It’s fair to guess that Russell Westbrook and the Lakers probably wish that his first two preseason appearances had gone better than they have so far. They certainly also could have gone worse, but stats like this one are hardly ideal:
Granted it is just preseason but Westbrook has 14 turnovers in 39 minutes.— Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) October 11, 2021
To his credit, Westbrook took the blame for those turnovers, but also made it very clear he’s not stressing about them (via Bill Oram of The Athletic [$]):
“The turnover stuff is on me,” Westbrook said. “But good thing (is) they don’t count.”
Then, the notoriously prickly point guard smiled and breezily said, “So, I could turn that bitch over 15 times, ain’t nobody going to do nothing about it.”
He’s not wrong. And it’s not like his turnover issues can get worse than this. No matter what you think of Westbrook’s game, he’s not going to continue turning the ball over 12.5 times per 36 minutes when the games start to count. He’s just not.
And as he broke down postgame, he knows there are a few adjustments he can make (via Dan Woike of The L.A. Times):
Westbrook laughed because he knows he’s got the fix — a dunk in the paint here, a big scoring game there and opposing defenses can honor his scoring threat instead of sitting and waiting for him to try and facilitate for his new teammates.
“Normally I’m so used to guys on other teams playing me to score. Now they play me to pass a lot, which is different for me. But I’ll figure it out. It’s just some easy reads for me. Once I dunk a few, people will start coming and helping, and I’m there diming,” Westbrook said without any worry. “It’s up to me to be that. I’m just kind [of] predetermining my passes, and they’re just waiting and baiting me. …It’s an easy, literally easy, fix for me, and I’ll figure it out.”
Does all of that mean Westbrook won’t have some high turnover games this year? Of course not. Given that he’s adjusting to new teammates on a team with two co-stars where the spacing could get cramped in the halfcourt at times, those games are going to happen. Westbrook has averaged 4.1 turnovers per game for his career for a reason, and he’s never had a season where he averaged fewer than 3.3 per contest. That’s the tax for his creativity and high usage, and it’s not going to magically go away because he put on purple and gold and has the best star teammates of his career.
But he’s not going to continue coughing up the ball at this pace. If for no other reason than to shove it in the face of his good friends in the media:
Russell Westbrook just told the Lakers media to “keep that same energy” postgame once he has 20 assists in a game.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) October 11, 2021
So for now, don’t expect him to panic about his turnovers after two preseason games. Like LeBron James, he’s more than experienced enough to know that these results don’t matter, and that these matchups are just glorified chances to get his game legs under him. If he averages this many turnovers during the regular season, then we can all panic. Until then, it’s probably best to trust he and the team will figure out how to normalize his numbers a little bit as they get more time together and training camp continues.