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It was only the summer of 2022 when Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook was routinely boo’ed during home games. However, his reemergence in the 2023 season has everyone backtracking what they considered to be a washed up NBA superstar.
Last season, Westbrook the scapegoat on a lackluster 33-49 Lakers team under then-head coach Frank Vogel. Even with a new coach in Darvin Ham, the poorly constructed 2023 Lakers (currently 15-21) haven’t shown much improvement, however, Russell Westbrook has become a much better player in his second year with his hometown team.
While most teammates that underperform with LeBron James are usually on their way out the door, Westbrook’s rebound season has quieted many in the chorus calling for him to be traded, but not all of them.
Though social media users and sports pundits were ready to write Westbrook off, his new coach has praised him while making the strategic decision to bring him off the bench for the first time in his career.
“It says he’s selfless,” says Ham. “[That] he is willing to sacrifice. He’s willing to add a new element and a new chamber to our team in terms of how balanced we are and how balanced of an attack we can have.”
As a leading candidate in the Sixth Man of the Year Award, Westbrook is putting up impressive stats this year, averaging 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 7.7 assists as a reserve.
Russell Westbrook has played 15 seasons for 4 teams, including the Oklahoma City Thunder and Washington Wizards. An NBA Iron Man, Westbrook has proven over time to be as durable as his energy is persistent. He has averaged 22.6 points, 8.4 assists and 7.4 rebounds in 1,054 regular-season games. He was selected to play in 9 All-Star games, and has won 1 MVP award.
14 years ago today, Allen Iverson gave a rookie Russell Westbrook his welcome to the league moment. ?pic.twitter.com/PXwLPvnPxW
— Hilltop Hoops (@HilltopNBA) December 26, 2022
His on-court performance reminds his teammates and the organization of the never-say-die unmatched effort he’s played with his entire NBA career; it will take that effort and more to make a bigger splash in the Lake Show, where championships are valued more than individual success.
As Westbrook averages nearly 15 points per game, and LeBron James scoring 47 points against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, without oft-injured teammate Anthony Davis to steady the aged sinking ship, the team’s likelihood of entering the playoffs wains once again.
— Martha Ramirez (@sweetnonnie) January 1, 2023