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Bradley Beal: Russell Westbrook Unfairly Scapegoated with Lakers; 'Amazing Teammate'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVOctober 6, 2022

SAITAMA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 2: Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards warms up against the Golden State Warriors during the NBA Japan Games 2022 at Saitama Super Arena on October 2, 2022 in Saitama, Japan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)
Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Russell Westbrook's first season with the Los Angeles Lakers went about as poorly as could be expected.

But his former teammate with the Washington Wizards, Bradley Beal, appeared on JJ Redick's The Old Man and the Three podcast Thursday and offered his take on what it was like playing with Westbrook (36:40 mark):

"One, he's an amazing teammate. He's the complete opposite of the picture everybody kind of paints him to be, at least character-wise. If you're his teammate he rides for you. ... He rides for his guys; he loves his team. That's what he's all about, even the staff. It's a respect factor, from top down. And I enjoyed playing with him. We knew what we were getting in practice, and in game, it's the same guy. He would go hard in practice, pushing everybody. He'd push me. ... That part of him is phenomenal."
ClutchPoints @ClutchPointsApp

"[Russell Westbrook] is the complete opposite of the picture everybody kind of paints him to be, at least character-wise... You're his teammate, he rides for you. He doesn't give a damn if you're on the other team."<br><br>— Bradley Beal<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/OldManAndThree?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@OldManAndThree</a>)<a href="https://t.co/ySOAPGlZit">pic.twitter.com/ySOAPGlZit</a>

Beal also noted that Westbrook shared a similar trait to Paul Pierce, who loved his teammates but wouldn't interact with them in the same way once they were on a different team.

And as for the criticism that was leveled against Westbrook in his first season with the Lakers: "It's more magnified because he's in L.A.," Beal said.

There's little doubt that Westbrook has been a poor fit alongside LeBron James. Both have traditionally operated best with the ball in their hands, and Westbrook was always going to have to defer to James in that regard once he was traded to the Lakers.

The issue is that Westbrook is a poor three-point shooter who doesn't consistently play solid defense. His value throughout his career came via attacking the basket and creating open looks for his teammates. In a starting spot for the Lakers, it's a role he simply isn't needed to fill, diminishing his effectiveness.

There are two solutions: The obvious one, which would be to trade him, is complicated by his $47 million salary. And then there is the more contentious potential solution, which would be to bring him off the bench to stagger his minutes with James.

It's hard to imagine that a former MVP such as Westbrook, at 33, would happily welcome the second option. But it's the most logical way to ensure he can play to his strengths while allowing James and Anthony Davis to have more complementary pieces on the floor with them.

Perhaps a new head coach in Darvin Ham and a new offensive system will help. The Lakers appear set to give the Westbrook experiment another try this season:

Dan Woike @DanWoikeSports

Darvin Ham said Russell Westbrook is “a Los Angeles Laker and I’m not mad at that.” Said tonight shows that Westbrook will thrive in the Lakers 4-out, 1-in system.

Jovan Buha @jovanbuha

Darvin Ham on Russell Westbrook: “He’s ours. We love him. And we want him to do well. … It’s been a great camp for him.”

It wasn't an issue in Washington, where Beal and Westbrook's games more naturally meshed, given that Beal had spent nearly his entire career playing with a traditional point guard in John Wall up to that point. In Los Angeles, the situation is simply far more complicated.

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