In a season that has disappointed from the jump, it’s difficult to pick out a true lowest point. However, it’s possible that moment came within the last few days, as the Los Angeles Lakers are 0-3 since returning from the All-Star break.
Fans are clearly fed up, with boos being loudly directed at LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and the entire team at Crypto.com Arena. And while the Westbrook experiment clearly did not go the way L.A. hoped, it has not been for a lack of trying.
Even now, James is still searching for the best ways to mesh with Westbrook when the two share the floor. “For me, just try to give him, when he’s off the ball and I have the ball, try to get him some good looks at the rim, which I was able to do tonight,” James said.
“I was able to hit him once off an offensive rebound I hit him for a layup underneath and then they doubled off him and I was able to hit him for a cut, he was able to get a dunk at the rim. In transition if I’m handling the ball and he’s running up ahead, just try to kick ahead. But sometimes when you’re seeing the ball go through the hoop, it helps. So that’s part of my responsibility.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel also made sure to put his faith in Westbrook as they navigate the stretch run of the season. “We’re all going to keep supporting him. We all have to play better as a team. The coaches got to coach better, the players got to play better. I know he’s going to be hard on himself, but we’re all being hard on ourselves right now.
“I thought the fact he had zero turnovers, after the last game our team had 24 turnovers, was a positive. He’s just not finishing at the basket right now and he’s not knocking down threes. Usually, he’s going to make 30 percent of them. He’s just struggling in both areas right now, but we’ll keep supporting him, keep putting him in positions to succeed.”
Westbrook is at his best when he is operating with spacing around him, and that is what the Lakers are trying to do.
“We adjusted the rotation a little bit tonight,” Vogel said after the Lakers’ loss to the Dallas Mavericks. “Try to give our team more space. We played with our smaller lineups, obviously, to open up the paint. I think overall that helped the team keep the turnovers down and like with everything, we’re going to keep looking for answers to try to get us over the hump.”
If the Lakers want to salvage any sort of positive end to the 2021-22 season, things have to change very quickly. L.A. is in serious danger of falling out of the play-in tournament altogether, and there remains a lack of clarity on Anthony Davis’ return.
Westbrook and James have had moments of brilliance together this season, but they’ve been few and far between. Now is the time for the two to figure out how this can work — if it can work — and execute before even the play-in tournament becomes out of reach.
Mutual interest exists to find Westbrook a new home
If things continue down the path they’re currently on, it appears both Westbrook and the Lakers will explore avenues to end their partnership this offseason. Reportedly, Westbrook shares mutual interest with L.A. to find him a new home in the offseason, however that happens.
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