LOS ANGELES • Star guard Russell Westbrook says his role with his new Los Angeles Lakers teammates will be simple - and it includes making things easier for superstar LeBron James.
The Lakers landed him in a blockbuster deal with the Washington Wizards with hopes that a "Big Three" line-up of James, Westbrook and Anthony Davis could push them back to the top in the new season after they failed to retain the National Basketball Association (NBA) title last month.
On Tuesday, Westbrook was officially introduced, the Southern California native saying it was a "blessing" to land in Los Angeles where he had many memories of Lakers glory.
"I'm coming to a championship calibre team and my job is make sure that I'm able to make (James') game easy for him, and I'll find ways to do that throughout the game," he vowed.
"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."
James and Davis led the Lakers to the NBA title last year, but their push for a repeat was hindered by injury.
Westbrook, 32, is a uniquely gifted player. He was the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player with Oklahoma City, where he played from 2008 until 2019. He was traded to Houston, then traded last December to Washington, where he helped the Wizards reach the play-offs for the first time since 2018.
The nine-time NBA All-Star, who won Olympic gold in 2012, has led the NBA in assists in three of the past four seasons and was the league scoring champion in 2015 and 2017. In 2017, he set a record with 42 triple-doubles in a season and joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for a full campaign. Westbrook managed the feat in three of the next four seasons as well, his record career tally of triple-doubles now standing at 184.
But the fiercely competitive player has also been criticised for his lack of post-season success. Despite his all-around excellence, his teams have combined to win just one play-off series in the last five years.
Some pundits have wondered how he will mesh with James and Davis. Westbrook said that will not be a problem.
"I will always stay true to who I am. 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 organisation and a team with players that I'm able to learn from," he insisted.
184 Triple-doubles by Russell Westbrook, an NBA record, ahead of Oscar Robertson (181), Magic Johnson (138).
The player, who is entering his 14th season, said he is clear on his role and determined to help the franchise hang their 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.
Meanwhile, Kemba Walker and the Knicks finalised a deal yesterday to bring the four-time NBA All-Star guard back to his New York roots. The move follows a buyout of his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He had two years and US$74 million (S$100.4 million) remaining on the US$140.8 million deal he inked in 2019 with the Boston Celtics, who traded him to Oklahoma City in June.
The NBA regular season begins on Oct 19.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS