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In defense of Russell Westbrook

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Deputy Sports Editor

OCTOBER 26, 2022

Usually, rock bottom is truly the lowest one can go. However, it seems that the Los Angeles Lakers have found a drill and started digging, descending further and further down the path of mediocrity with no end in sight.

A recent loss to the Portland Trail Blazers has pushed the 0-3 Lakers over the edge, if they weren’t well on their way of free falling from grace already. The grace in question? Flashback to LeBron James’ first welcome into the city of angels: There was no denying that the future of this team was brighter than the sun that beat down in all of Southern California. It only took some additional ammunition — that came in the form of Anthony Davis — for the Lakers to power their way into a championship ring (however fraudulent some claim it to be).

Since then, it has been a downward spiral. And Lakers fans, succumbing to human urges of directing blame, pointed their fingers toward point guard Russell Westbrook.

I preface this by acknowledging the bias I carry — one that may very well stem from the blue and orange jersey donned with the number zero currently hanging in my closet. However, I do not believe it to be one that will not undermine my judgment nor argument.

Westbrook is not a shooter. I know that, you know that — everyone with a working pair of eyes knows that. Laker nation did not need a 0/11 performance from him against their Los Angeles rivals as a clarification, but they received one anyway. The heat that Westbrook found himself under following this loss was arguably hotter than the fires of Mount Doom — but basketball is beyond the numbers.

Westbrook’s stat line on Thursday night was indeed abysmal, worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy, even. But if I wanted to focus on the numbers, I would turn off ESPN and attend a Math 1A lecture. What these Twitter basketball connoisseurs failed to take into account was his lockdown defense against Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, a feat that led to several key steals that kept the Lakers within reach.

Even if we do resort to analysis-by-the-numbers, fellow guards Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn each shot an atrocious 1-7 and 0-7, respectively. It takes two — or in this case, the entire Lakers roster — to tango. Besides, Westbrook isn’t going 0/11 every night, but there’s no telling that the boos are subsiding anytime soon.

Every night the Lakers step onto their home floor, 20,000 attendees (a rare sight, of course) in the purple and gold stands await to pounce at Westbrook’s slightest misstep while the walls of Crypto.com arena radiate not a warm but daunting atmosphere. An unwelcoming work environment is the last thing a struggling Westbrook needs to improve his game.

To put it in more … mundane terms, it might be akin to a class — an engineering one, perhaps, located in a hollow shell of a classroom, graded on a bell curve, with not only thousands of classmates preying on your downfall, but also professors and GSIs alike. Just imagine.

Might I also remind Laker fans how Westbrook ended up in a purple and gold jersey in the first place: Acquiring the point guard from the Washington Wizards during the 2021 offseason, the Lakers traded Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, both of whom are scorers. Although there is no telling that James had a personal hand in crafting this trade, it’s far from absurd to assume that he played some kind of role in this executive decision made by the Lakers office.

As much as I hate to admit it, Westbrook is far from his average-a-triple-double glory days, but that does not justify his scapegoat status after every Lakers loss. A team is only as strong as its weakest link, and if fans can’t realize that, they will stage their very own demise — which is a next level of delusion, even by LA standards.

But if I’m being totally honest, between Anthony Davis’ crippling fragility and the devastating hole left behind by Alex Caruso, Laker fans have far more pressing issues to worry about.

Contact Tina Xue at 


OCTOBER 26, 2022