Former Thunder guard Alex Abrines opens up about mental health, Russell Westbrook’s support

Ryan YoungYahoo Sports Contributor
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/olympics/rio-2016/a/1194323/" data-ylk="slk:Alex Abrines">Alex Abrines</a>, who left the Thunder last season due to mental health issues, said <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4390/" data-ylk="slk:Russell Westbrook">Russell Westbrook</a> supported him completely throughout his battles in Oklahoma City. (AP/Sue Ogrocki)
Alex Abrines, who left the Thunder last season due to mental health issues, said Russell Westbrook supported him completely throughout his battles in Oklahoma City. (AP/Sue Ogrocki)

Alex Abrines agreed to a two-year deal with FC Barcelona in July, electing to return home to Spain after more than two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

While the end of his tenure with the Thunder was marred with tough personal health issues for the Spainard, Abrines had nothing but praise for Russell Westbrook — who he said helped him tremendously throughout the year.

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Westbrook is “a very nice guy. He helped me a lot, especially in the first year,” Abrines told Movistar, via EuroHoops.net. “In most of our trips we did something together, watch a movie, have dinner. When I went through all this and did not travel with the team, he kept in touch. He asked me to meet him for dinner. He cared for the person beyond the player. He calmly told me what I should do noting that he would support me if I decided to leave.”

Abrines was the No. 32 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, though didn’t make his debut until the 2016 season. He averaged more than 15 minutes per game in his first two years off the bench, and appeared to be fitting into his role in Oklahoma City well.

Yet the 26-year-old struggled last season. He appeared in just 31 games, and played in just two games in his final three months with the team before the Thunder released him in February while dealing with a “personal issue.”

While he hasn’t elaborated on his struggles, he is the latest NBA player to open up about his mental health in recent years. Kevin Love first discussed his anxiety and panic attacks last March in a piece for The Player’s Tribune, just one week after then-Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan shared his similar battles with depression in an article by Doug Smith of the Toronto Star.

While the two weren’t the first to address the issue in the league — Royce White was essentially run out of the league after doing so years prior — plenty of others have followed in their wake, sharing similar stories.

“Athletes are normal people, but are pressured above average,” Abrines said, via EuroHoops.net. “Medication helps, but at the end of the day you must seek professional aid, discuss with friends and family, move forward with their support. It’s a different kind of pain. Physical pain is something you can see and feel. Mental pain cannot be observed and cannot be treated like an injured knee, for example. If you don’t go through something similar, you can’t realize it.

“In the end of the day, money is not above everything. Until it happens, you don’t realize that you don’t give a [expletive] about money.”

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