It's hard to imagine Russell Westbrook's first season with the Lakers going any worse on the court than it has already and now those shortcomings have seemingly created some off-the-court issues as well.
After his wife Nina released a tweet detailing the harassment, obscenities and "death wishes" the Westbrook family has received this season, the nine-time All-Star expanded on the subject and pushed back on a few specific taunts he no longer finds acceptable.
"I 100% stand behind my wife and how she's feeling," Westbrook said Monday. "When it comes to basketball, I don't mind the criticism of missing and making shots. But the moment it becomes where my name is getting shamed, it becomes an issue.
"I've kind of let it go in the past because it never really bothered me. But it really kind of hit me the other day. Me and my wife were at teacher-parent conferences for my son. And the teacher told me, 'Noah, he's so proud of his last name. He writes it everywhere. He writes it on everything. He tells everybody and walks around and says, 'I'm Westbrook.' And I kind of sat there in shock, and it hit me, like, 'Damn. I can no longer allow people [to disrespect my name]."
The form of disrespect Westbrook referred to was the popular "West-brick" nickname fans have cooked up as a way to make fun of a bad game or poor shooting performance by the future Hall of Famer. While Westbrook may have been willing to let that one slide in the past, it's now reached the point where his family doesn't want to attend home games anymore.
"It affects them even going to games," Westbrook said. "Like, I don't even want to bring my kids to the game because I don't want them to hear people calling their dad nicknames and other names for no reason because he's playing the game that he loves. And it's gotten so bad where my family don't even want to go to home games, to any game, and it's just super unfortunate, man. And it's super upsetting to me."
As off-the-court issues persist, so do Westbrook's on-court troubles. The Lakers are now 28-36, good for ninth in the Western Conference and they're five games behind the Clippers, who've been without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for most of the season. Westbrook hasn't fit in well with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the court, but the team as a whole hasn't jelled, either. They rank 25th in offense and 23rd in net rating with less than 20 games to go.
Head coach Frank Vogel and the rest of the organization are reportedly at odds over whether to take Westbrook out of the starting lineup, while it's possible the two sides head for a mutual split after the season.
LA had a chance to reshape its roster at the trade deadline, but they ended up staying pat with the roster they had. Since Westbrook makes $44 million this season and has a player option for $47 million next season, it would've been incredibly difficult for the Lakers to make a trade that would've improved their team in the short term.
This also isn't the first time Westbrook has spoken at length against outside criticism regarding his game. After a poster dunk and a 22-point, 15-rebound and 14-assist triple-double against the Hornets, Westbrook drew harsh remarks from ESPN's Stephen A. Smith.
"I sit back, I don’t say much. I don’t like to go back and forth about people. But one thing I won’t allow to happen anymore is let people create narratives and constantly talking s--- for no reason about me because I lay it on the line every night," Westbrook said at the time. "And I use my platform to be able to help people all across the world. Nobody can take that away from me. I’ve been blessed to be able to have a platform to do it. A championship won’t change my life. I’m happy. I was a champion once I made it to the NBA. I grew up in the streets. I’m a champion. I don’t have to be an NBA champion."
Westbrook's situation with the Lakers seemingly gets worse every game and after a road tilt in Houston on Wednesday, he'll travel to Washington D.C. to take on the team that traded him there. And at this juncture, it's hard to call the Wizards "losers" of that deal.
The Lakers and Wizards tip-off at 10:30 pm Friday for their first of two matchups in a 10-day period.