Several things went wrong for the Lakers, who got booed at home games and finished in 11th place in the West after having the second-best preseason odds to win the title. Frank Vogel was fired as head coach on April 11 and Westbrook called out the organization for not giving him “a fair chance just to be who I needed to be to help this team” during his exit interview.
Westbrook was the poster boy for the Lakers’ disastrous season since he was the highest-paid player and the team’s blockbuster acquisition in the summer of 2021. While Westbrook deserves some of the blame for Los Angeles failing to meet expectations, Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen believes there were other factors as well.
“I just felt like, this season, the sacrifice wasn’t there,” Pippen told KTLA. “The players are obviously very talented. They brought in some players who are very knowledgeable about the game and can still play at a very high level, but I just felt like there wasn’t a lot of sacrifice from the individuals. That really caused that team to have a lot of chaos throughout the season.”
James, Davis and Westbrook played in only 21 games together this season. The Lakers were 11-10 and Westbrook proved to be a poor fit next to James and Davis.
Westbrook Couldn’t Space the Floor
Westbrook averaged solid per-game numbers of 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists this season. However, he shot only 44.4% from the field, 29.8% from beyond the arc and 66.7% from the free-throw line.
A California native, Westbrook was second in the NBA in turnovers and his effective field goal percentage of 47.6% was sixth-worst in the league. The one-time MVP air-balled and bricked so many shots that fans started calling him “Russell Westbrick.”
Pippen used the words “sacrifice” and “chemistry” while discussing what the Lakers lacked this season. Westbrook, the NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles, said he was “very rarely” able to feel like himself in Los Angeles during his exit interview.
“I embraced every change,” Westbrook said. “There wasn’t a time where I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not doing this.’ There were conversations where I may have felt like what I bring to this team and my abilities to be able to help the team win may not have been in the cards of kind of how the coaching staff wanted to play. … I was coming in with open arms. I got no reason to (refuse anything). I knew coming here I would have to make the biggest sacrifice of anyone.
“When I first got here, unfortunately, people create narratives of who I am and what I do and what I believe in that just aren’t true. I’m always having to prove myself again year after year after year, which to me is really unfair. There’s no reason for me to have to do that. So when I first got in here, I just felt that I never was given a fair chance just to be who I needed to be to help this team.”
Pippen, who won six titles with the Bulls in the ’90s, doesn’t know what changes the Lakers will make this offseason. Most Los Angeles fans want Westbrook traded, but they may not get their wish.
Lakers May Not Trade Westbrook
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Lakers have asked coaching candidates how they would use Westbrook next season. It appears Los Angeles is preparing for the possibility of retaining Russ.
“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.”
Westbrook has a player option worth $47,063,478 for next season.