Los Angeles Lakers

Russell Westbrook: For former MVP, homecoming to Lakers is a 'blessing' on and off the court

One of the biggest transactions of the 2021 NBA offseason was the trade that brought Russell Westbrook home to LA.

The Lakers acquired the former MVP along with three future second-round picks from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and the draft rights to Isaiah Jackson.

"It's surreal … being from L.A. … being able to watch the (championship) parades (as a kid) … it's a blessing," Russell Westbrook said at his official press conference as a Laker. "Some of these dreams don't come true for people like myself.

"The family was very very happy."

Born in Long Beach, Westbrook grew up near Los Angeles and spent two seasons at UCLA before becoming the No. 4 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.

In his official unveiling as a Laker, Westbrook discussed a number of things, including playing alongside LeBron James, his relationship with the late Kobe Bryant and coming back home.

Fit with LeBron James and Lakers roster

In their quest for the 18th title, one that would make them the winningest franchise in NBA history, the Lakers have built a roster around a new Big 3 of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook.

Since the trade was reported, a lot has been discussed about how the former MVP would fit on the team, especially with regards to the sharing of playmaking and ball-handling duties with James.

"It really doesn't matter," Westbrook shared. "There's many different ways you can impact the game without having the ball in your hands and I've been able to do that for many years. I will figure it out."

MORE: Is Westbrook the answer for the Lakers?

What about cohesion between the Big 3?

"AD and Bron are friends of mine first," Westbrook added. "And me being a teammate, my job is to come in and uplift them. They'll do the same with me."

Westbrook shared that there are bound to be ups and downs for the team but insists that's normal and is confident that the Lakers will figure it out over the course of the season.

Alongside their Big 3, the Lakers added a host of free-agents in Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard, Wayne Ellington, Kent Bazemore, Kendrick Nunn, Carmelo Anthony and Malik Monk while re-signing Talen Horton-Tucker.

There's a pretty good balance of shooting and defence in there to surround their Big 3, including Westbrook's former teammate from the Oklahoma City Thunder in Anthony, but Westbrook didn't dwell into any specifics about his thoughts on the roster.

"It's amazing. The roster is great," Westbrook replied. "As I come into the season, I'm always looking at the roster, I'm figuring out how I can make the other guys better and it's as simple as that."

Special homecoming for more than one reason

Surely, contending for a championship for your hometown franchise is on the mind of every NBA superstar, and Westbrook is no different. However, the homecoming has more perks to it than just that.

"That is kind of the most important thing about being back home," Westbrook points out when asked about the Challengers' Boys and Girls club, a teen program that the NBA superstar credits to making him a better man.

"Being able to inspire and impact people, especially our youth in our community, especially in our underserved communities in the city of LA where I grew up at and my focus would be down to the community like it's always been."

"I will continue to find ways to uplift our communities as much as I can."

MORE: Carmelo Anthony has lofty aspirations with Lakers

The Lakers are Westbrook's fourth team in as many years, having previously represented the Washington Wizards (2020-21), Houston Rockets (2019-20) and Oklahoma City Thunder (2008-19).

That's a lot of travel across the country, but coming back home means no more of that.

"Being able to be with my kids all the time and being able to see my mom and dad and my wife all the time is, to me, the best thing you can ask for kind of being home. Not having for them to travel everywhere is a blessing for me."

Another thing common about LA and Westbrook is the late Kobe Bryant.

The five-time champion was the city's adopted son and developed a bond with Westbrook towards the end of his playing career. The 32-year-old point guard wants to continue that legacy now that he's in the purple and gold.

"Things that we talked about, me and him, the potential of me being able to be a Laker and understanding what that entails. It's just crazy to think about."

"That will be with me every time I put that Lakers jersey on."

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