Russell Westbrook wasn’t going to get drawn into a war of words.
After ESPN host Stephen A. Smith made critical remarks about the Washington Wizards star guard earlier in the day, citing Westbrook’s lack of an NBA championship among other things, Westbrook addressed the comments in his postgame press conference Tuesday night. Rather than fire back at Smith, though, Westbrook offered a lengthy response about ignoring criticism and finding happiness on and off the court.
“I don’t say much,” Westbrook said. “I don’t like to go back and forth about people, but one thing I won’t allow to happen anymore is to let people create narratives and constantly just talking (expletive) for no reason about me.”
On Monday, Westbrook recorded the first triple-double in NBA history with at least 35 points and 20 assists. The next morning on “First Take,” Smith said the numbers mean “absolutely nothing” because Westbrook’s great stats over the years have not resulted in more playoff success.
“Westbrook’s numbers last night mean absolutely nothing to me because even though that’s great numbers, that’s what Westbrook can do. We all know this,” Smith said. “He’s a former league MVP. He’s the most athletic point guard we have ever seen in NBA history.
“But Bradley Beal and you are in the backcourt together and y’all are 17-28 in the Eastern Conference. … You’ve played with some great, great players over the years, some talent. And not a single title to show for it.
“The numbers are the numbers. That’s Russell Westbrook. He can do that to anybody. But I’m at a point in time in his career where it ain’t about that no more. It’s about whether or not you can get to another level to win the chip.”
Westbrook’s wife, Nina, took issue with the criticism and posted her frustration with Smith and other pundits on her Instagram story.
“I don’t know how many times I have to be minding my own business and randomly be subjected to you slandering my husband (who also happens to be minding his own business, being happy and living his best life),” she wrote.
Westbrook later had some thoughtful perspective about his career accomplishments and being happy even if he doesn’t ever win a championship.
“I use my platform to be able to help people all across the world. Nobody can take that away from me,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to be able to have a platform to do it. Like I said before, a championship don’t change my life. I’m happy. I was a champion once I made it to the NBA. I grew up in the streets. … I don’t have to be an NBA champion. I know many people that got NBA championships that’s miserable, haven’t done nothing for their community, haven’t done nothing for the people in our world.”
Here are four more things to know today in the NBA:
Rivers upset with Sixers’ effort
The Philadelphia 76ers fell behind by 22 points in the first quarter Tuesday on the way to a 104-95 loss against the Denver Nuggets. While the Sixers closed the gap late, they couldn’t overcome the poor start in which coach Doc Rivers said the Nuggets “just got everything.” Denver shot 66.7% in the first quarter, including 7-of-10 on 3s, and scored 44 points, leaving Rivers struggling to explain Philadelphia’s lack of effort.
“There’s so many areas where we were bad, for me to try to point out one would be unfair to the other bad areas,” Rivers said. “We just had an awful game.”
Drummond to make Lakers debut
Andre Drummond was eager to make his Los Angeles Lakers debut, and he won’t have to wait long. He’ll start at center Wednesday when Los Angeles hosts the Milwaukee Bucks. Lakers coach Frank Vogel confirmed Tuesday that Drummond will slide into the starting lineup in place of Marc Gasol. Drummond said he felt “incredible” after his first practice with the team and is looking forward to his first game action since Feb. 12. “I think the level of excitement for me is at an all-time high,” Drummond said.
Williams thought of retiring
Lou Williams was stunned when the Los Angeles Clippers traded him at the deadline. So stunned, in fact, that he briefly considered retirement before joining the Atlanta Hawks. “It hurts,” Williams said Tuesday. “I had a lot of investment there. We had some success. We were gearing up for another deep run, a championship run.” Now with his hometown team, Williams is expected to be an additional scoring option off the bench as the Hawks push for the playoffs.
Game of the night: Mavericks at Celtics
A pair of teams struggling to maintain footing in their respective playoff races meet in Boston. The Celtics are 4-7 since the All-Star break and tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Mavericks are 6-5 in the second half and seventh in the West. Dallas took the first meeting on Feb. 23 when Luka Doncic hit a deep stepback 3 in the final second for a 110-107 win.
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