Russell Westbrook and the missed huddle: Sometimes the camera lies
Hey everyone, it’s L.A. Times beat writer Dan Woike with the final Lakers newsletter of the preseason.
During the Lakers’ lackluster performance Wednesday, probably the snooziest of their preseason games, a video popped up on social media showing guard Russell Westbrook ignoring Patrick Beverley when he tried to corral his teammates on the court for a huddle.
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It appeared to be pretty damning stuff. Here’s the thing, it’s pretty misleading.
The camera sometimes lies
I tracked Westbrook down in a Crypto.com Arena hallway late Wednesday night and showed him the clip after he said he had no idea what I was talking about.
He watched it and said he thought maybe he was talking to the referees or to someone on the bench and never noticed Beverley.
Later, another angle of the sequence — a feed from Spectrum SportsNet — showed him talking with Lakers coaches before Anthony Davis tried to pull him into the huddle.
After practice Thursday, Westbrook addressed the pseudo controversy.
“I was actually talking to the coaches and they cut that video in half as well. I was talking to the coaches about a missed coverage,” he said. “So, I don’t pay no mind to it, man. Honestly, I’m just trying to compete and do my job. Everything, videos, get nitpicked. You can cut any video and make anything you want out of it. It’s not up to me to be able to judge that. I know I’m a genuine team player.”
Westbrook, who was also shown on video away from the Lakers’ team huddle pregame, said he does the same routine every game and Thursday wasn’t anything different.
“It’s really weird, man,” he said.
Westbrook is right, the scrutiny of these moments was completely ill-informed and almost entirely unnecessary.
The videos were, also, totally predictable and just the start.
With Westbrook’s potential exit from the Lakers via trade still a possibility, with his poor fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis viewed as a key reason for the Lakers’ 2021-22 failings, there are many eggshells that the Lakers and Westbrook need to navigate.
And some are almost certainly going to get crushed.
We’ll see how Friday night’s test run goes with Westbrook moving to the bench to run the second unit as coach Darvin Ham tries his sixth different starting lineup of the preseason.
“It’s different combinations of seeing different guys play together,” Ham said Thursday. “You have to prepare yourself, you’ve got to get out in front of the fact that there’s going to be injuries. So, you just have to prepare yourself and be at the forefront of that by plugging in different lineups.”
There’s an inherent awkwardness that the Lakers are going to carry into the season, with Westbrook dangling somewhere between valued piece of the puzzle and key contract in a major trade.
While it is “part of the business,” as players always say, it’s certainly not a pleasant one. And no matter how insulated Westbrook insists that he is from the outside noise, it’s pretty obvious that it can break through.
Maybe the Lakers will be good enough to navigate all of this, the constant threat of distraction both real and imagined always a viral video away. Winning — a lot — would certainly help.
Yet Wednesday and Thursday made it clear they’re heading down a path that, at minimum, has the potential to get really uncomfortable.
And depending on the angle you’re watching, maybe it already has.
Guard Dennis Schroder suffered a finger injury in his lone preseason appearance and will undergo an MRI test, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Times.
His status for the season opener Tuesday in San Francisco is in serious jeopardy.
Schroder, who signed with the Lakers late in free agency after he was one of the stars at the EuroBasket competition this summer, was expected to open the season in the team’s guard rotation.
He didn’t arrive in training camp until Monday because work visa issues kept him in his native Germany until the final week of the preseason. He played nine minutes Wednesday against Minnesota and missed all four shots he attempted.
Song of the week
What does basketball have to do with this synth-pop ballad? Well, what kind of defense are the Lakers going to play, zone or Aimee Mann to Mann?Fun fact — Aimee Mann, lead singer of ‘Till Tuesday, is married to Michael Penn, who wrote and recorded “No Myth,” which also rules. Anyway, this song is on my travel playlist, which carries me through naps all season and it’s one of my favorites.
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