LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook failed their first real test together, a 121-114 loss to the Golden State Warriors on opening night, but they found some common ground.
All three of them have now lost in their Lakers debuts: James versus the Portland Trail Blazers in 2018, Davis versus the LA Clippers in 2019 and Westbrook versus the Warriors on Tuesday.
While James (34 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists) and Davis (33 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks) outperformed Westbrook, who had a team-worst plus/minus of minus-23 in 35 minutes and finished with eight points on 4-for-13 shooting and four turnovers, their bigger impact might have come in the postgame locker room, lifting up their new teammate.
“I told Russ to go home and watch a comedy,” James said. “Do something that can put a smile on his face. He’s so hard on himself. I told him, ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s one game.'” It was similar to a pep talk James gave to Davis when their first match together in Los Angeles also didn’t go their way.
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“My first time, I sat next to LB, he looked at me, and he said, ‘You’re fine, this is Game 1,'” Davis recalled. “He’s laughing. He’s joking on the phone. And I’m like, ‘Why am I upset then?’ And I kind of just went with the flow. And it’s the same thing with Russ. And I told him the same thing. ‘I’m the same way you were.’ We said some things to him, and he smiled and things like that, so I expect him to be better in the game Friday.”
If Westbrook broke out a grin in the locker room, it was gone by the time he reached the media room for his postgame interviews.
“We talked” was all Westbrook would say about the conversation with Davis and James.
His entire media session lasted less than three minutes as he kept his answers as brief as possible.
James, who has often stated that experience is the greatest teacher, was hopeful that Westbrook would glean some perspective from the ordeal.
“I just don’t want him to be so hard on himself,” James said. “That was the one thing that I hoped to get through to him, don’t be so hard on himself. Go home and you’re going to see three babies that he has that might be asleep, but they’ll put a smile on his face. He has a beautiful wife and family. So at the end of the day, you go home and you’re really like, ‘OK, that was not that bad. It’s really not that bad.'”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel acknowledged the tricky spot Westbrook finds himself in.
“Him more than anybody, it’s going to be an adjustment period,” Vogel stated. “He’s coming into our culture, our system. He’s the new guy, and he’s got to find his way. It’s difficult, when you’re used to being the guy who has the ball most nights, to be able to play off of others like Bron and AD. So it’s just a little bit different for him. He’s going to be great for us, but it’s going to be an adjustment period.”
While Westbrook looks to grow within the group, James is urging him to be the player he was before he came to Los Angeles — an uber-confident nine-time All-Star, Olympian and former league MVP.
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