Late last year, the Washington Wizards made headlines when they traded former No. 1 overall pick John Wall to the Houston Rockets in exchange for 2016-17 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook. The blockbuster trade brought the nine-time NBA All-Star to the District just weeks before the start of the season. Entering a Wizards team full of young talent, Westbrook is known for his elite style of play, his never-back-down attitude and his triple-double performances night in and night out. Here, he shares his thought on joining the team.
In a normal year, how you prepare yourself for a season?
Mentally would be more important. Obviously physically is a huge part of it. Just taking my time, listening to my body and figuring out the best time to make sure I’m ready to go at the start of the season.
Joining a team where many players have been together for a while, did you feel like you had to alter your approach?
A lot of times, it’s not an alter; it’s who I am. It’s plain and simple. There’s no sugarcoating. There’s no me trying to be somebody I’m not. It’s just, I’ve been in this league since I’ve been able to play the game at this level, and I feel like I’m one of the best leaders in the game. And leadership is not by what you say and all the s—that people see and all that, but it’s actually what you do and how you impact and better your teammates as men, as people, as they kind of grow in their relationships outside of basketball. Leadership to me is defined differently, and I take an approach the same way I have always taken it: coming in and using my voice, but not just that, connecting with the guys on a different level. I try to do that with each one of my teammates.
How did you feel about the social just reform work you and other NBA players did during the break?
Unfortunately, it takes somebody to lose their life, it takes somebody to lose their son, their brother, who is their world, to be able to come and notice. Unfortunately, this is our everyday life being an African American male in today’s society. It’s tough. Just growing up in the city myself, you understand the struggles; you understand what it’s like. I do think the important part of what the players did, as part of the union and players in the bubble, is that we came together. That to me is the No. 1 thing. Whenever you are able to get a group of guys, a group of men together, regardless of if we agree or disagree, being able to come together and have a conversation about things that need to be changed. I think the stand we made in the bubble was great, but also the work now continues, and that’s something I do daily, daily conversations of finding ways to do it now being here in DC.