The Los Angeles Lakers wish they could go back in time and take a different approach last offseason. The trade for Russell Westbrook turned out to be a disaster and the team still can’t get off of his contract. What makes the move worse is who the Lakers could’ve gotten instead.
Five-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan is from Los Angeles, California, and has not been shy about wanting to play for his hometown team. He was one of the players linked to the Lakers last offseason before they traded for Westbrook. In fact, he was almost positive a deal was just a matter of time. The guard recently appeared on J.J. Reddick’s “The Old Man & The Three” podcast and revealed just how badly he wanted to play for the purple and gold.
“I’m looking at my phone like, ‘Damn, that did happen. Well, I guess that’s out the window.’ ” DeRozan said on Redick’s podcast. “In my mind, that was the only option for me to go to. I was sold on that. Done deal. I didn’t even entertain anything else because I’m letting this situation work itself out. So when I see the trade happen I knew there was no way for me to go to the Lakers at this point. So now it was a scramble mode.”
He goes on to say that he was “hell-bent” on going to the Lakers.
DeRozan Had Much Better Season Than Westbrook
At the time of the Westbrook trade, not many could’ve faulted the Lakers for preferring him to DeRozan. He’s a former MVP and came off a season where he averaged a triple-double. DeRozan hadn’t been to an All-Star game in three years at that point. He’s a very good player but his fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis was also questionable.
However, there’s no doubt that the Lakers would’ve been better off with DeRozan in hindsight. The guard signed with the Chicago Bulls and averaged 27.9 points a game. He was considered an MVP candidate for much of the season before injuries derailed their season. Westbrook had his worst season in over a decade, averaging just 18.5 points a game and the team didn’t sniff the playoffs. While DeRozan wouldn’t have been a seamless fit on the Lakers’ roster, he would’ve been better than Westbrook.
Westbrook Willing Accept Whatever Role
This offseason has been ripe with rumors that the Lakers were trying to trade Westbrook. A deal hasn’t materialized yet and the guard is with the team at training camp. It’s not ideal for either side but they are making the best of it. Westbrook has made it clear that he’s going to be professional and do whatever the team asks of him.
“I mean, whether they want me here or not doesn’t really matter, honestly,” Westbrook said. “My job is to be professional, show up to work, like I’ve always done. Thus far, I did my job the best way I know how to and that’s it. I mean, you all have jobs — sometimes people at our jobs don’t like us or don’t want us there, as you guys can probably attest to on any level job across the world.”
Time will tell if Westbrook holds true to his words.