The LA Lakers returned to the court on Tuesday for their first game of the 2021-2022 season. They battled the Golden State Warriors in a close game but came up short, with the Warriors winning 121 to 114. The game was notably the Laker debut of Russell Westbrook, who had the worst night out of the team.
Westbrook looked unsure of himself on the court Tuesday. He made 13 shots but sank only four of them while allowing four turnovers. After putting up only eight points across the entire game, Westbrook was visibly disappointed in himself. However, his teammates LeBron James and Anthony Davis were quick to reassure him that a single game doesn’t mean much.
Ironically enough, both James and Davis lost in their debuts with the Lakers. In 2018, James played his first match in a Lakers uniform against the Portland Trail Blazers. The match was close but ended 128-119 in favor of Portland.
Davis, meanwhile, played his first game for the Lakers in 2019 against the team’s crosstown rivals, the LA Clippers. The Clippers ended up winning that match, 112 to 102. With these bitter losses behind them, both James and Davis know a thing or two about taking hard knocks in season openers.
“I told Russ to go home and watch a comedy,” LeBron James told reporters after the match. “Do something that can put a smile on his face. He’s so hard on himself. I told him, ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s one game.'”
According to Anthony Davis, this advice echoes words of wisdom LeBron shared with him in 2019. “My first time, I sat next to LB, he looked at me, and he said, ‘You’re fine, this is Game 1,'” Davis noted after the game.
“He’s laughing. He’s joking on the phone. And I’m like, ‘Why am I upset then?’ And I kind of just went with the flow. And it’s the same thing with Russ. And I told him the same thing. ‘I’m the same way you were.’ We said some things to him, and he smiled and things like that, so I expect him to be better in the game Friday.”
Westbrook didn’t look like the pep talk from his teammates changed his mood much after stopping by the locker room. While speaking with reporters, he kept his answers short and didn’t crack any smiles. Some commentators, including even the Lakers’ head coach, noted that the adjustment period for Westbrook might be tough.
Notably, Westbrook is entering a team full of superstars. When he was playing for Oklahoma City and completing his third triple-double season, Westbrook was the center of most plays. When playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, he’s not always going to have the ball. Learning to move into a support role to help his team succeed might take time.
James and Davis summed up Westbrook’s performance to nerves. “There probably was just a lot going through his mind, being a kid from L.A. and watching the Lakers growing up and then however many years down the road and now you’re putting on a Laker uniform and you’re stepping into Staples Center,” James told reporters.
Westbrook and the Lakers will take on the Phoenix Suns on Friday in a highly anticipated matchup.