The 2021-22 NBA season has been the seventh circle of hell for Russell Westbrook. Every week brings a new nadir.
On Wednesday night, Westbrook circled the drain during the Lakers 124-104 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, scoring 15 points on 41.7 percent shooting, making 1-of-4 from 3-point range and dishing five assists. Yet, the numbers are only a 2D representation of the humiliation he suffered.
Pat Beverly and Karl-Anthony Towns had an absolute ball at Westbrook’s expense. Wednesday’s clash was the first time Pat Beverley outscored Westbrook when they’ve gone head-to-head.
Westbrook’s catastrophic night was compounded by Beverley intercepting an entry pass into LeBron James and then holding his nose while shouting, “He’s trash.”
Beverley gets amped for his matchups with Westbrook. Before this season, Westbrook had the upper hand as a former MVP and franchise player against the scrappy fringe starter. Now that the rabbit has the gun, Beverley is marinating in the moment. Beverley and Westbrook’s animosity for one another is unlike most modern NBA rivalries. These two despise each other with the fire of a thousand suns. Things have been personal between the pair since Beverley crashed into Westbrook’s knee on a dubious play during a first-round series in 2013 against the Houston Rockets, causing him to miss the remainder of the postseason.
Beverley trash-talking Westbrook is expected, but for Towns to summon the courage to mock Westbrook speaks to how damaged Westbrook’s reputation has become. In the fourth quarter, Westbrook air-balled a corner 3 so badly Towns feigned looking into the distance for Westbook’s aim. Towns is one of the least antagonistic players in the league and he’s almost a decade younger than Westbrook.
“I honestly don’t pay no mind to it,” Russell Westbrook said in his postgame presser. “They weren’t talking to me… Nobody over there has done anything in this league… They won a game, happy for them, (I’ll) move on to the next one.”
Westbrook may put on a straight face, but this is clearly bothering him. We’ve now entered a new stage of Westbrook’s downfall where even NBA peers are piling on. You can add Towns and Beverely to an extensive list of Westbrook tormentors such as his own coach and hometown fans calling him Westbrick.
Back in January, Frank Vogel was keen on benching Westbrook in close fourth quarters and delivered veiled shots at Westbrook through the media. Like when he responded to a question about Westbrook during crunch time against Indiana by saying, “Playing the guys I thought were going to win the game.”
Two months later, Westbrook’s descent has only accelerated. When he’s not getting to the rim, Westbrook has been in the worst offensive stupor of his career. Since the All-Star Break, he has made 11 percent of his attempts from downtown and 19 percent of his mid-range jumpers. Ball-dominant volume scorers rarely age well and guards who rely on their explosive athleticism fare even worse.
Westbrook has fought tooth and nail against changing his role within the Lakers offense. He no longer garners the respect he commanded throughout his prime, and he has no secondary skill for him to fall back on that don’t rely on him being the best athlete on the floor. Three years ago, LeBron ironically crowned himself the Washed King, referencing the perception that he was over the hill. It’s time to hand that title on to Westbrook.
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