Anthony Davis’ injury will bring out to light the fact that Russell Westbrook is incompatible with the nature of winning basketball. If you think that’s too brash, then you must not be paying attention to the fundamental Westbrook problem, which happens to be The Brodie himself. Let me fill you in.
Ever since Westbrook split up with the Slim Reaper in OKC, leading to his statistically historical MVP revenge tour, Westbrook has made it past the first round of the playoffs just once in a five-year prime stretch. Ironically, It happened after beating a lottery projected, Chris Paul-led Thunder team in seven games with James Harden as his teammate. So how is it that Westbrook has managed to average a triple-double for four of the last five seasons and not sniff any real team success?
Limited off-ball movement, terrible shot selection, dreadful help defense, and no sense of awareness
Because when coaches ‘let Russ be Russ’, it’s like putting oil in a car and expecting it to run. On a fundamental level - it just won’t. Limited off-ball movement, terrible shot selection, dreadful help defense, and above all else, no sense of awareness - are all, unfortunately, default characteristics of Russell Westbrook. Sure he will explode for a great game where he stuffs the stat sheet like a student hiding his cheat notes, but so far, he’s notched 10 turnovers as many times as he’s had 30 point games in a Laker uniform.
But could LeBron and the Lakers fix this? To adjust his circuit and wiring in order to make Brodie an explosive third option - then his responsibility, pressure, and therefore eyesore mistakes would hopefully regress at an increasing rate in time for playoffs. A potentially impossible task, only made harder by the recent slash in roster stability brought upon by health and safety protocols. But a task that only LeBron James, for all his flaws, would have the leadership capabilities and authority to do.
James is playing 37.1 minutes a game which is fitting since he will turn 37 years old in ten days. For context, that’s the most minutes per game since Kyrie Irving was his running buddy in Cleveland. And yet, it’s Anthony Davis who looks like the oldest player on the team with an average of 10 injuries a month, two of which came in his last game at separate intervals.
Obviously, the big one is this MCL sprain on his left knee, which will sideline the giant for four weeks at least. Off-topic, but do you find it weird that he got up from that real injury faster than he recovers from his ‘false alarm’ ones every second game? I can’t be alone here.
At 16-14, the Lakers have not found an identity past the old guys who can’t get back on defense. Instead, LeBron is trying to redefine his career as a spot-up shooter, unsuccessfully, I might add. Davis can’t seem to stay on the floor. And Isaiah Thomas is not solving any of these significant problems rather than symbolizing them. These are not the championship contenders who finished 52-19 in 2020.
Because of that, the external factors are not consistent enough to make the Westbrook experiment actually work. They wanted Westbrook - well, they are about to have the ultimate Westbrook experience.