Russell Westbrook had another stinker Sunday against the Timberwolves, although the Lakers won, 108-103. Westbrook nearly had a double-double with points and turnovers in this game. Russ scored 20 but had nine turnovers in the process with only five assists. After the game, Westbrook clapped back at the notion of the game not going his way.
“My game, you know, is fine,” Westbrook told ESPN. “My game is not predicated on shots or if I turn the ball over. Like, I miss some shots, that’s part of the game. I’m allowed to miss shots. I can do that. Like any other player, I can do that. I can turn the ball over, too. I can do that. That’s all a part of the game.”
The proof is in the pudding right here. Westbrook doesn’t care about turnovers or missed shots. He doesn’t think they matter in the grand scheme of a game. Westbrook didn’t secure another triple-double, but he did score 20 points, and the Lakers won. I guess that’s all that matters. Oh, those turnovers and missed shots matter. They matter a lot. Los Angeles is 19-19 with a roster containing four future Hall of Famers.
This can’t be the type of season Westbrook envisioned upon hearing he’d been traded to his hometown team this past offseason. It certainly isn’t what LeBron James had in mind coming into the season with his optimistic outlook on this roster. The entire team has been on the struggle bus since the season’s opening tip in October. There was a play in the first quarter of the win over Minnesota where James gets tripped up on a fastbreak, and Westbrook just loses the ball on his way up for a dunk with no one really contesting.
Yet turnovers and missed shots don’t matter. Westbrook is correct about them being part of the game, obviously, but another aspect of the sport is to minimize mistakes along the way. The imaginary world of hoops Russ dwells in must be absolutely amazing. He usually says these things with a straight face. And to think this is the same guy that actually had the nerve to laugh at Stephen Curry at a press conference during the 2016 Western Conference finals. It doesn’t matter what the question was.
But hey, I guess it isn’t all bad since Westbrook’s mindset has gotten him this far. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer once he’s eligible. There’s no doubt about that. His opportunities to win a ring have likely passed him by, and it feels like he is aware of that. At this point, Russ and the Lakers look to be on track for a first-round exit in the postseason, which would be only the second such occurrence for James in his career.
But where does this leave Westbrook after the season? I don’t think there’s any way Russ returns to the Lakers next year, if he even makes it past the trade deadline in February. His massive contract is the only obstacle standing in the way. Russ is raking in $44 million this year and $47 million next season. It’s going to be tough to move that (again) contract, but we all know in the NBA, where there’s a will, there’s a way. If they want it badly enough, James and Rob Pelinka will figure out how to move on from Russ one way or another.