Russell Westbrook removed the lane, finding Thomas Bryant open for an easy dunk as the Washington Wizards big man drew a foul and then immediately ran to give Brian his nod.
In their first game with the Wizards, Westbrook entered Washington’s 99–96 victory over the Detroit Pistons in just 17 first-half minutes. But his influence was felt with his energy, speed and ability to move the ball and attract the attention of the defense.
“You can see in the first half how many open shots we got,” the Wizards told Davis Bertons about Westbrook’s influence. “And what good looks we had and all I would say is that juice.
“They set the tone for driving and kicking … I’m pretty sure it’s going to be better than here.”
After the Wizards were eliminated from the first two conference games, Westbrook played in the team’s final tune before the regular-season opener on December 23 in Philadelphia. Westbrook finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a 4-for-10 shot, including a 0-for-3 from behind the arc.
“It was good,” Westbrook said of his first game as a magician. “We won, the most important part… I like where we were tonight.
“My job is to try to set the tone. Are they ready to play.”
The Wizards saw the impact of Westbrook on offense in the capacity that Bradley Beal had to work one against the defenders and the Wizards tried to keep the momentum going. Washington led by over 16 and had 10 fast-break points in the first half when Westbrook played.
“It felt great,” Beal said of playing with Westbrook. “It was huge energy … I don’t think it’s going to be hard because people are trying to make it. We both do a great job of feeding each other, just how they play with each other.” .
“The most important thing is his speed and energy that he brings to the table … It just works well. We just keep playing each other, feeding each other and pushing each other. . “
While Beal missed all seven of his three-point attempts, he scored 15 points and scored seven field goals. Beal won an average of 30.5 points last season, but drew the attention of the opposition defense much like the Wizards’ lone star.
“Our job is to make the game easier for him,” Westbrook said. “Find him a way to feed the ball consistently so that he can score at a high rate. He’s shown that he is capable of doing that. He’s going to be great. I’m not worried about Brad.”
Bryant drew Westbrook, scoring 22 points and making 12 of 7 shots. And Wizard coach Scott Brooks loved watching an animated Westbrook frantically celebrating Bryan’s sting and encouraging the big man in the first quarter.
“Really good,” Brooks said when asked about Westbrook’s first pressures action. “He is looking all like training camp. His feeling is not about statistics but about winning. He plays the right way and teaches our young teammates the right things. He is great.
“He is nothing short of brilliant, what he tells people, how he coaches his teammates and they listen. What he does, how he prepares and how he trains and looks at the game , That is priceless. “