Thursday, December 8, 2022

Russell Westbrook, the Lakers’ scapegoat, had it better in Washington

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Instead, Westbrook wished the shameless sizzle that comes with enjoying for the Los Angeles Lakers. His want was granted — and it have to be good having the stars of the HBO drama centered on the Lakers’ dynasty sitting courtside — however he’s additionally found that life in L.A. will be colder than Siberia. As the Wizards play the Lakers on Friday evening for the first time since final summer time’s seismic commerce that reshaped each organizations, we are able to see clearly the distinction between his previous two seasons.

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Westbrook made historical past inside largely empty arenas throughout the 2020-21 pandemic season whereas sporting the main colours of an ignored franchise.

Now he’s struggling in entrance of sold-out crowds, generally bricklaying and different occasions bristling at the nightly serenade of boos, jeers and preprogrammed taunts whereas sporting the purple and gold of the league’s premier crew.

In Washington, the narrative surrounding Westbrook was nonetheless intact. He performed laborious. Never took nights off. Molded his teammates in his picture, whether or not they wished to be or not. Gruff with reporters however light to different human beings (he as soon as gave his game-worn footwear to a Capital One Arena employee, a second conveniently captured after he performed an on-camera interview).

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Here in D.C., Westbrook broke data. Now he simply appears damaged.

He’s the place to begin guard and — honest or not — main scapegoat for the most disappointing crew in the NBA. The Lakers had been alleged to type a type of high-powered Voltron with their stash of future Hall of Famers (LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Westbrook) however as a substitute have seemed like a clunky motion determine that even the island of misfit toys would reject. More than another participant on this poorly constructed roster, Westbrook — together with his $44 million greenback wage and his fourth quarter absences — has united each Lakers followers and Lakers haters, serving to them forge a wierd alliance of scorn.

The recreation operations staffs in Sacramento and Denver serenaded Westbrook’s missed jumpers by enjoying “Cold as Ice” and “Ice, Ice Baby.”

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Then again dwelling in L.A., in the midst of the crew shedding six of seven video games since the all-star break, boos cascaded down Arena to the itching ears of the gamers. That included Westbrook, who tried to brush it off by saying they will “take their a– home,” claiming their taunts don’t hassle him.

This is when the narrator would chime in and reveal that nicely, in reality, the taunts do hassle Westbrook. So a lot in order that Monday evening, Westbrook went on a prolonged monologue about the criticism he has been receiving and the way he now should shield his title from the taunt “Westbrick.”

“’Westbrick,’ for example, to me, is now shaming. It’s shaming my name, my legacy for my kids. It’s a name that means [something], not just to me but to my wife, to my mom, my dad, the ones that kind of paved the way for me,” he mentioned. “There’s a difference. We need to make sure it’s understood. And every time I do hear it now, I will make sure that I address it and make sure I nip that in the bud.”

Westbrook has a sophisticated relationship with the public. The most loyal of his supporters — who included his former head coach Scott Brooks — will pepper him with reward, whereas others may bathe him with popcorn. Last 12 months throughout the Wizards’ first-round playoff collection with the Philadelphia 76ers, after somebody disrespectfully dumped their concession-food snack on Westbrook as he exited the Wells Fargo Arena court docket, he earned fast and loud sympathy throughout the league.

But after Westbrook protested the softball criticism of “Westbrick,” he discovered far fewer supporters and solely gave the sports activities debate present hosts one thing extra to scream about. The participant celebrated final season for his relentless depth is now triggered and mocked, one other byproduct of this season’s high-profile disappointment following final season’s esteem. Who knew he had it so good in D.C.?

Westbrook — one in all the 76 best gamers of this recreation — went to L.A. with championship desires. He wished the huge stage. He wound up with a dented legacy and damage emotions. And the unhappy actuality is, his final nice act as an NBA celebrity may nicely have occurred inside lonely gyms, as a rental for a franchise he couldn’t depart shortly sufficient.

This sentence might by no means be typed once more, however possibly this future Hall of Famer ought to have thought-about Washington a vacation spot quite than a layover.

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