Russell Westbrook Can’t Escape the Troublesome Stigma That Has Followed Him to the Lakers

With LeBron James expected to miss a few games due to an abdominal strain, it’s quickly led to another tough stretch. The Los Angeles Lakers have predictably stumbled, leading to criticism directed toward Russell Westbrook. It featured head coach Frank Vogel subtly chiding the star point guard.

Lakers hit around early-season rough patch

After the Lakers pushed their way to a 5-3 record, the team has stumbled back down.

Without James, Los Angeles has disappointingly dropped their last two contests in a back-to-back set. They first let a 19-point lead disappear against the Oklahoma City Thunder, marking the second straight time in as many instances against them they let a massive advantage dissipate.

The Lakers followed it by falling to a quickly 36-14 hole after the first quarter. Star forward Anthony Davis exited after only seven minutes played due to a stomach issue. He reportedly threw up four times before the contest but attempted to give it a go.

No member of the starting lineup finished with double-digit scoring, while the team shot 34.4% from the floor and 28.1% from 3-point range. However, the losses have become centered on Russell Westbrook’s shortcomings.

Russell Westbrook can’t escape the troublesome stigma that has followed him to the Lakers

Los Angeles struggles have become more about Westbrook’s performance as he experienced his fair share of ups and downs as he’s worked to find his place within the game plan.

Thursday’s loss to the Thunder featured a few opportunities for the Lakers to scrap out a win despite their porous play in the second half. With under a minute left in regulation, Westbrook found himself at the center of crucial plays that could have changed the outcome of the contest.

With under 10 seconds remaining, Los Angeles had an opportunity to tie the game at 107, but instead, Westbrook took upon himself to pull up for a contested 3-pointer. After the game, head coach Frank Vogel voiced he was unhappy with the decision-making while stating it was a play drawn for Carmelo Anthony to get a look.

“Not good enough,” Vogel said. ‘We wanted to get a better shot than that. The spacing wasn’t great. We were trying to get Melo to the top of the floor, but the spacing wasn’t great.”

It doesn’t fall entirely on Westbrook’s shoulders as there was poor spacing to get Anthony open. However, there were a few plays before that where the star guard’s decision-making was questionable. As the Lakers stood trailing 103-101 with under 30 seconds left, Westbrook had the chance to find either Anthony or Avery Bradley open in transition. His dribbling into the paint created an errant turnover after a pass attempt to the corner for Bradley.

Westbrook will continue to deal with criticism, especially each time the Lakers fall short. It certainly doesn’t help his case that he’s received criticism in the past for playing style in pressured moments. He’s routinely been labeled to possess a one-track mind in high-leverage in-game situations. Friday’s game featured a few of those instances, where that chatter comes into play.

The bottom line is his performance is critical toward lifting the franchise back toward competing for an NBA title. Until he demonstrates steady improvement and consistency in his play, the scrutiny will remain fixated on him.

Los Angeles must remain focused on the grander picture

Through the first 10 games, it’s been a mixed bag of results.

The Lakers have shown flashes of promise, but some reason for concern due to the defensive struggles and lack of true roster cohesion.

However, Los Angeles is only a small portion through the campaign, leaving plenty of time ahead to figure out what lineups work along with their group of talent while building the necessary on-court chemistry.

The clock is ticking, but the Lakers have time to figure the formula to success.

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