Russell Westbrook thinks the obituaries written about his NBA prime are premature.
The Los Angeles Lakers guard told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski he's ready for big things in his second season with his hometown franchise.
"I'm not even close to being done," Westbrook said. "I'm super grateful and blessed to be able to go compete year after year, and that's all I can do is prepare myself, my mind, my body for as long as I play. ...
"I'm going to make mistakes. I'm [occasionally] not going to have good games. There will be times and stretches when I don't play well. I've owned that, and there were times last year that I could've played better, and I own that part of it. Moving into this year, I feel even more prepared than I was in years past. That's what I'm looking forward to the most. That, right there, will get me past any struggles that come my way."
Westbrook was by far the most maligned of the Lakers during a disappointing 2021-22 season, with most objective observers pointing out his questionable fit with LeBron James and fans bemoaning his poor jump shooting and turnovers. The Lakers were outscored by 4.3 points per 100 possessions with Westbrook on the floor versus being outscored by 0.7 points with him on the bench.
The prevailing wisdom was that the Lakers would trade Westbrook this summer. Multiple opportunities presented themselves—most notably with the Indiana Pacers—but the Lakers repeatedly balked at giving up multiple future first-round picks to jettison Westbrook.
Instead, the Lakers seemingly made an all-out public push to show they believe in Westbrook. Governor Jeanie Buss called him the team's "most consistent" player—a surprising heaping of praise given his obvious struggles—while new coach Darvin Ham expressed excitement about coaching the 2017 NBA MVP on multiple occasions.
Still, when asked if he felt wanted by the Lakers, it was pretty clear Westbrook had heard all the rumors.
"I don't need to," Westbrook said. "I need to just do my job. Whether I'm wanted or not doesn't really matter. I think the most important thing is that I show up for work and I do the job like I've always done it: Be professional and go out and play my ass off and compete."
After previously scoffing at the notion of coming off the bench, Westbrook said he's open to anything that helps the Lakers win. There's a very good (read: 100 percent) chance Westbrook feels the best way to win is with him on the floor, but it's at least noteworthy that he's open to a different dynamic this season after developing a reputation as one of the NBA's most headstrong stars.
With a roster that seems, on paper, to better fit around Westbrook, James and Anthony Davis, there's a real possibility for a turnaround. That said, if things get off to a rocky start, all bets are off.