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Lakers' Austin Reaves: Russell Westbrook is 'one of the best teammates'

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Russell Westbrook'sone-and-a-half year stint with the Los Angeles Lakers obviouslydidn't go as planned, which led to the former NBA MVP gettingtraded to the Utah Jazz, who ultimately bought him out. Thiscleared the way for Westbrook to sign with the Los Angeles Clippersback in February.

Westbrook struggled throughouthis time with the Lakers, but he played much better after joiningthe Clippers. The team was clearly impressed with Westbrook'scontributions, as they re-signed Westbrook on a two-year, $8million contract earlier this offseason.

Westbrook clearly didn't fitwith the Lakers' personnel, and he seems to feel that he wasn'tutilized correctly while donning the purple and gold. But how wasWestbrook as a teammate during his stint with the Lakers? What kindof presence was he off the court and in the locker room?

Recently, on the "All The Smoke" podcast, Lakers guard Austin Reaveswas asked about his experience playing with Westbrook, with formerNBA veteran Matt Barnes noting that Westbrook gets a bad rap fromoutsiders. Reaves had nothing but praise for the nine-timeAll-Star.

"He’s one of the best teammatesI’ve ever had," Reaves said. "As a person, you can’t get muchbetter. I got COVID in December of my rookie year in Minnesota, andI was stuck there for like seven days. It was rough, but he reachedout like three or four times, asked me if I needed anything,offered to send me stuff, whatever I needed. So as a person, you couldn’t get better. Andsame as a teammate. He was always empowering everybody to really bebetter and do better. Like you said, he gets a bad rap, and I don’treally understand why."

This isn’t the first time thatthe narrative about Westbrook hasn't lined up with what histeammates and coaches say about him.

Bradley Beal, who played withWestbrook on the Washington Wizards, has raved aboutWestbrook"as a leader, as a player, as a father, as aman."

“He’s the best teammate,probably, I’ve ever had," Beal said. "And just in terms ofleadership, probably one of the best leaders I’ve been around.Because he holds himself accountable. He holds himself to a certainstandard.”

Paul George, who plays withWestbrook on the Clippers and who previously teamed up with Russ onthe Oklahoma City Thunder, explained what makes Westbrook such agreat teammate and leader.

"One thing with Russ is that hehad a special relationship with everybody on the team," Georgesaid on his podcast. "He would have a conversationwith Steve-o (Steven Adams) about New Zealand stuff, rugby, andthen he'll have a conversation with me about fishing, then he'llhave a conversation with Jerami Grant on anime. He just had aconnection with everybody on the team where [once] you geton the floor, it was chemistry. 'This dude really knows me, he really rockingwith me. Hell yeah, I wanna play for him, I'm boughtin.'

"I thought that was reallyspecial. I've never seen that. Usually the star players, they'renot assholes, but they have a special relationship with three orfour guys, and the rest is just like, 'Oh yeah, that's myteammate.' Russ was like... everybody was his boy. It wasdope, it was the craziest thing I've witnessed... But talk aboutleadership, Russ was a leader, man."

Scott Brooks, who coached Westbrook in Washington and OklahomaCity, spoke to Basketball News' JannelleMoore two years ago about the negativity surrounding Russ andhow he's misunderstood.

“He does incredible work off thecourt. He’s a great role model. He’s a great father, husband,brother, son. He does a lot of great things and, for some reason,that doesn’t always match up to the narrative that’s out there,"Brooks said. "I think everybody shouldappreciate all the things that he brings and the talent he has andthe energy and the effort that he brings every night.

"That’s what everybody should befocused on. We all know whatsells. We’ve been hearing about it since I came into the league:negativity sells. Sometimes when you don’t want to do a deep dive,[you’ll] take someone else’s opinion and continue to re-write whatyou’ve heard and what you’ve read. I think that’s a mistake by theparties that do that."

Juan Toscano-Anderson admitsthat he didn't like Westbrook before they were teammates. But afterplaying alongside Russ on the Lakers, everythingchanged.

"It's funny because before I met Russ, I didn't really likeRuss. And I think a lot of people have that type of lens about Russjust because he's so competitive," Toscano-Anderson said. "From the little time thatI've known Russ... I've had some great teammates, [but] Russ isprobably in my top-five [or] top-three teammates I've ever had.He's an amazing teammate and an amazing person."

At this stage of his career, Westbrook's resume is extremelyimpressive: a former NBA MVP, nine-time All-Star, nine-time All-NBAselection, three-time assist champion and two-time scoringchampion. He's a member of the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team, andhe'll almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Andregardless of the narratives and negativity, he'll also go down asan all-time great teammate.

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