Russell Westbrook joined his third team in as many years earlier this week with a trade to the Washington Wizards, in exchange for fellow point guard John Wall and a protected first-round draft pick.
After apparent friction on the court with Houston Rockets star James Harden, questions remain about Westbrook’s fit in the NBA and where he can succeed. However, Westbrook appears to take issue with concerns about his personality as a player.
The new Wizards point guard told reporters on Saturday he has no plans to change who he is on the court.
"The way I play the game kind of misconstrues people of who I am as a person, who I am and what I believe in and what I stand for," Westbrook said. "Obviously, how I play and off the floor are two different people. When I am on the floor, I don't have any friends, I am not trying to be friendly, I'm trying to bust somebody's ass. I ain't got time to try to shake hands and do all that. I don't have time for it, and I am never changing that."
You need only look at this Twitter thread to understand how much Westbrook’s past teammates value him despite — or possibly because of — that intensity. Now, he heads to a new team in D.C. that may be his best match possible.
Wizards well-designed to accommodate Russell Westbrook
At the end of the day, the Wizards were always going to be a strong candidate for a Westbrook trade, and not just because of Wall’s contract.
Amid Westbrook trade speculation over the last two years, the question was always what contender could effectively accommodate such a high-usage star in their existing foundation. A team like, say, the Los Angeles Clippers probably wouldn’t be keen on taking the ball out of Kawhi Leonard’s hands for a more inefficient player.
The Wizards’ foundation, however, appears to be a match for Westbrook. Bradley Beal has seen much more trade speculation the last few years precisely because, unlike Westbrook, his off-ball abilities and versatility could theoretically let him slide alongside existing stars on a team. Now, Westbrook is coming to him.
"I'm super excited about it," Westbrook said. "Brad is a superstar talent. ... My job is to come in and continue to uplift and push him to be better. That is all I am here for. I am happy to be his counterpart and try to make it easier for him."
Westbrook will also have Davis Bertans, who led the NBA in catch-and-shoot 3-pointers made last year, waiting at the perimeter on nearly every one of his drives. Big man Thomas Bryant can also do damage from the perimeter, like most of the rest of the Wizards roster.
Westbrook’s ideal team is one that puts the ball in his hands, lets him attack the paint and punishes teams from deep, and he may have found that in the Wizards. This team will undoubtedly struggle on defense, but for now, the offense looks like it has a chance to be quite fun once the season gets going on Dec. 22.
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