Every time the Los Angeles Lakers lose, it seems like Russell Westbrook is the scapegoat. LA’s enigmatic point guard has equally dazzled and baffled Lakers nation, leading many to wonder if the Purple and Gold should have looked elsewhere to improve the roster.
Yet very quietly, Westbrook has shaken off some of his early-season rust and looks more like the All-Star LA expected him to be. And the Lakers have none other than the Boston Celtics television broadcast to thank.
The Boston Celtics broadcast trolled Russell Westbrook after beating the Lakers
The night of November 19, a healthy LeBron James and the Lakers rolled into TD Garden to take on their hated rival. By the time the game was over, they felt the agony of a 130-108 defeat, with Westbrook drawing more heat than ever.
The 2016-17 league MVP scored just 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting in just over 31 minutes. The nine-time All-Star also went 1-of-4 from both the 3-point line and free-throw line in his dismal outing.
After the game, NBC Sports Boston interviewed Celtics guard Dennis Schroder, a former Laker who regrettably turned down a sizable extension before signing with Boston for $5.9 million. Schroder comfortably out-performed Westbrook throughout the game, finishing with 21 points and six assists.
While Schroder was fielding the reporter’s questions, the television broadcast put up a graphic with the words, “Y’all paying Russ $44 million lol”. While highly unprofessional, the sentence did accurately highlight Russ’ team-leading salary of $44.2 million.
Westbrook has turned a corner since the graphic
NBC Sports Boston’s troll job of Brodie highlighted how much of a disappointment the guard had been to that point. But the two-time scoring champ has channeled the disrespect into a streak of highly-productive outings.
Pre-graphic, Westbrook had less than 20 points in five of his last eight games while shooting exactly 40% from the field. In the six games succeeding the viral moment, Russ averaged 25.6 points per game on 49.5% shooting. He also has a true shooting percentage of 58.4% to go with 8.5 assists and 8.3 rebounds. Additionally, according to Basketball Reference, four of Westbrook’s top six “game scores” have occurred since the Boston massacre.
Westbrook’s overall shooting has been more efficient while his turnovers have even seen a slight decline. And the improved play is benefitting the Lakers as a whole, as they’ve now won four of their last six contests.
Russell Westbrook is undergoing the inevitable midseason turnaround
For those who have watched Westbrook’s 14-year career unfold, you know what you’re going to get on a nightly basis. Russ is going to deliver triple-doubles and athletic highlights mixed with a dash of bricked 3-pointers and incessant turnovers. But across a full season, Brodie has more often than not followed up disappointing starts with scorching middle sections.
Two years ago in his first season with the Houston Rockets, Westbrook averaged 24.5 points on 41.9% shooting in November and December. The following two months, he averaged 32.9 points on 53.6% shooting. Last year with the Washington Wizards, Russ went from 20.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 9.8 assists before the All-Star break to 23.6 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 13.1 assists after the break.
Westbrook has proven in each of the last two seasons he needs time to find his role on the team. Perhaps the graphic just jumpstarted the transition. But either way, Russ’ productive play is a welcome sign for the Purple and Gold.