'I don't really care what people say' – Westbrook on criticism
Russell Westbrook is not worried about the critics following the Oklahoma City Thunder's elimination from the NBA playoffs.
Westbrook struggled in the Thunder's Western Conference opening-round series defeat against the Portland Trail Blazers, who sealed a 4-1 victory.
The Thunder star shot just 36 per cent from the field and 32.4 per cent from three-point range as Oklahoma City were eliminated in five games.
Westbrook discussed his performance when he met with reporters on Thursday.
"There used to be conversations if I was a ball hog, but now I lead the league in assists for the past three years or whatever it is, that's getting squashed out," Westbrook said.
"So now the conversation is about shooting. Next year I'm going to become a better shooter.
"I don't really care what people say, what they think about me, because it doesn't really matter. I know what I'm able to do and know what I'm able to do at a high level every night, and nobody else can do what I can do on a night-in, night-out basis, and I truly believe that. If they could, I'm pretty sure they would. But I know for a fact that nobody can."
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The eight-time All-Star has averaged a triple-double in each of the last three seasons. But, his Thunder teams have failed to win a playoff series during that time span.
"When you do so much at a high level, a lot of haters come," Westbrook said. "That's how life is, man. That's life, man. When you do so much, people [are] going to try to pull and take away and try to take that away from you. But nobody can take away from me. I've been blessed, and I stay prayerful, stay thankful to be able to do what I'm able to do, and nobody can ever take that away from me."
Fellow Thunder star Paul George praised Westbrook. The former was traded from the Indiana Pacers to the Thunder in July 2017 before re-signing with the team last offseason.
"I had a choice and a decision to go anywhere I wanted to in my career, and I chose to come back here," George said. "I mean, come on, that says a lot on its own, what kind of person Russ is.
"He's 100 per cent. He's as pure as a person that you can find. If you're watching him from afar, you might mistake that for him being a certain type of way. But honestly, man, he's one of the best human beings I've ever been a part of."
Westbrook tallied 22.9 points, 10.7 assists and 11.1 rebounds in 36 minutes per game in 2018-19.