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Why it’s time for the Lakers to stop coddling Russell Westbrook

Russell-Westbrook-shooting

After the L.A. Lakers beat the New York Knicks in overtime, SB Nation’s Silver, Screen, and Roll wrote an article headlined “Malik Monk explodes in second half to help Lakers overcome Russell Westbrook, Knicks.” It portrays Westbrook as an obstacle, a sentiment increasingly shared among the Lakers’ hopefuls.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis have Westbrook’s back

Russell Westbrook’s signing has not returned the expected results. Close to halfway in the season, the Lakers are still struggling at 9th place in the West Conference. Outside the playoff picture, the fans are getting frustrated, and they all look into Westbrook’s inefficient playmaking with more scrutiny. However, his place on the team remains secured as both LeBron James and Anthony Davis have sent messages of support for their teammate. 

Anthony Davis also had words of encouragement for Russell Westbrook: “Me and LB were telling him, ‘We don’t care if you miss every one. Just play. And obviously, it’s easier said than done because when you’re in it, you don’t want to be missing shots. I mean, he doesn’t try to miss.

However, are they sending the wrong message to their teammate? It’s clear Westbrook couldn’t shoot his way out of this slump. It would only hurt the Lakers in the long run. So how should LeBron and AD tackle this issue?

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Teammates should stop coddling Westbrook

The Lakers should call a spade a spade. If Brodie is struggling, they should first accept and acknowledge the problem. James and Davis did the right thing in supporting their teammate publicly but saying you're OK if he misses every time? The path forward for Westbrook is a better shot selection - ignoring the facts won't help anyone.

Frank Vogel decided to sit Russell in overtime and opted for Talen Horton-Tucker instead, which proved to be an unpopular but right move. Westbrook was struggling all night, and it would have been catastrophic if the Lakers played him in OT. 

There’s no room for being sensitive at this point in RWB’s career. Westbrook should accept all the criticism thrown his way - he’s not a rookie. The team is paying him $44 million this season, so he should start acting accordingly. The Lakers should put Brodie where he could contribute the most, even if that means giving way to others or extended minutes on the bench.

LeBron and AD were the ones that pushed for the Westbrook trade instead of bringing in Buddy Hield and having a lot more flexibility and depth. As the de-facto GMs in the offseason, they should be the ones leading the meeting about moving Westbrook to the bench. Well, that would be the case where influence was matched with responsibility on the other end.

The least they could do is not to say what every opposing coach and fan hopes Westbrook does - shoot more.

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