Russell Westbrook caught heat on Christmas night for his abysmal 4-for-20 performance against Brooklyn — one that felt emblematic of his time with the Lakers so far. But LeBron James continued to back Westbrook after the game, defending him and highlighting his double-digit assist total.
“He gave us extra possessions, he gave us a lot of looks around the basket, which I know that he can’t stand [failing to convert] as well,” James told reporters following the 122-115 Nets’ victory. “But as far as the effort piece, if a guy plays hard, if a guy leaves it all out on the floor, I got no problem with that. It’s a make-or-miss league.”
The Lakers, who were missing Anthony Davis on Christmas due to a knee injury, are below .500 after the loss. Even though Westbrook is the only one of their three superstars to have stayed on the court all year, that’s still an immense disappointment.
Davis is expected to miss at least another month, and an obvious solution doesn’t seem to be presenting itself. That is, besides Westbrook simply playing better.
Westbrook finished Saturday’s game with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists, with five fouls and three turnovers — a triple-double that did little to help his team win.
“A big part of it is that he just wants it so bad,” the Lakers’ acting head coach, David Fizdale, said. “You can just see it in him, everybody does. He wants it so bad. And I know that it’s just hard for him when it doesn’t work out. And I know he cares like crazy.
“I just want him to take a lot of that pressure off himself, keep attacking, keep playing the way we know he can.”
Westbrook was completely outplayed by his superstar teammate, James, who finished with 39 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists.
“I’m kicking myself in the head because he’s giving me incredible effort,” Fizdale said of James. “Trying to figure out ways to get him over the hump with that effort, and I hate that it’s wasted on losses.”