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Lakers vs. Rockets Preview: Leave Russell Westbrook’s family alone

It’s all fun and games until death threats and hateful messages are involved. We as Lakers fans need to be better, and make sure our fellow fans are too.

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Tyler Ross/NBAE via Getty Images

Before I get to the main point of this story, allow me to go out of the limb and admit that I have slandered Russell Westbrook relentlessly all season. If you follow me on social media (specifically Twitter), you’ll know that I average almost two or three anti-Russell Westbrook tweets per day.

I have constantly expressed my disdain for Westbrook’s performance this season, retweeted lowlights of him bricking shots, and even argued that he is the biggest problem with this Lakers team in intense conversations about him with people online.

The point is, I’m far from a Westbrook apologist.

As passionate Lakers fans, it’s fair to express our feelings and thoughts towards the team and the players. We do, after all, spend a lot of our time and money supporting this team. But there comes to a point where a line must be drawn, and a filter needs to be activated. There is absolutely no reason for Russell Westbrook’s family to receive death threats, hateful messages on social media, and the public scrutiny thrown their way during his struggles.

We, as a society and a fanbase, need to be better.

Sure, call Westbrook out for his subpar and inconsistent play all season, for always missing layups, for reportedly refusing to train with the best developmental coach in the league Phil Handy, for being stubborn on the court (trust me, it annoys almost every fan I know), for his snarky comments in postgame interviews, for using up more than $44 million of the team’s cap space and seemingly not doing everything in his power to make this work, or even for clashing with his teammates and coaches all year. The list goes on and on.

That’s all totally fair, and inbounds. Where lines are crossed is when anyone thinks they have the right to insult and harass his family, specifically his wife, children, and brother — all of whom have been toxically affected by the verbal abuse and uncomfortable scrutiny from fans and the media worldwide.

And if naysayers continue to think that Westbrook’s playing the victim game by bringing up his family’s struggles, then please just make an effort to at least listen and observe how he addressed what he’s going through last Monday.

Forget the basketball side of things first. This is a regular human being (just like you), going through an unpleasant situation (like you probably have), who couldn’t help but sound defeated when he addressed the undeserved hatred his family is dealing with right now. Nobody deserves to see their loved ones suffer abuse or threats because of them.

So no, I am not throwing a pity party for the Westbrook family. It’s just really a matter of understanding what sports are about. As Russ said, basketball is just a game. Some may depend on it for their livelihood, but it should never be an outlet to harm people. Professional athletes like Russ are, first and foremost, humans as well.

Westbrook is probably going to continue missing layups and jumpers, and even continue to be part of the Lakers’ struggles, which will likely result in a disappointing early playoff exit this year. He’s probably going to hear more boos and heckling especially since he’s back in Houston on Wednesday, where he spent a year in and was traded due to a disappointing playoff exit in 2020.

But while we fans have every right to express our disappointment towards his and the team’s performance in this cursed season, it’s just as important to do this in the right way and leave Westbrook’s family out of it. We can boo. We can groan when he launches another ill-advised three. We can tweet. There is just no reason to seek his family out on social media and make them aware of our disdain, or to target them, or wish ill upon them.

They deserve better. Let’s show them we can be. Starting tonight.

Notes and updates

  • The Lakers — who are favored by three and a half points (-3.5) to win tomorrow’s game according to the good people over at DraftKings — will go up against a Rockets team that has now lost nine out of their last ten games.
  • The Rockets are one of the only teams that the Lakers have defeated three times this season. Not to jinx it or whatever, but it would certainly be nice if Los Angeles finally sweeps a team in the regular season this year.
  • As expected, Anthony Davis (right mid-foot sprain) and Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise) are out for Wednesday’s game.
  • LeBron James, who sat out Monday’s game due to left knee soreness is also listed as questionable. The team is hopeful that James’ injury isn’t too severe, and that he suits up on Wednesday.
  • Talen Horton-Tucker (left ankle sprain) and Malik Monk (right calf contusion) unfortunately appeared on the team’s injury report today. Both are listed as probable for tomorrow.
  • In case you live under a rock, “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” just premiered on HBO on Sunday. The documentary releases a new episode weekly, and it’s a great way to distract yourself from how bad this Lakers season is.
  • For news around the league, the mediocre Western Conference standings are something to look out for. The Memphis Grizzlies (44-22) have now overtaken the Golden State Warriors (43-22) for the second seed, as the latter finds themselves slowly slipping down the standings. The Utah Jazz (40-24) and Dallas Mavericks (40-25) continue to climb up and chase the first seeded Phoenix Suns (51-13). It’s important to keep track of this, because the Lakers might eventually face one of these teams in the first round if they get past the play-in tournament (where they currently find themselves in right now).

The Lakers and Rockets will tip-off at 5:00 p.m. PT, with the game being televised locally at Spectrum SportsNet.

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation. And for more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.