We’ve seen the Westbrick memes and the videos circulating online of how defenders would leave Russell Westbrook open and dare him to make his shots which almost always end up as hilariously missed attempts. But how damaging are those brick shots to the L.A. Lakers’ chances of making the playoffs this season?
Westbrook is gonna be Westbrook
Much has been said about Westbrook being a misfit in the Lakers system: how he refused to come off the bench, play a supporting role, or stop jacking up ill-advised jumpers. The fans and even some of his teammates have shown different reactions - from frustration to helplessness. If a player struggles to make outside shots, the only remedy is to keep shooting. But is this applicable to Westbrook, or is he inflicting more damage to his team and in the eyes of his fans?
Against the Portland Trail Blazers at a crucial point in the game where it’s still everyone’s ball game, Brodie inexplicably launched a shot near the free throw area, which he bricked. The Lakers had a one-point lead with less than a minute remaining in the game. Russell attempted it with 18 seconds in their shot clock - still too early because the ones who have the license to shoot are those that could consistently make it which the Lakers guard has failed to exhibit in the past.
James and Davis could be seen with their reactions; they were what all of us were thinking at that time. The version of Russell we see now is the Russell Westbrook that won the MVP - fearless, confident, and arrogant, but this version should have evolved into a more team-oriented player, especially when his usual shots don’t fall anymore.
From bad to worse
His midrange jumpers connection went from bad to worse after he decided to suit up for the Purple and Gold. Now, defenders are not even attempting to contest his jumpers. According to Second Spectrum, opponents are just contesting 41.2 percent of his shots, the lowest in the NBA since it started tracking in 2013.
He isn’t fooling the opponents, and his teammates aren’t convinced he could make them, so why does Westbrook still attempt shooting jumpers at a high rate? It could be an ego thing, misplaced confidence, or just a mindset where he is trying to take shots until they start falling. Well, the Lakers are winless so far, and while many factors led to the struggles, his misses were being scrutinized once again.
In Oklahoma, he had two superstars who were great shooters, so his shooting weakness was not magnified. In Houston, he also had James Harden, while in Washington, Bradley Beal was superb as a secondary ball handler and knockdown shooter. Now, in L.A., the team lacks a consistent outside shooter who could unclog the driving lanes for Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Brodie. In a team that struggles shooting beyond the rainbow arc, why must it be Westbrook, who shot 12 attempts in the past three games, making only one for a measly 8.3% connection, which still attempts without disregard for percentages?
Was it his competitive side or devil-may-cry attitude? We hate Ben Simmons for passing up shots everyone knows he couldn’t make, but we treat Westbrook differently if he tries to shoot his way out of a slump.
If Russell could focus on attacking the basket more or creating scoring opportunities for his teammates, fans would probably be more forgiving of his decreased impact on the team. If the Lakers coaching staff and the front office don’t make the necessary adjustments, there’s little hope for the fans that there would be any significant changes for the team’s postseason hopes this year. Or he could take the painful but necessary solution: ask to go to a team where he could be utilized and not get scrutinized for his shortcomings. Brodie, it’s up to you to prove us all wrong.