The Los Angeles Lakers were a walking disaster this season and it appears their problems began all the way back during training camp.
According to Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of the LA Times, Russell Westbrook never respected Frank Vogel and the one-time MVP got into a heated argument with his coach in training camp.
“Russ never respected Frank from Day 1,” said one Lakers staff member with knowledge of the situation. “The moment Frank said anybody who gets the rebound can bring it up the court, which is just how the NBA is played these days, Russ was like, ‘Naw, I’m the point guard. Give the ball to me. Everybody run.’ Frank was like, ‘No, we have Talen [Horton-Tucker]. We have Austin [Reaves]. We have Malik [Monk]. We have LeBron [James]. We have AD [Anthony Davis]. They can all bring the ball up.’ He was like, ‘Nope, I’m the point guard. Give me that s—. Everybody get out the way.’ From that point on, in training camp, it was a wrap, ‘cause now Russ is a fish out of water. He doesn’t know what to do. That’s how that started.”
The Lakers had the second-best odds to win the championship this season in the preseason. However, they were so bad that they didn’t even qualify for the play-in tournament and Westbrook was the poster boy for the team’s disastrous season since he is the highest-paid player and Los Angeles gave up a lot to acquire him from the Washington Wizards.
Lakers Players Noticed LeBron James’ Body Language After Poor Westbrook Play
LeBron James and Anthony Davis met with Westbrook last summer at LBJ’s house and the two champions urged the Lakers to trade for Russ, the NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles.
Even though the three All-Stars are friends, it became evident early in the season that Westbrook was a poor fit next to LeBron and Davis.
“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 averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists this season while shooting 44.4% from the field, 29.8% from beyond the arc and 66.7% from the free-throw line. He committed 295 turnovers in 78 games and air-balled and bricked so many shots that fans started to call him “Westbrick.”
The Lakers are widely expected to try to trade Westbrook this summer. However, it’s worth mentioning that the UCLA product wants to run it back next season.
Westbrook: I Want to Be Back with Lakers Next Season
Westbrook told reporters on April 6 that he’d like to be back with the Lakers next season. The future Hall of Famer was born and raised in California and gets to see his wife and kids a lot by playing in LA.
“I mean, that’s the plan, but nothing is promised,” Westbrook said. “Yes, we want to be able to see what that looks like, what that entails over the course of an 82-game season, but we’re not sure if that’s guaranteed either. So I just hope that we have a chance to be able to do something.”
Westbrook has a player option worth $47,063,478 for next season and he’s widely expected to pick it up. It will be fascinating to see what the Lakers do with him this summer.