Like many young players in the NBA, Russell Westbrook always wanted to play for his hometown team, and now he will have an opportunity to do just that. Westbrook, who is a California native and attended college at UCLA, was recently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, and to say that he’s excited for the opportunity to suit up for the franchise that he grew up rooting for is an understatement.
“It’s surreal,” Westbrook said of joining the Lakers during his introductory press conference with the team, via ESPN. “I think it still hasn’t hit me yet, being from L.A., growing up not too far from here and being able to watch the parades — try to go to them, try to miss school to try to go to them. Being a Laker fan and being from L.A., but now everything coming full circle for me.
“Being from L.A., you always wish that you can play for your home team and be able to do that,” Westbrook added “But that’s definitely something that always kind of circled around in my mind. And maybe one day. But I would always come back and be like, ‘Ahh, that probably won’t happen.’ I just had to wait and see. But now that we’re here, I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
After competing against him for well over a decade — including in the 2012 NBA Finals — Westbrook is especially eager to play alongside Lakers star forward LeBron James. Westbrook and James actually met weeks before the trade to discuss potentially playing together in L.A., and they came away feeling that they could make it work, despite the fact that both have been ball-dominant players throughout their careers.
“Bron is one of the best players to play this game, and his ability to be able to kind of do everything on the floor allows me to be able to just figure it out,” Westbrook said. “I’m coming to a championship-caliber team and my job is to make sure that I’m able to make his game easier for him, and I’ll find ways to do that throughout the game.
“As it pertains to ball-handling, it really doesn’t matter. There’s many different ways you can impact the game without having the ball in your hands. I’ve been able to do that for a number of years, and we’ll figure it out.”
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It’s not just James, either, as Westbrook is also bullish on the rest of the roster, which includes other veterans like Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol and Trevor Ariza. Given their sheer talent and experience, the Lakers will likely be favored to come out of the Western Conference next season.
“The roster is great,” Westbrook said. “A bunch of guys I’ve already known, which is even better. I’m always looking at the roster and figuring out how I can make other guys better, simple as that,” then I’ll find ways to do that with the roster. I’m really looking forward to getting with the guys and figuring it out.”
Westbrook is a former league MVP and a nine-time All-Star. He has led the league in scoring twice and assists three times, and he has recorded the most triple-doubles ever. In other words, he has pretty much every individual accolade that one would want. The only thing missing from his resume is a title and, with the Lakers, he has an excellent opportunity to potentially win one with the team he grew up rooting for. You can’t blame him for being excited.