Thanks to his third triple-double of the season, Westbrook led the Lakers to a 120-117 upset over the Miami Heat. But his stat line was also tarnished by several questionable shot choices and a large handful of turnovers. It was a perfect summary of how Russ’ first 12 games with the Purple and Gold have gone, which has already divided fans on whether he’ll ever be a good fit in LA.
Russell Westbrook has been both amazing and awful
Because of Westbrook, watching a Lakers game this season is a roller coaster of emotions. And no game displayed that more than Wednesday’s overtime win against the Heat.
First, the good. Westbrook assisted on or scored all but one of the Lakers’ field goals in the fourth quarter. The 32-year-old scored 10 of his 25 points and dished out six of his 14 assists in the fourth. He also didn’t have a turnover in the final frame, playing a huge role in LA coming back to tie the game late and sending it to overtime.
However, Brodie also hurt the Lakers on more than one occasion. The nine-time All-Star had eight turnovers, two of which came in overtime. He also wasted the team’s final possession of regulation with a chance to win the game, dribbling out the shot clock before settling for a long 3-point attempt.
“One thing about Russ: He has no conscience,” forward Anthony Davis told the Los Angeles Times. “We know he can miss 20 in a row, he’s going to shoot the next one. … He’s fearless, relentless.”
Lakers fans are divided on Westbrook
When the Lakers acquired Westbrook from the Washington Wizards, it was met with a fair share of skepticism. Those doubts weren’t exactly extinguished after Russ had 23 turnovers in LA’s winless preseason. But now, 12 games into the Russell Westbrook experience, Laker Nation is more divided on their point guard than ever.
Recently, SB Nation surveyed fans asking if they felt Westbrook would ever be a good fit with LA. Keep in mind, an earlier survey during the preseason saw 73% of Lakers fans saying they were as confident then as they were during the offseason. However, just before Wednesday’s game against the Heat, SB Nation reported 51% of fans believing Westbrook will never fit.
It’s not hard to see why nearly half of fans still believe he can be a positive addition. Despite his flaws, Westbrook is still averaging 19.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 8.9 assists. But often, those stat lines include lots of turnovers and missed shots, both of which kill any momentum the Lakers are trying to build.
The Lakers will need Russell Westbrook to win the title
If the Lakers plan on winning their league-leading 18th championship this season, they’ll need a healthy LeBron James. They’ll also need Anthony Davis to remain healthy and continue playing at a high level. But, whether fans want it to be the case or not, they’ll also need Russ.
LA sacrificed a large chunk of its depth trading for Westbrook. Washington is thriving without the former MVP, leading the Eastern Conference with an 8-3 record. Meanwhile, the Lakers are more shallow than ever as they still struggle to figure out their enigma of a point guard.
Trading their point guard is out of the question, as his $44 million cap hit is beyond undesirable to other teams. But hope is not lost. Should Westbrook cut down on turnovers, take smarter shots, and accept his role as a third option, LA could see a quick rise up the standings. However, if he continues to take bad shots, turn the ball over, and make himself the focal point of the offense, the Purple and Gold could be looking at a short playoff run, or even no run at all.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.