The Los Angeles Lakers-Russell Westbrook experiment might be nearing an end.
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the star point guard and the Lakers’ front office have ‘mutual interest’ in finding Westbrook a new home in the trade market over the summer, as he is still under contract through next season.
Westbrook was traded from Washington to L.A. this past offseason in the multi-team deal that saw Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and Spencer Dinwiddie arrive in the nation’s capital. The former two of that bunch still play a vital role in Wes Unseld Jr.’s nightly rotation.
Los Angeles’ season has fallen well short of expectations, as the Lakers have lost six of their last seven games and sit at ninth place in the Western Conference. With championship expectations surrounding the team heading into the season, the Lakers’ current losing streak has seen fans lose patience with the players, leading to altercations like this:
Many fans have pointed their criticism directly at Westbrook, to the point where the home crowd boos him after missed shots and has even groaned at him not to take big shots in clutch time.
Despite all the flak Westbrook has gotten from the Lakers faithful, he really hasn’t had a terrible individual season. He’s scoring 18.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 7.3 rpg while shooting 43.2% from the field. His bricked jumpers will go viral, but his field-goal percentage is higher than Steph Curry, Kyle Lowry, James Harden, Lamelo Ball, and Fred VanVleet.
Before the All-Star break, Westbrook reportedly delivered a passionate speech in the Los Angeles locker room and drove home the notion that the team needs to ‘take a unified direction to their fight for a postseason berth,’ according to Fischer. He gave a similar speech in Washington last season.
The Wizards were in the midst of an uphill battle to qualify for the NBA’s play-in tournament and then the playoffs, not unlike the situation they currently find themselves in.
According to former head coach Scott Brooks, Westbrook stormed into the locker room after a loss and “gave a very passionate, very direct talk to the group. He was like ‘I am not going through this season and not making the playoffs.’” Washington would go on to win 17 of its last 23 games, make the play-in, then advance to the playoffs.
Los Angeles is facing a crisis. LeBron James is once again having a masterful season, but it hasn’t been enough to will the Lakers into the upper echelon of the West. Anthony Davis, L.A.’s No. 2 option and best defender, is out for another 4-5 weeks with a mid-foot sprain.
The trade deadline has come and gone and the Lakers did not make a splash, and will now have to either change their rotation — which Westbrook has sternly opposed — or ride it out with their current starters and hope for the best. Teams in need of a veteran point guard with explosive athleticism might be making calls to Los Angeles to inquire about Russ over the summer.