Moment of Truth by Russell Westbrook

When asked at Thunder Media Day 2017 how he felt about coming off the bench for his new team, all Carmelo Anthony could give was an instant two-word response –“who am I?”– And a hearty laugh.

It was an involuntary reaction, totally authentic, and you can understand it. Yes, Anthony was on the wrong side of the 30’s and joined a team that already includes two superstars. But he had just scored 22.4 points per game as a no. 1 in New York, and he had just appeared for the eighth consecutive time at the All-Star. Do questions remain as to whether he would accept a long-resistant step forward, or whether he could fit into the less-used “Team USA Melo” role in the title-aspiring Thunder team? surely. But the idea that Anthony, who never came off the bench in the NBA, might be best suited for a second unit? It seemed – to him, at least – laughable.

Milo really started after all, but he also sacrificed, coming in third on Thunder in scoring, shooting and usage rate. There were plenty of bumps along the way, but Oklahoma City won the Western rejection. No. 4 ranked, he did better with Anthony on the court than off it, and made one of the best starting lineups in the NBA. But everything fell apart in the playoffs, hitting 38 percent of the field while routinely burning up in defense in a first-round loss.

Three months later, he was out of OKC. Four months later, he’s out of Houston. Barely a year after that knee jerk “who am I?” And those laughs, the future Hall of Famer was out of the league; He had to wait another whole year for a chance.

It’s hard not to think of Milo amid all the chatter about what’s coming next for Russell Westbrook. As Oklahoma City’s Player of the Year, Westbrook saw how quickly everything changed for Milo after a day of media thunder — how the NBA world turned and where Milo stayed. As Hail Mary’s addition to the Lakers last season, Westbrook once again teamed up with a version of Anthony who made her way back into the league by coming to terms with playing a more specific role. And after a disastrous campaign in Los Angeles that stands by most measures as the worst season of his career, Westbrook now finds himself in the same moment of truth that Milo and so many other superstars have been forced to contend with over the years.

“When you’re one of the top 10 players in our league for 10 years, you think it’s going to be there forever,” former NBA coach Anthony told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes in 2019. I know.”

Every fear everyone had about Westbrook’s fit with the Lakers last season came true, as he seemed unsuitable for life alongside LeBron James and (when healthy) Anthony Davis. The box’s individual point numbers seemed good enough: 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game, resulting in the Lakers’ 33 wins in total minutes and games played. Digging a little deeper, though, finds one of the NBA’s least efficient scorers – out of 46 players who score at least 1,000 shots, Ross ranked 42nd in true shooting percentage. He also had the second highest turnover of his career, and his often poor efforts didn’t help a sad Laker defense who finished 24th in points allowed per possession.

For more than a decade, Westbrook has combined explosive athleticism with a relentless determination to bend the game to his will, becoming the first player since Oscar Robertson to triple on average for an entire season (and then do so three more times the following season. Four years ), earning nine NBA picks (including back-to-back first-team nods), and winning the 2016-2017 Most Valuable Player award. His primacy extended beyond the white lines as well, with Oklahoma City redirecting its program around him after Kevin Durant went west, and Houston relinquishing centers to create more player stands. He used to make them himself. But in L.A., it’s LeBron, not Ross, who is the sun everyone revolves around. In a possibly related story, Westbrook spent a large portion of his exit interview with the Lakers in April detailing his frustrations with the “Never” [being] Given a fair chance just to be on what I need to help this team, “even going so far as to say that James and Davis saying they would make room to allow Westbrook to be himself” just wasn’t true, let’s be honest. “

If not, it might be because of them should not be Make this space for him. Evidence on the field has mounted – a broken jumper, an ill-fitting grip, a defense on and off the ball more shaky than ever, and the total package prompted inward pushes for ousted Frank Vogel since to put him on the bench on multiple occasions last season. To the point where it is difficult to deduce anything but That Westbrook is not what it used to be anymore. Evidence suggests that Westbrook continuing to do what he’s always done is doing more harm than good, and particularly detrimental to the Lakers who need to surround LeBron with players who can shoot, defend and not turn basketball.

