Lakers News: Russell Westbrook Feeling ‘Grateful’ After Passing Gary Payton For 10th All-Time In Assists
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook passed NBA legend Gary Payton for 10th all-time on the NBA’s assists leaderboard during Monday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.

The feat came off a dump-off pass to Thomas Bryant in the third quarter in the loss to the Nets where Westbrook would finish the night with 10 assists to go along with 17 points and eight rebounds.

After the game, Westbrook said he wasn’t taking these kinds of accomplishments for granted, via Spectrum SportsNet:

“I don’t take none of this game for granted since day one. I’m very blessed and grateful and thankful to go out and compete and I never cheat the game. I go out and compete every night, I do my job every single night regardless of all the things that are thrown at me. And it means a lot just from where I started to where I’m at. From where I grew up at to be sitting here and if someone would’ve told me 15 years ago that I’d be sitting here 10 top in assists, I’d look at them like they were crazy. I never dreamt of being in this position nor getting to the point to where I’m next to some of the greats. I’m just truly thankful and grateful the opportunity keep playing at the highest level and I don’t take any of it for granted.”

Westbrook joins teammate LeBron James in the top 10 in league history for assists, a testament to his playmaking and distribution skills. Westbrook, James and Chris Paul are the only active players currently in the top 10.

Throughout the years, Westbrook made a living off attacking the rim for dunks and acrobatic layups, but his play style allowed for plenty of passing opportunities to open teammates. Defenses have done their best to wall off the paint to prevent Westbrook from scoring, so he has always had natural passing lanes to outside shooters and bigs underneath the rim.

Even in the latter stages of his career, Westbrook continues to be an effective passer and that has been by far and away his best trait on the current Lakers roster. The ball is still dominated by James whenever he’s on the court, but the guard has found ways to be useful by finding people for easy looks.

While Westbrook can oftentimes be too careless with the basketball that results in turnovers, some of them are typically the ones that coaches can live with because he is looking for the open man. L.A.’s offense has looked better in recent weeks and that’s partially due to the former MVP who has looked to push the pace and generate open shots.

Now sitting at 8,972 assists, it’s conceivable that Westbrook can continue moving up the list for all-time assists as he is only 89 assists behind Isiah Thomas (9,061) for ninth. However, claiming eighth will have to come later in the future as that is currently held by Oscar Robertson (9,887).

Trade talks with San Antonio Spurs centered on Russell Westbrook still alive

Although Westbrook has value as a playmaker, the Lakers would still be better off trading him for multiple players. There have been several trade ideas floated around involving Westbrook, including a proposal with the San Antonio Spurs that would bring back players like Josh Richardson and Doug McDermott.

Those talks were believed to have died before the 2022-23 season, but there are reports that the two teams haven’t closed the door on a potential deal.

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