It’s not easy to accept that one’s best days are behind them. That is especially the case if one has reached lofty heights in their careers. Such is the case for Russell Westbrook, the all-time triple doubles leader and the 2016-17 MVP. Westbrook, after a rough start to his stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, has been relegated to a bench role. To his credit, however, Westbrook is making the most of his opportunities to help the purple and gold in whichever way he could.
And Dwyane Wade and Stan Van Gundy, who were player and coach with the Miami Heat from 2003 to 2005, love what they’re seeing from Westbrook.
Wade, in particular, knows that Russell Westbrook will be unencumbered by analysis paralysis when he comes off the bench, giving him the freedom he needs to play in the way he’s most comfortable with.
“To not have to overthink all the time about, O.K., LeBron. O.K., I got to get the ball to AD. O.K., I got to shoot this. O.K., I don’t want to shoot. He doesn’t have to think as much. Russ has now put himself in a better situation by coming off the bench,” Wade told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.
Dwyane Wade came mostly off the bench in the last two seasons of his career, splitting time with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat. Thus, he knows just how big a sacrifice it is and how rewarding it can be for an aging player like Russell Westbrook.
“Coming off the bench playing 20 to 25 minutes a game … [Russ] made a great decision to prolong his career,” Wade added.
Meanwhile, Stan Van Gundy agreed with Wade’s sentiments, saying that he sees more shades of the old Russ after his full acceptance of his transition to a sixth-man role.
“What’s impressed me the most is that he’s really tried to focus on being more of a playmaker, to get in the paint and make plays for other people,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t see him pouting about coming off the bench. He’s not making passive-aggressive comments in the media. I see acceptance from a guy who’s trying to make it work.”
In 22 games off the bench, Russell Westbrook has averaged 15.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 8.0 assists in only 27.9 minutes per night, the lowest of his career. As Westbrook continues to impress in a bench role and as long as he doesn’t kick up a fuss, he may be primed for a solid third-act in what already is a Hall of Fame career.