Nearing the halfway mark of his inaugural season with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers and recognizing that his play is under constant scrutiny as the team struggles, Russell Westbrook said he's done taking direction on what he should be doing differently.
"Everybody wants me to do this but then they don't want me to do this," Westbrook said on a video conference call with reporters Monday. "Honestly, I'm over the whole situation with what everyone else wants me to do and what they think I should be doing."
Westbrook had a rough night shooting the ball in the Lakers' high-profile Christmas Day loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. He scored 13 points on 4-for-20 shooting, which included 11 missed shots in the restricted area, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He tied his own record for the most missed shots that close to the basket in a single game in the last 10 seasons, having had the same amount of chippies go awry on Jan. 22, 2020 when he played for the Houston Rockets.
A common refrain uttered by Westbrook's teammates and coaches since L.A. acquired him in an offseason trade with the Washington Wizards has been "let Russ be Russ," in hopes of accommodating the nine-time All-Star.
The 14-year veteran said that he is taking the same approach he always has and that outsized expectations of him, joining the Lakers as the only player in league history to average a triple-double four seasons in his career, could be warping people's perspective.
"Honestly, I think I've been fine," Westbrook said. "The conversation has been heavily on how I'm playing and what I'm doing, but I think people are expecting me to have f---ing 25, 15 and 15, which, that is not normal. Everybody has to understand, like, that's not a normal thing that people do consistently."
Westbrook's most impressive statistical contribution this season has been playing in all 34 of the Lakers' games. LeBron James has only played in 22. Anthony Davis has only appeared in 27 and is expected to miss the next month with a sprained MCL in his left knee.
His production while in there has waned, however. Westbrook is averaging 19.8 points, his lowest scoring output since his second year in the league, while shooting 46% from the field, 31.1% from 3 and a career-worst 65% from the foul line. He's sixth in the league in assists, averaging 8.1 per game, and his 7.9 rebounds per game puts him third among all backcourt players. His 4.6 turnovers per game are also second worst in the league, trailing only Brooklyn's James Harden (5.0).
"People are saying 'let Russ be Russ,' I think nobody understands what that means," Westbrook continued. "I think people just say it -- 'let Russ be Russ' -- but nobody actually knows what that means but myself. And I'm gonna lean on that and make sure I do what I'm supposed to do. And let everything else outside the locker room, whatever that may be, take care of itself."
Both James and Lakers acting head coach, David Fizdale, who is in charge while Frank Vogel is out because of the league's COVID-19 protocols, defended Westbrook after the Christmas debacle.
James shrugged off the missed shots and praised Westbrook's competitive drive, while Fizdale said Westbrook simply wants it to work in L.A. so much that he's pressing.
The Lakers, still reeling from several missing players -- Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Austin Reaves and Rajon Rondo are all in protocols -- were able to hold a practice Monday before heading on the road for a back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday in Houston and Memphis.
L.A. will look to snap its five-game losing streak versus the Rockets, who have the worst record in the Western Conference at 10-23.
"When you lose five in a row, it's misery," Fizdale said after practice. "You're not happy. But there's two types of ways you can respond to this. Right? And that's the only thing we can control, is our response to a five-game losing streak. We can either bitch, moan, complain, point fingers, deflect, or we can get in the gym and work together and get in the film sessions and have raw conversations and talk about what we need to do to get better and improve."