Russell Westbrook is already setting a tone at Wizards practice

Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images /

It took one practice for Russell Westbrook to bring his signature intensity to the Washington Wizards.

New team, same old Russ.

On Sunday, Russell Westbrook showed up to his first practice with the Washington Wizards two hours early, bringing his typical fire and useful knowledge of the playbook. Westbrook may have surprised a few of his teammates with his behavior, but not Scott Brooks, who coached the 2017 MVP for seven seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In fact, Brooks said Westbrook made a habit out of early practice arrivals in OKC.

Brooks doesn’t see the nine-time All-Star easing up his approach at any point, so his teammates might as well get used to it. In the press availability, Brooks said, “I’m sure the players didn’t realize that’s what he does … 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 described the 32-year old’s energy as characteristically “intense” on Sunday and already observed his example rubbing off on his younger teammates. “You could tell everybody locked in and everybody raised their level up,” Brooks said. “…You could just see it. He just has a way about him…You could see the players’ intensity; you could see their faces. Some of these guys were 9, 10 years old and they just started following basketball and they were seeing Russell in his first couple years in the league, so they grew up watching him.”

Westbrook’s actions reflect the message from his introductory press conference, during which he stressed the importance of hard work above all else.

“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.”

Beyond his competitiveness, though, Westbrook impressed his Wizards teammates over the weekend with his attention to detail and specific understanding of Brooks’ sets.

Russell Westbrook is already making a difference for the Washington Wizards

During Saturday’s media session, Westbrook was asked if his “famous” penchant for showing up early will make an impression on the locker room.

“Before I answer the question, I’m not famous for it,” Westbrook said, via The Washington Post. “This is what I do; this is how I do it. It’s not a thing for me. That’s the most important part, and that’s something I want to be clear… But to answer the question…you want the guys on the team to have something to follow, look up to. Bring some leadership.”

Regardless of his intentions, the decorated veteran — like Bradley Beal — has already made an impact on third-year guard Troy Brown Jr.

“He’s somebody just like Brad, who I want to learn from and pick their brains.” Brown said about Westbrook. “They’re both all-stars, and I feel like they complement each other very well, their personalities and how much they love the game.”

That last sentence of Brown’s soundbite should sound particularly encouraging to Wizards fans. Ultimately, Washington’s ceiling in 2020-21 will be determined by Westbrook’s relationship and chemistry with Beal, who never quite gelled with John Wall.

In the aftermath of last week’s Westbrook-for-Wall swap, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Westbrook was “very bothered” by the perception that he was a difficult teammate, and was committed to making it work with Beal and his new running-mates.

After one weekend: so far, so good in D.C.

Of course, intensity and arrival time for practice is one thing, efficiency in actual games is another.

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