Russell Westbrook’s first season with the Los Angeles Lakers was an unmitigated disaster.
L.A. had some flaws heading into last year, but they were still a playoff team before he got there. As soon as he arrived, that changed.
Then-head coach Frank Vogel took the fall for Westbrook over the summer, but all parties involved still understand that a repeat of 2021 can’t happen.
Westbrook either has to adjust or he has to go.
At the moment, it looks like the 33-year-old is going with the former option.
According to Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Westbrook has made three big changes heading into 2022-23.
“During scrimmages, Westbrook has been doing many of the little things that the Lakers have asked of him,” they wrote.
“He’s been an active on-ball screener. He’s relentlessly pushing the pace in Ham’s uptempo system, looking for his teammates first and his own shot second. He’s been engaged defensively, hounding ballhandlers while adjusting to Ham’s new pick-and-roll coverage.”
All three of those things are welcome differences from Westbrook’s play last season, and they were all evident in the Lakers’ preseason debut on Monday night. He seemed far more comfortable against the Sacramento Kings, even if L.A. did still get booed off the court by their own fans.
Westbrook’s resistance to switching up his game under Vogel was notorious. It was one of many red flags the front office examined when they considered trading him.
If he has truly changed, it will definitely put Los Angeles in better position to succeed. Or at the very least – it will give them one less fatal flaw to have exploited.
Blue Jays fans are wild. https://t.co/o8EXoWOF59
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 4, 2022
This is going to be an interesting next few months. If the Lakers come out strong and Westbrook looks good to begin the season, all past drama will immediately be water under the bridge. No one will care. Everyone will move on.
Should L.A. struggle, though – it’s hard to see how Westbrook finishes 2022-23 in a Lakers uniform.
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