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Russell Westbrook isn’t the Los Angeles Lakers only problem. But he is their biggest one.
During this year’s 75th NBA All-Star Game, the top 75 players of all time were announced and shared a historic moment together in Cleveland, Ohio. One of the members of the exclusive fraternity was none other than Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook.
After averaging record-shattering triple-doubles and leading his teams in statistical categories over the better part of a decade, many NBA fans regarded him as a numerical outlier, only comparable to the great Oscar Robertson.
Allen Iverson once called Russell Westbrook his favorite player.
Well known for his energy, effort, and rock-the-baby ego, Westbrook was often cheered by the masses while playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Yet, as their star commodity between the 2008-2018 seasons, he was unable to lead them to a ring, and thusly, in 2019 he would be traded to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul.
While at the Rockets, Russell Westbrook performed as he always had – hard, fast, and eager. His me-against-the-world style of play endeared him to Rockets fans the same way it had Thunder fans before. However, again, over the course of his time in Houston, he and ex-OKC running mate James Harden were unable to produce any amount of tangible progress toward a Championship both continue to chase to this day.
When NBA stars don’t win, they split up. Harden soon forced his way out of Houston and Russell Westbrook remained the Rockets solo star only long enough to be traded to the Washington Wizards. There he and co-star Bradley Beal would fight to make it into the 2021 playoffs, only to be molly-wapped by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round.
Then L.A. Native Westbrook got the call of a lifetime and packed his bags to head back to his roots where he can play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers alongside Lebron James, arguably the best basketball player of all time.
It was a dream come true. Even though his playing career hadn’t resulted in team success, Westbrook was well-regarded as a bonafide star amongst stars. NBA fans looked forward to the ferocious will we’d come to expect from him and could only imagine how he would play on the biggest stage for the biggest and winningest franchise.
Yet, since arriving in Hollywood, Westbrook has been shooting like he’s blinded by its bright lights. On any given night, Russell Westbrook performs as if he’s oblivious to the game plan yet operates with the same moxie he once had when fans cheered him on.
There have been multiple games this season where Laker fans openly discourage him against shooting the ball. It’s one thing to miss a shot. It’s quite another to miss the whole damn rim. Westbrook’s game has become so horrendous over the course of this season that fans of his own team in his own hometown wince and plead for him to stop embarrassing himself.
What went wrong with Russ?
Throughout his career, Russell Westbrook has accomplished more feats than the average NBA player and statistically, he’s earned his $45 million 2021 salary along with being selected one of the 75 best players ever. Nonetheless, boneheaded turnovers, bad defense, and inefficient shooting have branded this year a total bust for Westbrook.
Though the Lakers are far from a great team this year, Westbrook has been the scapegoat for many of their woes and the criticism has only increased with each passing loss. Yet, the team isn’t catching it like Westbrook. Even opposing players now taunt Westbrook’s abject poor play mid-game, not to poke-the-bear but because they simply do not fear nor respect him as a basketball player.
Redemption is possible, but it starts with Russell, who has been far from accountable for his own play. L.A. Clippers Guard Paul George redeemed himself after poor playoff performances. And NBA Champ Giannis Antetokounmpo was heckled by fans throughout last year’s playoffs at the free-throw line. If Russell Westbrook can perform better, the people who now boo him will excitedly cheer him on, but that’s yet to be seen.