Russell Westbrook is Killing the Lakers

Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook / Katelyn Mulcahy/GettyImages

Russell Westbrook has straight-up not been having a good time playing basketball lately. He hasn't made a three-pointer since last year. Literally. The last time he hit a shot from deep was December 31, 2021. That hasn't mattered terribly, since the Los Angeles Lakers have gone 5-2 in the seven games since the new year began, but Westbrook looks like he's miserable out there and recently it's cost the Lakers games.

In the last two contests, the Lakers have lost to the Grizzlies and Kings. The Grizzlies are a good team now and it's no real shame to lose to them, although one can argue Los Angeles should be able to protect their home court against those young guns. The Kings is a different matter entirely. Sacramento is in the midst of what feels like another lost season filled with lengthy losing streaks and mopey players. Yet the Lakers lost by nine to them last night.

In those two games, Westbrook has made four shots on 26 attempts. His lowlight reel is full of plays like this.

But it's plays like this that really kill his team. It's these kinds of shots that prove everybody right when they choose to argue that Westbrook cannot play winning basketball. Los Angeles went on late a run to cut the Kings' lead to four. There's one minute left. And Westbrook does... this.

It's a shot he should never take but especially not a shot he should take when he hasn't made a three-pointer since December 31.

Westbrook knows he's slumping and said as much to reporters after last night's loss, and these things happen. But the Lakers simply cannot afford for it to happen with how much they rely on Westbrook on every play down the stretch. The man seemed downright miserable three days ago after the Grizzlies loss.

Again: slumps happen to even the greatest professional athletes, no matter the sport. The timing of Westbrook's also completely lines up with a standard Brodie season. He plays pretty well to start, takes a complete dive in the middle of the season, then suddenly figures it out and ends the year on a roaring run that makes everyone question what they think they know.

The problem is that this slump and the way Westbrook is handling it is indicative of the larger issues that have always plagued the former MVP. His confidence is irrational. "Shooters shoot" is a great motto to live by unless you are, statistically, the worst volume shooter in NBA history as Westbrook is. It's even worse when he's part of a team like this.

The Lakers have no margin for error and the weight of all the expectations in the world. LeBron James-led teams do not get the benefit of the doubt when they go through tough stretches normally, and this team even less so. Westbrook has to know when he doesn't have it and let someone else win the game. That lack of self-awareness is why he has the reputation he does as a great statistical player who can't win when it really counts.

His time in Los Angeles was supposed to dispel that narrative. So far, it's just been more of the same, and the Lakers are suffering for it.