Incoming Los Angeles Lakers star Russell Westbrook only spent one season with the Washington Wizards. Still, he had a profound impact on the D.C. community, especially Washington Mystics superstar Elena Delle Donne.
Delle Donne opted out of the 2020 season amid concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. She subsequently underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in her back and has been through a grueling rehabilitation process.
Westbrook showed dogged commitment in helping Delle Donne stay the course.
Russell Westbrook and Elena Delle Donne are former league MVPs
The Brodie and Delle Donne had commonalities before they shared the same locale. Both were former league MVPs.
Westbrook won the NBA MVP Award in 2016-17 after putting together one of the most historic individual seasons in NBA history. He became the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double over the course of a full season, also winning the scoring title after averaging 31.6 points.
It was a season that epitomized Westbrook’s explosiveness and ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways. He did it all for the Oklahoma City Thunder and is still one of the most productive playmakers in the NBA.
Delle Donne’s dominance in the WNBA has been all the more impressive. She made the All-Star team in six of her first seven seasons in the league and won MVP honors in 2015 and 2019.
The Wilmington, Delaware native dominates on both sides of the floor. Never was that more evident than in her 2015 MVP campaign. Delle Donne averaged 23.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, and 1.1 steals.
Delle Donne has size but also boasts the skill and shooting ability of a guard. She is shooting nearly 40% from the three-point line for her career and became the first WNBA player to join the 50-40-90 club in 2019.
Westbrook helped Delle Donne rehab as she worked toward her Mystics return
The road back to the hardwood has not been an easy one for Delle Donne.
The 31-year-old’s back issues put a major damper on her comeback hopes and even made her question whether the investment in rehabbing would be worth the return. Westbrook helped her stay motivated and gave her added inspiration when she needed it most.
Delle Donne called Westbrook one of her “biggest helps” during the rehab process and said The Brodie would come to the Verizon Center early on game days just to rebound for her. She also explained the NBA star helped her get out of a “funk.”
Westbrook’s commitment has paid dividends. Delle Donne returned to Mystics practice and is engaging in full five-on-five practices. She is nearing a return to the court, which might even come before the end of the month.
Westbrook must be the difference-maker for the Lakers
Having made a critical difference in Delle Donne’s rehab, can Westbrook do the same for the Lakers?
The foundation of LA’s organization still rests on the shoulders of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Still, Westbrook is the kind of quick-twitch playmaker who might open up the floor and give the Lakers more firepower.
The Lakers need a ball-handler and creator to take pressure off of James. Westbrook can be that guy, in addition to someone who can give LA more opportunities in transition.
Westbrook will be introduced at a press conference on Tuesday. He will team with James and AD to get the Purple and Gold back to the top of the NBA.
The LA native will attempt to win his first NBA title with his hometown team. Delle Donne will likely be rooting for his success, even if the two stars are no longer in the same city.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.