Last offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers were considering a number of different moves to make in order to help the team after a disappointing 2020-21 season ended in a first-round playoff exit.
Despite seemingly having a deal in place with the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers suddenly pivoted and acquired Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards, reportedly at the urging of the team’s superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, this move turned out to be a misfire. The Lakers were decimated by injuries all season long and even when healthy, the trio of LeBron, Davis and Westbrook never clicked in the way they envisioned. The result was an even more disappointing 2021-22 season in which the team didn’t even qualify for the Play-In Tournament.
Since James joined the Lakers, he and the front office have been on the same page in team building, but the Westbrook move was a setback. And according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Lakers’ front office is blaming pressure from LeBron and Klutch Sports for pushing for the deal:
But James certainly has a strong influence on the Lakers’ decision-making. Multiple sources indicate the team’s front office is internally blaming pressure from Klutch Sports Group (representing both James and Davis) for Westbrook.
It is no secret that James and Davis met with Westbrook to discuss the potential fit in playing with each other and all three believed it would work. The idea of Westbrook helping to lessen the playmaking load on LeBron while also stepping up if and when one of the other two sat out games made a lot of sense. Even if LeBron did push for the move, it is up to the Lakers front office to actually pull off such a deal and they did acquiesce so they likely hold some blame as well.
Westbrook looked nothing like the player he was even two seasons ago and it was among the many reasons the Lakers underperformed. Making matters worse is Westbrook’s contract, which is worth $47 million and taking up a lot of salary cap space, limiting the Lakers’ options to improve the team.
Rumors of a Westbrook trade have been flying since the season ended and with James now entering the final season of his deal, many are wondering whether he will sign his own extension with the Lakers or play out his contract. If the two sides aren’t on the same page, however, it is anyone’s guess as to what he will decide.
Westbrook says season didn’t damage relationship with James
Aside from being teammates, James and Westbrook are also friends off the court and despite the rough season for the Lakers, Westbrook insists that their relationship remains solid.
“I mean, it didn’t affect it, like, off the floor and trying to figure out on the floor,” he said. “Obviously the ultimate part is that we both know that this season didn’t go the way we wanted it to. At least from my perspective, I know Bron as well, but it didn’t affect any aspect for me.
“I was trying … my job is to try to make the game easier for him and I was trying to do that when I had abilities to better do so. And then after, off the floor, we still stayed tight, and then that won’t change.”
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