears as a result of I’m coming to an unbelievable group and group and gamers that I’m in a position to be taught from.”
Maybe essentially the most attention-grabbing sign got here from a refined change between coach Frank Vogel and Westbrook after Vogel was requested his one and solely query of the transient session.
Vogel was queried as to how Westbrook would work with James and Davis, and, typical of the team-building coach, the primary sentence out of Vogel’s mouth contained the phrase “sacrifice.”
“I feel any time you’ve three nice gamers like this, there is a component of sacrifice required,” mentioned Vogel. “And we’ve all talked about that and are all in on that.”
Westbrook heard this and barely nodded. In order that’s good. Or is it? Possibly Westbrook thinks James and Davis are those who should do all of the sacrificing? As of but, who is aware of?
By the way, congrats to the underrated lame-duck Vogel for scoring a contract extension final week. Take pleasure in the brand new job safety. With this growing older madhouse, you’ll want it.
The reshaped roster is a really weird bunch of fellows chasing rings or reputations. Good factor they’ve each a Monk (Malik) and a Nunn (Kendrick) as a result of it’s going to take a deity to kind this all out.
They’ve the eminently likable Carmelo Anthony, 37, trying to find his first title on his final legs.
“I like when folks discuss concerning the age, it offers a greater story,” he mentioned.
They’ve the eminently irritating Dwight Howard, 35, returning after a season-long sabbatical in Philadelphia, difficult those that observe that the Lakers may have the league’s oldest group.
“They calling us the previous Lakers … we ain’t previous, we simply skilled,” he mentioned.
They’re additionally celebrating the return of Trevor Ariza, 36, former Lakers champion and native child who had the very best motive for coming residence.
“The most important recruiter, if you would like me to be sincere, was my youngsters,” he mentioned.
No person on this loopy combine works if the bristly Westbrook doesn’t work. Nothing matches if he doesn’t match. The Large Two should turn into a Large Three, or the Lakers will dissolve right into a Large Zero.
So I requested Westbrook if he has one thing to show.
“No, I don’t,” he mentioned. “I’ve been blessed and grateful to be on this league so lengthy, and fortunate to have the ability to play and be wholesome once I acquired drafted within the NBA. That was me proving folks flawed. After I was in a position to go to UCLA from the interior metropolis, that was me proving folks flawed. Simply to make it out the hood, I used to be proving folks flawed. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’ve been in a position to … impression folks all around the globe with this platform that’s been given to me. And I’ll proceed to do this. Clearly, I wish to win the championship, however the final purpose is to succeed in communities with what we’ve got, impression others round you.”
Thus summed up Russell Westbrook in his first look as a Laker.
Inspirational, but defiant. Big coronary heart, but steely stare. Smiling like this might be the very best transfer ever. Scowling like this might be the worst.
This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Occasions.