The Los Angeles Lakers have looked like a completely different team since swapping out Russell Westbrook for D’Angelo Russell at the NBA Trade Deadline.
Westbrook, who has always known how to fill up a stat sheet, struggled to find a way to make a meaningful impact on L.A. from a wins and losses perspective.
Russell is experiencing none of that. Not only is he putting up great stats, but he is also doing it in a way that is helping the Lakers either win games or stay competitive.
This week, Russell’s teammate — and well-renowned ladies man — Austin Reaves opened up about what makes him different.
“He’s a really good basketball player that plays the game the right way,” Reaves told Ryan Ward of Lakers Nation.
“You don’t really see him too many times in the midst of a game making a wild play. He’s very under control, plays at his own pace, and like I said, he’s just super talented.”
Given the word choice there, some NBA fans understandably wondered if perhaps this was a little jab at Westbrook.
The reactions flowed in immediately.
is this a shot at russ it feels like a shot at russ 😂
— possum possum (@possum346) March 11, 2023
— Corner (@carlcastr0) March 11, 2023
— $mokegawd urameshi 💨 (@smokegawd3000) March 11, 2023
Crazy how any kind of complement can look like a shot at Russ. Dude was just bad at a lot of things https://t.co/3g3AHVrTAY
— dee (@deetrippy12) March 11, 2023
It’s easy to see why people’s minds would jump to this place. Anthony Davis has taken some pretty pointed shots at Westbrook since the trade.
And the ill will seems to go both ways, with Westbrook taking some lowkey jabs at his old squad as well.
Clearly nobody was happy with how things were on the Lakers when Westbrook was a part of the team.
L.A. is playing much better basketball with him gone, and the Los Angeles Clippers seem to have settled into a winning groove now that they have resolved to not playing Westbrook at all in fourth quarters.
— Game 7 (@game7__) March 12, 2023
The next few weeks will be interesting.
Will the Lakers finally be able to win without Westbrook in a way they clearly wouldn’t for the year-and-a-half stretch that he was a member of the team? Time will tell.
A longtime sports reporter, Carlos Garcia has written about some of the biggest and most notable athletic events of the last 5 years. He has been credentialed to cover MLS, NBA and MLB games all over the United States. His work has been published on Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, AOL and the Washington Post.