Swanson: Want Russell Westbrook to thrive, Lakers fans? Try cheering for him

What’s up, Lakers fans?

I have an idea. It’s kind of weird. You’re probably not gonna like it. But desperate times ’n’ all …

When the Lakers host Denver in their next home game Sunday, try cheering him on.

I know. I know.

Russell Westbrook – what, you call him “Westbrick” in your house? fine – doesn’t deserve your support. Dude’s a “washed-up bricklayer,” as the Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor wrote in a scathing analysis over the weekend.

You believe you could hit at least 11 of 38 shots (28.9%) – and you’re not making more than $47 million to do it. Shoot, you’re pretty sure Grandma would make at least one of 12 3-point attempts if she had the chance.

Westbrook might be one of L.A.’s successful sons, but you don’t owe him anything – especially when his response to his frigid offense is so offensive: “Solid,” he called his flimsy 0-for-11 outing against the Clippers.

And it’s sports – boo if you want to. You’re entitled to your fandom feelings. You get to jeer, critique, talk your mess.

He’s not helping his own cause, no. But know that you’re not helping your cause, either.

You want this man to produce? Want him to cooperate? For the sake of the Lakers – or, hey, for his trade value? Maybe try something different, something difficult, unexpected.

I’ve been thinking about what Phil Jackson said once about coaching Lamar Odom: “He’s not one that you hit him with a paddle and expect an accelerated effort,” the coach told the L.A. Times in 2006. “He’s the kind of guy you put an arm around and say, ‘You can do better.’ And he does better with that type of approach than the hard-(nosed) approach where you get after him. …

“There was a time last year in the locker room, he kind of had a hang-dog feel about him. I just gave him a big hug. I said, ‘You just looked like you needed a big hug right now.’ Surprised the heck out of him.”

Westbrook’s quills sure might look spiky, but what if it’s actually a hug he needs?

What if – instead of gasping in unison like you’re all at a theater watching a scary movie together every time he sets up for a shot – you find it within yourself to suspend reality, suppress your trepidation, dig deep into your stores of empathy and try to have his back while he shops for his next few buckets?

No, Westbrook didn’t read the game so well Sunday when the Lakers fell to 0-3 after he missed the midrange jumper he took with 18 seconds left on the shot clock and a one-point lead late in the game. But he certainly can read a room.

And it’s a big room at Crypto.com Arena, filled with big energy – big negative energy.

You try filling a cavity with that sort of tension pervading the office, try carrying a full tray through a busy restaurant with every patron in the place actively anticipating that you’ll drop it. Try driving a bus with every passenger gasping at your every maneuver waiting for a crash. Try filling in for a middle school math teacher – oh, wait, substitutes already know.

Westbrook’s line in the Lakers’ first game at Golden State was downright decent: Nineteen points on 7-for-12 shooting (including 1 for 3 from 3) to go with 11 rebounds and three assists? You’ll take that.

Compare it to his performances so far at home, where against the Clippers and Portland he went a combined 4 for 26 from the field and 0 for 9 from 3-point range.

The differences weren’t so searingly stark last season, but Westbrook was measurably better away from the unfriendly confines of his home arena then, too: He averaged 19.8 points on 47% shooting from the field (32.4% from 3-point range) on the road. In his hometown, he put up 17.2 points per game on 42% shooting (27% from behind the arc).

The pressure is greater in L.A., and expectations are high – always, but especially considering the sacrifices the Lakers made to bring him aboard.

Magic Johnson’s advice to him, delivered on Shannon Sharpe’s “Club Shay Shay” podcast, was on point: “First, take accountability.”

Magic hasn’t forgotten when Lakers fans were calling him “Tragic” Johnson after his poor performance in the 1984 NBA Finals. “When I didn’t play well in ’84 against the Celtics, I admitted that, I took accountability – that’s what Russell’s gotta do,” Johnson said. “Quit trying to fight the media, quit trying to fight the fans … and go out on the court and perform.”

Sure would help.

But Magic was in his prime at that low point; Westbrook is in Year 15.

Magic also is one of the most charismatic athletes of all time. One of the world’s most famous smilers.

Russ is a snarling scowler. He can be curmudgeonly, curt, defensive and obtuse.

But he’s human.

And while it’s hard sometimes to tell who’s serious when we trumpet the importance of people’s mental health, it’s easy to see how much everyone cares about positive residuals on the court. Either way, a little positive feedback could help, maybe? Wouldn’t hurt, anyway.

So why not shock the world and rally behind Russ for a minute, Laker Nation? See if it won’t maybe give him some pep as he steps into his next 3-point attempt? Do it for you!

Because the Lakers haven’t brought him off the bench yet, and until they trade him and get him out of this toxic situation, shouldn’t someone do something?

Maybe something like making the situation a little less toxic?