That’s why new head coach Darvin Hamm has come in to say what many have said before: That’s while “there’s still a ton left.” [Westbrook’s] tank”, he would need to sacrifice to reach it by diversifying his offensive game by frequently moving away from the ball and placing screens, and “redirecting” his energy towards defensive end. He can still be the starting point guard; It will only need to be Different Kind of a starting point guard. That is, Hamm and the Lakers want Westbrook not to be Westbrook. Or, failing that, it should be less Westbrook. They are calling for prominent NBA fanatics to downplay and simplify; For a player who has only played with the volume level at 11 and the knob unplugged to calm down and calm down; and for Ross to adopt a more integrated role, as Milo did in Portland, and later Los Angeles

His old agent, Thad Foucher, apparently thought Hamm’s plan sounded too good – or at least better than looking for a fourth-off-season deal in a row, with the stench of Lakers failures (that, in fairness, was far from his only fault) clinging to Postbrook. . It is perhaps worth noting that, less than two months after an important position to see him, Foucher is no longer Westbrook’s agent; For what it’s worth, multiple sources told Dan Woike and Broderick Turner Los Angeles Times That split “has nothing to do with the Lakers.”

Ross is said to have never formally requested a deal away from the Lakers since arriving in 2021, and he recently jumped on a call with LeBron and AD to “make sure the three were on the same page…in their pursuit of the championship,” according to Chris Hines of Yahoo Sports. However, from the sound of things, LeBron – who was said to have endorsed the Westbrook-for-Kyrie Irving swap and didn’t seem too eager to smooth out any rough patches in the Summer League – seems to have no interest in bringing it back with a version of Russ who doesn’t care about getting specified programme. However, since there is no market for a goalkeeper that’s nearly 34 years old who can’t shoot and will make close to $50 million next season, LeBron and Co.

Shams Al-Sharaniyah the athlete On Monday, it reported that the Jazz, Knicks and Pacers, among others, “discussed deals with the Lakers” including Westbrook and the outgoing draft to incentivize the suitor to take over Westbrook’s massive contract. Charania teammate Bob Kravitz recently reported that a proposed Pacers- Lakers swap would send center Miles Turner and shooter Buddy Heald to Los Angeles in exchange for first-round selection Westbrook and Lakers 2027 “currently dead”, with talks stalled over Indiana State, Lakers want 2029 First too. The Utah and New York references are interesting in the context of a framework rumored last week by Mark Stein that would see the Knicks take an expired $47.1 million contract from Westbrook in exchange for the last three years’ guaranteed disposal of the Julius Randle deal, thus also creating financial flexibility for the team Looking to trade for Donovan Mitchell.

Aside from these grumblings, Charania notes that there is “no deal imminent” to move the 33-year-old Westbrook out of Los Angeles. in the starting line-up and making him his primary choice; It is, at this point, the exorbitant cost of acquiring draft picks, which was most likely bought in favor of cover space once its shipping fee was paid. Out-of-court evidence suggests the league as a whole has seen the evidence in court, and judged it harshly – the NBA believes the current version of Russell Westbrook no longer helps you win basketball games at a level commensurate with his salary, and there may be no is being Another copy.

This is Westbrook’s challenge: either fix That style that built a Hall of Fame career can contribute to winning the ball, or to transform and take on the stranger and re-imagine who’s on the basketball court. When Anthony, who had never quite reached the heights of Russ’s MVP but had the advantage of being four inches taller and an absolute better than three points, got to that point, it took a year in the wild before he could accept a more modest role. A rented rifle with minimum wages from year to year. It wasn’t easy.

Anthony told reporters when he joined the Lakers last season. “I had to swallow that ego. I had to swallow that pride. But I also had to use that ego and that pride to keep me on edge and keep me motivated. And I accepted that.”

The other greats of all times could never accept that; You can understand why the star laughed at the suggestion that it had to be anything other than what it always was. However, the problems begin when Stop Being a Star – When you’re the last to realize the world has shifted, it’s time to find a Plan B.

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