The Los Angeles Lakers saw Russell Westbrook’s weaknesses early on in the 2021-22 season. … [+]
The Los Angeles Lakers are only 11 games in the season and the Russell Westbrook Project is already getting its ugly head up.
The Lakers are 6-5 in their first 11 games of the season and don’t look nearly like a team to beat in the postseason. In fact, they look like a squad that will only fight for the postseason.
Westbrook – the Lakers’ big acquisition this off-season – lived up to its reputation as a revenue-prone, inefficient shooting and ball-stopping player earlier this season.
The 14-year-old veteran currently has the following statistics: 41.1 percent field goal percent, 25.6 three-point shooting percentages, and 64.2 free-throw shooting percentages with 5.1 ball losses per game.
To see how bad and inefficient these numbers really are, here’s the shortened version of them. Westbrook’s effective field goal percentage – this statistic adjusts to the fact that a three-point shot is worth one point more than a two-point field goal – is 43.9 percent in the first 11 games of the season.
This effective field goal percentage ranks 125th out of 136 qualified players this season.
The lack of efficiency – something that plagued Westbrook for much of his career – is a microcosm of why this Los Angeles experiment just doesn’t work.
Yes, it’s early in the season. Yes, it’s also true that injuries plagued the Lakers. And yes, it wasn’t much time for the three-piece Westbrook trio, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
But while much of the season still has to be played, this Westbrook experiment is going to lead to more panic than relief at the end of the games.
Take, for example, Monday’s 126-123 win against the Charlotte Hornets – a mediocre team in the Eastern Conference.
The Lakers took a 14-point lead late in the game and Westbrook shot his signature 5-of-15 off the field while racking up one of his signature triple doubles – 17 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists – with seven turnovers.
Let’s not forget his minus-17 plus / minus rating, the second worst score of any Lakers player on the pitch for the game.
The final minutes of regulation of the game reveal everything that is and was wrong with Westbrook. Despite the MVP award, despite his undeniable competitiveness and despite his energetic play, he is a nuisance to the success of a team.
For the final six and a half minutes of regulation, these were the Lakers’ possessions: five losses from Westbrook, a delay in the Westbrook technical foul that resulted in an additional free throw for the Hornets, four attempts by Westbrook, a layup by Westbrook, three attempts to shoot Anthony Davis and three failed attempts by other Lakers.
Despite the delay in the game’s technical foul disaster – one that nearly cost the Lakers the game – Westbrook had no regrets after the win.
“The referee was a little upset,” said Westbrook. “I don’t know why, but he yelled at me and I told him ‘don’t yell at me. I am not your child, I have children of my own. Don’t talk to me like I’m your child. ‘ So he gave me a technique. But I agree, ”said Westbrook. “I understand there are heated moments, but we are all grown men. And if I talk to you respectfully, the referees should do the same. “
When the topic came up that the Hornets were almost coming back due to this technical foul, Westbrook was his typical defiant self.
“Who won?” said Westbrook.
Persistent, emotional, defiant and relentless as always. That’s Westbrook in a nutshell.
At the age of almost 33, Westbrook neither changes his playing style nor his idiosyncratic nature. This aggressive mentality has allowed Westbrook to become one of the leaders of his generation, triple-doubles with ease, while earning the respect and admiration of all-time greats like James and Kobe Bryant.
But it’s also his downfall – his ability never to be able to weaken it or contribute properly without the ball in his hands.
Is it no wonder the Washington Wizards – Westbrooks team last season – have a 7-3 start (the best in the Eastern Conference) with the Lakers group in Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell?
Another former Westbrook team that is better off without him.
Like the many teams before them, the Lakers will realize that life without Westbrook wasn’t that bad after all.