The Los Angeles Lakers‘ struggles have been well documented through the first 34 games of the 2021-22 campaign. It’s featured the blame for being shifted all over the board, with the latest criticism directed toward Russell Westbrook. All that didn’t take long for the star point guard to respond to the outside noise.
LeBron James defends Russell Westbrook against criticism
Westbrook’s brief stint in Los Angeles has quickly become heavily scrutinized due to the Lakers’ lackluster play through the first 34 games.
His play has improved as the season has moved along, but Los Angeles’ struggles to find consistency have shifted a sizable chunk of the blame toward him. It led to James vehemently defending his teammate after losing the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day.
“He gave us extra possessions, he gave us a lot of looks around the basket, which I know that he can’t stand [failing to convert] as well,” James said via The New York Post. “But as far as the effort piece, if a guy plays hard, if a guy leaves it all out on the floor, I got no problem with that. It’s a make-or-miss league.”
Westbrook’s effort has never been questioned, but rather it’s his shooting struggles that have garnered criticism. He has provided another viable ball-handler along with being a reliable scoring option. The issues have centered on his turnovers (4.6 per contest) and inconsistency shooting from beyond the arc (30.4%).
The chatter didn’t end there as Westbrook chimed in to shut down the dialogue around him.
Russell Westbrook forcefully pushes back at his critics: ‘I think I’ve been fine’
Westbrook is no stranger to criticism directed at his playing style throughout his career.
The outside noise remains centered on his scoring efficiency as he’s coming off a porous shooting performance against the Nets. He went 4-of-20 shooting from the floor, including missing 11 attempts in the restricted that tied his own record for the most missed such shots in a single game.
The nine-time All-Star responded by stating his triple-double numbers are not the norm while staying focused on what he can do to help the team.
“Honestly, I think I’ve been fine,” Westbrook said via ESPN. “The conversation has been heavily on how I’m playing and what I’m doing, but I think people are expecting me to have f—ing 25, 15, and 15, which, that is not normal. Everybody has to understand, like, that’s not a normal thing that people do consistently.
“People are saying ‘let Russ be Russ,’ I think nobody understands what that means. I think people just say it — ‘let Russ be Russ’ — but nobody actually knows what that means but myself. And I’m gonna lean on that and make sure I do what I’m supposed to do. And let everything else outside the locker room, whatever that may be, take care of itself.”
Westbrook certainly hears the criticism, but the Lakers need him to be a more prominent offensive factor as Anthony Davis remains out for the next few weeks. Los Angeles hopes he can increase his scoring from 19.6 points, which is the lowest total output since his second campaign, while improving his scoring efficiency.
Meanwhile, he must become a more effective late-game factor, especially in crucial game-deciding moments. The Lakers will give Westbrook all the space necessary to operate in a greater capacity in hopes that it shifts the team in the right direction.
Russell Westbrook must help the Lakers quickly shift it into gear
The Lakers are amid a five-game skid that has put every shortcoming under the spotlight outside of LeBron James’ stellar play.
The sky isn’t falling, but the Lakers look far from championship contenders. Los Angeles brought Westbrook aboard to be the missing backcourt piece to push them over the top.
Meanwhile, the retooled roster was expected to bring stable production, depth, and experience. None of that has been the case, while injuries and COVID-19-related issues have played a significant factor.
The Lakers still have plenty of time to turn it around, but the clock is ticking.