LeBron James talked about Russell Westbrook with the Los Angeles Lakers media on September 26th during media day. James, a four-time MVP and four-time Finals MVP, was asked if the Lakers could be successful with Westbrook on the roster and the King didn’t mince words.
“Oh absolutely,” James said. “Absolutely. Look forward to, like I said, being a part of the journey with him this year and it’s gonna be a great year for him and we’re gonna be right there with him. We’re here and it starts tomorrow. It’s all about putting in the work, and when you put in the work, you’ll see the results. So, looking forward to it.”
The Lakers missed the playoffs in 2021-22 and Westbrook didn’t play particularly well. Although the one-time MVP and nine-time All-Star averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists, Westbrook was second in the NBA in turnovers and posted an effective field goal percentage of only 47.6%, which was sixth-worst in the league.
James, who pushed the Lakers to acquire Westbrook from the Washington Wizards during the summer of 2021, didn’t say hi or sit next to Westbrook during the Lakers’ Summer League game on July 8th in Las Vegas. Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register reported on July 15th that “several people within the Lakers organization acknowledged it was an awkward and tense moment between its two most high-profile superstars.”
However, James and Westbrook interacted at media day and it appears the two stars are ready to begin their second season together as teammates.
James Can’t Wait for Westbrook to Go Off
James wrote on Twitter in August that he couldn’t wait for Westbrook to go off in 2022-23. Westbrook was booed at home games and fans called him “Russell Westbrick” last season due to his poor play.
For Westbrook to be a better fit next to James than he was last season, he has to hit his perimeter shots. The future Hall of Famer shot only 29.8% from beyond the arc last season, and among 46 players to take at least 1,000 shots, Westbrook ranked 42nd in true shooting percentage.
According to an August 9th report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the Lakers hope Westbrook will improve his 3-point shooting from the corners. The corner 3-pointer is the shortest shot from beyond the arc. Westbrook hit 43.8% of his 3-pointers from the corner last season, which was fourth on the Lakers.
On July 18th, Haynes reported that Westbrook, James and Anthony Davis spoke on the phone, with each All-Star expressing their commitment to one another. James, Davis and Westbrook appeared in only 21 games together last season. The Lakers were 11-10 with their three superstars on the floor together, a 43-win pace over the course of an 82-game season.
Westbrook Could Still Be Traded During the Season
Westbrook could still be traded by the Lakers during the season. In a September 22nd piece called “Lakers Bold Predictions Ahead of 2022-23 NBA Season,” Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley predicted that Westbrook wouldn’t open the new year in Los Angeles.
“It’s possible the Lakers honestly believe this can still work, but what is there to see? Westbrook isn’t a good fit for the roster. His ball dominance doesn’t work alongside LeBron James, and his erratic shooting hurts everyone around him,” Buckley wrote. “It seems more likely L.A. is leaving no stone unturned in its attempt to shed the nine-time All-Star (and his $47.1 million salary, per Spotrac) without sacrificing both of the future first-round picks it’s allowed to trade. At some point soon, the Lakers will concede that just isn’t possible and will package those picks with Westbrook to get him out and bring in a contributor or two who actually fit this group.”
Westbrook, who will make $47.1 million this season in the final year of his contract, was dangled in trade talks all offseason.