When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook this offseason, one of the biggest benefits he was expected to bring was the scoring and playmaking ability to lessen the burden of LeBron James. Unfortunately for Westbrook and the Lakers, the results have been mixed at best.
While there have been times where Westbrook has looked like his former-MVP self, oftentimes it has been the complete opposite for the Lakers point guard. Turnovers have remained a problem for Westbrook and his shooting continues to be inconsistent. Even at the rim where he is at his best, there have been a lot of misses of layups and dunks no one would expect.
A big message Lakers player and coaches have sent Westbrook constantly throughout the season has been to just play like himself. When asked if he has been receiving mixed messages though, Westbrook had an honest answer by saying no one understands what it means to play like himself more than he does.
“Listen, at this point, nah, I just do what I can for the betterment of the team. Everybody wants me to do certain things, Fiz, Frank, everybody wants me to do this but then they all want me to do this. 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.”
Westbrook went on to add that he is not concerned with his play and believes some of the expectations of him have been unreasonable.
“And honestly, I think I’ve been fine. I don’t know like, the conversation has been heavily on how I’m playing and how I’m doing but I think people are expecting me to have f*cking 25-15-15, which is not normal. Everybody has to understand that’s not a normal thing that people do consistently. I know I’ve done it for the past five years or so or whatever that may be, but it’s not like a normal thing.
“So when people are saying ‘Russ be Russ,’ I don’t really think nobody understands what that means, I think people just say it and just be like let’s let Russ be Russ, but nobody actually knows what that means but myself and I’m gonna lean on that and make sure that I do what I’m supposed to do and let everything else outside of the locker room or whatever that may be take care of itself.
It would certainly be unfair to expect Westbrook’s numbers to mirror that of when he was the lone star in Oklahoma City or even last year when paired up with Bradley Beal on the Washington Wizards. Having James and Anthony Davis on the floor with the Lakers is going to eat into those numbers.
But the Lakers have struggled to figure out the best way to utilize Westbrook’s unique skillset when on the court with his superstar teammates. Some believe he should attack the rim more while others want him to focus on playmaking. Regardless, Westbrook is paying no attention to the outside talk and suggestions.
One thing Westbrook does have is the support of his teammates and coaches. Despite a rough stretch, these Lakers have yet to turn on each other and continue to push everyone to figure things out.
Fizdale supports Westbrook after rough night vs. Nets
Westbrook certainly didn’t have his best night on Christmas Day against the Brooklyn Nets, but acting head coach David Fizdale simply implored the Lakers point guard to keep attacking.
“Got to keep attacking. That’s who he is, man. He’s a rim-attacking finisher, and for whatever reason, he just missed them,” Fizdale said after the loss. “A big part of it is that he just wants it so bad. You can see it in him. I think everybody feels it. He wants it so bad.
“I just know that’s hard for him when it doesn’t work out, and I know he cares like crazy. This is everything to him and sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.”
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!