Russell Westbrook, Rockets Had Team Meeting After Loss to Trail Blazers

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2020

Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook (0) passes the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Michael Wyke/Associated Press

Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni called a team meeting after Houston's dispiriting 117-107 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

Russell Westbrook quickly took over as that meeting's leader.

The Rockets guard addressed the team as a "call to action," imploring it to play with more urgency amid back-to-back losses. 

"You're gonna have nights like tonight where people got things to say after," Austin Rivers told The Athletic's Kelly Iko. "Nothing negative, I can really honestly say that. Everything was positive. Russell really led the way. Russell was the only one who really talked. He just kind of addressed the team and things we have to do better as a unit, as a whole. And everybody agreed with him, so it was a good talk."

Westbrook, who had 31 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in the loss, has never been shy about being a vocal leader. He and Damian Lillard had a back-and-forth throughout Wednesday's game, and it's likely Westbrook's passion boiled over after the contest.

"F--king sitting there, talking that s--t. F--k 'em," Westbrook said to his teammates.

The Rockets are 26-14 and only two games out of the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference despite injuries across their roster but have looked listless while losing three of their last four. 

D'Antoni said:

"There was a lack of—yeah that's a good word, energy. A lack of—you know, a lot of guys have issues, physically, that they're fighting through and sometimes that takes you away from the collective spirit. 

"Clint [Capela] is trying to get through his foot, Eric [Gordon] is trying to get back in shape and P.J. [Tucker] has got the stinger. Sometimes, they're focused on themselves and it does create a little bit of whatever—but that's an excuse that doesn't work. We've just got to get back. Right now, it's a rough spot, [but] we had rough spots last year, we had rough spots the year before. We always have rough spots. We'll just regather and regroup and get back here Saturday and [we'll] have a great game."

The Rockets host the Los Angeles Lakers in a nationally televised contest Saturday, so Westbrook's sense of urgency is understandable. Losing back-to-back games in front of large audiences is enough to force cracks into any locker room, particularly one under as much pressure in Houston's.

The Rockets acquired Westbrook for Chris Paul and have watched Paul lead a surprising Oklahoma City team into the playoff race, and D'Antoni is essentially coaching for his job with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

Westbrook seems to understand this isn't any time for complacency. 

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