During a morning shootaround before a recent Wizards preseason game, Russell Westbrook delivered a message to his teammates that head coach Scott Brooks felt perfectly embodies the tone he has set as a new leader in the locker room.
Westbrook is notorious for his competitive spirit, more often compared to Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan in that regard than any other current player. It sounds like he wants his teammates to view their opponents the same way he does; as enemies.
"It was an early shootaround, a meeting. He said ‘hey, the game doesn’t start at seven, the game starts now.’ When you wake up in the morning, that’s when the game starts. You’ve gotta prepare yourself. You have to think about who you are guarding and how you can impact the game in a positive way. Just with him saying those words, players listen," Brooks said.
"It’s always been that way. He’s been so locked in on game days. You don’t want to mess with him on game days because he’s locked in right from breakfast on. He’s already thinking about how he can hate the other opponent."
That right there represents a culture change in Washington. If you recall, it was just two seasons ago a veteran player openly complained about shootaround, saying "I get paid for what I do at 7 p.m."
Clearly, Westbrook won't stand for that type of mentality. Others will have to get in line, and Brooks likes that because it makes his job easier.
"I’ve been with him for a long time. We grew up together. I grew up being a head coach and he grew up in the league," Brooks said, referring to their days together in Oklahoma City.
"I’m pretty proud of his mindset and proud of what in three weeks now, what he’s been able to instill into our program. His professionalism has been just remarkable."
The Westbrook era in D.C. begins Wednesday night against the Sixers. It will be the start of what the Wizards hope is not only a culture reset, but the starting of a more successful future in the standings as well.