The Los Angeles Lakers are 24-24 and sit eighth in the Western Conference.
Staying above .500 has been a brutal struggle for this unit over the past month. And given that championship aspirations were the name of the game at the beginning of the season, it’s safe to say that LA has underperformed – badly.
A big reason for the Lakers’ woes has been Russell Westbrook being a poor fit with the existing roster. The front office had two better options on the table before adding him, but ultimately decided to go with the former league MVP.
A few weeks ago Sacramento Kings three-point specalist Buddy Hield explained in detail how close he came to joining the Lakers. Also, MVP frontrunner DeMar DeRozan has been very brutally honest about the questionable set of conditions that led to him almost becoming a Laker, before linking up with the Chicago Bulls.
So why did this happen? Why did LA forego better potential options to acquire Westbrook?
According to Ramona Shelbourne of ESPN, Westbrook made quite the emotional plea to LeBron James and the Lakers prior to the move.
“Westbrook was both the most aggressive suitor and the most realistic star for the Lakers to land,” she wrote. “Plus, he said all the right things when James and Davis pressed him on how he’d approach such a new role.
“Statistically and individually, Westbrook told them he felt he’d done everything in his NBA career. All that was left to accomplish was win a title. And doing so in Los Angeles, where he could see his family every day, meant so much to him at this stage in his life.
“He’d never played with someone as accomplished as James and was excited to learn from him. If things got rough, he’d lean on him.”
Well, that explains it to some degree. James caught a lot of flak when the Westbrook deal happened from people who knew how it would ultimately turn out. The doubters were proven right, but it’s easy to see why the Lakers’ best player and de facto GM was swayed.
The Lakers have two weeks to go before the NBA Trade Deadline. They have been linked to one minor trade and two ‘realistic’ role players – but nothing more than that.
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 23, 2022
Even if one or both of those deals come together, it’s hard to see how they would alter the trajectory of this season.
For better or worse, it feels like we know what LA is at this point – and it’s not a championship squad.
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