The Los Angeles Lakers shocked the basketball world when they traded all their desirable assets to acquire Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards. In Westbrook, the Lakers received a dynamic guard and one of the most explosive players in NBA history but failed to solve their glaring issues from the previous season.
Everyone expressed their confusion and skepticism about the fit between three superstars who are not great shooters. Whereas a few hopefuls like myself saw three competitive superstars that wanted to come together and would make it work so they could beat the three-headed monster in Brooklyn.
Nearly halfway through the season, the Lakers are 16-18, and while that ranks eighth in the Western Conference, anybody who has seen the Lakers play cannot be excited about their chances. In the beginning, Russell Westbrook could not find a rhythm, but lately, the whole team has just been sloppy and disengaged. Still, much of the blame unfairly goes to Russ, a notion to which he has taken exception.
“Honestly I think I’ve been fine… I think people are expecting me to have fuckin’ 25, 15 and 15. That is not normal. That’s not a normal thing that people do consistently. I know I’ve done it the past five years, but that’s not normal.”
This far into the season, we can finally say for sure that Westbrook to the Lakers just isn’t going to work out. The styles of play don’t fit, and while the stars are still putting up good numbers, the other guys are not finding a rhythm, costing the team tremendously as far as the win-loss column is concerned. Russ is certainly not to blame, but he is also one of the highest-paid players on the team, so it’s his job to come in and make some adjustments.
LeBron James has improved his shooting and is playing off the ball more than he has ever done since his days with Kyrie Irving, while Anthony Davis has been playing the five in an attempt to mitigate Westbrook’s shooting deficiencies. Now, it’s time for Russ to make the ultimate sacrifice by putting up those numbers that he deems “fine” while coming off the bench.
This way, the Lakers can achieve more balance and put better lineups on the floor both offensively and defensively. Russ can control the tempo and be himself by playing fast and constantly attacking downhill when coming off the bench. At this point, Russ being the sixth man seems like the only move left in the arsenal for Los Angeles to try and reverse its fortunes, and it all starts with Russ acknowledging that he has not been playing great but playing “fine.”