The Los Angeles Lakers managed to secure a 108-103 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, but they had to overcome a very patchy performance from Russell Westbrook to do so. The enigmatic playmaker returned the ball seven times in the first half alone and finished with more turnovers (nine) than shots taken (seven). Westbrook finished with a strong fourth quarter, but his uneven night almost held the Lakers back to .500.
But when Westbrook was asked about his early struggles, he rocked the idea by suggesting his negative games were just part of the game.
“I don’t agree that the game was not going in my direction. My game is not based on shots or if I return the ball”, Westbrook said after the victory. “I missed shots, that’s part of the game. I have the right to miss shots. I can do it, just like any other player. I can do it. I can also return the ball. I can do it. can do it. It’s all a part of the game. But when you watch a basketball game and you understand the impact, make the right plays, box, bounce, whatever it is, make the right play, do the right readings. basketball player. “
There is some truth to what Westbrook said. No one will ever come close to shooting 100 percent on the field. Turnover is a reality that all major bale handlers face. No one asks Westbrook to make all of their shots or never return the ball. On the contrary, Westbrook’s ambition is part of what made him such a special player. Making the big plays he has made throughout his career carries a certain degree of risk.
But this calculation is based on the fact that the reward outweighs the risk. This was the case when Westbrook was an MVP caliber player. This is probably not the case now. Westbrook is averaging less than 20 points per game for the first time since his second NBA season, but he returns the ball almost 4.8 times per game. That’s well above his career average of 4.1. His overall turnover before Sunday’s game was 19.9%, the highest of his career, but his 36.5% assists rate is well below his career mark of 42.5%. In other words, Westbrook is taking the same risks he always took, but they don’t produce the same rewards as before.
The Lakers have a prime example of a former superstar realizing this about himself and adjusting. Carmelo Anthony was once the advanced version of Westbrook, known more for the bad shots he took than the many he did. But this season, a career high 57.5% of his shooting attempts have come from behind the arc. Almost 19% got into the paint, and while it continues to flaunt and isolate itself a bit from the midrange, they almost always run into lags or the end of the shot clock. Anthony changed his game to reflect his new physical limitations.
But Westbrook’s words suggest he’s unwilling or able to do the same. He believes in his identity as a player and seems content to continue playing the same regardless of the consequences for the Lakers. They beat Minnesota on Sunday, but the Timberwolves were missing a number of key players, including star big man Karl-Anthony Towns. The Lakers are a .500 team. No one on the list except LeBron James should be beyond control.
Westbrook was never known for his self-awareness. He made this clear in another recent quote in which he largely missed the point of the criticisms leveled at him.
“I think people expect me to be 25, 15 and 15, which isn’t normal,” Westbrook said in a recent media session. “Everyone has to understand that it’s not a normal thing that people do on a regular basis. I know I’ve been doing it for the last five years or so, or whatever, but it’s not a normal thing. ”
No one asked Westbrook for an average of 25-15-15. It was the opposite. They ask him to cut back on turnovers and missed shots he allows himself even if that means posting less impressive scoring stats.
The Lakers have reorganized their team around the limits of Westbrook. They play small, with more shots and more ball handling, in part because it’s their best chance to maximize his unique skills and limit his specific weaknesses. In a perfect world he would meet them halfway down the front line, but for better or worse Westbrook seems determined to play like he’s always played, even though he’s no longer the player he has. always summer.