Russell Westbrook will seemingly have a chance to redeem himself after a nightmare first season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Westbrook ended 2021-22 averaging 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists. However, the 2017 NBA MVP shot just 44.4% from the field and 29.8% from downtown, was sloppy with the ball in his hands, and lacked effort on the defensive end.
Westbrook proved that initial concerns over his fit with the Purple and Gold were justified. However, former Lakers assistant Mike Penberthy told The Ringer’s Seerat Sohi that, contrary to what the public thinks, Westbrook did try to adjust his game in an attempt to make his move to L.A. a success:
“I just feel like he accepted a role he had probably never played in before, not knowing how hard it would be,” said Mike Penberthy, a former Lakers assistant coach. “It probably just felt like he was in quicksand the whole time.” Penberthy remembers Westbrook as a player who was “very coachable.” He “listened, he wasn’t stubborn” and wanted to “have the truth told to him.”
“He’d come into practice, and he would be frustrated with how he was playing,” Penberthy said. “It’s hard, though, when you’re answering questions after a game and you haven’t played as well as you want to, to give that type of response. He feels like he’s being attacked, so he’s going to put his defenses up. And by the end of the year he just …” Penberthy pauses. “I mean, it just, when it rained it poured, you know?”
Westbrook said he is “all in” on trying to help the Lakers win games this season despite the franchise’s attempts to trade him.
However, that could entail starting games on the bench as, during Media Day on Monday, head coach Darvin Ham failed to commit to keeping the 33-year-old in the starting lineup.
Rob Pelinka praises Westbrook’s attitude
Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka has not ruled out a potential roster reshuffle in the 2022-23 season while asked about the franchise’s commitment to Westbrook.
However, Pelinka praised the guard for his attitude during the tumultuous offseason.
“Russ has been great all offseason in several meetings with Jeanie, with myself, with Coach, with all of us,” Pelinka said on Monday.
“You look at the most recent comments he had on ESPN last night, that he’s all in, he’s all in to do whatever it takes for this team to win, in whatever role that means.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!