The ball yo-yoed from Russell Westbrook’s ideal hand to his left as Marcus Morris commenced what has been an increasingly easy assignment.
It was his task to cease him.
This time, Westbrook scooted past the Clippers’ veteran wing and slid underneath his arm for a slicing layup — for the Lakers, a rare victory the place Westbrook seemed extra like the participant they thought they have been investing for than the a single that they ended up receiving.
Now with just 20 game titles still left, the Lakers are faced with something that possibly has been genuine since his initially working day in Los Angeles. Not hurting the Lakers is not heading to lower it they require him to enable them win.
It’s a truth painfully exacerbated with Anthony Davis sidelined, the Lakers’ star big guy once more on the bench with a protecting boot on his sprained suitable foot. It is plastered in significant, bolded letters anytime the Lakers glance helpless on the court docket, LeBron James seemingly still left to drag this workforce on his individual.
It is clear he cannot do it. The Lakers haven’t been capable to find the job players to make lifetime easier.
And so, they wait. For Westbrook.
In the Lakers’ 3 losses in advance of Thursday’s 132-111 throttling, Westbrook manufactured only 35.8% of his pictures and none his three-tips. Defenses have pulled so considerably back again into the paint that if they sagged any a lot more, they’d be in the seats.
He had 7 turnovers in a reduction to the Pelicans, and 12 skipped photographs in losses to the Clippers out of the All-Star split and to the Mavericks earlier this 7 days.
He experienced 17 factors, eight rebounds and 3 assists Thursday, a wonderful offensive performance but one particular that paled in comparison to Reggie Jackson’s electrical 36-position sport.
Westbrook hasn’t actually flirted with that stage of output all period.
His last 20-issue video game arrived on Jan. 30 and he has scored 30 or a lot more only four instances this period. And his and the Lakers’ incapability to house the floor with him on it has influenced his playmaking. Given that the start off of 2022, he’s averaging only 5.7 helps, the passing lanes clogged due to the fact of the team’s deficiencies.
Issues have been so lousy, that postgame Frank Vogel explained the coaching employees has discussed bringing Westbrook off the bench — an solution that certainly falls under the “we’ve talked about almost everything,” umbrella Vogel opened 2 times when requested straight about it.
For the NBA’s triple-double king, generation is just down all over the board. Due to the fact Jan. 1, he has only a few video games with 10 assists and only 5 with at minimum 10 rebounds.
Westbrook’s built a acquainted claim Thursday, that his frequent job modifications have been the source of his struggles.
“My role and what I’m doing has modified every single solitary night time, so I’m just striving to figure that out as I’m enjoying and to be in a position to advantage and assist my group,” Westbrook claimed. “But my expectations are however the very same. I’m not a quitter. It is not in my genes. I do not give up, regardless of what the hell is likely on. I’m going to struggle to the finish and if it don’t operate, which is great, far too. I can dwell with the benefits. But I’m by no means going to give up or give in for the reason that of a minimal struggle that is taking place this time of the 12 months.”
Right after the team’s reduction Tuesday, Westbrook was a lot more expressive with his irritation than common. Generally projecting quiet regardless of the situation — triple-double or turnover difficulties — he stared at the stat sheet and mumbled to himself in among terse responses. He also pounded his fist versus the table.
“One, we dropped,” he reported Tuesday when requested about his reactions. “No. 2 is seeking how I want to be superior. That’s it.”
The two are intertwined, no question. The Lakers are 21-6 this period when the staff wins the minutes Westbrook is on the ground, and 6-28 when he’s a destructive in in addition/minus ranking as he was Thursday.
That certain stat might’ve been a very little misleading towards the Clippers on Thursday, Westbrook one of five gamers on the ground during the Clippers’ 23- operate in the 3rd quarter. (In the initially half, the Lakers received Westbrook’s minutes by 12 points).
And whilst the recreation was however aggressive, he did some of the things the Lakers will need to have if they want to dangle on to one particular of the final spots in the NBA’s postseason perform-in match — a destiny they loathed a year ago and 1 they are left clinging to this spring.
He sprinted down the heart of the courtroom and challenged Ivica Zubac at the rim, powering through him, scoring and drawing a foul, punctuating the basket by rolling his shoulders up and ahead as he smiled at the Clippers’ center.
Westbrook also howled at the admirers after slamming household a lob from Austin Reaves, a scarce over-the-rim highlight.
The loss was not on him — they all haven’t been. But the difficulties the roster took on by getting him — the trade that sent out skilled defenders Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma, the cap constraints that aided Alex Caruso’s departure, etc. — are a fight the Lakers eliminate nearly each and every night.
As the group chanted Jackson’s title in the fourth quarter and the veteran acquired past the Lakers’ defense and skipped on the ground in celebration, none of Westbrook’s positives mattered. They weren’t even near, with Jackson, a participant creating a person-fourth the income this season as Westbrook, exiting to a standing ovation.
Jackson practically added to the lowlight reel, a wicked crossover dribble forcing Westbrook to swing his foot as a previous line of protection preserving what definitely would’ve been a different viral minute.
Westbrook was on the favourable aspect of Ok on Thursday, a welcome transform in a season where by he has not been that more than enough. But the Lakers really do not need to have excellent. They have to have wonderful, in particular now.
And Westbrook and the Lakers are jogging out of time to get it.
As he walked into the postgame information meeting Thursday in a red leather-based shirt and matching trousers, Westbrook appeared down at the stat sheet again — this time his term coming by way of plenty obvious.
“Damn,” he mentioned.