The Lakers’ addition of Russell Westbrook had its obvious pitfalls: When you have the option of running your offense through LeBron James, you do so, and you surround him with shooters and cutters, not brick-laying ball-dominant guards who would sooner self-immolate than set a screen. But this chafing only occurs when James and Westbrook are sharing the floor. If the plan was to have Westbrook—who did play well towards the end of an accursed Wizards stint—sponge up some regular-season minutes while LeBron got his beauty rest for the postseason, that’s reasonable enough (though he does carry a brutal price tag for those modest services).
This season put that theory to the test early, after the Grizzlies’ Desmond Bane fell on LeBron James’s right ankle last week, rendering him day-to-day. (That’s the same ankle that waylaid James last season, but according to coach Frank Vogel, the injury is on a different part of the ankle.) With James on ice for two consecutive games, the early results on Westbrook as orchestrator are mixed. The good: an overtime win against the Spurs on Tuesday, where Westbrook assembled his most complete game as a Laker. The bad: a 123-115 loss to the 0-4 Thunder on Wednesday, where they squandered a 26-point, first-half lead while Westbrook posted a quadruple-double of 20 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists, and 10 turnovers.
With the game lost, Westbrook got himself ejected on the last play, having taken offense to the way third-year Thunder forward Darius Bazley picked a terrible pass and threw it down with 1.5 seconds on the clock. Westbrook seized the occasion to scream “Don’t do that” in Bazley’s face until forced to shamble off the court to the theme song of “The Price Is Right,” booed by the fan base that cherished him for a decade.
“How I play the game, I’m more old-school,” Westbrook told reporters after the game. “And when shit like that happens, I don’t let it slide.
“In the game of basketball, there’s certain things you just don’t do. Like in baseball, you don’t flip the bat. There’s certain things you don’t do in sports when the game’s already over. And I didn’t like it. Simple as that.”
Thank you, sir. Here are some other things you should not do in the game of basketball: puke up six turnovers a game, shoot 17 percent from the arc on 4.6 attempts a game, and average 47 percent on free throws. It appears as though the price—$44 million, with a $47 million player option for next year—is wrong. As hell!