One day after observing practice as he sat out while the trade became official, All-NBA guard Russell Westbrook took the floor for the first time with the Washington Wizards on Sunday and head coach Scott Brooks said he surprised his teammates in a few different ways.
Westbrook first showed up two hours before practice began to start getting his work in. And once the drills kicked off, he took the level of intensity up a notch both with his energy and his voice.
"It definitely felt like old times," Brooks said, referring to the time he and Westbrook spent together in Oklahoma City.
Added Brooks: "I’m sure the players didn’t realize that’s what he does. You could tell everybody locked in and everybody raised their level up. They will know this was not because it was the first day. This is who he is, this is how he prepares, this is how he gets ready. He’s always like that."
Brooks said even early in Westbrook's career, while the two were with the Thunder, he was several hours early to practice. If they practiced at 11 a.m., he would be training no later than 9:15, even after nights where they got in late from a road trip.
"It was like Groundhog Day. He was there every day. Today was no different. This is who he is, this is what he’s about," Brooks said.
Brooks described Westbrook's first practice as "intense." He set a tone at the Wizards' facility in Southeast Washington that Brooks expects to be there for the rest of the season.
Third-year forward Troy Brown Jr. said he noticed in Westbrook's first practice how well he gets along with Bradley Beal, saying their personalities complement each other well. And as a young player, he sees an opportunity for himself playing alongside the two of them.
"He’s definitely somebody just like Brad that I want to learn from," Brown said.
The Wizards hope Westbrook's work habits will become contagious around the building. At his introductory press conference, he explained his philosophy towards hard work and what he expects from his teammates.
"Go out and compete and play hard, that’s the biggest thing. All the Xs and Os, that will come. But playing hard and understanding what it means to compete, work hard and everything else will follow," Westbrook said.
"We are going to strive to win a championship and we can as long as we put our effort and our energy and sacrifice our time, our minds and our bodies to be able to do it. We can walk away and live with that."
Westbrook is hoping to help lift the Wizards franchise to new heights. Sunday was the first step in that process.