For most of his approximately four-minute media availability on Friday night after the Lakers’ 130-108 loss to the Boston Celtics, Russell Westbrook was not in a very talkative mood.
How can the team fix their continuing rebounding woes after a night that saw the Celtics crush them 51-33 on the glass?
“I mean... rebound. There ain’t too much you can do about it. Just go get the ball. Simple as that,” Westbrook said.
What adjustments did they struggle to make with LeBron James back?
“I don’t know. You’ve got to watch the game to figure it out and see,” Westbrook replied.
What do they need to accomplish on the rest of this road trip?
And how do they do that?
“Shit, just go out and win. However you’ve got to figure it out at this point.”
Finally, though, there was a question that Westbrook felt was worth his attention. Asked by a reporter if the team had any more urgency than they had in training camp, the preseason and opening weeks — when the Lakers were also constantly preaching patience about how much time it would take to adjust to one another — Westbrook made it clear that he’s tired of getting asked about similar issues after every single loss this season.
“Nobody’s winning anything right now. When we get our team together and playing and get a better rhythm, that will come as the season goes along,” Westbrook said. “I think the reality of it is that everybody on the outside has really high expectations of our team, as they should. But the reality of it is we haven’t really played with each other.
“After each game everybody asks the same questions. And I’m tired of giving the same answers. It’s the same question every game, every time we lose, it’s ‘hey, how long do you think it’s going to take?’ We don’t know. When we win, it’s still going to take some time,” Westbrook continued. “Throughout the season there’s going to be ups and there’s going to be downs, it’s about what you do as a team. Either you can pull apart, or you can come together and figure it out. And we know that we have the team to be able to figure it out and the experience to be able to do so. Our job is to get in there and do it.”
"I think the reality of it is that everybody on the outside has really high expectations of our team, as they should. But the reality of our team is that we haven't really played together." @russwest44 on the sense of urgency for the team to start to figure things out. pic.twitter.com/mLWU8eMX3I— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) November 20, 2021
Those are all fair points, and to be honest, on a human level, I empathize with Westbrook’s frustrations, even if I won’t ever be able to fully understand them. Hell, I’d probably hate having to answer questions about my job performance or that of my co-workers at the end of every work day.
I mean, have you seen the turnover issue given digital form that is Anthony’s Twitter account? I sure as hell would get tired of getting asked about that every day.
Unfortunately, none of that changes the reality that the Lakers are continuing to lose in the exact same ways. So in fairness to the beat reporters that cover this team, it’s not like the Lakers are giving them a ton of new material to ask about. And fans of the team need to hope that, at least internally, the answers are a bit more introspective than, essentially, “just stop asking about how this can be fixed idk.”
Take the Celtics loss on Friday, for example. Once again, the Lakers got blasted in the third quarter, losing it 33-21 after leading at halftime. On the season, they have the sixth-worst net rating in the league in third quarters (-3.8), only ahead of blatantly tanking teams like the Rockets, Pistons and Magic or not-quite-NBA-level teams like the Thunder and Pelicans.
On aggregate, they have been outscored by 92 points in third quarters total, ahead of only the Pistons (-93). Is the media just not supposed to ask about why the team comes out of halftime every game like they just ate multiple plates of Italian food in the locker room?
The rebounding deficit? Maybe not as simple as “just rebound,” considering that if it were that simple, the Lakers probably wouldn’t have the fourth-worst defensive rebound percentage in the NBA (71.3%). And of James and Westbrook’s fit, if it was that easy to figure out just by watching the game, the Lakers would probably be doing a bit better than just barely surviving when two of their three best players share the floor, managing a net rating of just +0.8 during James and Westbrook’s minutes together.
“Just go out and win”? Yeah, that would be nice, but at just 8-9, sitting below .500 and in ninth place in the Western Conference, the Lakers aren’t doing a ton of that, either. So, short of that goal, if Westbrook wants a few new questions, he and the Lakers could at least find a couple of new ways to lose.
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