Nothing went right for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, from injuries to their star players to a disjointed rotation that never figured out how to work together despite their undoubted individual talents.
Russell Westbrook was the embodiment of all that was wrong with the Lakers last season – as he was often played out of his usual role, thus limiting his ability to be a positive influence for his team. Of course, as Westbrook’s struggles got worse, so did his relationship with the fanbase, and now, both parties are looking for a way out.
However, in a recent episode of The Ryen Russillo podcast, former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury took aim at LeBron James and Anthony Davis, noting how Westbrook’s struggles was down to their failures to help integrate the star guard into the Lakers style of play.
“The best player is supposed to make the adjustments. You gotta allow Russell to be able to do what he does if you’re saying that you want him to come here because you watched him play, you’ve seen him play, you’ve played against him. LeBron and Davis, those guys know who Russell Westbrook was before he got here. You can’t be that smart of a basketball player and not know who you’re getting, who you’re going to be playing with…It can’t be blamed on Russell Westbrook,” Marbury said during the August 9 episode.
Interestingly, Westbrook still managed to end his debut season with the Lakers averaging 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game while shooting 44.4% from the field. Nevertheless, Westbrook’s inability to consistently convert his jump shots meant that the Lakers struggled to space the floor, forcing them into multiple stagnant offensive possessions on a nightly basis.
LeBron is ‘Entrenched’ in Los Angeles
As we head into the new season, a lot has been said about LeBron James’ current contract situation – where he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer – although he is eligible for a contract extension. Of course, there have also been concerns about his willingness to re-sign with a Lakers team that doesn’t project to be a championship contender as currently constructed.
However, according to an August 2 report by The Athletics’ Joe Vardon, LeBron and his family have become ‘entrenched’ in Los Angeles, and as such, should be expected to re-sign with the team moving forward.
“In the weeks and months that followed LeBron’s surprise conversation with The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd about not ruling out another Cleveland return, James and the people closest to him said he was happy in Los Angeles. His family is happy, and it’s something that certainly seems to matter in this case…LeBron’s middle child, Bryce, is entering his sophomore year of high school. His youngest, daughter Zhuri, will be 8 this fall. They, not to mention LeBron’s wife, Savannah, are entrenched in L.A,” Vardon wrote.
With LeBron being so engrained in the Los Angeles way of life, it’s fair to assume that he will remain with the Lakers regardless of if they trade Westbrook during the off-season or not.
Westbrook is Aware Lakers Are Trying to Trade Him
It’s no secret that the Lakers have attempted to trade Westbrook throughout the summer, most notably in their pursuit of Kyrie Irving. According to a July 29 report by Marc Stein, Westbrook is well aware that his current employers are trying to trade him – which could make for an interesting dynamic, should he remain on the roster to begin the season.
“As it stands, barring a trade to ship out Westbrook suddenly coalescing after weeks of fruitless talks, (Darvin) Ham is going to have to coach Westbrook, which is bound to be challenging in the extreme given that Westbrook is well aware that the Lakers have been trying hard to move him. And that James badly wants Irving to take his place,” Stein reported.
If Westbrook does remain in Los Angeles, we will likely see both LeBron and Davis evolve their games to incorporate additional actions on the perimeter, as that will be the fastest way to get Westbrook playing at an All-Star level again – because, as we know, Westbrook is at his best when he can cause chaos around the rim.