LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The biggest move of a busy NBA offseason was Russell Westbrook’s return to his native Los Angeles to join the Lakers franchise he grew up worshipping.
But as soon as the trade was announced, questions sprung up about how the ball dominant guard would fit in alongside demanding floor general LeBron James in an offense built around maximizing the generational talent of forward Anthony Davis.
During his first press conference as a Laker on Tuesday, the nine-time All-Star from Long Beach who played college ball at UCLA said he was still eager to learn.
“I will always stay true to who I am,” Westbrook said.
“But with that said, I’ll also make sure that I am able to listen and be all ears because I am coming to an unbelievable organization and a team with players that I’m able to learn from.”
Westbrook called James one of the best players to ever play the game and said he wanted to make life easy for the four-time champion, who led the Lakers to a championship inside the bubble two seasons ago.
“I’m coming to a championship caliber team and my job is make sure that I’m able to make his game easy for him, and I’ll find ways to do that throughout the game,” he said.
“As it pertains to ball handling and all that, it really doesn’t matter. There are many different ways you can impact the game without having the ball in your hands.”
Westbrook, 32, is a uniquely gifted player.
In the 2017 season, he became just the second player in league history to average a triple-double during the regular season en route to picking up league MVP honors.
In all, he has averaged a triple-double in four seasons and is the all-time leader in the category. Last season with the Wizards, he averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.7 assists per game.
But the fiercely competitive Westbrook has also been criticized for his lack of postseason success, where his willingness to take on the other team by himself has sometimes put his team at a disadvantage.
Westbrook, who is entering his 14th season, said he is clear on his role and determined to help the franchise to hang its 18th championship banner at the end of next season.
“It’s my job to do what I’m supposed to do and make sure we have a chance to compete for a championship,” he said.
The NBA regular season begins Oct. 19.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Toby Davis)