Russell Westbrook was introduced to the city of Houston on Friday and had plenty to say about his new situation at an introductory press conference.
The Rockets guard was traded by the Thunder earlier this month in a deal that sent future draft picks, pick swaps and Chris Paul to Oklahoma City. Now he’ll form half of what’s arguably the NBA’s most dynamic backcourt.
Westbrook, 30, averaged a triple-double for the third consecutive season in 2018-19, but he admits the path to success with a new team might require a different approach. Especially playing alongside his longtime friend and former teammate James Harden, who was named the NBA’s MVP in 2017-18.
“Me and James have been friends for many, many years, since I was 10 actually,” Westbrook said, alluding to when the two played youth basketball in the Los Angeles area growing up.
“To be able to win something, you have to be able to sacrifice some parts of your game and we both understand that,” Westbrook continued. “We both understand that we have one common goal and that’s to win a championship.
“I don’t have to touch the ball to impact the game… I can do other things on the floor to make sure we have a better chance of winning.”
Westbrook and Harden both like to have the ball a lot. The duo are the only players in NBA history to exceed 40.0 in usage percentage, and now they’ll have to share a backcourt. They last played together in 2012-13, before Harden was traded to the Rockets. Since then, both have been named MVP (Westbrook in 2016-17). Regardless, Westbrook is confident the two will can work well together.
“We play great off the ball with each other. We’ve done it in OKC,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook elaborated on what else he brings to the table, besides orchestrating an offense.
“I think I can be able to help a lot on the rebounding end, and switching and finding a way to get into the passing lanes. Maybe throw a few lobs to James if he’s still got it. Figuring out a way to be able to just impact and use my athleticism.”
He also addressed his health, as he underwent a procedure on his right knee in May. He assured reporters he is on track to play in camp.
“I’ll be ready to go by training camp,” Westbrook said. “I’m doing great. Taking my time. Resting as much as I can, because we’re gon’ go after it at the start of the season and I’ll be ready to go.”
All in all, Westbrook appears like he’s prepared for the next chapter.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to bring a championship here to Houston,” he said. “An opportunity to do great things, have some fun and I’m excited for it.”