The Los Angeles Lakers faithful welcomed the Russell Westbrook trade with mixed feelings. Doubts over the 2017 NBA MVP’s compatibility with LeBron James and Anthony Davis emerged immediately after L.A. and the Washington Wizards sealed the deal.
Westbrook’s shooting prowess, or lack thereof, quickly became one of the most widely discussed topics of the offseason. The Lakers struggled with their shooting accuracy during the 2020-21 campaign, particularly from downtown. L.A. finished the season with the 21st 3-point shooting accuracy (35.4%) in the league.
Meanwhile, Westbrook averages an underwhelming 30.5% from behind the line in his career, a weakness that began to overshadow the nine-time All-Star’s extraordinary ability to attack the rim in recent years. Head coach Frank Vogel said he counted on the guard’s explosiveness and physicality in the paint as well as his playmaking skills during the Lakers’ pursuit of an 18th NBA championship this year.
And Vogel explained how he plans to deal with Westbrook’s shooting woes when asked to address the elephant in the room.
“Green light in catch-and-shoot situations,” the head coach said. “And then, obviously, be smart about making the defense pay versus unders with shooting enough to get rhythm threes without forcing it and without doing it too often.”
Vogel also added: “We just don’t want to live off that, but we want [Westbrook] to be aggressive in catch-and-shoot situations when those other guys have the ball.”
Westbrook is known for his propensity to keep the ball in his hands, which many tipped as potentially yet another concern for the Lakers — particularly when the former Wizards star gets to the floor with James, L.A.’s primary ballhandler.
Catch-and-shoot play appears to be Vogel’s plan to help the 32-year-old All-Star utilize his talent in a way the Lakers need him to.
Rondo: Getting reps a remedy for Westbrook’s turnovers
Westbrook’s first two games as a Lakers proved he will need time to adjust to L.A.’s basketball. The guard turned the ball over 15 times while scoring just 10 points in total in the preseason losses to the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns.
But just as Westbrook himself, Lakers veteran Rajon Rondo remains confident that the All-Star will adapt as he clocks in more minutes with his new teammates. “The adjustment is just getting reps, continuity, understanding he’s never played with a big like Anthony Davis in his career so getting used to AD, getting comfortable with Dwight and DJ, and just finding and locating shooters,” he said.
“And also mixing in between when he needs to be aggressive at the rim and then passing it out. So he’s obviously a former MVP, Mr. NBA, he’s done it all. So it’s nothing that he needs to really work on, it’s just understanding guys’ tendencies and getting them more developed with his teammates.”
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