Russell Westbrook says practicing with LeBron teaches him what it takes to win championships
Throughout the offseason and early into the preseason, sacrifice has been a common theme among Lakers players. The largely veteran roster has been around the NBA long enough to know that ceding a certain amount of responsibility on the pitch can pay big dividends for the team’s success on the road.
A number of players have expressed their willingness to step off the bench if necessary, with Malik Monk being the last of them. Figures like Wayne Ellington and Rajon Rondo have also expressed similar sentiments ahead of this season.
But as important as it is for the actors to sacrifice themselves, it is also important for the stars of the team to do the same, especially in the Lakers situation. The arrival of Russell Westbrook will bring a lot of excitement and production to the pitch, but it will also require changes and sacrifices.
After years of leading his teams, Westbrook is entering a situation where LeBron James is the unequivocal big boss in Los Angeles, something he not only recognizes but is also ready to adapt. In an article by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, Westbrook spoke about playing alongside James and learning the value of sacrifice and commitment it takes to win a title:
“LeBron among all the rest, he knows what it takes to win a championship,” Westbrook told ESPN. “My understanding of the commitment, the understanding of the sacrifices that we are both going to have to make, including myself and [Anthony Davis] as well as for improving the team and finding ways to win a championship. And that is the ultimate goal. So whatever it is along the way, we cannot be distracted, we cannot be deterred from our ultimate goal. “
Few, if any, players in the league have more experience adjusting to the game with superstars than James, who made a career out of it. Whether it’s the original Big Three in Miami alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his new Big Three in Cleveland with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, or returning to Los Angeles alongside Anthony Davis, James has continually sacrificed and adapted parts of his game so that both he and his co-stars can flourish.
In each case, James also won a title with his new superstar teammates. Westbrook also acknowledged this aspect while noting his desire not to be the outlier of superstar teammates with James:
“When you have the chance to play one of the greatest players ever and consistently, it helps my game,” Westbrook said. “It helps my preparation, allows me to focus more on the things I need to focus on to get to a point where I can sit down and say, ‘I’ve accomplished all I can accomplish in this league and now I’m lucky enough to be able to play alongside him. So I’m looking forward to that, looking forward to the things that we can accomplish here together this season.
While James and Davis have been perfectly complementary pieces, James and Westbrook represent an overlap of skills that will require a certain level of sacrifice on the part of both. While this isn’t the first time James has played next to a dominating ball player – with Irving and Wade as notable former cases – it is one of the first times Westbrook will be in this situation.
Westbrook enjoyed success in a small window of time alongside James Harden in his only season in Houston, but he also crashed in the playoffs that same season inside the bubble at the hands of the Lakers. To be successful this year, Westbrook will need to replicate the success he enjoyed during his heyday in Houston, albeit in a new way alongside a different type of player to James.
If the two can find the right mix of sacrifices to coexist and still be successful individually, the Lakers as a whole could find the 18th banner they are looking for.
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