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Los Angeles – A tale of two Russells

Like Charles Dickens, or a story straight out of Hollywood, the tale of the Russells in Los Angeles is like no other in the city.

Los Angeles Clippers Russell Westbrook yelling after a made basket.
Los Angeles Clippers Russell Westbrook yelling after a made basket.

“They traded D’Angelo Russell for me?”

That’s what the cocksure Russell Westbrook we know and love said after his new Clipper team crippled his old one and Laker rival. A rejuvenated Russ, and in turn reinvigorated Clips, felt like themselves again. Playing in a perfect partnership that had finally found each other.

And they both couldn’t have done it against a better team.

Coming home, when former UCLA grad and triple-double and OKC Thunder legend Russell Westbrook joined the Lake Show, the excitement was akin to one of his above the rim slams. The new agent zero, with the former six carried by LeBron, and the three of AD?! The league did a 360.

Then came the kind of bricks that built a house The Commodores used to sing about. Not to mention, a pair of hands that treated the pill like one that slips down the sink. Fans started to let Russell have it, calling him “Westbrick”. 

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Fantasy from reality, your favourite ballplayer misses and gives up the rock too. How would Allen Iverson answer to the age of TikTok reels today?

Russ was never given a chance. Whilst the fans on the other hand showed their true colours. Trying to thrive in Darvin Ham’s system and more line-up changes than the cast of a DC movie, Westbrook was eventually moved to the bench.

Yet in that microwave spot he began to heat up like the Brodie of old. He could have even won the ‘Sixth Man of the Year’ award. People forget about that, mind you.

You see, when the trade deadline passed, there was still a Russell in Lakeland, but he didn’t carry a Westbrook name on his back. The Lakers traded up and brought back their former number two draft pick, D’Angelo Russell.

Westbrook ended up staying in Los Angeles, but across from the man in the arena with the Clippers. Plenty of old Lakers, like the big Ivica Zubac, could show Russ how to play the disgruntled revenge card. Westbrook came back with a vengeance, and one of the most perfect portraits in NBA history can attest to that.

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Many big names have not shone as bright under the purple and gold lights for Hollywood history. Glen Rice, Mitch Richmond, Carmelo Anthony and so forth. Past prime. Not afforded the proper opportunities to shine. 

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What Westbrook couldn’t have with the Los Angeles Lakers, he found with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The perfect third option behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. If LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the best inside and outside one-two punch. Kawhi and George are the most dynamic duo on both ends of the floor.

The Clippers even picked up James Harden for a Houston reunion with Westbrook. After a shaky start, critics were calling it a career and Clipper crucifixion. Yet, this fantastic four like Pedro Pascal and company are now one of the best teams in the league, like the Celtics. Another one of the Lake Show’s favourite friends.

Russell knows what it’s like for Russell. Even though there is probably little love lost for the two trade pieces.

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Russell for russell
Russell for Russell…

If D’Angelo Russell thought he wouldn’t catch as much hell in Hollywood as he did with that Nick Young mess, he had another thing coming.

After a brilliant start that saw him and Rui Hachimura fit seamlessly into a revamped Laker team that went to the Western Conference finals, only to be beaten by the eventual champion Denver Nuggets. The Lakers rolled on, re-upping with all the important pieces and even added some new hardware to their trophy cabinet in the form of the NBA’s first In-Season Championship trophy.

Then the ice in D Loading’s veins went a little cold. A streaky John Starks shooter like another former flashy Lakers point in Nick Van Exel, this is just what happens in the peaks and valleys of the game. But of course, the unforgiving internet was having none of it. Memes were made, and trade ideas were drawn up, and by the deadline it was looking like a done deal.

But then, maybe Russell remembered Westbrook, or heard what Katt Williams said about him. Then again, that comedian was flaming everybody on Shannon Sharpe’s show. 

Soon, it was D’Angelo who couldn’t miss like his neo-soul namesake. Shooting and hitting everything in sight with sniper accuracy. Hopping with enthusiasm on the downtown line and making beautiful bounce passes to the King. 

Knowing his worth regardless of where he’d end up, he played like he had nothing to lose. He didn’t! Like a man possessed with the frost king in this Game of Thrones the cold streak was over, and the ice was back like George Gervin’s autobiography.

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No longer on the shelf, the deadline passed with no dice rolled. Russell remained, thankfully, like Rui and Reaves. Starting alongside the King and the ‘brow and forming a famous first five. LeBron may be hitting 40 (thousand points) like no other 39-year-old wants to, but the younger Lakers are on to something too. Making their own marks and milestones.

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Now, Russell is balling again and having fun. And the Lakers are looking like the same team they were after the deadline last year. A culture changed by D’Angelo. You can see the connection in his Backyard podcast episode at Anthony Davis’ crib. Camaraderie, like both players wearing compression t-shirts under their jerseys.

The toxic trend of entitled Laker fans trolling on X is played out.

Forget a fractured hand in Clipperland, or where the Lakers are in the standings. Head downtown and amongst the James jerseys and the Leonard’s. The George’s and the ones reading Davis. You may also see a couple more that say Russell…and Westbrook.

From zero to number one.

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