The defeat meant that all three of them lost in their Lakers debut: James against the Portland Trail Blazers in 2018; Davis against the LA Clippers in 2019; and Westbrook against the Warriors on Tuesday.
While James (34 points, 11 rebounds, five assists) and Davis (33 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks) outperformed Westbrook, who had a team-worst plus-minus of minus-23 in 35 minutes, finishing with eight points on 4-for-13 shooting and four turnovers, their bigger impact might have come in the postgame locker room, lifting up their new teammate.
“I told Russ to go home and watch a comedy,” James said. “Do something that can put a smile on his face. He’s so hard on himself. I told him, ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s one game.'”
It was similar to a pep talk James gave to Davis when their first game together in L.A. also didn’t go their way.
“My first time, I sat next to LB, he looked at me, and he said, ‘You’re fine, this is Game 1,'” Davis recalled. “He’s laughing. He’s joking on the phone. And I’m like, ‘Why am I upset then?’ And I kind of just went with the flow. And it’s the same thing with Russ. And I told him the same thing. ‘I’m the same way you were.’ We said some things to him, and he smiled and things like that, so I expect him to be better in the game Friday.”
If Westbrook broke out a grin in the locker room, it was gone by the time he reached the media room for his postgame interviews.
“We talked,” was all Westbrook would say about the conversation with Davis and James.
His entire media session lasted less than three minutes as he kept his answers as brief as possible.
James, who has often said that experience is the greatest teacher there is, was hopeful that Westbrook would be able to glean some perspective from the ordeal.
“I just don’t want him to be so hard on himself. That was the one thing that I hoped to get through to him, don’t be so hard on himself,” James reiterated. “Go home and you’re going to see three babies that he has that might be asleep, but they’ll put a smile on his face. He has a beautiful wife and family. So, at the end of the day, you go home and you’re really like, ‘OK, that was not that bad. It’s really not that bad.'”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel acknowledged the tricky spot Westbrook finds himself in.
“Him more than anybody, it’s going to be an adjustment period,” Vogel said. “He’s coming into our culture, our system. He’s the new guy, and he’s got to find his way. It’s difficult, when you’re used to being the guy who has the ball most nights, to be able to play off of others like Bron and AD. So it’s just a little bit different for him. He’s going to be great for us, but it’s going to be an adjustment period.”
While Westbrook looks to grow within the group, James is urging him to be the player he was before he came to L.A. — an uber confident multi-time All-Star, Olympian and former league MVP.
“It’s challenging to go into a new system and trying to fit in but also bring what you bring to the table at a high level to fit out as well,” James said. “And if there’s three guys on this team that shouldn’t be worried about not fitting in, it’s probably myself, AD and Russ. Obviously we’re going to do whatever it takes to help the team win, but for us three, we need to fit out as well.”
Both James and Davis put the blame on “first-game jitters” for Westbrook, with Davis relating to Westbrook playing on a bigger stage than he’s been used to — “When you come here, the lights are brighter,” Davis said — and James knowing what it’s like to go back home to play.
“There probably was just a lot going through his mind, being a kid from L.A. and watching the Lakers growing up and then however many years down the road and now you’re putting on a Laker uniform and you’re stepping into Staples Center,” James said.
Westbrook, still stewing on the outcome while speaking to reporters, took ownership of the task ahead for him and his team as they try to come together to realize their championship goal.
“I just got to figure it out,” he said. “That’s all.”