Russell Westbrook has not looked right in purple and gold so far.
When I think of Russell Westbrook a few thoughts come to mind: freakish athleticism, high motor, and an elite slasher. What also comes to mind is he can't shoot off the dribble, plays defense part-time, and turns the ball over...a lot. And obviously triple-doubles. But with the slumping Lakers, it got me wondering...will Russell Westbrook always be Russell Westbrook? Or will he change his game around to help his team win? Something he's never really done.
What We've Seen
Right now, the Lakers are playing .500 ball. The three-headed monster of LeBron, AD, and Russ hasn't worked. Last Wednesday night, Russ was benched for almost the last four minutes of the game against the Indiana Pacers. Rumor has it, the front office is backing Vogel with the decision. These are all bleak sentences for a team that analysts picked to be a Finals contender. They're definitely not in a good spot, although there is plenty of time to turn it around. But to turn it around there needs to be some changes and I think it starts with Westbrook sacrificing his beloved stats.
My inclination is Westbrook cannot fit in with LA. For starters, he's a ball-dominant player playing alongside one of the most ball-dominant players of all time. Someone has to sacrifice and it ain't gonna be The King. Early in the season, Vogel spoke about Russ sacrificing so he and LeBron could coexist on the court. Clearly, that hasn't happened after 45 games. Why isn't he using his elite athleticism to cut to the hoop, get open, be on the receiving end of LBJ passes, and wear down his opponent?
Defensively, it feels like he is dog assin' it out there. I've seen him get turned around on D and lose track of his guy. First-day stuff. Westbrook has never been a great defensive player despite his engine. This boggles my mind since defense is a little bit of B-ball IQ and a lot of heart. Anyways, in the past, he's shown displays of tenacious perimeter defense, but this season he hasn't shown any of that. It's like he's just going through the motions. Empty some of that tank on defense and help your 19th-ranked team defense move up a few slots.
Let's look at a few more statistics. 43% from the floor, a tough 30% from deep, and a yucky 4+ turns a game. This is classic Russketball. The good thing is he shoots better spotting up and most of his points come close to the rim. I'll reiterate, why isn't he using his athleticism to get open and to the rim?? Back to the ball-dominance equation. The ball NEEDS to be out of his hands a lot more for the Lakers to have success. He is giving it away too often and not getting his team the right looks. This sounds crazy to say about a guy who averaged a triple-double but he needs to rethink his style of play.
So basically we have a guy who turns the rock over a lot, can't shoot well, and has been suspect on defense. Oh, and he's been benched during crunch-time. He's come out and said, "he wants to make this thing work." Should you believe him? Zero change in his game has ever occurred for any team he's played on. Why start now?
Is it an ego thing? I think so.
What makes this all the more strange is he was recently voted as a top 75 player of all time by current and former players, GMs, coaches, and execs. Imagine telling a "top 75" player and former MVP to stop playing basketball how he's always played basketball.
AKA, things are gonna get messy in LA.