Russell Westbrook’s debut season with the Los Angeles Lakers has been far from ideal with the 2017 NBA MVP finding himself under pressure again in recent days.
Heavy criticism befell Westbrook after a poor shooting performance in the Christmas Day loss to the Brooklyn Nets. The 33-year-old guard ended the night 4-for-20 from the field and missed a dunk in the last seconds of the fourth quarter, ruining the Lakers’ last chance to get back in the game.
Although Westbrook has made a name for himself as a lethal finisher around the rim, he’s missed a few dunks and layups this year. But the Lakers’ veteran doesn’t let the bad-looking misses get into his head.
“You process it and move on,” Westbrook said. “It’s the NBA, there’s gonna be nights where we don’t make shots. But for me, my game is not predicated on if I miss or make shots. I do other things to impact winning and impact the game so on nights where I don’t make shots, I do other things to impact and help my team win.
“And that’s how I look at it, simple as that. Keep my head up and keep moving like I’ve always done.”
Westbrook explained he and L.A. avoid putting extra pressure on themselves as the team keeps trying to find a way out of the slump which they have been in since the start of the season.
“I think that’s something that maybe you or outside of our locker room is doing,” he said. “So we, No. 1, never talk about pressure as a unit. No. 2 is we focus on the things we can control and that’s our effort, figuring out a way to follow our schemes throughout games. And that’s the best we can do right now, watch film when we can.
“First time we’ve had a practice in a while with the Covid and different thing that’s been happening with our team, so it was good to be able to do that and get some reps in. Try to find ways to bring some positives out of some of our losses.”
Speaking of the extra stress caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Westbrook said he keeps reminding himself that it’s an issue that transcends basketball.
“Everybody handles it differently,” he said. “Mentally, one thing that you know is it’s not just a basketball thing, it’s life and a real thing that everybody is battling with. With that, you just got to find a way to just be safe, be careful about what you’re doing or where you’re going as much as possible.
“You can do all that and still find ways to become positive, so we just got to make sure you’re putting the right foot forward to do the right thing and that’s all you can do. Stay prayerful and that’s literally what I lean on.”
Westbrook ‘is over’ listening to others comment on how he should play
Westbrook pointed out there’s been a lot of comments on what he should do to prove he’s a good fit with the Lakers, including some unrealistic expectations.
But the guard said no one knows better on how he should play to help L.A. than he does.
“Honestly, I’m over the whole situation of what everybody else wants me to do and what they think I should be doing,” Westbrook said after Monday’s practice.
“I’m gonna go in and just play and do what I know how to do best and that’s compete my ass off, compete to win games, and make my teammates better like I’ve done for many many years. And I’ll continue to do that, it’s as simple as that.”
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