While Russell Westbrook is still a massive part of the Los Angeles Lakers’ identity, he is — as expected — seeing a massive drop in usage rate from the rest of his career. His 27.9% usage rate this season is the lowest he’s had since the 2009-10 season, Westbrook’s second year in the league.
With that comes the third-lowest points per game average of his career and the fifth-lowest assists per game average of his 14 NBA seasons. The Lakers have another player who is very familiar with that same adjustment in Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony went from a go-to guy for many years with the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks, to a begrudged star with Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets, only to find himself nearly out of the league.
One final chance with the Portland Trail Blazers saw him complete the transition to role player, and he is continuing that this season with the Lakers. So there is no one better to discuss the adjustment period of Westbrook than Anthony. ”
The mentality, the mindset is similar… It was coming to your senses and saying, ‘Okay, things are just not going to be the same anymore.’
“It may be a little bit different whereas he’s more of the facilitator, he’s more of the head of the snake. He has the ball in his hands, he brings the ball up. Facilitates the offense. He dictates his flow and the team’s flow at times. With me, it was somebody bringing it down and handing it off to me and then me having to go make a play.”
But Anthony assured Westbrook that this is not an adjustment he has to make on his own, and that his Lakers teammates are there to help him through that process. “I’m sure he goes through the process on his own at times,” Anthony said. “He’s sitting trying to figure it out. He watches film, he watches the games. He studies it.
“I’m sure as a player, as an individual you are going to sit and trying to figure it out by yourself, but for the most part, we don’t let guys try to figure it out by themselves. We try to deal with it. Whatever’s happening, if there’s something happening. You feel in a way if you have something on your mind or if you have something that you want to bring to the table, good or bad, that we can correct it if it’s bad. If it’s good, it’s something that we can kind of implement into the game. So we always talk. We try not to let anybody go through anything by themselves.”
The first half of Westbrook’s debut season with the Lakers has been a mixed bag in terms of fit. At times, Westbrook has been dynamic alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, showing his abilities as a scorer at the rim as well as a facilitator for the offense.
At other times, turnovers, poor shot selection, and defensive miscues have haunted him and the Lakers, making it difficult to justify the massive price tag he comes with. But L.A. has reiterated time and time again that this adjustment was going to take time, and there has been steady improvement this season.
The hope is that Westbrook can continue to progress in a new role alongside James and Davis. And by the playoff, the three players can be a dangerous combination that is nearly impossible to stop in transition and in half-court sets.
Frank Vogel praises Westbrook’s adjustment
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel believes that Westbrook has done well in adjusting his game to match James and Davis.
“I think that’s part of what this early season has been like for Russ, it has been an adjustment,” Vogel said about Westbrook’s usage decrease. “We knew that coming in when we put this team together and I feel like he’s handled it well.”
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