The Los Angeles Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook this past offseason in a massive trade that saw them let go of Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell. While those players were likely on the outs no matter what, they could have been packaged in other potential deals.
Sacramento Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield recently opened up about how close he came to becoming a Laker. And DeMar DeRozan has spoken at length about the shady set of circumstances that led to him almost landing in LA, before ultimately being forced to go to the Chicago Bulls.
Instead of one of those two guys, the Lakers chose Westbrook. To date, that has proven to be a disastrous decision. No single moment better encapsulates the 33-year-old’s time as a member of the purple and gold than this video of him watching LeBron James read his stat line. It’s extremely telling.
This week, in a session with reporters, Westbrook was confronted with a fairly straight-forward question: does he regret coming to LA? Obviously he was traded and thus had less of say in the process than if he had arrived via free agency, but there was still a significant level of initial buy-in from him.
“No,” he told Sam Amick of The Athletic. “Nah. I mean, not at all, because — like I told you — it’s bigger than basketball for me.”
For Westbrook, the opportunity to play at home in Los Angeles is bigger than what happens on the court.
“I swear, nobody can imagine it for me because everybody thinks about basketball as the end-all-be-all, but it’s really not, you know?” Westbrook continued. “Sportswriters, everybody’s got their own opinion. But I really believe that me being able to do (be in LA) and embrace my kids, it makes them — it puts a smile on my face regardless of what’s happening now.”
While it’s great that Westbrook gets to be around his family more now, basketball is his job. He was brought to the Lakers to work. And thus far, he has been performing very poorly.
Joe Burrow won in more ways than 1 last night. https://t.co/BTfyH9VQzb
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 16, 2022
There is a reason why the front office has spoken to two separate teams about trading him. He simply hasn’t delivered. And there’s a reason why the Philadelphia 76ers had the reaction they had when LA tried to offer him up for Ben Simmons. He isn’t as good as he thinks he is anymore.
This is going to be a tough issue for the Lakers to navigate. For better or worse, they’re stuck with Westbrook. They need him to play better. But at the moment, it sounds like he’s pretty content at sucking so long as he gets to do it at home in Los Angeles.