- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 20, 2022

It’s been a tough season for Russell Westbrook.

The Lakers star has been regularly chided by Los Angeles fans and mocked by road fans for his diminished play — from his turnover-prone style to being rebranded as “Westbrick” for his inaccurate jump shot.

But on Saturday, Westbrook was greeted with a warm welcome from Wizards fans as well as a tribute video from his former team. 

“I’m very appreciative of just the overall organization [and] the fans,” Westbrook said after the game, a 127-119 Wizards victory. “They welcomed me and my family with open arms since day one when I got here. A lot of people last year even counted us out as a team and a lot of guys are still here, people on the coaching staff as well, so it was good to see a lot of those guys. Happy to be a part of an organization that believed in the things I’m able to do. I was happy to be a part of it.”

Westbrook scored 22 points with 10 rebounds and eight assists for the struggling Lakers. The 33-year-old played only one year in Washington — in which he became the NBA’s leader in career triple-doubles — but was traded by the team after the 2020-21 season. 

One player in particular who had a good relationship with Westbrook while he was in D.C. is 21-year-old Deni Avdija. The two players exchanged jerseys after the game. 

“He was a big mentor for me,” said Avdija, who scored 17 points with four rebounds and four assists. “He came to me after the game and was like, ‘I’m gonna kill you if you don’t play like that every night.’ I was like, ‘I promise I’m gonna do my best to try and maintain it.’ That’s big coming from him.”

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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