Despite being a former NBA and one of the best players in the NBA, Russell Westbrook is about to be on his fourth team in four seasons. He was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers ahead of free agency and the hope will be that he sticks with the team for a few seasons. His brief stint with the Washington Wizards wasn’t anything to be excited about after they barely made the playoffs and got bounced in the first round.
Westbrook wasn’t willing to give the team another chance and pushed to go home to Los Angeles. Apparently, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis had an issue with that. He also owns the Washington Capitals NHL team and they made a recent splash by re-signing Alex Ovechkin. When he had a chance to talk about the Ovechkin signing, he went out of his way to take a shot at Westbrook.
“We had a superstar player with the Wizards, he had an opportunity and wanted to be traded to the Lakers,” Leonsis said, per ESPN’s Emily Kaplan. “And I was dealing with that as we were announcing Alex. I couldn’t help but self-reflect on what a difference it is. Here’s a great player in Russell Westbrook, played in OKC, wanted to be traded, went to Houston, wanted to be traded, came to D.C., wanted to be traded and is now in L.A. He’s an unbelievably great person and an unbelievably great player. But that’s the difference between the NBA and the NHL, I suppose.”
Leonsis is clearly not a fan of players bouncing around from team to team. He may not have liked how Westbrook went about things, but his team got a decent haul in return of Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and a first-round pick.
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Westbrook Is Where He Wants to Be
It’s always concerning when a player keeps getting traded. If he’s truly that good, why does nobody want to keep him? While Westbrook has his faults, there’s no doubt he’s been wanting to come to Los Angeles for some time. In fact, he even tried to team up with Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers before he chose Paul George, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
“While Westbrook began a journey that would take him to three new teams over the next two seasons, each time moving farther from both the NBA championship he’d been chasing his whole career — and his hometown of Los Angeles. But he never gave up hope of fulfilling those goals,” Shelburne wrote.
Westbrook now gets to compete for a championship in front of his hometown crowd. If that doesn’t make him happy where he’s at, nothing will.
Lakers Wanted to Add Playmaker This Offseason
This last season ended in disappointment for the Lakers. They got to the playoffs but nobody outside of LeBron James or Anthony Davis could step up and make plays. According to Shelburne, that was a big reason why they targeted Westbrook:
In their end-of-season evaluations, sources said the Lakers concluded the one thing they’d truly missed from their championship run in 2020 was a secondary playmaker to James.
Rajon Rondo had elevated his game in the playoffs and provided that skill in several key games in 2020. They’d hoped Dennis Schroder could do the same, especially if there was an injury to James or Davis. But he struggled in the playoffs, and glaringly so after Davis’ groin injury. So the team’s primary focus in the offseason was to add an elite playmaker, sources said.
For all of Westbrook’s faults, he is certainly a playmaker. He’ll win more than a few games for the Lakers when LeBron isn’t playing. Westbrook will have his issues in the playoffs but the team won’t need to rely on him as much. He’s not the perfect fit for the Lakers but it’s easy to see why they’d want him.