The Los Angeles Lakers’ abysmal 2021-22 performance came down to numerous factors, countless injuries among the most impactful ones.
Only two Lakers racked up more than 70 appearances last season: Russell Westbrook with 78 and Malik Monk with 76. Injuries and coronavirus-related absence affected role players as well as L.A.’s stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
James played in just 56 games for the Purple and Gold in 2021-22 while Davis made 40 appearances — missing half of regular-season games for the second year in a row.
But a fair share of Lakers’ troubles stemmed from poor roster construction with Westbrook seemingly struggling to fit in next to James and Davis. Still, franchise president Jeanie Buss pointed to injuries as the main culprit behind L.A.’s misery last year when responded to critics of the Westbrook trade in an interview with NBA.com’s Mark Medina:
“Many members of the media, when that trade was made, thought it was going to put us in the top of the conference. We didn’t live up to our expectations. The injury to Anthony Davis changes your whole dynamic because so much of our team depends on him. Now you’re missing a vital piece. Everything else gets thrown off.
“I’m not here to make excuses. It wasn’t acceptable. We have to get better. Hopefully, injuries will not devastate us the way they did this past season. We’ve made significant changes. But we’re operating in a salary-cap system. So there are not a lot of tools that we have to make changes to our roster. As time goes on, you do your best. That’s what our basketball operations is doing.”
Westbrook’s future with the Purple and Gold remains uncertain. Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Darvin Ham have both suggested the Lakers will welcome the 2017 NBA MVP back with open arms.
However, L.A. has been trying to acquire Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving for the past few weeks, which would require Westbrook to leave the team.
The 33-year-old recently attended the Lakers’ Summer League game in Las Vegas — but sat on the opposite side of the court from LeBron James and didn’t come to meet his All-Star teammate, further suggesting Westbrook might not be part of L.A.’s roster when the 2022-23 season begins.
Warriors’ Andre Iguodala slams negative reports about Lakers’ Westbrook
The Lakers have found it difficult to part ways with Westbrook, primarily due to his gigantic $47.1 million salary for the 2022-23 season. However, Golden State Warriors veteran Andre Iguodala has criticized media reports about the unwillingness of NBA teams to trade for L.A.’s guard.
“What did he do to y’all?” Iguodala recently said.
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