Wizards GM Sheppard 'very impressed' with Westbrook so far

by 24USATVFeb. 24, 2021, 6 a.m. 18

The Wizards took a risk by shaking up the franchise trading John Wall and a first-round pick for Russell Westbrook just a few weeks before the season started and it was a move that didn't exactly pay off right away.

Between a coronavirus outbreak that sidelined the team for 11 days and a quad injury that took away his explosiveness, Westbrook started off the season slow and so did the Wizards.

At the same time, John Wall has been a major plus for the Rockets following the James Harden trade. After two years away from the game, Wall looks as close to his old self as anyone could have expected, leaving some Washington fans worrying about their team's decision to trade him away.

Still, the Wizards' general manager Tommy Sheppard is a proponent of patience, as he explained to Grant and Danny on 106.7 The Fan Tuesday. He's been impressed with Westbrook this season both on and off the floor.

"I've been very impressed with everything Russell's been about since he arrived," Sheppard said. "I understand fans and the angst with trades go up and down like the stock market where you judge a trade in a day or you judge a trade in two days. Trades usually take two to three years before you can truly judge them, just like draft picks and everything else. The people that win the trade on Day 1, it usually doesn't work out that way on Day 365 or whatever.

"I don't pay attention to anything but what's ahead of us and you just know you're trying to do what's best for your franchise," Sheppard said.

As Westbrook has gotten healthier from his early-season quad injury, his numbers and the Wizards' success on the court have both improved significantly. Since returning from the hiatus following the COVID-19 outbreak, Westbrook has been averaging 21.3 points, 9.3 assists and 9.8 rebounds. He has four triple-doubles and the Wizards are 8-6 over that stretch.

The biggest contribution Sheppard has seen from Westbrook this season, however, has been his leadership.

"What's surprised me is how incredible of a leader he is," Sheppard said. "How much he wants to facilitate and make sure Bradley is the very best player in the NBA at his position, really pushing Bradley, and he's been a tremendous co-pilot with Bradley.

"Russell kept to himself," Sheppard said. "I've been around the league for 27 years and gotten to know a lot of players, and Russell's one guy that always keeps people at arm's length if you're not on his team. Once we got him here and kinda got to know him for the first time, he's just incredible, all the different layers to him."

His play hasn't been consistent, but the messages surrounding Westbrook's leadership from coaches, teammates and now executives regarding his leadership have all been the same. Now that he's healthy and helping lead an impressive stretch of winning basketball, he has a good chance to bring his play all the way around as well.

Tune in to NBC Sports Washington at 8 p.m. on Tuesday for full coverage of the Wizards' next game against the Denver Nuggets


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