Westbrook is coming off an abysmal first season in LA, with the Lakers missing the playoffs and his playing style being criticized as a bad fit alongside stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Westbrook opted into the final year of his deal this offseason, which will pay him a whopping $47 million this season. The contract had made him a hard piece to move for the Lakers without giving up some additional compensation in return.
With camp just days away, Westbrook remains on the roster, although there’s speculation that the former MVP could be moved to the bench, or to another team entirely if the right deal comes to the table.
However, Westbrook said in an exclusive interview with Adrian Wojnarowski that he doesn’t need to feel “wanted” by the Lakers. The polarizing point guard is just focused on doing his job.
“I don’t need to,” Westbrook told ESPN. “I need to just do my job. Whether I’m wanted or not doesn’t really matter. I think the most important thing is that I show up for work and I do the job like I’ve always done it: Be professional and go out and play my ass off and compete.”
Westbrook Says Confidence Wasn’t Issue Last Season
Westbrook averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists last season but struggled to find consistency. Westbrook was benched during crunch time in some crucial games, which didn’t sit well with the future Hall of Famer. But despite all his struggles, Westbrook said his confidence never wavered.
“No, I didn’t have to fight that,” Westbrook said. “I had to fight my response on how it affects the people close to me. To me, that was the important part. Confidence is not something I lack. Yes, there were times last season that I wanted to play better — that I should’ve played better — but my confidence never wavers. Having bad games is part of the NBA, and I understand that.”
The Lakers picked up Dennis Schroder and traded for veteran Patrick Beverley this offseason, beefing up their guard rotation. The Athletic reported that Westbrook coming off the bench is “being strongly considered” by the Lakers’ brass.
“I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook said of a potential role shift. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”
Westbrook Has Optimsim Lakers Trio Can be ‘Unstoppable’
While Year 1 in purple and gold didn’t go as planned, Westbrook’s still optimistic his partnership with James and Davis can be a powerful one.
“There’s so much optimism on how we can be great, how AD, LeBron, myself — can be unstoppable in my opinion,” Westbrook said.
One of Westbrook’s most vocal supporters this offseason has been his new head coach, Darvin Ham.
“I love Russell Westbrook, man. Just his mentality, his approach. Just to see him, a guy of that magnitude and everything he’s done in the league to get hated on,” Ham told andscape.com. “But being me, I got a wholehearted plan, a clear plan on how I’m going to use him.”
The Lakers have already participated in a players-only training camp organized by James and Westbrook was in attendance. Camp officially kicks off on September 27 for Westbrook and the Lakers.