There’s not one Wizards fan who can forget the day that Washington made one of the most shocking moves in franchise history. In fact, it was the evening of December 2, 2020 when the rumors turned out to be true…the Washington Wizards traded star point guard John Wall to the Houston Rockets for former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook.
For the one-year that Westbrook suited up in a Wizards uniform, he broke records and changed the identity of the team. Now he will return to Capital One Arena on Sunday, December 4 when the Wizards face the Los Angeles Lakers, almost exactly two years after the groundbreaking Wall/Westbrook trade occurred.
Westbrook’s lone season in Washington was a historic and successful one for the franchise despite having a losing record of 34-38. The Wizards made the playoffs as the 8th seed in the East but would lose to the #1 seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the first round 4-1.
Westbrook posted his 4th and last triple-double season with 22.7 points per game, 11.5 rebounds per game, and 11.7 assists per game while with the Wizards. Westbrook broke Oscar Robertson’s triple-double record of 181 while in Washington.
In his introductory Wizards press conference, Westbrook made it clear that he doesn’t play any games on the court: “When I’m on the floor, I don’t have any friends. I’m not trying to be friendly. I don’t have time for it and I’m never changing that.”
Westbrook’s competitive energy also rubbed off on his teammates. Former Wizard coach Scott Brooks (now assistant coach for Portland Trail Blazers) noted that Westbrook has a hard exterior that is widely misunderstood but he ultimately wants the best for his teammates and they respond to that.
Former Wizards guard Garrison Mathews (currently with Houston Rockets) supported that perspective, crediting Westbrook with helping the team level up during that 2020-21 season.
“I’ve watched him play a lot over his career and one thing I’ve always admired about him is his intensity and his fire,” Mathews said. “When you have a guy that plays that hard, it’s contagious and helps everybody get out of that soft mindset.”
His presence also gained the respect of his backcourt partner Bradley Beal who looked at him as a mentor because of his proven record in the NBA.
“Russ brings a definite focus and persona about himself that resonates with the rest of the team,” Beal said. “You have no choice but to feed off his energy.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like these vibes have followed him to Los Angeles. Since the move, he is now in a bench role and the Lakers are just an overall mess.
Westbrook’s return to D.C. might just be a breath of fresh air for the nine-time All-Star who is at least appreciated by Wizards fans that had the opportunity to witness several historic moments in his career the one season he lit up Capital One Arena.