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4 reasons why Russell Westbrook’s struggles are overstated

Russell Westbrook has received heavy criticism after the Lakers’ Christmas Day loss to the Nets. Much of it is unfounded.

Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Lakers made a valiant comeback effort (actually two) in their Christmas Day loss to the Brooklyn Nets. First, the team came back from a 17-point deficit to take a lead in the third quarter, only to then go down by 23 points in the early stages of fourth, but still climb all the way back to tie it before being unable to close it out in the final minute.

Russell Westbrook had one of his worst shooting games of the season in the loss, going 4-20 from the field, with many of those misses being of the “smoked layup” variety. He also made a critical late mistake on Patty Mills, where he lost track of the en fuego Nets guard, getting caught in no man’s land and allowing a wide-open corner three.

The loss, and Westbrook’s loud mistakes — combined with the team now being on a five-game losing streak and the Nets missing nearly double-digit players due to COVID-19 protocols on Sunday — seemingly broke open the floodgates for Westbrook criticism, with some people going as far as wanting to trade him for John Wall (which is pretty hilarious when you think of the overlaps in strengths/weaknesses between the two players, and that Wall is coming off an Achilles rupture, but I digress).

However, when you clear out the noise, much of the criticism of Westbrook is unfounded for multiple reasons. I explained four of them in the following video, using data as the backbone.

I know Westbrook makes loud mistakes. Very loud ones. And I’m guilty as anyone else of being extremely frustrated at times with him. But, when you clear out the noise and the emotion while looking at the indicators and context, he’s actually trending in the right direction overall as the year moves along, which is great news given how disjointed this season has been so far.

Lastly, this isn’t to say that Westbrook doesn’t have multiple areas where he can improve. He does. And in my next piece, I’ll get into one major issue that has plagued Westbrook throughout his career, and been at the root of many of his frustrating moments this season.

Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT has a doctorate in physical therapy from Northern Arizona University, and runs his own in-person and online sports medicine and performance business, 3CB Performance, in West LA and Valencia, CA in which he further combines his movement expertise and fitness training. He also works at a hospital — giving him experience with patients in the immediate healthcare setting and neurological patients (post stroke, post brain injury) — and has been practicing for 4 years. Brar is additionally training at UCLA’s mindful awareness research center (MARC), has a background in youth basketball coaching and analyzes the Lakers from a medical and skills perspective for Silver Screen and Roll and on his own YouTube Channel. You can follow him on Twitter at @3cbPerformance.

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