Russell Westbrook delivered a subtle yet strong message in an unconventional way after he helped propel an undermanned Los Angeles Lakers squad to a 112-109 victory on Wednesday against the Miami Heat.
Westbrook sat down for his postgame press conference wearing a hat from his clothing line, Honor the Gift. On the brim, the words “give me my flowers” were written, which seemed like a very intentional message from the polarizing point guard that he wants a bit more respect after turning his game around in a big way in LA.
Against the Heat, Westbrook remained in his sixth-man role off the bench for the Lakers, despite the team being undermanned with LeBron James, Lonnie Walker IV and Anthony Davis — the team’s top three scorers — out of the lineup.
Westbrook logged 36 minutes, recording 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting, adding nine assists, eight rebounds and three steals. He was also a plus-12 in the game, which was second-best on the team, behind only Austin Reaves (plus-15).
“Tonight we competed for our a** off. Big win for us,” Westbrook said on the ESPN broadcast before apologizing for his language. “Coming off a long road trip, big home win against a great team. We showed some grit and I’m proud of my guys.”
Westbrook’s Shines With Defense Against Heat
He has some occasional rough spells but has proven to be a dangerous weapon as a reserve for first-year head coach Darvin Ham, who had to convince the former MVP that he’d still be a big part of the equation despite not starting.
Westbrook wasn’t flawless against the Heat, accounting for seven turnovers in the first half. However, he didn’t turn the ball over in the second half and Ham commended his point guard for his play.
“Just keeping it simple. Those are what I call competitive turnovers. I’d say out of those seven turnovers, he’s trying to make the right play but it just didn’t work out. He settled into the game in the second half,” Ham said. “I’m not worried about Russ. He’s going to be Russ and hit the game from all different angles and fill up stat sheets. He was locked in. I was pleased by what he did defensively. … He defended his behind off and it’s a big reason we were able to pull this game out.
Lakers Role Players Responding to LeBron’s Plea
The win against the Heat was one of the best of the season for the Lakers, especially considering who was not on the court. It was just a week ago after a loss to Miami where James sent a message on the team’s losing record.
“I don’t wanna finish my career playing at this level from a team aspect. I still want to compete for championships. I know what I can bring to any ball club with the right pieces,” James told reporters after the game.
The Lakers are 3-0 since James’ statement and Westbrook thinks their latest triumph will go a long way.
“I think it’s important, just for guys’ confidence, guys’ faith in their abilities,” Westbrook said. “And not just that – faith in the team that we can win games against good teams regardless of who’s on the floor. If guys are ready and we play the right way, good things will happen for us.”
James is dealing with a non-COVID illness and could potentially be back on the court when the Lakers take on the Atlanta Hawks on January 6.