Russell Westbrook may be changing teams and jersey numbers, but the Washington Wizards’ new point guard said he isn’t going to change his demeanor on the court, no matter what people think of him.
Westbrook joined the Wizards on Saturday but did not practice due to paperwork from the trade with Houston having just been completed prior to practice. But he spoke to reporters for the first time since being traded for John Wall, and he insisted he will continue to be himself on the floor.
Westbrook was asked about what is most misunderstood about him.
“Where do you want me to start?” Westbrook said with a chuckle. “Well listen, I think the underlying thing about that is 90%, 100% is not even true.
“Because a lot of times, the things that are made up, people don’t actually know me to be able to say anything about me or what I am about or what I believe in. … The biggest thing for me is just kind of going and being myself, which is easy because being myself, I can be genuine and loyal and understanding. Obviously, I am not the easiest guy to understand, whatever, watch play, whatever people may think.”
Westbrook is excited for a new start after his one season in Houston. He is eager to play alongside Bradley Beal and to be reunited with his former Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks.
Asked if he wanted to be traded from Houston after one season playing with James Harden, Westbrook replied, “I’m happy about where I’m at” and that he wanted to keep the focus on the Wizards.
While he said he was allowed to wear his previous jersey No. 0 in Washington — where Gilbert Arenas once starred in that number — Westbrook said he has long wanted to wear 4, which was his high school number.
Westbrook, though, doesn’t plan on changing a thing about the ultra-competitive approach he is known for on the court, and he makes no apologies about it.
“The way I play the game kind of misconstrues people of who I am as a person, who I am and what I believe in and what I stand for,” Westbrook said. “Obviously, how I play and off the floor are two different people. When I am on the floor, I don’t have any friends, I am not trying to be friendly, I’m trying to bust somebody’s ass. I ain’t got time to try to shake hands and do all that. I don’t have time for it, and I am never changing that.”
Westbrook also said that he arrives in Washington looking to help Beal. Beal said Friday that he won’t give any stock to negative narratives about Westbrook being difficult to play with, or that he might try to come in “trying to run the show and just do everything by himself.”
“I’m super excited about it,” Westbrook said. “Brad is a superstar talent. … My job is to come in and continue to uplift and push him to be better. That is all I am here for. I am happy to be his counterpart and try to make it easier for him.”
Westbrook will be joining a team that has won just 32 and 27 games the past two seasons. Brooks said Westbrook will make an immediate impact as far as showing his teammates how hard he plays and works.
While he hopes to take the Wizards back to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, Westbrook said his legacy won’t be defined by whether he wins a championship.
“Legacy for me is based on how many people I impact and inspire along my journey,” Westbrook said. “… I grew up in underserved communities, I understand what it’s like, I understand the struggle, I understand what it means and what it’s like to be a Black African American in society.”
“It’s important that somebody that has the power, the impact, the ability, the impact, the outreach to be able to put their foot down and make a stand,” Westbrook added. “To me, that is legacy. That creates legacy long term.”