Russell Westbrook found himself under an enormous amount of criticism even before his first year with the Los Angeles Lakers came to an end.
The Lakers have seemingly been trying to trade Westbrook since the 2017 NBA MVP quickly appeared to prove himself to be a questionable fit with the Purple and Gold — as many expected in the aftermath of his trade.
The criticism turned into verbal abuse during the 2021-22 season with Westbrook and his wife, Nina, publicly asking to stop the online bullying their family had been receiving. Many former and current players came to the Lakers guard’s defense, including Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry.
Curry’s teammate Andre Iguodala has joined in speaking against Westbrook’s critics. On his podcast — “Point Forward,” which he co-hosts with former NBA player Evan Turner – Iguodala said he doesn’t understand what’s the source of the flood of rumors that claim NBA teams don’t want the playmaker on their rosters:
“When these headlines hit or certain news hits the wire, sometimes you got to take a step back and say, ‘Why would this be put out?’ Because it’s always like, I get pissed when they always have Russell Westbrook’s news, like this package went, they declined it. This team declined Russell Westbrook, this team declined Russell Westbrook and it’s like, it’s only feeding into that machine. It’s like, what are y’all really trying to do to this man? What did he do to y’all? Because y’all just constantly keep doing it. It’s like, what we’re trying to accomplish?”
Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka said the Lakers would welcome Westbrook back with “open arms” if he decided to opt into the last year of his contract — which he did, securing a $47.1 million salary for 2022-23.
New L.A. head coach Darvin Ham later added he was “excited as hell” to have the 33-year-old on the roster.
However, the Purple and Gold are known to be pursuing a trade for Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, which would almost certainly need to include Westbrook to happen.
Ham thinks Westbrook can be successful on Lakers in 2022-23
Ham said he believes Westbrook can bounce back after a difficult first season in L.A., explaining he can see the guard thrive in the system the head coach is planning to implement in 2022-23.
“Russ, in my opinion, he’s in great shape, he’s durable and in this system, this four-out, one-in system, he’s gonna have a chance to screen and roll and make plays in the half-roll,” he said.
“He’s gonna have a chance to run on the break and slash, get layups, he’s gonna have a chance to sprint out to the corner and flatten the defense with corner threes as well as the things that he already does well in terms of moving the ball and pushing the pace and pushing the tempo.”
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