Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James conducted his end-of-the-season press conference on April 11 and the four-time MVP was asked to talk about what it was like playing with Russell Westbrook.
Although Westbrook proved to be a poor fit next to LeBron due to his lack of a perimeter game, LBJ told reporters that he enjoyed playing with the NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles.
“One thing about Russ that I love and will always love is just his competitive spirit, what he brings to the game every single night,” LeBron said about Westbrook. “When you’re in a profession where so many injuries happen and so many things go on, to have a guy that’s reliable and can put on the uniform every single night, that’s something that 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 with Russ and that’s just the way it is.”
Westbrook appeared in 78 games this season. He averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists while shooting 44.4% from the field, 29.8% from beyond the arc and 66.7% from the free-throw line. The one-time MVP committed 295 turnovers in 78 games and air-balled and bricked so many shots that fans started calling him “Russell Westbrick.”
LeBron and Westbrook are friends. They, along with Anthony Davis, met at the King’s house last summer to discuss playing with each other. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, there were questions about the fit, but LeBron was confident that the three future Hall of Famers would find a way to win.
Unfortunately, Westbrook’s poor play and injuries to LeBron and Davis prevented the Lakers from taking off this season.
Lakers Were a Disaster This Season
LeBron, Davis and Westbrook only appeared in 21 games together, going 11-10. The Lakers finished the season with a putrid record of 33-49 and didn’t even qualify for the play-in tournament.
Westbrook was the poster boy for the Lakers’ catastrophic season since he is the highest-paid player and the team gave up a lot to acquire him from the Washington Wizards last offseason. Davis, who signed off on the Lakers’ acquisition of Westbrook, believes the point guard shouldered too much of the blame.
“Russ isn’t a one-man show,” Davis told Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “He can’t beat teams by himself. It’s all of us. It’s my play, me not being on the floor. Bron’s play, him not being on the floor. … Everybody. Coaches. Everybody’s a part of the blame. … Russ, it wasn’t his fault.”
Westbrook finished the season with a brutal plus-minus of -211. LeBron may have said that he relished playing with the California native, but the Akron Hammer’s teammates noticed his poor body language throughout the campaign.
Lakers Players Noticed LeBron’s Body Language After Poor Westbrook Play
According to Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of the LA Times, LeBron’s teammates got annoyed when he would slump his shoulders or display poor body language. Lakers players saw the Chosen One’s negative body language after Westbrook either turned the ball over or missed a layup.
“Midway through the season, players began to notice James’ body language after poor Westbrook play, an on-court sign of recognition that his and the Lakers’ plan wasn’t going to work,” Woike and Turner reported. “Some Lakers players were bothered by how regularly James’ shoulders would slump and how his head would hang after botched opportunities to score or defend.”
Westbrook has a player option worth $47,063,478 for next season and he’s expected to pick it up. It will be interesting to see if LeBron and Davis want to play with the explosive guard again after everything that went down this season.