The Los Angeles Lakers had a catastrophic 2021-22 season. They missed the playoffs despite having LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook and the players were booed multiple times during home games for not living up to expectations.
The Lakers had the second-best preseason odds to win the title. Their Big Three of James, Davis and Westbrook was projected to be lethal. However, the three All-Stars played in only 21 games together. The Lakers went 11-10 and Westbrook proved to be an awful fit next to James and Davis due to his lack of a perimeter game.
The Lakers fired Frank Vogel as head coach on April 11. Metta Sandiford-Artest, who played 358 games with the purple and gold and was part of the 2009-10 championship team, believes Vogel did a “great job” in 2021-22. However, the one-time Defensive Player of the Year understands why Vogel was fired.
“I think he did a great job,” Artest told Ian Begley of SNY. “But it was tough. Lakers are a tough city, you gotta win. And he wasn’t able to get this crew together like fans would’ve liked. So they did what they had to do.”
Along with praising Vogel, Artest talked about James, Davis and Westbrook with Begley.
Artest Dishes on Lakers Stars
Artest believes the Lakers will be “fine” moving forward as long as Davis stays healthy. The New York native isn’t worried about James and thinks Westbrook’s issues are “fixable.”
“I think the Lakers will be fine if [Anthony Davis] comes back better,” Artest told Begley. “LeBron [James] is fine. LeBron is incredible. And then [Russell] Westbrook, not the greatest season, but I believe in him. I think that all his issues are fixable to me, honestly. Every single one of them. He’s someone who I would definitely love to coach. A player like that, someone who you can help get out of a rut, that’s a real challenge.”
Davis played in only 40 games in 2021-22 due to injuries. He averaged 23.2 points and 9.9 rebounds. The Chicago native has appeared in 76 regular-season games since winning his first title in 2020.
James had a brilliant 2021-22 campaign. The King averaged 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists and recorded 21 double-doubles and six triple-doubles. However, like Davis, James was bitten by the injury bug. The four-time MVP played in just 56 games.
Westbrook appeared in 78 games for the Lakers in 2021-22. The one-time MVP averaged stable per-game numbers of 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists. However, Westbrook shot 44.4% from the field, 29.8% from beyond the arc and 66.7% from the free-throw line. He was also second in the NBA in turnovers.
Artest thinks James, Davis and Westbrook can co-exist together. Westbrook has a player option worth $47,063,478 for next season and he’s expected to pick it up since he can’t get that type of money on the open market.
If the Lakers don’t trade Westbrook this offseason — and it will be difficult to find a team to trade for the guard since he’s owed so much money — Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka have to find the right coach.
Lakers Asking Coaches About Westbrook
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Lakers have asked coaching candidates questions about Westbrook. It appears Los Angeles is preparing for the possibility of retaining Westbrook, who was born and raised in California.
“More specifically, the notion of Russell Westbrook remaining part of their program is seeming more real all the time,” Amick reported. “Despite the widely held belief that the Lakers would find a way to trade Westbrook before the start of next season, sources say their coaching candidates have been asked to discuss how they would use him in their system during interviews. The takeaway for candidates, it seems, is that maximizing Westbrook’s presence after his disastrous 2021-22 season is considered an important part of this job.”
Per Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Westbrook never respected Vogel from day one, so the Lakers have to hire someone who gets along with Russ if the explosive guard is on the team in 2022-23.