There are many factors that led to the Los Angeles Lakers missing the postseason in 2021-22, although the two people receiving most of the blame are Frank Vogel and Russell Westbrook.
Vogel led the Lakers to a championship less than two years ago, but that wasn’t enough to save his job as the Lakers fired him at the conclusion of this disastrous season.
Westbrook was brought in last offseason in hopes of being the third star alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Not only did he fail to fit in with the other two stars, but he also failed to elevate his play while James and/or Davis were out with injury in order to keep the team afloat.
As a result, Westbrook’s days with the Lakers may also be numbered as his name has already been in a number of trade rumors.
Trading Westbrook and his expiring $47 million contract may not be that easy though, especially considering the Lakers reportedly do not want to attach future draft picks to him.
If the Lakers don’t find a deal of their liking then they may be inclined to just keep Westbrook at least until the trading deadline. It appears that is a serious possibility as according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Vogel is again receiving blame for Westbrook’s poor season with hopes that a new coach can help him turn it around:
I’m starting to wonder if the Lakers might not trade Russell Westbrook this summer after all. And no, not just because Oram made a compelling argument on Monday as to why they should think twice about it.
When the decision was made to fire Vogel, sources say his handling of Westbrook and the inability to find a way to make him a more productive part of the program were among the factors that played a big part. There was a strong sense that it was on Vogel to make the Westbrook experiment work, and the fact that it didn’t led to questions about whether Westbrook had been put in a position to succeed. That sure smells like the hope of a Russ revival to me.
Who the Lakers bring in as head coach remains to be seen, although it was recently reported that Phil Jackson is assisting in their search. If that is the case, then the odds of the team keeping Westbrook may increase:
And how’s this for a tidbit to tie this thread up: Phil Jackson is known to have been a fan of Westbrook’s throughout his career. Sources say Phil Jackson has no interest in taking on this coaching job (or any other) himself — let’s just stop that rumor right here — but his view of Westbrook is relevant. As we’ve established, Jackson’s voice matters again.
This summer is extremely important for the Lakers as they can go a number of different directions that may or may not lead them back into championship contention.
How they handle the Westbrook situation will arguably be the most important aspect of the offseason, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out and what, if any, influence Jackson has on the situation.
Westbrook unsure of future in L.A.
Westbrook spoke on his future with the Lakers during his exit interview, although he was not yet sure of what is to come.
“No, I don’t. I haven’t thought that far into anything,” Westbrook said. “But I just always lean on … just continue doing the right thing.
“Like I always tell you guys, I lean big on my faith and with that I can never go wrong. I can always find, wherever if it’s here if it’s there, I’m kind of leave that out of it. My job is to make sure that I come to work, be professional, be a good person more than anything, continue doing that, and everything else that kind of plays out.”
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