Russell Westbrook became just the fourth player in NBA history to begin a regular season with consecutive triple-doubles, yet on Saturday night he sat at Capital One Arena, speaking to the media on Zoom, while looking down at the floor in disappointment with how he played.
Though Westbrook put in a well-rounded line of 15 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists, he also had five turnovers and shot just 6-for-19 (31.6%). And for those reasons, he took ownership of the Wizards' loss to the Magic, which dropped them to 0-2 to begin the season.
"I've gotta do a better job, man," he said. "I'll put this one on me, though. Bull-----ing around, missing easy shots. It wasn't nothing they did."
Through two games with the Wizards, Westbrook has so far displayed his two opposite extremes. He has piled up stats with two triple-doubles, averaging 18.0 points, 13.5 assists and 13.0 rebounds. But he's shot just 15-for-41 (36.6%), hasn't made a three yet on six attempts and has 11 turnovers in two games.
Westbrook's first game in the team's season opener on Wednesday was punctuated by a defensive gamble he made that helped seal the Sixers' victory. In this one, he was just generally not sharp. He missed a layup, got called for traveling after shifting his pivot foot and fired a misguided pass directly into traffic.
While Westbrook's detractors will say this is who he is -- a guy who puts up stats, but isn't efficient and turns the ball over -- it would make sense if he's knocking off some rust. Remember, he only played in one preseason game and he's now adjusting on the fly to a new team.
This was his third game playing with his new teammates. Collectively, they have looked out of rhythm to different degrees on both ends of the floor.
Westbrook summed up the lack of cohesion on the defensive end as well.
"Just miscommunication and a lot of guys playing in positions that they don't normally play in. Obviously, with Rui [Hachimura] being out, we have to figure out different things and lineups that guys are not used to playing in," he said.
It could get interesting, depending on how much time Westbrook needs to get into midseason form and for him to develop a better chemistry with his teammates, as he is not expected to play in both games of back-to-backs. The Rockets did that with him last year and the Wizards have indicated similar plans, evidently to preserve his health and impact long-term.
Due to their truncated regular season schedule, the Wizards have a lot of back-to-backs coming up. Their next eight games feature three back-to-backs, including on Sunday in a rematch against the Magic. If Westbrook is sitting three of the next eight games, that will only draw out the process of him being acclimated.
Though the Wizards have lost their first two games, they have plenty of time to figure things out and a favorable schedule in the short-term. The Magic are good, but not a top team. After that, they see the struggling Bulls twice.
Then, things will get very difficult. They play the Timberwolves, who look improved with No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards. And after that it's a gauntlet with the Nets, Sixers, Celtics and Heat. Those might be the top four teams in the East.
The Wizards and Westbrook will be put to the test soon. They might want to get adjusted to each other sometime in the next week.