The moment it was announced, the Westbrook trade had “disaster” written all over it. It’s not really a surprise that one of the worst shooters in the NBA, a turnover-prone defensive liability, isn’t working with LeBron and AD on the floor. Hearing all the criticism, Westbrook had a tone-deaf response in which he basically blamed fans for unrealistic expectations. Shannon Sharpe called Russ out and explained what most of us were thinking.
You don't get it
Russell Westbrook is the antithesis of what you’re looking for when building around LeBron James. You need someone with good judgment in crunchtime situations (ouch), who’s OK with not touching the ball all the time (ufff), who can drain a shot (yikes), and who brings value on defense (nope). In addition to all this, Westbrook has never been extra careful with the ball, but given his usage rate in Oklahoma City (when the team bent to Brodie’s ego so he could average a triple-double and win MVP), 5.4 turnovers per game seemed acceptable(ish). This season, next to LeBron James mind you, Westbrook’s at 4.6 turnovers per game - one of the worst numbers in his career.
There are a lot of objective criticisms to his performance this season, but when asked about it, Westbrook basically threw the fans under the bus. “Honestly I think I’ve been fine… I think people are expecting me to have fu**in’ 25, 15 and 15,” said Westbrook.” 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.” Shannon Sharpe publicly said what most of us screamed at the screen after reading this quote.
They're the 9th seed and Russ says 'I'm fine.' Everybody wants him to have 25/15/15?? Nobody thinks that; nobody wants that. They want you to stop turning the ball over, especially in crucial situations. You said 25/15/15/ is not normal - what is normal is you turning the ball over at a high rate. You playing out of control, more times than not. You taking terrible shots, more times than not. Skip, he just doesn't get it. 'I'm fine.' You're not fine!!!
Shannon Sharpe, Undisputed
Shannon continued to state that the Lakers’ thinking (more like hope) was that given the fact Westbrook would be the no.3 option in LA, he wouldn’t have to pursue hero ball, and that would result in a more controlled version of his game. Do your part when LeBron and AD are on the floor, take over when the two of them aren’t and bring energy so that we can spare LeBron in the regular season. Westbrook’s performance has been so poor, LeBron’s had to do more, not less, because of him.
It's not OK Russ. All they're asking you to do, instead of having 4.5,5,6 turnovers a game - maybe do 3. Stop trying to be a hero, and stop trying to make the dramatic play. You were brought in to ease the load. You added more to LeBron's plate!!
Shannon Sharpe, Undisputed
The thing is, Westbrook doesn’t have the skillset to be a complementary superstar. He’s a volume guy who needs the ball and the system tailored to his strengths. At $44 million a year, as the highest-paid player on the team, the minimum is not to make it more difficult on your team. That’s far from expecting a triple-double.
The most dangerous player to have on your roster
A guy who’s no longer a superstar but still thinks he is and is paid like one is the most dangerous player to have on your roster. If you took away the name and the salary, Westbrook would objectively be fighting to be the 6th man on a championship roster. A sparkplug from the bench to lead the second unit.
But he’s not, and it’s showing on what was always Westbrook’s Achilles heel - decision making. I remember Ryen Rusillo sharing a story about Russ that paints a perfect picture.
In his OKC days, Westbrook took a lot of horrible shots. When someone from the staff had a meeting with Russ to try and reduce the number of such shots taken, they would go through the numbers and explain to Westbrook which shots should be eliminated from his game.
Then the next game, Westbrook took a few of those again, and after the game, the coaches asked him why he took them, knowing he’s horrible from those spots and situations. Westbrook just looked at them and said something like, “I thought this one would go in.”
So we shouldn’t be too surprised a guy who had no self-awareness for a long time is suddenly blaming the fans for expecting a triple-double when all they expect is less than 4 turnovers. In a previous interview, Westbrook said he’s ready to do whatever it takes for the team to win. I guess that means Westbrook is cool with coming off the bench. Looking forward to it.