LOS ANGELES -- Russell Westbrook was wearing a bucket hat, flip-flops and a smile inside the conference room in his Avenue of the Stars offices. Trade talks stalled, training camp on the cusp and Westbrook hardly had to consider the question: Do you feel wanted by the Los Angeles Lakers?
"I don't need to," Westbrook told ESPN recently. "I need to just do my job. Whether I'm wanted or not doesn't really matter. I think the most important thing is that I show up for work and I do the job like I've always done it: Be professional and go out and play my ass off and compete."
Westbrook, 33, is in his second season with the Lakers, and with it come assurances of nothing. He isn't promised to be a starter, or stay a Laker, or get traded to a team that will keep him on the active roster. He understands it all, and yet he's still smiling on this late summer afternoon.
After all, this is the kind of day he loves: Work out in the morning, and then stop by his offices to meet up with his childhood friend and business partner, Donnell Beverly, and his older brother Ray. If there's some uncertainty about Westbrook's broader base of Lakers support in his childhood home of Southern California, he takes solace in his unwaveringly and fiercely close circle of family and friends.
Westbrook spoke of getting back to work in the gym sooner in the past offseason than he has ever done in his career, about a summer full of conversations with Lakers coach Darvin Ham, about a "connection" and "trust" with Ham's vision to utilize him in a way that impacts winning on these Lakers.