After several videos went viral making it appear Russell Westbrook was intentionally distancing himself from teammates during the Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, the veteran guard offered context to debunk any signs of discord.
In one video, shot on a phone by Instagram user Michael Morales from a seat located behind the Lakers’ bench, Westbrook is seen greeting teammates near the foul line during player introductions and then running to the bench alone, while the Lakers huddled up.
“Pregame, I’ve been doing that since I’ve been in the league for years, man,” Westbrook said after practice Thursday. “I think they just cut the video and obviously the internet is going to take it and run with whatever they need to run with. But, I’ve been doing the same ritual since I’ve been in the league.”
Westbrook’s wife, Nina, responded to a Twitter user who showed several photos and videos of Westbrook indeed following the same solo pregame ritual on other teams he has played for by writing, “Smh… and it begins…”
Another video, clipped from the ESPN telecast and shared widely on Twitter, showed Patrick Beverley gathering his teammates for an on-court huddle following a foul by Westbrook early in the third quarter and Westbrook lining up in rebounding position outside the lane to await the Wolves’ free throw attempts, rather than joining in.
However, another video angle from the same sequence, from the Spectrum SportsNet broadcast of the game, gives a broader view of the chain of events that preceded Beverley beckoning Westbrook to join in.
First, Westbrook engaged in a dialogue with the referee who made the call, and then Westbrook turned his attention to the Lakers’ bench to discuss the defensive possession with L.A.’s coaching staff. Beverley never caught his attention.
“As far as the other video, I was actually talking to the coaches and they cut that video in half as well,” Westbrook said. “I was talking to the coaches about a missed coverage. So, I don’t pay no mind to it, man.
“Honestly I’m just trying to compete and do my job. Everything, videos, get nitpicked. You can cut any video and make anything you want out of it. It’s not up to me to be able to judge that. I know I’m a genuine team player. I’ve never had a problem being with my teammates, so I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing.”
Beverley told reporters Thursday that he was unaware the video of the attempted huddle existed until he was asked about it after practice.
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“If I don’t know something happened, then I can’t really address something that I don’t know happened,” Beverley said.
Westbrook has been a target of frustrated Lakers fans ever since the team acquired him in a trade with the Washington Wizards in the summer of 2021, as L.A. missed the playoffs last season with his uneven play adding to a whole host of team struggles that included pervasive injuries and underwhelming role player contributions.
Despite the difficult campaign, Westbrook opted in to the final year of his contract to stay in L.A., and new coach Darvin Ham has vowed to get more out of the former league MVP this season.
While Westbrook expressed dismay with how fans mocked his family name last season, the 13-year veteran said Thursday that the scrutiny he faces as a member of the Lakers doesn’t differ from the spotlight he has been under in other spots since entering the NBA.
“That’s been the same for me, honestly, man, through my career,” Westbrook said. “I’m very used to it. And I’m very accustomed to it. That’s why I’ve just been blessed and thankful to be able to continue to play each year and keep my head down and continue competing. And whatever comes with the extra stuff, comes with it. It’s not up to me to be able to make videos and things for the internet. I just go out and do my job.”
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