Welcome to our Lakers Season Preview Series! For the next several weeks, we’ll be writing columns every weekday, breaking down the biggest questions we have about every player the Lakers added this offseason. Today, we take a look at Russell Westbrook.
Russell Westbrook doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone — he made that clear during his introductory press conference with the Los Angeles Lakers in August.
“I’ve been blessed and thankful to be able to be in this league so long and lucky to be able to play and be healthy,” Westbrook said. “When I got drafted in the NBA, that was me proving people wrong. When I was able to go to college, that was me proving people wrong. Going to UCLA from the inner-city, that was me proving people wrong. Just making it out of the hood was proving people wrong — I don’t need to do that anymore.
“I’ve been able to bless the people around me, my family and been able to impact people all across the world with this platform that’s been given to me, and I’m going to continue to do that. Obviously I want to win a championship, but the ultimate goal is to make sure we use what we have to impact others around you.”
But Westbrook’s on-court resume is just as impressive as his off-court one.
In four of the last five seasons, which includes his 2016-17 MVP season, Westbrook has averaged a triple-double. Not only does he hold the record for the most triple-doubles in NBA history, but his 11-game triple-double streak is also the best in NBA history. With all due respect to Oscar Robertson, Westbrook is “Mr. Triple-Double.”
The challenge Westbrook has faced in light of his recent individual success has been figuring out how to translate it into team success.For example, last season Westbrook averaged a triple-double with a league-leading a career-high 11.7 assists per game, but his Washington Wizards finished with a sub-500 record.
Now, would the Wizards have been better off without Westbrook? Of course not. In fact, had it not been for the absolute tear that Westbrook and Bradley Beal went on towards the end of last season, the Wizards wouldn’t have even sniffed the playoffs.
But there are definitely downsides to Westbrook’s all-gas, all-the-time style of play, and the Lakers will be hoping that their star players and supporting cast of seasoned veterans will limit the bad side of Brodie. I say “limit” because I don’t think Westbrook is going to change who he is, nor should the Lakers want him to.
But last season, when the Lakers had their backs up against the wall in their series against the Phoenix Suns, there was a sense that no one on the roster outside of LeBron James cared about the result of the game, and even James seemed passive at times. With Westbrook, they’re unlikely to have that problem.
You see, Westbrook alone isn’t always going to win the Lakers games — he may actually lose them a few — let alone a championship, but you can bet that he’s always going to try. And the best part is that he, for the first time in several years, may have the players around him to actually get the job done.
He may not feel he has anything left to prove, but if everything goes as well as he and the Lakers hope, he may end up proving plenty just the same.