Former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook is one of several reasons the Los Angeles Lakers just finished up shop on an absolutely disastrous 2021-22 season.
Two seasons removed from earning the NBA title, Los Angeles posted a 33-49 record. It led to the immediate dismissal of head coach Frank Vogel and will culminate in wholesale changes during the summer.
Acquired from the Washington Wizards in a blockbuster trade last offseason, it does feel like Westbrook has been treated like a fall guy for the Lakers’ struggles.
Sure the veteran did not play his best basketball. There was also some concern over how he’d fit in with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
In his season-ending press conference on Monday, Westbrook took direct aim at the two star Lakers players. He did not hold back.
Westbrook also indicated that the Lakers simply didn’t give him a fair chance to be the player that had defined his career in the past.
“When I first got here, I just felt that I never was given a fair chance to be who I needed to be to better help this team.”Russell Westbrook on Los Angeles Lakers’ situation
In the same press conference, the nine-time All-Star touched on his relationship with now-former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel. “I can’t really give you an answer on why we never really connected,” Westbrook said. “I’m not sure what his issue was with me.”
To be clear. Westbrook wasn’t just throwing blame in the direction of everyone else. The future Hall of Famer did say that he did not perform up to his best in his first season with the Lakers and was “too relaxed at times” playing in his native Los Angeles.
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Westbrook didn’t indicate one way or another whether he’d pick up his $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season. But reality tells us he will do exactly what.
The question now becomes what Los Angeles might do with the enigmatic point guard and his hefty contract.
He didn’t come close to living up to expectations — leading to renewed chatter that a divorce is in the cards.
- Russell Westbrook stats (2021-22): 18.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.1 APG, 44% shooting, 30% 3-point
Pretty much across the board, this was Westbrook’s worst statistical season since his rookie campaign with the Oklahoma Thunder all the way back in 2008-09.
What we do know is that there were reports during the season that the Lakers would move off of Westbrook. He was apparently hesitant to a role change after seeing Vogel bench him multiple times with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
The backdrop here appears to be a strained relationship with LeBron James. For his part, the four-time NBA champion would not commit to teaming up with Westbrook again next season while showering some faint praise in the direction of the point guard.
“I don’t put any expectations on anything. It’s all about coming in, putting in the work, and go from there. One thing about Russ that I love and will always love, is just his competitive spirit, what he brings to the game every night.
And when you’re in a profession when so many injuries happen, and so many things go on, to have a guy that’s reliable, who can put on the uniform every single night, that’s something I respect out of everything. I’m not gonna sit here and make decisions for the front office and things of that nature, but I love being a teammate of Russ.”LeBron James on running it back with Russell Westbrook
The end of that quote is rather interesting in that James indicates he’s not ready to make decisions for the front office. Isn’t that exactly what happened when he pushed for the Westbrook trade last offseason? What about both of his tenures with the Cleveland Cavaliers and his four-year run in South Beach?
Yeah, it’s going to be a drama-filled summer in Hollywood. Get your popcorn ready.