The Los Angeles Lakers’ acquisition of Russell Westbrook last year did not go according to plan for either party.
Westbrook came to L.A. in hopes of winning an NBA championship in his hometown. The organization brought him in with the intention of creating an unstoppable three-headed monster in him, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Not only did the Lakers not win a title – they didn’t even make the playoffs.
A big problem for L.A. was Westbrook’s play alongside James and Davis. He just didn’t gel with him. They nullified the parts of his game that make him who he is. He was unable to adjust accordingly. It was bad across the board.
Understandably, heading into the 2022-23 NBA season, the obvious question on everyone’s mind has been whether Westbrook would accept a sixth man role should the situation call for it.
This week, an answer to that question emerged.
“I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook said, per ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”
That is a notable difference from how Westbrook reacted to being temporarily benched last year. You will recall, he handled that so badly that the coaching staff was terrified of doing it again.
Apparently Westbrook has grown over the last few months, though.
That same growth was on display when he was asked if still feels wanted by the Lakers.
“I don’t need to,” Westbrook replied.
“I need to just do my job. Whether I’m wanted or not doesn’t really matter. I think the most important thing is that I show up for work and I do the job like I’ve always done it: Be professional and go out and play my ass off and compete.”
If Westbrook really does commit to coming off the bench in a sixth man capacity, it could rejuvenate his career in an epic way. He wouldn’t have to shoulder the defensive burden of guarding opposing teams’ starting point guards all game and he would have free offensive reign where he doesn’t need to defer to James and Davis.
It could be a win-win for all sides.
But Westbrook needs to truly buy in.
The mystery has been solved. https://t.co/HOZY1GLm7F
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 25, 2022
Saying the right stuff is good. Actually doing it, though – that will determine whether Lakers succeed or fail in 2022-23.
Will this group be able to get back on track this season?
Time will tell.
Jennifer Withers Hoey is a former Business Development Manager who transitioned to writing about sports. With valuable connections all over the West Coast, she has used those contacts to break some of the most interesting stories pertaining to the Portland Trail Blazers, Oregon Ducks, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Seattle Supersonics (RIP), and more.