Russell Westbrook‘s first campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers has become nothing short of a disastrous experience. The star point guard is the primary target for criticism blaming him for the Lakers falling nearly out of the playoff picture entirely. Westbrook’s struggles with playing alongside LeBron James are no longer an ignorable problem, with the coaching staff now benching him in crunch time.
The nine-time All-Star sits lost amid his ongoing struggles, but Dwyane Wade just offered crucial advice about playing alongside James that he needs to follow.
Russell Westbrook’s nightmare homecoming with the Lakers
Last offseason, Westbrook saw his childhood dream come to fruition of playing for the Lakers, the franchise he adorned and idolized Kobe Bryant.
However, the 2021-22 campaign has become anything but an enjoyable experience. The 33-year-old has struggled to find sustainable comfort, contributing to his team falling to a 26-29 record. Westbrook’s shortcomings have reached the point where fans are booing him any time he attempts a shot outside the paint.
Through the first four games of February, Westbrook is averaging 10.3 points while shooting 27.5% (14-of-51) from the floor and 15.4% from three-point range while committing 14 turnovers. His poor play saw him bench in the fourth quarter in each of the last two games.
As Westbrook works through these issues, Dwyane Wade offered him some keen advice.
Dwyane Wade offers keen advice to Russell Westbrook about playing with LeBron James
Dwyane Wade certainly knows a thing or two about playing alongside LeBron James.
The two spent four years together with the Miami Heat, winning a pair of NBA titles in four Finals appearances. Wade knows firsthand what it takes to sacrifice part of his role to excel next to James. Before the Lakers’ loss to the Bucks on Tuesday night, Wade offered wise advice to Westbrook.
“You look at the Lakers and everyone talks about what they need to do,” Wade said. “Listen, you have Russell Westbrook and he has a lot to still give to this team. When we talk about making a business decision, none of us want to give the ball up to take less shots when we are so used to being able to have the ball to shoot any shots you want.
“But sometimes when you become part of a team, like this team when you have a LeBron and AD you have to pick your spots. With the team as they go down in the second half [of the season], it’s understanding when LeBron and AD are not on the floor that’s when I can be Russ. When these guys are on the floor, I have to make a business decision to give the ball up and go play and do other things I am great at.
“I’m great at rebounding and passing the ball. I know we get high turnovers, but that comes with the territory. You have to take your foot a little bit off the gas a little bit when you’re playing with certain guys.”
As much as Westbrook wants to play his way, his approach clearly isn’t working. He’s struggling to find his way offensively, more importantly, as a supplemental piece to the puzzle. The nine-time All-Star hasn’t entirely embraced his reduced role, resulting in his ongoing struggles as the third scoring option.
Although Wade played second fiddle to James, he willingly accepted that the ball went primarily through his teammate. The reduced role pushed him to find other ways contribute through his passing and off-the-ball movement to create scoring opportunities.
Westbrook is moving through a difficult stretch, where his confidence is completely shot, but Wade’s advice is what the star guard must follow.
NBA Trade deadline isn’t going to save the Lakers
As much as the front office wants to wipe its’ hands clean, the opportunity isn’t there before Thursday’s deadline.
An offseason of significant change lies ahead, but Los Angeles will have to make the best of what they possess. Westbrook will have the chance to prove his worth that could either help or further damage his reputation.
The Lakers hold a steep uphill battle ahead, sitting in the ninth spot in the Western Conference standings. LeBron James and Anthony Davis must become the guiding factors while Westbrook has to find cohesion as the third option.
The pressure is on, and the remainder of the season will determine whether the Lakers made a massive mistake or just needed time to figure out their problems.