Russell Westbrook’s form surged in recent weeks, particularly during the absence of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.
In the last 10 games, Westbrook averaged 22.0 points, shooting 47.3% from the field and 31.8% from beyond the arc. He also registered 8.9 assists, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.4 turnovers per game. His numbers mostly improved compared to those in the first 10 games of the season: 19.0 points, 7.9 assists, 8.5 rebounds, and 4.9 turnovers; shooting 41.8% from the field and 26.8% from the 3-point land.
The eye test produces similar results. The 2017 NBA MVP has impressed with a more mature shot selection and aggressiveness in his play — with the energy he brings onto the court often spreading through the team and inspiring a few favorable scoring runs for the Lakers.
However, many of Westbrook’s best performances came when LeBron James spent the night on the sidelines. In that 10-game spell during which Westbrook put in much better numbers, the four-time NBA champion didn’t play at all in four.
James said his partnership with Westbrook still has room for improvement, pointing out they didn’t have plenty of chances to figure out the best way to co-exist on the floor.
“I believe every area we got to continue to work on,” James said at Monday’s practice. “We’ve only been in half the games, I haven’t played in three straight games all season, which is weird obviously, but it is what it is. In order for us to know what we do best for not only each other, but for the betterment of the team, you have to log those minutes.
“You have to log those games and we haven’t had enough games together to know exactly what’s gonna work the best for our team.”
Lakers monitor James’ workload
James has missed several games due to ankle and abdomen injuries this year, impacting the Lakers’ cohesion-building process.
Head coach Frank Vogel said the team tries to take care of the soon-to-be-37-year-old forward’s well-being, making sure his workload doesn’t lead to another break from basketball.
“We’re always monitoring his load and just being intelligent with it,” Vogel said. “Obviously, the overtime games are what they are. He’s going to be in there for those. Like you said, he has missed some time. The totality is less of a concern than if you played a triple-overtime game and you played the next night. You exercise caution in those instances. It’s just something that literally we monitor on a daily basis.
“We rely on the medical team and feedback from how he’s feeling and make smart decisions.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!