As expected, the Los Angeles Lakers have stumbled through the first few games of the 2021-22 season. Much of the resulting attention has centered on star point guard Russell Westbrook‘s shortcomings. It’s led former Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen to voice a career-changing suggestion for Westbrook.
Lakers suffer embarrassing loss to the Thunder
A night after erasing a double-digit deficit to grab the win over the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers suffered a disappointing loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Los Angeles dominated much of the first half, pushing its lead to 26 points and resulting in a comfortable 72-56 halftime lead. The Lakers shot a blazing 68% in the first quarter to grab a 41-19 edge. However, the flow of the game changed in the second half as they shot just 38%. It opened the door for Oklahoma City to outscore Los Angeles 41-23 in the third quarter.
Despite that, Los Angeles held an opportunity to force overtime with 9.7 seconds remaining, but Carmelo Anthony air-balled a game-tying 3-pointer after stealing the inbounds pass. The Thunder win tied the biggest comeback in their franchise history while sending the Lakers below the .500 mark through the first five games.
The loss also placed the spotlight again on Westbrook, with a former NBA head coach suggesting a new role for the star point guard that he won’t like.
Russell Westbrook will hate the career-changing move a former NBA head coach wants him to make
With LeBron James sidelined for a second straight game due to a sore right ankle, Westbrook put together another solid all-around outing.
The 32-year-old notched his 185th career triple-double with 20 points, 14 rebounds, and 13 assists, marking his first in a Lakers uniform. However, the star point guard committed 10 turnovers, pushing him to second in the league with 6.0 turnovers per contest.
After Wednesday’s loss, former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen stated on NBA TV that he believes Westbrook should come off the bench.
“What about maybe coming off the bench and playing against a backup, making other guys better?” Boylen said. “He’s a willing passer, he tries to make people better, he plays full bore, which we respect. He’s tough as nails, but his decisions need to improve.”
It’s easy to take potshots at Boylen due to his disastrous stint with the Bulls, but his suggestion aims at getting the most out of Westbrook. The nine-time All-Star guard is struggling with his decision-making as he’s committed 30 turnovers through the first five games.
At the same time, the Lakers knew that Westbrook would struggle to find his footing as he adjusts to playing in a new role, in a different offensive system, and with a new group of teammates. Aside from Carmelo Anthony, he hadn’t played with any of his Lakers teammates outside of Team USA basketball.
Los Angeles won’t head that route with Westbrook but will instead let him work through his struggles. The team is confident he will find his groove within the offense alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Lakers must remain patient with Russell Westbrook
The Lakers are not off to the start they hoped for, falling below the .500 mark, but it remains extremely early.
Westbrook has struggled, but he’s shown flashes of promise along with his shortcomings. The 32-year-old is showcasing that he’s still a highly-effective offensive factor driving to the rim. His decision-making remains a question mark, but that is due to him pressing to make the situation work.
He’s performed better in an increased role with James sidelined, but the Lakers need the four-time league MVP back. Westbrook must find the balance as the third option if Los Angeles hopes to vie for an NBA title.
Time is on the Lakers’ side, but the clock is ticking on the team to make notable progress over the coming weeks.