While Russell Westbrook is now fully entrenched as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, he was very close to never even getting a chance to play for the team. They were linked to a number of high-profile players this offseason but eventually landed on the former MVP. One player that was commonly mentioned as a possible Lakers target was four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan.
Similar to Westbrook, DeRozan grew up in Los Angeles as a Lakers fan. He played college ball at USC while Westbrook was at UCLA. The Lakers may have had an easier time landing DeRozan but chose to go after the bigger name. However, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a serious consideration. DeRozan says that he went so far as to have conversations with LeBron James. Unfortunately for him, the Lakers decided to go elsewhere and DeRozan landed with the Chicago Bulls.
“Just didn’t work. You know how the business goes,” DeRozan told Shams Charania of Stadium. “One thing could just change the whole dynamic and everything but it was a hell of an opportunity that we tried to make happen. Me being from L.A. would have been crazy but some things you do just work out, but it’s always great just to have the opportunity.”
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Would DeRozan Have Been a Better Fit Than Westbrook?
Nobody would argue that Westbrook isn’t a superior and more accomplished player than DeRozan. He’s a historic player while DeRozan is a solid star who is one of the better scorers in the NBA. However, his fit with the Lakers would’ve been questionable. Similar to Westbrook, he’s not much of a 3-point shooter. He’s a career 28.1% shooter from beyond the arc while only shooting 1.5 a game.
Westbrook is one of the worst shooters in the NBA but he affects the game in other ways. He’s one of the best passers in the league and an elite rebounder for a guard. Neither player is a seamless fit with the Lakers but Westbrook is the better overall talent. It’s no surprise the team made the decision they did.
Westbrook Admits He Always Wanted to Play for Lakers
Growing up a basketball player in Los Angeles, it’s hard not to want to play for the Lakers. Outside of a few tough stretches, the team is usually one of the best in the league. Though Westbrook has been in the NBA for a long time, he admitted to Jimmy Kimmel that he’s always wanted to come back home and play for the purple and gold.
“Secretly, yes,” Westbrook said. “I mean, I think every player wants to eventually play home, and I think now the timing is right. The setting is right. The team is right. Everything is aligning.”
Westbrook was wanting to come to the Lakers but it didn’t seem like a reality until this offseason.
“It’s crazy because I played with [Carmelo Anthony] in Oklahoma City, and we never even talked about playing with each other,” he said. “Me and Bron been friends for years, and it never even came up. And then, all of a sudden, this summer, it was like, boom.”
Westbrook is finally getting a chance to play home and has a great shot at winning his first championship in front of a hometown crowd.