NBA journeyman center Olden Polynice defended struggling LA Lakers guard Russell Westbrook on Thursday’s Spotify podcast episode of “The Odd Couple with Chris Broussard & Rob Parker.”
“You’re getting 100% of Russell Westbrook every play.”
Russell Westbrook this season
In the wake of the LA Lakers’ massive trades in August, they were considered playoff contenders. However, Los Angeles (21-21) has been a middling team all season. Westbrook, especially his large turnover rate, has been the focus of much of the criticism for the team’s ills.
Polynice, who played for five franchises (with two stints at the LA Clippers and Seattle SuperSonics) over 15 seasons in the NBA, digresses from this.
“He’s a Hall of Famer, he’s gonna be, he’s one of the best players to ever play the game. The one thing I’ve always loved about Russell Westbrook, he’s never cheated fans.”
Standing with the most triple-doubles in the NBA at 192, Westbrook is a notable force in the league. Although he’s one of the most explosive players in league history, his speed often leads him to play with a lack of control.
The Lakers need Westbrook to practice playing at a slower speed and understand when to use his speed to his advantage. Many of his turnovers have been unexcused passes far into the stands, not just minor mistakes on something off a pick or a switch.
Of Westbrook, Polynice said:
“He’s allowing the outside noise to get to him and you need to get a grip on it sooner rather than later,” Polynice said.
Westbrook continues to play at a speed and intensity that is thrilling to his fans, but with his forced plays, he is losing the ball too often. With Los Angeles having so many veterans, it would be much easier to slow down the pace and use the team’s immense collective basketball IQ.
Although Westbrook is averaging 4.4 turnovers per game this season, it is close to his career average of 4.1. Even with holding the NBA record for most career turnovers per game, that mark is something Russ has always been known for and played above nonetheless.
In fact, in his first 13 seasons, Westbrook is a nine-time All-Star and was the MVP in 2017. He led the NBA in scoring in 2015 and 2017 and in assists in 2018 ’19 and ’21. Plus, as a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team, Westbrook has proved to be one of the all time greats.
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Polynice was accurate in saying fans see 100% of Westbrook 100% of the time, but it seems those numbers may be dwindling lately. He needs to get the audience’s negativity out of his head and focus on playing the type of basketball he is known for.