Wizards

Sheppard says Wizards still learning to play with Westbrook

Wizards

Whenever you trade one star player for another as the Wizards did in December, there's bound to be an adjustment period. 

But when you're a team acquiring Russell Westbrook, there's no telling how well that integration is going to go or how long it'll take for the rest of the team to acclimate themselves to playing alongside such a unique talent. 

So far, as Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard detailed to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller, everything's gone relatively smoothly bringing Westbrook into the mix. 

"We're still learning and we're still going through the process and our players are still learning from him," Sheppard said. "Overall, I think it’s been a pretty good integration. I think the one thing that we still need to do as a team is be consistent. On this road trip, we put together some good games and just ran out of gas against the Clippers. Those are the moments where we really have to push through and figure out ways to get through it."  

The Wizards have begun to turn their season around, especially after a five-game winning streak, but Westbrook's tenure in Washington didn't get off to the best start. A quad injury he aggravated in training camp limited his explosiveness and availability on back-to-backs, resulting in a rough stretch of basketball for him and the Wizards.

"One thing that we could have never factored in was that two-week shutdown," Sheppard said. "He was injured a little bit coming out of preseason, and still he's a tough guy. He wants to play, but wasn't 100% so it took us time to adjust to that and him not attacking the rim which is the biggest part of his game. He wasn't able to do those things but we'll still take 60% of Russ on the floor."

 

The injury appears to have subsided for Westbrook. He's been attacking the basket with force more consistently and he's gone away from taking too many pull-up jump shots. It's no surprise that the Wizards' success over their last 10 games has coincided with Westbrook getting healthier. 

There's still work to be done, however. Even after a promising streak, the Wizards are far from a finished product. Sheppard knows that, and how they continue to develop with Westbrook and Bradley Beal running the show will almost certainly determine whether they can clinch a playoff berth.

"We have to raise our level to his level too," Sheppard said. "We're not going to ask him to dumb it down. Superstars mesh pretty easy. Him and Brad, that was easy, but everybody else around them, trying to figure out where to be in your spots is still a work in progress."

Tune in to NBC Sports Washington Plus at 8 p.m. for Tommy Sheppard's full interview with Chris Miller