Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson went on ESPN’s Get Up on April 4 and he had some interesting things to say about Russell Westbrook.
Johnson, who won five championships with the Lakers as a player and used to be the team’s president of basketball operations, believes the purple and gold shouldn’t trade Westbook this summer despite the one-time MVP having a tough campaign back home.
“I think they have to bring it (the Big Three) back,” Johnson said. “That’s number one because you can’t attach a first-round pick to Westbrook and try to get him out, right? He actually played a lot better the last three weeks and so I think AD is right. Health did play a part of it, but the other part of it, we played bad basketball and the players didn’t fit and we didn’t have a winning mindset and attitude. That really bothered me. Mentally and physically, we just didn’t give us 150 percent every single night out on that court, and so if they gonna run it back, these guys first gotta be committed. Forget those commercials and all the things that I think really sidetracked us as well and commit to each other and commit to playing the game the right way. We couldn’t get stops.”
Westbrook is averaging 18.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.1 assists on the season. The nine-time All-Star is shooting 44.4% from the field, 29.4% from beyond the arc and 66.5% from the free-throw line. Westbrook also leads the NBA in turnovers.
The Lakers are in 11th place in the Western Conference standings. They are in serious danger of missing the play-in tournament since the San Antonio Spurs are two games ahead of them with only four games left in the regular season.
Johnson has been critical of the Lakers this season. Westbrook has a plus-minus of -202 and Anthony Davis has only played in 39 games because of injuries. LeBron James leads the league in scoring, but the King hasn’t been good on defense. He has a defensive win share of only 2.3, the lowest of his career.
Johnson Sends Message to Westbrook, Davis, LeBron
During his appearance on Get Up with Mike Greenberg, Johnson talked more about Westbrook and discussed Davis and LeBron as well.
“Russell, you gotta take responsibility, accountability and say, ‘Hey, I didn’t play great for four, five months.’ AD, you gotta change. You gotta stay healthy,” Johnson said. “Or the Lakers gotta say, ‘Man, after next season, if you ain’t stay healthy, they gotta look at you and say maybe you should be somewhere else.’ Because they need you on the court, not in your clothes sitting on the bench. So I think he’s gotta change some things.
“LeBron was great, had a great season and then we gotta change the role players. I feel sorry for LeBron. To put up this type of season, these type of numbers and then we’re probably not gonna be even in the play-in game. This was a wasted season for LeBron.”
Westbrook has proven to be a poor fit next to LeBron since he can’t shoot, which is why many pundits believe the UCLA guard should be traded this summer. Westbrook has a true shooting percentage of 51.0, which is 16th-worst in the league.
Lakers Shouldn’t Listen to Magic’s Advice
The Lakers shouldn’t listen to Johnson’s advice. They should trade Westbrook this summer and find a point guard who can shoot so that LeBron and Davis have ample room to operate on offense.
When Westbrook is on the floor, the court shrinks since defenders leave him open from beyond the arc. When that happens, LeBron and Davis have less room to attack the basket.
Westbrook has a player option worth $47,063,478 for next season. He will probably pick it up since he can’t make that type of money on the open market. It will be interesting to see what the Lakers do with Westbrook this offseason. Johnson thinks LA should run it back with Westbrook, Davis and LeBron, but the stats and film showed this season that that would be a mistake.