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Russell Westbrook brushes off video of him outside Lakers huddles

Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 9: Russell Westbrook of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up before the game against the Golden State Warriors on October 9, 2022 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Some Lakers fans couldn’t even wait for the regular season to start scapegoating Russell Westbrook.

The anti-Russ crowd — and it’s a sizeable share of Lakers nation — jumped all over two videos from the Lakers’ preseason game against the Timberwolves to suggest Westbrook has already checked out and distanced himself from the team. There was one with Westbrook not part of the team’s pregame huddle, and one where he did not join an in-game huddle of veterans Patrick Beverley was trying to call after a play.

Westbrook’s response Thursday was to brush the videos off, saying his pregame ritual never has had him in the main huddle, and he was talking to a coach while Beverley was calling people together. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

These videos are more a Rorschach Test of what you think of Westbrook than they are indicative of anything.

If you wanted him traded and are frustrated he’s still on the roster, these videos are damning evidence. On the other hand, if you believe (or want to believe) he has had a change of attitude, these videos are taken-out-of-contest, cut-up clips that don’t paint the entire picture.

The reality is there’s not enough evidence to back either claim. Yet. It’s just the preseason. Throughout the summer and into training camp, Westbrook has said and done all the right things — he has bought into what new coach Darvin Ham is selling, has appeared to work harder on defense, and seems to be okay playing a role. He hasn’t been efficient with his shot, he has still struggled on defense, but it’s the preseason and he’s often been in mix-and-match lineups.

Starting next Tuesday in Golden State, Westbrook’s words become meaningless — his actions are what will matter. There will be new videos out from that (and the second game against the Clippers, then against the Trail Blazers, and on down the line) and once we’ve seen those we will start to see a pattern. Then we can draw an accurate conclusion about whether this version of Westbrook is different than the one who struggled to fit in and be efficient last season (although Westbrook became the scapegoat for a lot of GM Rob Pelinka’s handiwork last season, too).

Until then, it’s all just more Lakers drama.